Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Going Deeper

Music can be an invitation out into the deep. It doesn't matter if it's played on a subway ramp or a concert hall, a whistled tune from beneath the hood of a car, or a lullaby whispered in the still of the night. Music has power.

I don't mean music from the generic pop stations that buzzes incessantly and fizzles out in a few weeks, though there can be sparks of light and insight there too. I mean hand-carved poetry. Heart-crafted words, polished smooth by poets sitting in their cabins or spilling words on napkins in small town diners, scribbling fast while the fire of inspiration is hottest. It's mostly music from the souls who are unplugged. I'll take their word over a snappy electrolized and endlessly repetitive refrain any day! Take a Karen Casey standing small in the midst of a smoky pub in Westport, Ireland, singing a capella the tune A Labouring Man's Daughter. Wow.

There are songs that can really slip below the radar and get me thinking. Usually anything from Greg Brown (Ella Mae or Hey Baby Hey.... oooh those are sweet), or Dave Wilcox; now there's a poet. Carrie Newcomer's words are so rich with imagery. The music of Van Morrison was key in my faith journey in my early twenties, especially the albums Avalon Sunset and Poetic Champions Compose. And every time I hear "Will Ye Go Lassie Go?" (sung by Judy Collins below) my Irish heart beats stronger and gazes towards Erin's western seas to Tir na Nog.

We need music with power; music that pines. Music that has that glimmer of eternity in it, that throbs with the sehnsucht, the longing in us that tells us that here is not all there is.... that "the best is yet to come." This heart music is not an escape from reality, but a return to it. It's not mindless distraction, but mindful attractions to things we must face every day. Choices to be made, turns taken, fears to overcome. Just as we should make an examination of conscience each night, looking over the day and what actions or omissions may have thrown shadows over His Light, so I think we should do an examination of our iPods, our iTunes, Zunes, and CD collections; whatever houses the music we live by.

How much of it moves you, as opposed to gets you moving? I know we love both. But are there at least a few melodies that take you to those places you need to go, deep into your soul? Would you mind sharing them? Here's a few of mine:

- How Did You Find Me Here, Dave Wilcox
- In the Garden, Van Morrison
- I Know You by Heart, Eva Cassidy
- Leaving Home, John Williams (Superman soundtrack)
- The Riddle, Five for Fighting
- Hold On, Carrie Newcomer
- One Love, Cheryl Wheeler
- Valentine's Day, Bruce Springsteen
- For All that We Let In, Indigo Girls
- Check it Out, John Cougar Mellencamp
- Hearts and Bones, Paul Simon
- Love Your Neighbor, Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I Wanna Know What Love Is!

I believe 80's music is one of the proofs for God's existence. I'm serious... Just check out these lyrics from the band Foreigner. Listen to the longing for love and communion in this one!!

"Now this mountain I must climb feels like a world upon my shoulders... through the clouds I see love shine. It keeps me warm as life grows colder. In my life there's been heartache and pain. I don't know if I can face it again. Can't stop now, I've traveled so far to change this lonely life... I wanna know what love is... I want you to show me... I wanna feel what love is... I know you can show me..."

Isn't this the quest of every human heart: to find love? Isn't this an echo of our original solitude pining for communion? It drives us on and up and out of ourselves (and sometimes it drives us crazy!) But still we press on, because we believe that even in the midst of that "heartache and pain" we all encounter, there is in fact a Love that truly satisfies. The sad fact is many remain in that pain because they seek this love in the human heart alone. But no person on earth can fully satisfy us; our hearts were made for an Everlasting Love.

The good news is that this Love has been seeking us all the while. This Love has found us! Within the lyrics of this song from Foreigner we can discover the truth that it is indeed God Himself Who has placed this passion within us. Like a little homing beacon, blinking red in the center of our chests, following this desire in sincerity and truth will lead to Him! "Through the clouds I see Love shine"!

But it must always be a desire to give ourselves to this love, to break free of the gravitational pull of lust and self-centeredness. Maybe this is the weight the singer of this song is trying to escape from? This is the mission of every human being; to give love rather than to grasp at it. Just listen to the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body... True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.

Through the songs we sing and in the deepest desires of our hearts, may God continue to shine His Light, leading us ever and onward to our true home.... His Heart.