“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from which comes my help.”
“I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.”
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isiah 40:31
For the 50th anniversary of the movie “The Sound of Music,” my family and I attended a special AMC release of it one Sunday afternoon in Reston. It was as uplifting as ever. And the big screen revealed scenery details that I had never noticed before.
Rogers and Hammerstein’s score is classic throughout of course. But the more I hear the lyrics to the title song, the more amazed I am as to its transcendental power. When I was younger, I guess I just kind of held it in the context of the movie and the plot. Increasingly over the years though, at random times, the song has reemerged all on its own to me and demands reconsideration.
In fact I see it in a whole new light now—as a vital part of my own personal plot and not just as entertainment in a movie. In fact, I think the true value of the “Sound of Music” song can only be fully appreciated over time with some considerable age under ones belt.
I see it as one of the most seamless songs of celebration for nature ever written; coming off humble and childlike while remaining masterfully self-assured and world wise. A great marriage of music and verse.
It deals with hills and prayer and finding the restorative balance and perspective that only a hike out in nature can achieve.
Just the mere act of going to higher ground and casting one’s eyes on the hills and mountains that rise above the daily cares of our lives brings redeeming by-products.
Firstly, comes these joyful verses. The meanderingly, playful tempo matches the symbolic sounds and cadence of nature described so beautifully. Oscar Hammerstein writes with a poets insights. In fact it calls to mind for me “The Wizard of Oz’s” pivotal song, “Over the Rainbow;” as both songs speak of the yearning to transcend ones circumstances.
“My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds
That rise from the lake to the trees
My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies
From a church on a breeze
To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls
Over stones on its way
To sing through the night
Like a lark who is learning to pray”
And it’s about far more than just escaping some vexing reality; some burdensome chain of events that leaves one lost. It’s also about “poetic” dreaming—the unshakable curiosity of wanting to KNOW what it feels like to fly like a bird. Impossible wishes to make come true in most cases—but the very act of wondering is transformative and makes ones spirits soar.
It speaks to what is most ennobling and redeeming about the human species. And it is the best harmony to know—the metaphor of God and nature with the soul.
Finally, comes the confirmation part of the end lyrics; that the spiritual rewards found out in natures solitude can never be tapped out, and indeed; contains within it, a running dialogue relationship with God that is as solid as the firmaments.
“I go to the hills
When my heart is lonely
I know I will hear
what I’ve heard before
My heart will be blessed
With the sound of music
And I’ll sing once more”
What a comforting certainty to keep close to the heart! “I KNOW” I will hear what I’ve heard before’ along with “My heart WILL be blessed.”
It is a conscience decision and an affirming mind-set–this storing of one’s treasures in such a timeless way. It is not subject to luck or expert learning or dependent on outside conditions being perfect. You don’t have to be in your prime or need to desperately search for some novel, new way to keep its fires burning.
The hill you seek doesn’t have to be the foothills of the Alps or the Andes or the Himalayas. It works locally wherever you feel the connection and the sanctity. You can enter the mystic and the profound in the midst of a routine dog walk.
Most of all, this is not some dubious, fleeting human goal that requires a specific test to pass or some contest to win over someone else. This is truly about building ones foundation on rock instead of sand; not some superficial goal requiring consensus building and critical favor to achieve–only to find it getting thrown back at us greatly altered and compromised by outside conditions such as the whims of fashion and the smooth operation of some machine.
In fact the benefits are ageless.
And the singer sounds recommitted to its cause by the end. “IN a world” as the movie release promo announcer starts with—-“in a world that has lost itself in endless distractions and false priorities and face lifts”—this song points the compass back to the purest and simplest blessing that never fails.
Most of all it describes a cathedral with no ceiling and no membership or tithes to pay—that is the perfect place for prayer and worship!