Love’s Gonna Rise Again

Be the love you wish to feel in the world.

I believe in the infinite power of love, and I also believe that I can’t just wait around for love to rise and save the world. Love will always rise again. And I can be one of many who give it legs. Even when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Especially then.

Here’s my song for week 47 of #songaweek2016. Apologies for its very rough draftiness. I wanted to finish early this past week so I could enjoy my parents’ visit for Thanksgiving (which I did!).

When the ugly words of angry men come screaming on the wind
Love’s gonna rise again
When the comfortable complacent ones keep keeping quiet
love’s gonna rise again
when you can barely believe it, keep singing anyway
love’s got to rise again
when you can’t really feel it, keep hanging on anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

out of the mud, out of the ruins
out of the rotten remains
love’s gonna rise again

when you lay her down into the ground and feel your heart stop
love’s gonna rise again
when days are dark and nights are long and cold sets in
love’s gonna rise again
when you can’t see the point, get out of bed anyway
love’s got to rise again
when all seems lost, keep reaching out anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

love paints the world in vibrant colors and sings in many voices
love’s gonna rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

Hymn Number 22

It’s been too long since Nathan sang along on one of my recordings. I won’t easily forget the night he recorded his vocals on this song, while I sat on the couch nearby, snuggled up with the dog and reading H.G. Wells. The process of creating these songs – not just the writing, but the recording and collaborative arranging – is something I simply love, a deeply fulfilling way to spend my time.

This song felt very hymn-like to me, and it’s week 22 of #songaweek2016, thus the title.

Rain falls on the righteous and wicked alike
’cause each of us is righteous and wicked
Sun shines in the daytime moon glows at night
each of us needs light and dark

Hallelujah, Amen

We’re born in a moment we cannot remember
we’re laid to rest in tombs of unknowing
we spring from folded bud through full-bodied summer
then fall asleep in winter’s deep embrace

Hallelujah, Amen

So play for us the songs you hear, paint the colors in your visions
write us the stories you find in the world
With broken brushes, bleeding pens and battered instruments
we’ll build a blaze and gather round for warmth

Hallelujah, Amen

Luminescent

Some of us are just destined to do most of our work in the dark. We choose it – sort of – and it seems to choose us too. Not much spotlight, not much sunshine – but oh how we glow in our finest hours – alone in the studio at midnight, on a stage in front of five actively listening people, putting the finishing touches on a poem in the corner of a busy coffee shop.

My song for Week 19 of #songaweek2016 is dedicated to all the introverts, melancholics and not-so-go-getters who persist in loving this noisy, busy, sun-worshiping world through the deep, dark, luminescent art they faithfully create.

 

I’m the glow after the blaze

More subtle glance than open gaze

I’m understated

not overrated

i like my coffee black

i like a strong dark beer

and if you want to be sweet with me

be bittersweet

 

I’ve been singing in the shadows

From the day that I was made

I’m luminescent in the moonlight

but in the sunshine I just fade

 

Don’t cover me in kisses of pure joy

I cannot play along

mix them with tears

be salty sweet

My daydreams never hold a candle to

All the beauty I dream in the dark

Keep your sparkling diamonds

I’d rather have stars

 

I can’t tell you why I’m like this

It’s just always been this way

I’m luminescent in the moonlight

but in the sunshine I just fade

Every Single Star

Stars are glowing mysteries. Science and wonder collide in those incomprehensibly giant and mind-bogglingly ancient balls of fire that appear to little you and little me as tiny points of light.

They are countless. There are more stars than humans who have ever lived. A quick Google search tells me there are maybe “1 billion trillion” or “100 octillion” stars in the observable universe.

So it seems both fitting and misguided to me that we call people who have set themselves apart, people who dazzle us from dizzying heights, stars. If you can somehow distinguish yourself from the masses around you, maybe you too can rise and become a star.

Why are stars so remarkable when there are so very many of them, each shining its light out all through the universe? For all of human existence, we’ve been staring up at stars on clear nights, lost in wonder, drawn far beyond ourselves or deep within ourselves, like our parents and grandparents and distant ancestors long before us.

But you are remarkable too. And so am I. And our neighbors, and coworkers, and everybody who calls and tries to sell us something, and all the old people sitting in the assisted living place down the street. Every politician, every middle-schooler, every complaining customer and annoying coworker, every single life.

So be you, you bright star. Shine on.

And rest in peace, Prince.

