Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"I'm lookin' in on the good life I might be doomed never to find...

...Without a trust or flaming fields; am I too dumb to refine?" --New Slang, by The Shins.

Natalie Portman's character plays this song for Zach Braff's character and tells him, "This song'll change your life."

I'm not so sure, but it has some qualities that are...fascinating. Someone asked me what kind of music I liked the other day, and that was easy.

"Rock," I said, certainly.

But it's a little more specific than that...
"Classic Rock. I mean, old-school. But not necessarily 'oldies.' I mean, I like good solid rock, that's not like pop or super-hardcore. I guess maybe indie, but not so much the emo stuff."

I realized the poor guy asking me was not so obsessive as I am about the finer differences within the "rock" genre, I weakly tried to clarify, "I like stuff with both a good sound and a message worth singing."

Then understanding dawned on his face, and he agreed with me, and asked if that meant I was a fan of Twila Paris. (?!)

"Sort of...I like some songs--I used to listen to her a ton."

Amy Grant?



"Sure! But not too much."

So, what's a particular band?

Aha! A simple one. "The Beatles." I was quite certain of this answer. You can't really go wrong with the Beatles.

His face fell. "Oh, I thought you like songs with a good message?"

Lord, how can I redeem this conversation? "Well, the Beatles do have a good message in some of their songs..." Like what, genius? "All truth is God's truth, you know. And..." groping for something semi-spiritual and not unintelligent, "you know, it's kind of fascinating how deep some Beatles songs are."

I peeked through my eyelashes to see how he was taking this. There was polite disagreement written all over his face, and I could tell that, if I had been on a pedestal (which I doubt I was, but if I HAD been...) I was falling. Fast.

"I wasn't allowed to listen to the Beatles when I was a kid," he said simply.

Drat. This could only end up badly. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I didn't need to defend my music philosophy. Perhaps I could just be very open and honest. It can't hurt to try.

"Well," I started, "Like for example, Hey Jude. Do you know it?" He affirmed that he had, indeed heard it. "See, I especially love how in that song it says, '/Don't you know that it's a fool/who plays it cool/by making this world a little cooler/' I love that. I mean, the whole song is like fatherly advice when the kid is getting into a relationship, and then on top of it, the definition of 'cool,' the Beatles, are telling Jude to not 'play it cool.' Instead he's supposed to '/go out and get her/.' Isn't that the essence of a guy taking leadership in the relationship? And that's something that it seems like Christian circles struggle with a ton."

He contemplated this for a moment. "Yeah, I can see that." Phew. "What about other Beatles songs?"

Hmm. What about other songs?
"Lemme see...I mean, there are obvious ones like Can't Buy Me Love, or I Feel Fine. But really," and here I came to the crux of it all anyway, "songs can just be fun, and that's ok too. I mean, I think God likes us to have fun."

"Huh," he twitched his nose. "I guess I think something ought to be either classical art or explicitly Christian, which comes down to the same thing." (!?) At this point in the conversation we arrived at our destination and went our separate ways. I don't mind telling you, I was speechless.

Part of my shock doubtless comes from my inherent abhorration of classical music that is completely inexplicable. I can objectively admire the art of it, the complexity, the beauty, the majesty, and even how it is the basis and underlying knowledge that allows for the "shallower" forms of music that I prefer. Same with art--I like happy pictures, of smiling faces or pretty scenery or at least beautiful people. Is that horrible? I don't think the other is worthless, it's just not my preference. And after all, is that not what much of this comes down to? Preference?

It wasn't simply that which caused my shock. What struck me to my very core, to much of the essence that is ME was the blatant disregard for FUN!? As if "good clean fun" wasn't a perfectly legitimate pursuit. I agree that there are higher, and times for others, etc., etc...

But think about it. Part of what keeps me in the mode I generally am in (fun mode) is the idea that, as C. S. Lewis said, "Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven." or "To miss out on Joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence," according to Lewis Smedes. The daily, simple, silly things which bring us joy don't have to explicitly say "From God" to actually be from God, and to get us to glorify Him with our enjoyment!

Why, I read recently in The Life You Always Wanted, by John Ortberg, a comparison of the first chapter in Genesis if God approached life like we seem to think we ought.

In the Beginning, it was nine o'clock, so God had to go to work. He filled out a requisition to separate light from darkness. He considered making stars to beautify the night, and planets to fill the skies, but thought it sounded like too much work; and besides, thought God, "That's not my job." So He decided to knock off early and call it a day. And He looked at what He had done and said, "It'll have to do."

On the second day God separated the waters from the dry land. And He made all the dry land flat, plain, and functional, so that--behold--the whole earth looked like Idaho. He thought about making mountains and valleys and glaciers and jungles and forests, but He decided it wouldn't be worth the effort. And God looked at what He had done that day and said, "It'll have to do."

...But Genesis looks nothing like that. Instead it throbs with the refrain, "God said, ...And it was so...and indeed, it was very good."
On the first day, "God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good."...and God did a little dance. And the next day God said to the light, "Do it again." And the light did it again, and God danced once again. And so it has gone every day down to this one--down to the morning of the day you were born; down to the morning of this day in which you read these words.

Well, we don't know if that's exactly how it happens, but God certainly rejoiced in His creation. And we are to rejoice too--Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always; Again I say, Rejoice!"

We have grown up and become fun-suckers--even to God. We say, "Hmph. I have much too much to do. I'll enjoy it later...and later...and later...right now I have to get through this!"

G. K. Chesterton spends a lot of time on this subject, talking about how we lose our childlike ability to enjoy the simple pleasures and blessings God gives us, "For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

Perhaps I overdramatize with reference to my silly little defense of The Beatles and other "shallow" musics--but dear me, if I can't enjoy classic rock, what CAN I enjoy? It makes me want to say, "First they came for the rap; and I didn't speak up because I don't like rap. Then they came for hard rock; and I didn't speak up because I don't like hard rock. But then they came for classic rock, and there was no one left to speak up."


Speaking of, and I think I've mentioned this before, School of Rock, a Jack Black movie that deals prominently with the rock culture in America gives a mighty good explanation of rock to those of you who don't understand our obsession. If you are confused about the finer points between different types of rock, or if you doubt that these nuances actually effect anything other than where the CDs get filed on the shelf, or if you do not understand why "The Man" is out to get you--yes, even you!--I would recommend delving into this film, purely for educational purposes. :)

So yes, I think being young at heart, and fun-loving, and rejoicing with everything is something we're called to do as Christians. I all to often fail ("The things I want to do I don't do, and the things I don't want to do I do.") but I think I know what I want my legacy to be. I want people to remember me as a Joy-bringer, someone for whom everyday was a "dee dah day," and who did a little dance over everything, and someone who even "Considered it pure Joy to encounter various trials..."

Isn't it ironic?

1 comment:

MagistraCarminae said...

Too tired to respond, but I read and thought. Would love to discuss. Have you read John Piper on joy or Christian hedonism? I think he's very helpful on the subject.

I love you, Em!