“The Game is On…”

1920x1080-427875-sherlock-background-wallpaper-for-computer-free.jpg

Recently, my son and I have been watching the recent BBC version of Sherlock together (it’s become a bit of a family tradition: we did the same with my daughter a few years back). It’s just excellent in so many ways: innovative directing and camera work, great storytelling, impeccable acting, and enough “Easter eggs” and clever references to keep us all entertained.

In the “old school” Sherlock stories, whenever the detective sprang into action he would declare to Dr. Watson that “the game is afoot!” The modern version updates that phrase to “the game is on!”, and whenever Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) exclaims it, the action always takes a great leap forward and the characters move into the story, the mystery, and in a variety of ways proceed to confront villains, solve problems, and in a general way bring some justice and resolution to the storyline. It’s a great time, and thoroughly enjoyable.

A few years ago, I was reading Thomas Merton’s autobiography when I ran across an exchange that gave me a pretty significant pause. Merton is talking with his friend Robert Lax. Lax asks Merton what he wants to be, and after Merton replies that he wants to be a “good Catholic,” Lax tells him pointedly, “What you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

Merton protests, declaring, “I can’t be a saint, I can’t be a saint.”

But Lax drives the point home: “Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it.” 

Does that strike you as much as it struck me?

(For the record, Merton bounces Lax’s idea off of another wise, monk, who verifies the truth of it.”

Forgot all the challenging traditions and baggage you might know and feel about “saints”: the occasional over-emphasis on relics and veneration; the supposed miracles that are associated with old bones and mystical visions. Set all that aside for just a minute and think about what (or who) a saint actually is. 

What images come up?

What names come up?

Francis? Mother Theresa? Paul? Peter? John?

The_Apostle_Paul_-_Rembrandt

“The Apostle Paul” – Rembrandt (courtesy Wikimedia)

Maybe there are some unofficial, modern ones as well: Martin Luther King Jr.?

I always think of “saints” as men and women who had essentially learned to live out of the radical reality of God’s love.

They had grown beyond the masks and identity traps that we fall into, and simply grasped the simple fact that they were/are “The Beloved” of God (just like Jesus).

After that, they just started to work out the implications of that reality in their own context…

“If I truly AM the Beloved… 

… Then I am free to live in poverty

… Then I am free to fearlessly look at my “shadow side” 

… Then I no longer need to hype God up, or scare people into the Kingdom of God

… Then I am free to speak truth to power

… Then I am free to see people the way God sees ME: as broken-but-beautiful; cracked-but-precious

… Then I am free to be compassionate to all 

… Then I am free from the fear of death

… Then I am safest in the arms of my Father in heaven. I have nothing to fear. 

(A note about one of those implications: I used to think that being a “saint” somehow meant that you somehow floated above life, and you no longer had to worry about things like “brokenness” or “sin.” However, the more I learn about the men and women who have achieved sainthood—officially or unofficially—the more I learn that they were actually incredibly in touch with their own limitations and brokenness. However, they were able to relentlessly place those limitations in the context of their Beloved-ness, and therefore resist the guilt and shame that plagues most of us. Rather, that awareness helped to unlock new levels of gratitude, appreciation and understanding of God’s free gift of grace, which in turn spills over into ever-increasing compassionate love for and service to the world that God loves so much.)

So now, think about that: God wants to make a saint out of you (no matter what Mick Jagger might say).

Now, make no mistake: when Robert Lax tells Merton, “All you have to do is desire it,” there is an awful lot packed into that phrase.

Because if we are honest with ourselves and each other, we desire an awful lot before we desire sainthood.

Here’s just a short list of my “desires”:

guitars

chips and salsa

pizza

quality music releases

a richly satisfying marriage

books

safety and maturity for my children

a secure retirement

a good vacation this summer

a healthy church

better leadership out of myself

a better workout habit

a richer prayer life

grass that mows itself

a teenage son that cleans up after himself

a book project that effortlessly writes itself

3 more hours in my day to be productive

3 more hours in my day to sleep

a 24 hour, free, soccer channel

comedy specials that actually make me laugh

a community that governs itself

(… and all that is BEFORE 9AM!)

But make no mistake: there is something that stirs in my heart sometimes, that gnaws at me, and that just sticks with me constantly.

Maybe it’s the growing desire to be MORE. It’s the growing desire to let God “make what me what He created me to be.”

