I am a music nerd. And one of the things that nerds me out the most is when music is just beautifully dissonant. There’s that tension to it because the dissonant notes don’t technically resonate with one another when you get into the science of it all, but somehow they blend and make some of the richest sounds possible. In thinking of the beauty of dissonance, I am reminded of a song we sang for Illinois All State Choir back in 2007, called “A Boy and a Girl”, composed by Eric Whitacre (couldn’t find the audio file, so luckily it’s on Youtube!):
I was recently talking to a good and wise friend (yet again) about my fairly recent falling-out with another friend that I’ve mentioned a few times, and I found myself getting increasingly more frustrated at the lack of resolution I was coming to, and my inability to make sense of things, among other issues. I had thought that I was done with it all, and that I had come to my conclusions, but apparently I was wrong, because life’s complicated like that. We were talking it out together, and she reminded me that I need to learn to live in the lack of resolution, because otherwise I’m allowing the actions of the other person to dictate my reactions, and that’s not a healthy way for me to cope with things. I was having trouble processing and really taking to heart what she was recommending to me until I started thinking about it in terms of dissonance.
Dissonance doesn’t always resolve, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be harmonious in its own beautifully uncomfortable way. I just have to look for the beauty in it and the (sometimes unexpected) ways I can grow from it. Even though there is dissonance, I don’t necessarily have to resolve it, especially not right away. We can continue living our dissonantly separate lives, and eventually the dissonance may resolve itself, but maybe it won’t. But after enough time living in the dissonance, it won’t matter if it eventually resolves itself, because I will have learned how to live in the dissonance and embrace the dissonance. Just as moments of dissonance can be transformative to a piece of music, so too can living in this relational dissonance be transformative to me. I still have no idea where it will take me, but it’s about time I started living in the dissonance and simply appreciating it for the beauty and growth it affords me.
Thinking about this situation in terms of dissonance got me thinking about other cases of dissonance which we encounter today. The Occupy movement and much of the backlash against it is one such case, and I believe the recent letter from the Council of Bishops regarding a group of clergy and laity who have covenanted to perform holy unions for same-sex couples in defiance of The Book of Discipline is also indicative of what I consider a widespread aversion to living in and with dissonance. The dissent that these folks are showing towards the discriminatory policies of The Book of Discipline is representative of a dissonance that exists within The United Methodist Church right now, and from the tone of the letter, it is apparent that the dissonance exists within the Council of Bishops, as well. So why does this letter try to silence that dissonance, either attempting to resolve it or remove the dissonant tones, or however one might want to extend the metaphor of dissonance in this particular case?
Maybe we all need a lesson in learning to sit with dissonance. It can be key to bringing about transformation if we allow the dissonance to help us grow and learn and, most importantly, change. Who knows where The UMC will be several months from now if we do not silence or try to resolve the dissonance but rather let it sit with us and transform us? Who knows where I’ll be several months from now as I allow this dissonant relationship to transform me? There’s really no telling, but I have a feeling that something beautiful could come out of this dissonance, if we just listen for its strange, rich, beautiful, discordant harmonies.