Cathédrale Saint Bénigne in Dijon, France
But as I began to trudge up the front walk, the bells began to sing. It was three o’clock on an ordinary April afternoon when the air filled with the soft melody of the carillon bells in the tower at the Concordia Lutheran seminary in the neighborhood that backs up to mine. During the summer we’re blessed to hear a full bell concert one evening each week as we go about our business of grilling out dinner, weeding the garden, emptying the trash. This afternoon serenade, though, was an unexpected respite at the lowest point of the day – when there was so much to do and little energy left with which to do it.
I paused to listen until the music faded. Brief (certainly not a concert), the notes had probably marked a call to the seminarians for a special service in their chapel. As the chimes floated over me, however, they also carried me back to France almost a year ago. The weekend that Brad and I had arrived in Dijon I saw a flyer posted about a carillon concert at the historic Cathédrale Saint Bénigne on Sunday evening. In fact, it was in front of the cathedral on the street, the 53 church bells mounted on a mobile cart and transported from city to city to maintain the musical tradition. People sat in the street, children danced to the accompanying jazz band, and during the hour-long concert it seemed the entire Dijon citizenry strolled through the square to listen for a few moments before moving on with a smile. This was so . . . well . . . normal for these people to encounter beauty so casually.
The Dijionaisse enjoying their street concert
In France, beauty appears in a flower pot full of sunflowers or red geraniums sitting on an a windowsill, in a cellist busking on a sidewalk in the middle of the street market, in the design of shop window display of chocolate treats, in the presentation of food on a plate, and in the ancient architecture that defines a city. In America, however, one of the best violinists in the world can play in a public place on an instrument that cost $3.5 million and no one stops to listen (see the story and video of the Joshua Bell experiment here).
I know that as I grow older I’m more and more inclined to stop and listen. I try to be more deliberate in my focus. I try to keep my eyes open for unexpected beauty in my day. I know when the peonies bloom. I see the cardinal flash red as it takes off from its branch. I look a particularly efficient supermarket checker in the eye and say, “Have a good day” and mean it. I leave my ears unplugged from electronics to hear the rhythms of the world around me. When I connect, momentarily, with a divine object I find myself more eager to offer something just as worthy to the universe. The inspiration may last for only ten minutes or it may last all day. But for that space I’m trying to ring my bells for glory.
So today I just want to remind you to do one small thing to create some beauty in the world or take a moment to notice the art in unexpected places. You can start by listening to a bit of the bells from Dijon:
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