If Amazing Grace is played on the bagpipes (religious or not, and I am not) and you do not cry, you are probably broken. I assume I am, because, as a British-Canadian reared in Scottish heritage, years of Highland dancing, haggis, Robbie Burns day, and The Skye Boat Song, I was hitherto physically unable to prevent fully involuntary tears at the very sound of a chanter blown. Amazing Grace, though I have no religion whatsoever, has always made me cry, usually the sort of runny-nosed, body-shaking sobs that embarrass me beyond belief precisely because I do NOT believe. But bagpipes are unique in their ability to pierce my heart and render me a soggy bag of saline, mucus, and sodden tissues.
This week, Amazing Grace on the bagpipes didn't touch me. Didn't so much as make me flinch. I had no reaction AT ALL. In fact, I noted that prior to Amazing Grace, a Fling was played, and I was keen to dance, but didn't so much as smile at the thought of my dearest held Highland dance. (Four or six step, I love the strength, solidity, and firmness of the dance, a show of both muscle and grace.)
Bagpipes ensure tears. Bagpipes hold an emotional place in my body that resonates throughout. Bagpipes are my retirement plan. Learning them. I bought a chanter in Edinburgh in 2003, readying for the day I would have time for lessons. Readying to play and cry simultaneously. Readying for those two opening notes every piper plays in preparation for a piece of music. Am I so broken that I will never make it to that day? I might be.
And yet the most mundane and ridiculous of things make me cry. Birds flying. I don't even like birds; in fact, I hate birds (I wish them no ill, but I can't stand them.) Rice crackers too far back on the grocery store shelf for me to reach. Banal, insidious pop songs on the radio tuned in hopes the rapidity and pep of the score will prevent Julius from shrieking as we drive.
When Britney Spears's "Oops, I Did It Again" leaves you wet-faced and tasting thick salt in your mouth, there is a problem folks.