“How can you sing Bach’s St Matthew Passion if you are not a Christian?”

No question enrages me more, especially when asked by one who has just rejoiced in killing several wasps and flies under the midnight sky.

I try to explain that when I play a Bach bass line - whether it be to accompany a mother’s tears at the sacrifice her son makes or the renting of the veil in twain – I, just like the singer, am touched by the universal spirituality of the text. I am even more touched by the music Bach writes, which I believe to be more universal still.

I do not think the story actually happened, but I would say I strive for what is contained within its values every day. I fail mostly, like many good Christians, but I believe in our capacity to attain them, in the possibility of a state of loving kindness, mental stillness and non-violence.

So, what? I’m not a Sufi so I cannot have Rumi read at my wedding because I can’t really understand it? I am not a Buddhist so I have no right to meditate? I am not a mother so I cannot truly know love?

How dare anyone imply that my playing Bach’s St Matthew Passion or indeed Julian painting a field of sunflowers whilst listening to Handel’s ‘Theodora’, tears streaming down his face, for three hours is inferior to their prayer?

Today I went to church. I waded through milky green river in a natural corridor of glinting limestone. Wavelets were reflected on the curved walls and as I watched the shapes dance and felt my feet bathed clean, my ‘self’ was washed away briefly with the current, and I was at one with this magical architecture. We found a pool of smooth green clay and smothered our faces with it. I turned to my half sisters who were walking with me, their face-masks cracked now with smiling, and my heart almost burst with love. I glanced at my husband, his mind slowing for the first time in weeks as he walked in the water, and I felt at peace.

I could not have knowingly killed a wasp or a fly in that moment

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And there was me thinking that musicians like Bach wrote their music, and the mystics penned their verse, and the artists created their masterpieces to reach those with open minds and pure hearts...When all along it was reserved purely for the publically pious and the registered righteous!Silly me!

Amen, Ruth. Amen.

I enjoy your posts, but don't often take the time to comment. But this post hit a chord with me. I think, at times, we often lose our spirituality in our religion. Not only that, but those steeped in religion (forgetting the spirit that spawns such), seems to be too often fraught with self-righteousness.It seems to me that you are in balance. .

"Today I went to church..." Oh, Ruth! That paragraph is so beautiful. The whole post, really. Bull's eye!

thanks. I enjoy your writing so much. It means something so thank you. and your husband's paintings and your photographs. thanks so's an inspiration.

Hi Ruth,I really wish I could meet you and seem like people I would like to know. I'm sorry I have annoyed you so much with my postings on Julian's site.

oh God.How dare they.On the other side, I get completely annoyed when people imply that anyone who believes in some kind of religion is obviously stupid, self-righteous, not open to the world and a hypocrite more than anything else. As if my believing in the Christ makes me a dishonest person automatically.Just as annoying as what they dare say to you.Let's just all enjoy Bach's music and strive to live a good life. Regardless of whether we believe in God, no higher being or don't really know.

Oh, dear, guess I can't read fiction, since I do not believe it to be literally true...I sing Sacred Harp, and the spirituality pours through the gaps in the lyrics.

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