Spirit of Fire
Spirit of fire descend upon me in a thousand flaming tongues. Set my soul ablaze with your burning reds, oranges, and golds. Fill my entire being with music and let me ascend to the transcendent. Spirit of fire tap my toes. Make my fingers play the music that has been inspired divine. Make every parting breath leave with the gift of a note. My whole existence thrives off of it; the drug that has been passed down through humanity as a gift from one generation to the next. It is the only record of my life I can leave behind.
The stained brown pews feel like solid stone and the hushed whispers of an anxious congregation make the nerves in me jittery and agitated. The knowledge of an incoming performance destroys any chance I had of keeping calm. My hands are clasped together, resting helplessly on my lap like two duelling elk whose antlers have become intertwined like a monstrous bramble. I wish to knot my fingers together, to unify them into one horrific mess that cannot be undone. The hall is dark, as only weak lights dangle from the ceiling. At the head of the church, on the tallest wall, hangs a 20-foot-long statue of the crucifixion. Jesus’ eyes gazed towards his Father, hands and feet nailed to the wood of the cross, keeping His mortal self chained to the brutal, harsh world that is ours. The pain is evident, even in the face of the Messiah. Below the cross sits the tabernacle, and to the left are half a dozen chairs, to the right stands the pulpit. The altar is empty.
Spirit of mercy deliver my poor, worthless self. Save me from the shaking arms, the wobbling legs, the frigid fingers. If you care for me, show me a sign in the form of a lightning bolt, an earthquake, or a swift and graceless heart attack. Get me out. Don’t make me perform.
Directly below the altar sits a hollow wooden bass, a small set of scattered drums, and a long, shining black piano. A trio of suit-wearing men come out from the back of the church and sit at their respective instruments. The congregation is hushed as though a fog of silence set over the pews. Nothing happens for a few seconds. Time stands still and the frozen silence makes everyone sit on edge. But not me. I shrink farther and farther back into my seat, sinking into the murky depths of insignificance from which few people ever return. Let me slip away.
With the force of an atomic bomb, the trio begins to play. Golden sounds fly through the thick silence like a cannonball.The previously dark hall becomes engulfed in this new bright light streaming from the strings of the bass, the glinting cymbals, and the old white keys of the piano. From dead, inanimate objects comes this pure life-force put in motion through the gentle acts of pressing metal strings and tapping sticks. Sentences and phrases begin to grow out of the noise like a flowering lilac bush, and soon, whole paragraphs and storylines materialize out of the bright sound. It’s beautiful.
Spirit of love, tuck my heart away. Do not let it see the glorious light that is. Shelter its ears from the melody that surrounds us. Let it not feel the rhythms of life coursing through its being. Spirit of love, I beg of you, tuck my heart away.
A buzzing congregation does its very best to contain the excitement that boils underneath the surface, letting out only the occasional whistle or high-pitched scream. A fervent melody reaches its peak and ends in a bombastic manner, leaving the world stunned. What seems like thousands of cheers reverberate off the stain-glass walls of the church, the sounds spilling out into the winter’s night of a thousand eyes.
I sit there in awe and wonder like a dullard, with no way of comprehending the violently wonderful attack on my soul. How the sound penetrates my every defense, jumps through every loophole, dodges every obstacle. No matter how hard I try, I cannot hide the raw feeling and emotions that tug my entire being and drag me to music. No struggle is strong enough, no resistance is tough enough, and no force of will stands a chance against the horrible, beautiful music. I hate how I love it.
Spirit of strength, put blood in my legs. Give my body reason to get up and walk. Help me to walk to the stage, where my name has been called to play. Empower my resolve and assist my heart, as they are weak and cannot do this alone. Spirit of strength, help me to perform.
Hot stage lights and a cold piano bench wait for me. One by one, my feet drag themselves up towards the stage, weighed down by the ball and chain of my own doubts, my own failures, my own invisible struggles. Some days the weight is too much and I let my spirit fall to the floor like an old rag doll. After an eternity in an instant, I find myself at the bench of the grand piano, staring across at the bassist and the drummer. I have to call a song, but what? I have to play, but what? Hit a note!
Spirit of passion, let my heart soar. Help my soul to find its voice and to create beautiful, perfect sounds like the others did. Set my heart ablaze. Give me purpose, give me life. Give me reason to wake up every morning and rest my head at night. Help me remember and help me know. Spirit of passion, tell me who I am. Tell me that I can. Tell me it’s possible. Allow me to love what I do and do what I love. Exist through me. Make my notes golden, and do not lead them astray.
Did I play a wrong note? Spirit help! Where is the time, the beat is lost and I can’t feel it. How dare I sit up here with these others of another league? Who am I, who do I think I am? Spirit of passion give me reason to finish this miserable song. My playing is erratic, it resembles the ripped edge of a cliff face. Gold is not the colour of my music; it’s an off-putting yellow that immediately deters anyone who hears it. I have to stop, but I can’t. Terrible, awful playing! The rest of the ensemble hasn’t looked at me yet, out of disappointment I’m sure. Spirit of passion, set me on fire. Let me burn into a thousand smoldering embers and fly me off in a cloud of ash.
And now the silence. A lying crowd erupts in thunderous applause as the monstrosity is done, but I know it is all for naught. Eyes fixed to a non-existent pattern on the floor, I navigate my way back to the pew I sat in before. The people around me tell me how great it was, but I know the truth. People are nice, and those who can’t take criticism don’t give it. I have failed once again, disappointed once again, and made a fool of myself for the umpteenth time. The brown pew I sit in graciously begins to consume me whole, letting me disappear from the world completely, as though I never existed. My mark on the world is a claw mark, more of a work of graffiti than a work of art. The crowd instantaneously forgets my mistake and the original trio returns to the light, drawing all of their rightfully deserved attention to themselves.
Spirit of fire, descend upon me in a thousand flaming tongues. Set me ablaze in your reds, oranges, and golds. Empty my entire being of music and let me fall back down to earth. For I am no longer worth the trouble of dreams, nor am I worthy to be creative in an art that sits tantalizingly out of my grasp. Eventually dreamers wake up and gamblers lose it all. Tell me I am no different and make sure I can no longer perform. Spirit of fire, set me ablaze and let me run this vicious cycle once more.