The song I wrote for week 16 of #songaweek2016 has something to do with the above thoughts, but it’s still not all untangled for me. See what you can make of it:

 

When the Music

For week 14 of #songaweek2016, an extra challenge was thrown out to anyone who wanted to try it – use three particular words in the song. Those who wanted to participate sent a word of their choice to one person, who then wrote all those words on a sheet of paper, cut it up, put the words in a hat, and chose three at random. And the winning words were:

Valparaiso
Socks
Moxy

I wrote this song very much stream-of-consciousness with those three words in mind. Except the last verse, which was inspired by a motorcycle ride and a weekend road trip with my love. Who, by the way, came up with some pretty fine bass and guitar additions, as well as pulling together a tasty drum track from our Studio One software.

As always, there is lots of great listening for you at the songaweek2016 website, and you might especially enjoy hearing all the different songs that came out of the 3-word challenge in Week 14. I haven’t finished listening through the list yet but from what I can tell so far, challenge-accepters were Jen Bluhm, Phil Cowan, Anielle Reid, Deborah Kelly, and James Tristan Redding. So fun to hear the different directions people took it.

For all I know he’s in Valparaiso
kissing some other girl
for all he cares I could be standing there
it wouldn’t even faze him

That’s when the music comes to me
That’s how the music sets me free

Would you eat it with a fox in socks?
Take a brave new bite
Chase it down with moxy on the rocks
It’s a bold concoction

That’s when the music comes to you
That’s how the music feels brand new

Honey take me back to Loveland
on your motorcycle
With the Badlands in our mirrors
we’re alright for now

That’s when the music comes alive
That’s how the music feels inside

 

 

Amateurs Wanted

I started running regularly seven years ago. A mile, a few times a week. I stayed with it, until I was doing a ten-mile run every week, and I considered a four- or five-mile run average, and a three-mile run a break.

Today, I still run regularly, and my average distance is three miles. Sometimes, I run a mile and a half, occasionally just a mile. And yesterday I ran four, and am thinking of ramping back up to longer distances again.

My running life ebbs and flows, and always will, because I am a confirmed amateur runner, with no professional ambitions.

In other words, I run because I love it. (“Amateur” comes from the Latin “amator,” meaning “lover.”)

These days, “amateur” is often used and felt as a negative word, and few of us want to be considered amateurs. If you are going to run, get yourself in training for a marathon – or at least a half – and get on with it. Fancy yourself a writer? Start a blog and begin your e-book, ramp up your social media image and build your e-mail newsletter list.

My eight-year-old son is a runner, but he’s not serious about it. He loves it so much that every day he takes off running, if not outside, back and forth on the sidewalk, then inside, back and forth in the living room. Back and forth and back and forth. And if I ask him to stop, he says, “I just can’t! I’ve got to run!”

My eleven-year-old daughter is a writer, and she too is not serious about it. She’s an amateur. She loves it. She has started several stories, and she regularly grabs her notebook and pen, curls up in a corner or if the weather is good, climbs up in the maple tree in the front yard, and writes.

Neither of my children are thinking about measurements or outcomes when they do these things they love. They just do them, no Nike needed.

As adults, we have this idea that if we want to start something, we need to take it seriously, and we need to excel at it. And there’s something to that. That’s part of growing up and making something of your life.

But after you’ve identified the things you want to take seriously, there should still be room to try something new, or do something for fun. And even with the life pursuits we are most focused and serious about, love and play still have their place.

I’d wager that the best professionals are still and always, at their core, amateurs in that field. Love of something drives us to work hard, learn and practice and fail and get up and do it again. Without that basic fuel of love energizing it, ambition can go corrupt in all sorts of ways.

Go amateur. Do something you love.

Dark and Dawn and Dag Hammarskjold

In the soundless depths before dawn
you are with me.
You are not only in the lightening of the sky
but also in the embracing dark of this room.
I wait for you
with you
and the morning
like the night
is faithful.

^What I wrote this morning,
and then
what I read:

“To preserve the silence within – amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness, where the rain falls and the grain ripens – no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky.”

And also this:

“Is your disgust at your emptiness to be the only life with which you fill it?”

^Both quotations from Markings by Dag Hammarskjold

Manifesto of an Unchosen Musician

Heaven and the music industry* have twisted themselves together in my brambled mind. I mean the heaven I used to believe in, and the music industry I used to dream about, and the way they both still affect me on a gut level I’ve not paused to think about before.

Something about being chosen, about higher-ups moving in mysterious ways, about knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time.

And clashing with that, having a voice and a soul that feel too large for my timid self, that come tearing out sideways if I try to box them up – but not having enough of the mysterious something – the look, the drive, the belief, the secret decoder – to make it with the gatekeepers.

