How can you sing an enigma? How can you give yourself to a hymn, when you have no idea what it means until you get to the last six words? And even then, you might not understand unless you’ve scoured the internet to figure out what “The Great Minimum” means.
Before I rant too much longer, though, I have to let you know that not everyone feels this way; some people like a little mystery in their lyrics. My suspicion is that it matters how your brain works. Whenever I take a Multiple Intelligences assessment, the top three strengths for me are linguistic, intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, in that order. Musical intelligence is usually pretty far down the list. Someone for whom music is more important, and words less important, might experience enigmatic lyrics differently than I do.
This tangent helps me understand that, for me, it’s really important to have a simple, easily singable and preferably familiar tune. I want the tune’s structure to support the hymn’s meaning, and not distract from the hymn’s lyrics. Given a complicated, unfamiliar tune, and impenetrable lyrics, and I’m unlikely to enjoy the hymn.
I wonder how diverse UU intelligences are. How many UUs are wordy, introspective types like me? How many could care less about words, but need interesting and challenging music? How many are nature folks who would rather be outdoors than sing a hymn? And how do we create a common experience for a community whose members are, quite literally, wired differently?
On a different note (pun intended), I do like some of the words from “The Great Minimum” that this hymn left out:
In a time of sceptic moths and cynic rusts,
And fattened lives that of their sweetness tire
In a world of flying loves and fading lusts,
It is something to be sure of a desire.