How Can I Keep From Singing?

By Rev Dr Katherine Rainger, Senior Chaplain

I recently re-watched the film Bicentennial Man (PG), starring Robin Williams and Sam Neill on SBS On Demand. Although it was made in 1999, the issues it raises remain pertinent for us as individuals and as a community. Robin Williams plays Andrew, a domestic robot designed to help with housework who becomes 'human'. His humanity develops in terms of his emotional, spiritual, and intellectual awakening and finally, in his appearance.

Perhaps the ongoing relevance of Bicentennial Man has less to do with the pertinent issue of artificial intelligence and more to do with our timeless quest to cherish and nurture what it means to be human. One of the turning points for Andrew in the film is when he realises - after reading about the struggle for freedom throughout various stages of history - that he too wants to be free.

The struggle for freedom continues within our communities at local and global levels. A desire for freedom from fear, oppression and poverty and the freedom to learn, grow and thrive are part of what it means to be human.

This week, there is much for us to celebrate. Events in our life together, such as the Twilight Fete, Year 6 Exhibition and the camps that are part of the Outdoor Education Program at Radford, require us to work alongside one another towards a common goal. We celebrate our achievements, encourage each other to the end and, hopefully, have some fun along the way!

At the same time, we know that people near and far are facing injustice and uncertainty. The language of the Christian faith includes praise and lament. To lament is to acknowledge the presence of God amidst life's chaos and suffering, while also embracing the hope for a new and different future. This notion is beautifully captured in the song How Can I Keep From Singing?, which was made famous by the singer Enya. The earliest known version of the song dates from 1868 and captures the peace of knowing Jesus Christ in the twists and turns of life.

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?

A later addition, written by Doris Plenn in 1950 and taken up by Pete Seeger and other folk singers, continues the poignant song of praise and lament.

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them go winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

We lament for the people of Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Nepal and other places. We stand in solidarity with people who keep going for the sake of one another while also advocating for help in the short term and a renewed future.

In the hardest moments on Year 10 Camp last week, my group would literally start singing. May there be a song that nourishes your spirit this week as you care for yourself and others.

Referendum BBQ

Many thanks to the staff and students who ran the Voice referendum BBQ. Approximately $1800 was raised, which has been donated to Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services.