And that thought has begun to stir my soul. It gets me out of bed in the morning (or rather, HE gets me out of bed in the morning), and into the presence of this God, this Love, this mystical and mysterious Presence that wants to grow me into something that He always intended me to be.

So I pursue prayer.

I pursue worship.

I pursue confession.

I pursue submission to a spiritual director.

I pursue service.

I pursue community.

I pursue study.

I pursue meditation.

Yep, as Sherlock would say it, “The game—of growth, of maturity, of spiritual evolution, of transcendence—is on.”

Where are you at with your spiritual growth? Do you believe—and trustthat God wants you to be a “saint”?

 

Thanks for liking // sharing // commenting.

Under the mercy.

 

 

Advertisements

4 Ways that Life is Like Soccer

If you know me at all, you know that as for me an my house, we watch soccer.

(Oh we like the NFL too, but for us, there’s no football like “futbol.”)

So sit back and enjoy while I show you why this sport is so much more like life:

1. It Doesn’t Stop (Until it’s Done)

Almost all of the major American sports have prodigious breaks in them. Though an entire game lasts well over 2 hours, each individual play takes mere seconds, and over the whole of a game this adds up to about 11 minutes total of play. The rest of the time is taken up with commercials, penalties, and various breaks in the action.

By contrast, there are notoriously really no breaks in the action of a soccer game. Commercials are only broadcast at halftime, and if you risk getting up and going to the bathroom at any point in the 90 minutes of play, you risk missing the play that changes everything.

And just like soccer, life doesn’t really stop. Oh, we can pretend it does by trying check out a little here and there, but like it or not, while we are still drawing breath we are in the flow of time, and learning to be present for all of it is an art.

2. It’s a Lot More Physical Than You Think

Because of #3 below, a lot of people think that soccer is played like ballet, and there is no physical contact. Especially on the youth level, it’s enjoyable to listen to parents unfamiliar with the game complain to referees about how their kids are being pushed around. However, as soon as you watch a game close up, you realize that this game can be brutal: elbows, fists, even teeth(!) are all a part of fighting for position. Players routinely get heads split open (to be stapled up and return to the game), and bruised by well-placed kicks. What’s more, a lot of teams have “a hard man,” or enforcer, who’s job it is to intimidate and generally make the other team’s players miserable. Vinnie Jones (of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels fame) was a notorious hard man in the English Premier League, and a  shows the essence of what it means to be an enforcer.

Gazza.jpg

For us, I think a lot of us still adjust to the fact that life is difficult, and struggle to react to pain and challenge. I know for myself, it took a long time for me to get over the fact that life simply isn’t that easy. However, once I was able to start conceptualizing that “in this life I will have trouble”, I was able to start viewing the bumps and bruises that came my way as opportunities for growth, and a “school,” or testing ground of sorts, for my faith. At that point, suffering can become productive, and even redemptive.

3. That Being Said, We “Flop” a Lot More Than We Should

I get it; soccer also has notorious actors and “flops” in it. They are attempts to get fouls called, particularly inside the 18 yard box, so that teams can win a free kick and an easy opportunity to score. There are some hilariously bad flops, when players dive through the air like they’ve been shot with a gun, and then writhe on the ground in excruciating pain, only to have the replay show that they were never even touched by an opposing player.

(Check out, in particular :19)

These type of actions get a lot of ridicule from soccer skeptics around the world, but maybe only until we realize how much we do this as well. 

I know for myself anyway, there are so many interactions that I’ve had that have just seem like the world has ended, and I am “devastated” or “enraged” … friendships have been jeopardized. The heat of the moment takes over. I am metaphorically “on the ground, writhing in pain.” Then, often in what is comparatively a really short time, I’m back on my feet, and I actually realize that what I thought was a really major incident, actually didn’t hurt me at all. In fact, I really didn’t even need to fall over or go down. I over-reacted. I let it get the best of me. (And maybe, just maybe I could have scored if I would have ignore the altercation and just gone on with my life.) 

4. It’s Diverse

Lastly, soccer/football truly is a world sport. Obviously, it’s played all over the world, and the numbers show it: by comparison, whereas the 2014 Super Bowl had 111.5 million viewers worldwide, by contrast the 2014 World Cup boasted 909.6 million.

It’s actually astonishing.

Watch any professional league, and the rosters are truly glimpses of a global community: Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East are all represented (Sadly, North America (minus Mexico) is probably the least represented continent, at least in Europe).

