The three-hour drive from southeastern Washington State to Seattle is a journey of transformation, from sagebrush and desert, through rugged, snow-capped mountains into lush greenery and rain. It was a trip I was especially looking forward to a few years ago following several weeks of turmoil at work and some sticky personal problems that were brewing more complex by the day.
Perhaps the change in scenery would provide a little perspective, I thought. That’s part of what spirituality means to me—seeing things from an elevated, less materialistic standpoint that includes greater love, more patience and understanding, and more wisdom.
I left for Seattle about five that Friday afternoon, grabbing several CDs on the way out of the house. One of them was John Rutter’s magnificent choral work, Requiem, which some musicians have called his greatest composition. The seven sections take the listener on a moving journey through sadness and despair into hope, and from darkness into safety and peace.
The traffic thinned as I placed the Rutter CD in the player and left the city, quickly becoming immersed in the simple purity of the singers’ voices. Cactus gave way to wheat fields and wheat fields to foothills and rugged mountains.
The great Cascade mountains were covered with towering pine trees, their needles so distinct against the brown-gray boulders that you could almost count them. About a thousand feet below and to the right was an expansive green meadow. I glanced down just as the singers began the words to the twenty-third Psalm. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me,” the words went on. Time seemed to stop and I caught a moment of freedom from anything unlovely and unkind.
The music continued.
The final section of Requiem contains the Latin phrase “quia pius es,” introduced by the tenors and echoed by the other voices. When I heard these words, I heard them clearly and distinctly as we are innocent. It was an incredible message for the moment:
You don’t have to live in the past, or affix blame, or suffer regret for any single moment in your life. You don’t have to change the past, just live in the innocence of this moment.
The weekend in Seattle was warm and (surprisingly for Seattle) sunny! I returned home late Sunday night and headed to work the next day where (not surprisingly) things seemed just a little lighter. Although I can’t say that everything suddenly changed, I can say that by refusing to “take the bait” of anger, finger pointing, or regret made me appreciate my coworkers and friends more deeply.
Even today, when I listen to Requiem, I still hear those three words in place of the Latin text. We are innocent. A reminder of how each day is a choice to live in the now rather than in the past.