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Who Matters?

Who Matters?

How should one perform? How should one live?

The words I share with you are from one of my absolute favorite novels.

It would not be classified as “Christian literature”, little plot, little action, few characters.

"The Fish Can Sing" by Haldòr Laxness (1908-1998) was first published in Iceland, 1957. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. The language is beautiful, the humor wry.

The few sentences below reveal our purpose as performers; there is nothing to be added.

I will merely present a brief background. Setting: the early twentieth century in a tiny fishing village outside of Reykjavík. Plot: an abandoned newborn, Álfgrímur, is raised by an honest, no-nonsense fisherman and an elderly woman in a poor guest house, where odd, simple folks share a loft. The child grows up, occasionally sings for funerals at the nearby cemetery, fishes for lumpfish with his “grandfather”, attends the village school, has some piano lessons. The “grandmother” wisely and silently cooks porridge. Throughout these years, Iceland’s hero is a famous tenor from the village who tours the world and sometimes returns to visit. The amazing singer is scheduled to actually perform for his own people. Everyone is thrilled and waits on tiptoes for the curtain to rise. The brass band had begun. No show! The celebrity was nowhere to be found. In desperation, Álfgrímur was stuffed into a tuxedo and thrust onto the stage…

“I sang because I knew that singing is testimony to the gratitude we owe to God — but not because I knew how to sing. I was so deeply committed to this task right from the first note that the peals of derisive laughter that broke out had no more effect on me than a distant breeze in the eastern mountains so rock-firm was my certainty that since I was standing there (and I had always known, deep down, that I would be the one to stand there), I was standing there through the power of things which were so high above me that I no longer mattered.”

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