Lent & Earworm

ImageI just learned a new word for an old experience.  It’s been happening to me since who knows when and I didn’t know that it had a name.

Earworm.  98% of us experience earworm.  Women and men experience the phenomenon equally often, but earworms tend to last longer for women and irritate them more.  Yes, I thought I was unique and the only one who experiences this.  Yes, I thought that no one else could identify with repetitious melodies running through the brain.  Yes, I thought I was alone when, in fact, I am together with so many people.

“An earworm is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing.  Phrases used to describe an earworm include musical imagery repetition, involuntary musical imagery, and stuck song syndrome,” according to the Internets official explanier of all things explainable.

If it’s a song that you like, well, keep it humming in your brain.  However, if it’s a song that just gets stuck between your awareness and your being unaware – then just let the music stop.

The miracle of the mind and the mindlessness of the mind.

Spiritually, what if we put repeating thoughts into your brains and then let the repetition take on a life of its own?  What happens then?  Someone once said that if you hear something repeated long enough then it will become true.  The political pundits have learned that lesson well.

“Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen,” Obamacare will kill old people…” just keep saying it and it will become true.

What have we put in our heads that repeats itself endlessly, or worse yet, what have others put into your heads that remain for a lifetime.  If a parent says, “don’t even try that,” that child has a life-long parrot attached to his/her shoulder.

And like anything that begins small, it can only grow and grow.  What begins with “God thinks I’m a sinner,” moves into “I am a sinner,” and then segues into “I must not be a good person because I am a sinner,” and then matures into “God made junk when He made me.”

Our mind, in its repetition, can not only be repeated but slowly can change life’s lyrics to whatever we wish them to be.

Lent can be a time kill that earworm – at least with repeats that are not healthy or promoting an authentic Christian spirituality.

The mind’s repeating of “I don’t like you” can be replaced with, “I don’t know you yet and wonder why you’re not like me?”  “I am a sinner” is replaced with “God’s mercy is greater than my sin, and besides, my sin wasn’t that great in the first place.”  “My life is meaningless” is replaced with “My life has/had meaning and purpose in each decade and perhaps for different reasons in each.”

For older adults:  “The world is coming to end,” is replaced with “I am coming to end and the world will go on, remarkably and surprisingly, without me.”  Go figure.

Lent is all about repeating what is life-giving and enriching for yourselves and for those around you.  Repeat all you want but may your earworm’s repetitions of music and thoughts be filled with hope, forgiveness and peace.

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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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