A few weeks ago the local public radio station dropped its music programing and went to 24-hour news and talk shows.  The shift did not make the headlines.  In fact, even I, who listen to the station regularly, was only mildly affected those first days.  I tried to take the change in stride and sadly acknowledge that not many people listen to classical music on the radio anymore.  On my morning and evening commute, I was still able to hear the familiar news commentators; that seemed a good thing.  I also had my compact discs in the car to listen to whenever needed.  But gradually, the personal impact of what had happened became even more evident.

For example, on a late morning in that first week, driving to the nursing home to visit someone who was likely dying, I reached for the button to turn the station on.   Only talk blared out at a time when I had usually expected something like Mozart.  What I really needed in the few moments before visiting my friend was beauty, art, music—something to accompany hope at a time when words are not much needed anymore.  But only opinionated chatter stuffed the airwaves.  Suffocating with words, I quickly reached forward and shut the noise off.

Another evening after a long and busy discussion, I drove home in the dusky light and longed for the space to clear my mind.   Automatically, I turned on the radio again, knowing that through the weaving melodies or percussive rhythms, I could slip away from the busy conversations that echoed in my head and begin instead to melt back into that relaxed prayerful place within—what a recent mentor has named as one’s “spiritual heart.”   But I had forgotten the big radio change; I was confronted instead with the starkness of the station’s new call-in program.  Once again I turned the radio off, opened the windows and this time listened to katydids in the passing trees.

Sure, I don’t have to have classical music to remind me of God’s presence.  But the music’s richness is often a warm, hard-to-refuse invitation for me into prayer of a wordless sort.  And yes, it is true that I do have a stack of carefully chosen compact discs that I could slide into the player and allow to accompany me along the way home.   Although I will now miss no longer having exposure to new releases I might be interested in ordering.  After pondering all this awhile, I have figured out what I will miss most of all.

I will miss simply being surprised by beauty.  There is certainly something about opening one’s ears to the music that is given at any one moment, whether something new or something familiar, but music that I didn’t select, music that I myself didn’t shove into the cd player,  but is instead offered to me as a gift by another—perhaps challenging, but often a wide and surprising invitation.  To hear someone else’s chosen beauty is like being on a  pilgrimage and accepting the gifts that are offered by strangers as if from God’s very self.  It is true, I can attest, that often the Spirit would leap into those musical spaces chosen by another and make them holy for me.  Am I exaggerating?  On many a drive home, someone had chosen music that would bring joy or tears or rest or confession or whatever it was I needed to bring closure to a difficult day and set my face to gaze at God’s goodness.

So while I will miss the abandoned programming, God and I will find other ways of communicating. Which leads me to one more regret:  I regret how our culture trades art, beauty and goodness (admittedly, my definition of those three categories) for more off-the-cuff talk.  I do not know if this is unique to our particular age, if it has always been this way, or if it is simply a sign that I am growing older.


  1. I share those regrets about the loss of daytime classical music programming on the local station. I’ve been tuning in to WRTI a lot more, but still feel a sense of loss for myself and for the region.