When I Was Generous

That’s the title of this song because that was the line it was built around. I liked the inner rhyme of it, which I used as a form factor for the three lyrically different choruses.

I’ve been chipping away at writing this one for several weeks, and this week, Week 17 of #songaweek2022, the prompt of “couldn’t if I tried” actually helped me to finish the song.

Must give credit to H.G. Wells for the last verse. I’m pretty sure I’ve quoted this same passage of his novel Mr. Britling Sees It Through previously in this blog, and I know I included similar lines in another song I wrote. It’s just good! And feels especially timely right now. Wells was writing about World War I (“the war to end all wars”), and here we are a century later hearing “World War Three” tossed around on the news.

“War is a curtain of dense black fabric across all the hopes and kindliness of mankind. Yet always it has let through some gleams of light, and now—I am not dreaming—it grows threadbare, and here and there and at a thousand points the light is breaking through. . . “

H.G. Wells, Mr. Britling Sees It Through

The whole world’s gone mad like it always was
Like it means to be forever
It’s the way we roll
Through the cosmic night
Oh we spin and we spin all day

When I was generous
I could believe we could help each other out of disgrace
Since I got cynical
I can’t even see your hand in front of my face

Let’s lay off the news for a little while
I don’t need to know the latest
Leave me in the dark
Underneath this rock
Let me just catch my breath today

When I was envious
I couldn’t see all the beauty right in front of my eyes
Now that I’m out of time
I find I believe we all can shine in the same sky

Come stand with me under the canopy
Of a thousand points of light
Breaking through the dark
Of the threadbare night
Till it’s bright with the newborn day

It wouldn’t be good for me
And I couldn’t if I tried to keep my life all to myself
So spill it out willingly
Flowers will grow up from the dirt where it fell

The Snape in Me

My literary hero and our family mission statement, inspiring me from the side of my refrigerator.

My literary hero and our family mission statement, inspiring me from the side of my refrigerator.

Note: This post contains a major Harry Potter spoiler. Leave now if you don’t know the story and want to discover it yourself! You have been warned!

My preteen daughter and I had a little fight the other day. I don’t even remember what it was about now. But afterwards, she made up to me by giving me a photo of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape that she had cut out from her Harry Potter poster book – which I promptly posted on the refrigerator, of course.

She did this because she knows I have a celebrity crush on Alan Rickman. But deeper than that, I am moved by the character of Severus Snape like few other fictional characters have moved me over the years. Probably because I can so relate to him.

Not in his abusive childhood, being bullied at school, or joining the Death Eaters. But in his tendency to be blistered by the light, his arrogance, distrust of shining heroes, cynicism, even his bitterness.

And, in his allegiance to that same light, his choice to ultimately serve Dumbledore the loving, generous, patient, wise and broken one rather than Voldemort the brilliant, unmoved, inapproachable, awe-inspiring mocker of goodness, the one who traded his own vulnerable soul for (he thought) impervious immortality.

Over the long haul, through the slow burn of my life, God has shown me a face more like Dumbledore than like the dark lord demanding a bloody sacrifice that the theology I learned in childhood implied.

And in spite of everything, I’m willing to do what this Dumbledore-God asks of me. I’m willing to be faithful to his way even when my cynicism and bitterness scream out in protest, mock the good and the true, scoff at the seeming naivete and utter unfairness of the way of love and grace with which I have thrown in my lot. I’ll hold on in faith to the bitter end, but I will never completely fit in or look the part (though I can come much closer than Snape since I haven’t been asked to work as a double agent!).

Harry Potter scholars (sure, why not?!) might point out that Snape was ultimately inspired by love for Lily more than faith in Dumbledore. And this is the part of the post where I proceed to quite likely over-season my metaphor with Christian theology:  I would suggest that Lily is the Christ-figure in Snape’s story, the embodiment of self-sacrificing love whose kindness and care for Snape in his youth continued to move him for the rest of his life.

Some of us are prone to self-importance, arrogance and cynicism. We may be the first to scoff at simplified statements of faith. We probably won’t trust you if you breezily assert that good always triumphs over evil, and we are pretty sure that we understand every situation more clearly, since we can see all the way down to the depths of despair, which we believe blind certainty in “happily ever after” won’t allow.

But don’t believe that we aren’t touched by love, and that we are incapable of choosing life and goodness (and even of growing kinder and more gracious in our behavior).

And please, don’t be intimidated by us. We are prone to negativity and brooding and can be generally anti-social, but we still like to sit at the head table with all the other professors, and sometimes our curmudgeonliness is the best way we have to interact with our fellow human beings, to let people know we are here and want to be in contact.

In conclusion, I would just like to say, “Everyone is different. No two people are not on fire.”