Why “Unresolved” is Better

Once upon a time…I figured out why I turned into a bit of a chicken about writing.

Almost every day, some interesting moment or observation rattles around in my head and gets my writing gears spinning.

But most of those thought-provoking moments leave me with lots of questions. I don’t often feel like I have a “lesson learned” that I can pass along, or any profound wisdom I can offer.

So I offer nothing.

But this week, a single musical note got stuck in my head, and started greasing those rusty writing gears.

My girls and I have been obsessing over the new movie soundtrack to one of my all-time favorite musicals, “Into the Woods.” (It’s been so much fun to watch my daughters discover why their mother is so helplessly addicted to composer Stephen Sondheim’s songs and lyrics!) They beg to hear certain songs from the soundtrack, over and over and over. I have no objection.

I found myself in the car the other day begging their forgiveness as I kept rewinding and replaying the end of the movie’s finale song, “Children Will Listen.” The main melody ends just as you expect it to, but there’s a final instrumental arpeggio that ends on the 7th of the chord instead of going all the way up to the octave, leaving it gorgeously unresolved. “Check this out, Clara,” I told to my third-grader as I played it again, adding the words “unresolved” and “dissonance” to her vocabulary arsenal. “Isn’t that the PERFECT ending?”

That note captured a lot of what I love about this musical. It challenges us to look beyond the obvious, to be prepared for the “hitch” that no one believes, and to understand that “happily ever after” is never as simple as it sounds. Ending with a resolved chord would be far too neat and pretty.

It was infinitely more beautiful this way.

Choosing a final note that feels unresolved and filled with questions compels you to keep your eyes and heart open as you wait to see what is coming next on your winding path.

“Into the woods you go again, you have to every now and then, into the woods who knows just when – be ready for the journey…”

I’m not really sure yet what all this means yet. That’s exactly why I decided to share it.

To be continued…

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