Press Play: “Pilgrim’s Hymn” by Stephen Paulus

Traditionally, a pilgrim is someone who is on a journey to a holy place. But I don’t think a person’s travels have to be religiously motivated in order for that person to qualify as a pilgrim.

We’re all pilgrims, of course, in the philosophical “life is a journey” kind of way. We’re all on journeys somewhere, it’s just that we’re all walking in different directions, at different speeds, with different motivations.

Portia Nelson, an American composer and actress, summed up her life’s journey pretty concisely in a poem that she described as “An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

Not everyone’s sidewalks are as filled with holes as Nelson’s was, of course, but each pilgrim’s path has some kind of obstacles in it. So whether you’re looking back on obstacles you overcame in 2014, on wondering which street to walk down in 2015, let this thoughtful hymn by Stephen Paulus be the soundtrack to your New Year’s pondering.

Key moment: Paulus stays away from dissonance more than most modern composers, but he throws in the occasional hole in the sidewalk, like the chord at 0:47.

That makes me think of: “Going Home” by Paul Robeson. 

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s