Great to hear from some of you. Thanks for saying hello. I dig it!
My last month since rushing to the emergency room has been a bit interesting to say the least. To be blunt, I almost died. And this, of course, has affected my thought life considerably.
I’m not 100% better. I still have some exhaustion that is worse than usual since I still don’t have full use of my lungs. My biggest issue is the shortness of breath that creates a strange sense of restless anxiety. The Apostle Paul urges us to take every thought captive. Well, I’ve been working to take every breath captive. Perhaps you’ve seen me taking slow, deliberate breaths—‘cleansing’ breaths. I take off my glasses, rub my face and stretch my neck to the left and right rolling it around gently. This slower pace keeps me mindful of the fragility of life, of how serious it was. Shortness of breath. Shortness of life. The strange gift of sickness. Breathing never felt so good—especially breathing outside. A few full breaths of Autumn air are the best of cleansing breaths.
Here is one alarming experience post ER: I’ve found it hard to enjoy much of my favorite music. In the past four or five years my musical interests have moved further into the obscure. It is obscure to most of my faith community anyways, an emphasis on sounds over lyrics, musical explorations rather than musical statements, music as experience first and communication second. I’ve found myself stuck in the progress of my own side project. It's the place where I experiment with all that I can’t use in corporate worship music. Developing a taste for this has caused me to lose my taste for other things. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with several different voices. If you are interested in one conversation, no doubt you will need to turn away from other conversations. And right now, I’m finding that the conversation that I’ve given my attention to is not “doing it” for me.
I am the last person to make heavy handed secular/sacred distinctions. I don’t choose not to listen to a particular kind of music because it is “worldly.” I do not want to live out an oversimplified, naive or a fearful posture toward society. I write in these blogs to describe a redemptive enthusiasm for the world. This is a fundamental reason why I’ve been interested in paying attention to bands like Animal Collective, Broken Social Scene, Sunset Rubdown etc. I want to find the good, even the beautiful in these parts of our world, to discover an artistic integrity somewhere in the murky waters of popular culture.
Yet, right now, for this season at least, I’m in search of music that explicitly and gladly names Jesus. Other than a bit of Jazz, I’m turning to worship music. I dug my old 100-disc binder of CDs out of the closet this morning. I haven’t listened to or look at these CDs in years. What does my soul good: Fernando Ortega and John Michael Talbot. Both have voices that are sincere, fragile but still full and strong. Integrity. I trust them. Two of my favorite worship CDs are John Michael Talbot’s “Come Worship the Lord” Volumes one and two. They are live recordings of him leading the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage in Eureka Springs Arkansas. A nylon string guitar, an upright bass, some tambourines, a synth playing trumpet-like leads and a congregation of voices, that is all that is needed to create a holy, spirit-filled raucous.
Why has it been so long since I’ve found other CDs like this? It is no doubt a result of my own musical direction and interests, but I do believe that there is a vacuum of good Christian music available. I actually believe part of my movement toward the obscurity of independent music is a result of the disappearance of Christian music that has any integrity.
I’ve been hacking away at these questions and have almost a fully completed essay on this topic, but I don’t think it’s best to dump the whole thing here on the blog all at once. So, I’ll be posting a portion of it at a time. I still want to work out a few things and I invite any of you readers to offer your own thoughts on this. What do you listen to? What feeds your soul and encourages you?