"We know the truth of life, which is that everything
comes and goes; everything is conditional. So how do you
make a joyful, productive life in the face of that knowledge?"
I sometimes look back at my life and wonder, how did I end up here? I have been fortunate enough to study the things that I wanted to, without thinking too much of where it might lead me. I have followed my instincts and chosen paths that called me. At times, however, these choices have seemed to be contradictory, mutually exclusive even.
In search of meaning, I decided to study theology at the University of Helsinki. I felt the call of the sacred, of God, if you like. Nothing else seemed important. Or at least as important. After a few years, I decided to apply to a music school - almost as if I was giving music one last chance before I let it go. Music had followed me my whole life and I didn’t quite know how to stop it. But neither did I know how to find a meaningful place for it in my life. And just to confuse matters further, I was accepted. I had to start the long process of painting a picture of myself where both of these sides coexisted.
Of course, we all know that we are much more than what we do, but to me both fields seemed to demand my whole self. Or nothing. After years of studying both subjects at the same time, I first graduated from Uni and, two years later, the music school. I then had to start making some decisions – ideally I would have made them a lot earlier, but what can I say, a classic generation Y situation?! Suddenly I was asking The Big Questions, like - What will I do with my life? Which path should I continue on? The result was, I started doubting everything I had ever chosen. All at once it seemed to me that there was no logic to my life. Did I just keep running in different directions at random? I may even at one point have Googled “What do I do if my life is a mess?” Incidentally, that question gets about 37 million(!) hits. I was not alone.
Now, let me take a step back in time. My goal with my theology studies was to become a pastor in the protestant church in Finland. I have always been interested in what people actually feel when they say they believe in God, or indeed any divinity or higher power. What is it that makes them believe that they believe? What do they experience? How would they describe this experience of ‘the divine’? During my religious studies I came across a definition that appealed to me. According to some line of thought ‘the holy’ can be described as something ‘wholly other’ or ‘separate from the mundane’. To me this made perfect sense. The idea of ‘the holy’ being simply something Other than our everyday lives – things that we can see and feel, hear or touch - gave words to the experience that I had had.
However strong these experiences were, during my studies I started to doubt. To the point that I realized that I couldn’t say the words which would be required of me, with sincerity. When I realized that I wasn’t at all sure that ‘the holy’ could be found in the theological frameworks that I knew and had grown up with, I was understandably doubtful about the kind of pastor I would make... I realized that my problem was not with the idea of God, but with the words that were used to express and contain him. Her. It. You see my point.
This didn’t mean that my search for something Other was cancelled. I still felt ‘the call’ - I just needed to figure out where it was coming from.
I remember once listening to a piece by the Baroque composer Georg Muffat (I strongly recommend his concertos if you feel like listening to some beautiful baroque music) when I felt that my heart was being simultaneously torn to pieces and mended by the extreme beauty of the harmonies. The experience was so profound and surprising I felt out of breath and ready to cry. I probably was in an emotionally receptive state anyway, but that doesn’t matter. The experience of beauty was something not of this world.
But can I call it a holy experience?
According to some I could. According to me I could. This realization gave so much sense to my life. It hasn’t been random. It hasn’t been illogical. It has always been a journey in search of beauty, of something beyond the mundane.
Someone said that, ‘... sacred moments allow us to enter again and again that timeless and transforming psychological space from which renewal and creativity emerge.’ I found that space. For me - and of course this is a completely subjective experience - the theological words prevented me from freely experiencing beauty, but in music I found a way to let myself feel, truly and profoundly. That is why I choose to be on the path I am on. I have to keep walking it. I have a deep need to be surrounded by a beauty that touches my soul over and over again – I find this beauty in music.
I guess my point with this story is that weather it is God or Krishna, music, a peaceful landscape or you know, a perfect balance between the taste of lingonberry and caramel sauce, that gives you a feel of something beyond the immediate reality, hold on to it. Cherish it. It is beautiful and gives hope.
Like anyone, I still wonder who am I and where I’m going, but the experience of beauty makes it easier.
Eerika Pynnönen is a Finnish musician. She has a classical training in viola and music education and is currently exploring her opportunities in Paris. She has a background in theology, where she focused her studies on New Testament exegetics and the social situation of the first Christians in particular. She is composing music for one of the short films we are doing in collaboration with leading film schools, writers and the StoryVid initiative.