“…When you do not sing, you keep the rest of us from getting to know you—know your voice, a voice that has never been heard ever before in the immeasurably vast history of the cosmos and will never be heard again after you die, which could be any day, any moment. How can we love you fully unless we know you, know your voice? If you choose not to sing, we are left with your silence. We have to do the work of filling in the gaps, guessing at what you’re song might’ve been if you’d chosen to sing. Who are you, all of you? We want to know, those of us who recognize the tragedy for what it is.
There’s more, so much more. When your song goes unsung, you keep yourself from knowing yourself—knowing how your voice can sound, what it can do. You become a stranger to certain parts of yourself, certain sounds and the emotions those sounds can carry.
When you abort your soul’s longing to sing, you are choosing to distrust us, the ones surrounding you, distrust that we will love you and accept you and be grateful for whatever your song turns out to be. You are living as if we wouldn’t honor you and celebrate you exactly as you are. You are choosing to believe that we are not capable of holding you in the way that you deserve. Please, give us the chance.When you believe that you cannot sing, you are hoarding yourself. You are not giving your songs away, freely, unconditionally, those songs which only you can give, those songs which someone might be desperately needing right now. Creation needs your songs just as much as you need the air, the water, the earth and all its bounty. Creation does not deprive you of that which you need to survive. Why do you deprive creation of your songs? Why were you given a voice if not to sing yourself back to that which gave it to you?
– Andrew Forsthoefel, “The Tragedy of Believing You Can’t Sing.”
One of my favorite songs Jules introduced me to from Lost in the Trees is “Artist Song” from the 2012 album A Church That Fits Our Needs. In the song, there’s this poignant, repeated phrase which reminds me of this essay.
A fearful song
Played by trumpets for our heart
Oh, oh — I have a fear of darkness.
Your hymn of faith cause I have none
Oh, oh — Your song is my fortress.
What would we do if we needed to hear your song, but you’d decided not to sing it? Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear… The song you have may indeed be whetstone for a sword, armor for a battle, faith, and fortitude, and fuel for a lamp. A song. A fortress. So, sing out.