Pilgrimage to Sturgis, Part 25

Pilgrimage to Sturgis, Part 25

Written by B. Jan Montana

“Ever been married, Evelyn?” I asked her over breakfast.

“Yeah, for about a year. I was 19 and he was 25. He had a red Camaro convertible. In retrospect, I think I was as attracted to that car as to the guy. All his friends were muscle car owners and we used to go on long rides as a group. Our destination was always a spectacular lookout or a great bar or restaurant on some scenic road. On long weekends, we’d often head for a racetrack somewhere. It was a lot of fun.”

“So, what happened?”

“He bought a new Vette without consulting me. He hadn’t even finished paying off the Camaro!”

“And that pissed you off?”

“It sure did; those payments put a serious damper on our lifestyle, let alone our future. But it was more important for him to be top dog than to be married.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, another guy in the club had bought a new Firebird, and he couldn’t stand anyone having a faster car than his.”

“So you divorced him?”

“No, I divorced his car. It was more important to him than his marriage.”

“You just told me you married him for his car, so didn’t you feed into that culture?”

“I didn’t realize that at the time. I just felt that once we were married, I should have been consulted before he made the purchase as we were now pooling our resources.”

“Yah, that does change things.”

“Anyway, I learned an important lesson from that experience: people are more important than things. Never put the people you care about in second place. This experienced embittered me against the endless search for status that seems to dominate Western culture. I determined never to value it again. Status is just a battle to be top dog without having the courage to actually clash.”

“Wow, them’s fighting words.”

“I’ll tell you the truth, Montana, not only do I not care about status, I no longer care what other people think of me. My mother’s done that for as long as I can remember, and it took all the joy and spontaneity out of her life. She was constantly self-censoring her words and actions to please others. I can’t think of a worse prison. How can you be yourself if you are constantly constrained by the fear of disapproval?”

“How sad for her.”

”Other people’s disapproval is none of my business; that’s their problem. Usually, it’s rooted in their phobias and preconceptions rather than rational thought. There’s nothing I can do about that so why agonize over it?”

“I agree, Evelyn.”

“These hypocrites have the gall to disapprove of others without knowing what they are suffering? That demonstrates a lack of understanding and compassion. The irony is, many of them have as much to be ashamed of as the people they criticize.”

“I’ve seen that too, Evelyn; they criticize others to shield themselves from their own guilt or shame. But what do you mean by suffering?”

“I’ll give you a great example. We were at a church picnic one time and a couple of the children were completely out of control. They were running around, screaming, sticking their hands into the food, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Their father seemed oblivious to all this. People started mumbling about him. After an hour or so, one of the ladies of the church took it upon herself to represent all the others to the father. She berated him publicly.

But she was the one who was humiliated. He garnered the attention and empathy of the whole group when he told them his wife had just slipped into a coma as a result of a terminal illness. They were at the picnic looking for a little relief from their pain.

Everybody’s suffering from some kind of pain, Montana. We ought not to be too judgmental till we learn what they are suffering.”

“Of course you’re right, but it’s just much easier to be critical…makes us feel superior.”

“Pushing other people down doesn’t make you superior, being great does. I’d like to do something great in my life, but no one can do anything great if they are crippled by a fear of criticism. Anyone who stands out makes themselves a target. Think of Christ, Galileo, Lincoln, Mandela, Martin Luther King; even the Wright Brothers were laughed at until they got airborne.”

“Some people just like to disapprove of others. Maybe they are jealous of their courage.”

“Exactly, Montana. Have you ever heard of Hildegard of Bingen?”

“I don’t think so.”

“She was a 12th century Benedictine abbess in what is now Germany. She had the courage to speak out against some of the local church’s abuses. She received a lot of criticism from those seeking to retain the status quo, but everybody knew she was right. When she wrote to the Pope about them, she was offered the prestigious position of Prioress in a stone abbey. She declined, preferring her humble wooden convent so she could focus on her devotions and writings.”

“Wow, that’s quite a sacrifice.”

“Right; she felt that poverty bred humility, which inspired sanctity, which opens the door to divine revelation. She wrote some of the most transcendent music to come out of the Middle Ages, music that inspires people all these centuries later. That’s greatness!”

Evelyn turned on the stereo and played a gorgeous choral melody without harmony or chords – considered the purest form of music in the Middle Ages.


“That’s angelic, Evelyn.”

“Everything she’s written sounds this heavenly. She’s my inspiration. She became great because she didn’t allow the distractions of status interfere with her creativity. And she did all that in an era when women were regarded as little more than chattel. She was eventually declared a saint.”

“I have a lot of medieval recordings. I don’t know why I’ve never heard of her.”

“Her music was always attributed to ‘Anonymous.’ Guess the church at that time couldn’t tolerate a woman with her talent occupying the same anointed position as men.”

“How did they discover she wrote it?”

“A musicologist found similarities between the style of Hildegard’s known music and what has been attributed to ‘Anonymous.’ He concluded that she was the actual composer, and a peer review confirmed those findings.”

“I don’t understand why the church would feel threatened by a female composer already on their staff.”

“Right, Montana, why would the Creator choose only men through which to reveal Himself? Are we not all God’s creatures? Was Mary not a woman? There is nothing in the words attributed to Christ that supports chauvinism. I don’t accept the teachings of the church unreservedly, and I question its history, but I feel sanctified when I hear music like that of Hildegard of Bingen resonating through those great stone cathedrals, and that’s enough to keep me coming back.”


Header image courtesy of Pixabay.com/Clarence Alford.

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