Something about scarcity, about me and scads of people I know or have heard, who keep making music and living big soulful lives because what else can they do? – and the airwaves being just too crowded, the need for the higher-ups to choose only some, the ones who work the hardest, clamor the loudest, get born into the right family at the right time.

And how I don’t feel like I really want to be chosen in a system like that, and how I feel more alive outside the contrived paradise, where kids and old people and loud people and shy people and generally awkward people and anyone else below the industry standard are making their music and living their lives, sans audience, sans halo.

No mansion for me, and no platinum record. I’ll just be out on the front steps of heaven, singing my guts out** with the rest of the unchosen.

 

*Whatever heaven may be, this ain’t it; and “the music industry” is hardly such an easily-generalized monolith, and there are many highly successful musicians making music I love and doing good authentic work. This post is about opting out of elitist mentalities, wherever they crop up, and not letting fear of being unchosen keep us from being who we really are, making music whether anyone listens or not, searching our souls despite the disapproval of the gatekeepers of faith or tradition or clout in any form.

**“You’ve been singing your guts out / Is that not enough to do?” – I love this phrase from a Luka Bloom song, whose lyrics also seem relevant to this post: http://www.lukabloom.com/lyrics/riverside_album/the-one/

 

Extra credit – these songs:

 

 

Creatio Continua, a.k.a Evolution

How can evolution be both scientific theory and enricher of theology? John Haught explains:

The notion that God creates the world is, of course, central to the faith of millions. Traditionally, Christian theology spoke of three dimensions of God’s creative activity: original creation (creatio originalis), ongoing or continuous creation (creatio continua), and new creation or the fulfillment of creation (creatio nova). Prior to the scientific discoveries of cosmic and biological evolution, however, the latter two notions were usually eclipsed by the first. “Creation” meant primarily something that God did in the beginning. But even in the late nineteenth century a few theologians had already recognized that evolution implicitly liberates the notion of creation from confinement to cosmic origins. And although today discussions between scientists and theologians about God and the big bang often assume that “creation” is only about cosmic beginnings, the idea of evolution forbids such narrowing of so powerful a notion.

Indeed, the fact of evolution now allows theology to apprehend more palpably than ever that creation is not just an “original” but also an ongoing and constantly new reality. In an evolving cosmos, creation is still happening, no less in the present than “in the beginning.” The big bang universe continues to unfold, and so every day is still the “dawn of creation.” As Teilhard de Chardin put it, in an evolving universe “incessantly even if imperceptibly, the world is constantly emerging a little farther above nothingness.”

Moreover, evolution has allowed theology to acknowledge at last that the notion of an originally and instantaneously completed creation is theologically unthinkable in any case. If we could imagine it at all, we would have to conclude that an initial creation, one already finished and perfected from the beginning, could not be a creation truly distinct from its creator. Such a “world” would simply be an appendage of God, and not a world unto itself; nor could God conceivably transcend such a world. It would be a world without internal self-coherence, a world without a future, and, above all, a world devoid of life. By definition, living beings must continually transcend, or go beyond, themselves. As Henri Bergson said long ago, life is really a tendency rather than something rounded off and complete. An unfinished, or evolving, universe is essential to this tendency’s actualization.

(John F. Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview Press, 2000), p. 37 from chapter 3, “Theology Since Darwin”)

The weight of evidence pointing towards evolution is often a crushing weight for someone, like me, brought up with a literalistic reading of the Bible. Usually one of two choices is made, both involving denial – deny the mountain of evidence for evolution, or deny the soul’s insistent dream of God.

My readings this morning seem to have converged around this point. Before I read the quoted passage above, Nathan and I read this at breakfast together:

In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

(from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran)

And later, I came across a blog post discussing this type of contrast as seen in a medieval painting:

Pisanello’s animals, tucked in their self-containing spaces, recall to me my scrappy outsider knowledge of the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime, when all the manifest forms of creation lie sleeping inside the earth, waiting for songs to awaken them, to call them continuously into being. But here the Dream is fading, the song on the cusp of being mocked and forgotten, replaced by the angular, linear, technocratic visions that lie in wait beyond the cross and the promise of Renaissance that the future saint locks his eyes upon.

(from Cat’s blog The Place Between Stories)

I sense a growing polarity between thinking and dreaming in our culture these days. So I am grateful for the insistent thinker-dreamers among us. Open eyes, open minds, and open hearts keep us growing, unfinished, evolving, deeply alive in the continuing dawn of creation.