What’s more, even amidst all the diversity, cultures around the world still maintain (more or less) their own brand of play. The English Premier League is a league of speed; Brazilian football still maintains the reputation of being beautiful and creative (in the United States, a lot of our reputation has at times unfortunately been centered on individualism and show-boating). On and on the list goes on. It’s a wonderful blend of cultural identity with diverse influences.

Like it or not, our world is beautifully complex, and it was created that way. Revelation 7 speaks of “every nation and tribe” gathered around the throne of God, worshiping. It’s too easy to think that my Caucasian, North American perspective is all that there is to life, to faith. But it’s not. It’s so much bigger than that. I can learn about life (and about my blind spots) by people who are not the same as me; who share different life experiences and who have different values than me.

When my son was learning to play the game, we used to take as many opportunities as we could to get him playing time, so even when his club team wasn’t in season I would take him to fields around town to see if he could play in pick-up games. Most of the time, the only games available to him (even as a 12 and 13 year old) were games that international grad students from FSU would hold on Saturdays and Sundays. He would say to me, “Dad, I really want to play,” and I would look at the field full of people from Ghana, Argentina, China, Mexico, and Lebanon, and I would listen to the amazing blend of accents and language, and I would say, “Well, then you need to go out there and play.”

And he would wonder into this blend of culture and language and perspective, and he would go play.

And I’m hoping that he’s learning something about the world, and about life: about the joy of diversity, and the gift that other people can bring to us.

 

 Soul Music

I was 9 or 10 when my maternal grandfather died. We made the trip from Texas to North Carolina to celebrate his life and to lay him to rest. I knew him as a kind, soft-spoken southern gentleman (my mother has different memories, as usual).

I’m not sure how a 10 year old interprets “death”. Though I had visited him and spent a little time with him, we grew up in Pennsylvania before Texas, and so I didn’t have the connection I had with my dad’s parents, who grew up two houses down the road (my uncle lived in between us). My mom was pretty devastated, and it hurt to see her so torn up, but we did our best to keep it together and to mourn in a healthy way. Meals were brought; hugs were given and received; stories were through moist eyes and shaking voices.

There was a viewing; I’d never been to one before (my maternal grandmother died when I was probably 4 or 5, and I don’t remember anything about that except hearing my mother receive the phone call and knowing instantly as I heard her cry, “What?!?!?!” that something was seriously wrong. (Is there a word for that tone of voice? The tone where the unthinkable has happened? It’s not “sad”; it’s not just “shocked”; it’s something from beyond. Beyond the pale of normal, “safe” human interaction.)

Anyway, the viewing. To say it disturbed me is to understate things. The casket was open, but I was, well, horrified, as I realized what I was supposed to do: walk up and look and “pay my respects”. Shamefully, my parents had to virtually drag me up to the casket; I’m sure my mom was so embarassed, but something irrational had captured me, and I couldn’t get past it.

Somehow we got through that night. The next day was the funeral proper. I remember a typical rural southern church: white wooden walls, vaulted ceilings, pews with cushions, everything very clean and arranged. I sat down next to my mother and the service began. Everything was fine until…

… They started playing, “How Great Thou Art,” an old hymn. I don’t know if it was one of my grandfather’s favorite hymns; I don’t know if it was an afterthought: “Hey everyone knows this one!” All I know is that as the music began and people started singing, I lost it.

I mean, lost it. 

I mean, not like you get the, “Fa-fa-fas” or the tears stream silently down your face. I mean irrational, super ugly, uncontrollable wailing. 

Even to this day my mom says, “We didn’t know what was happening! It was just beyond the normal level of human weeping; you were unconsolable!”

I couldn’t tell you what had happened, except that in that moment, I realized the power of music. I was experiencing something that was communicating to me beyond words, beyond speech, beyond even a human embrace. There was something in the combination of melody, rhythm and words that drilled its way so far beyond my defenses that I was devastated before I even knew what was happening.

It was like being attacted by emotional/spiritual ninjas.

That, my friends, is “soul music.”

Believe it or not, I think in that moment I was captured by music: its power and its ability to break down walls and defenses; to speak the unspeakable and express the unexpressable.

Once you touch a moment like that (theologians might call it numinous or transcendent) you really can’t go back. It changes you; lets you know what’s truly possible, beyond this world that we can see and touch. There was something beyond all of that, and I wanted it. Not only did I want to experience it again, I wanted to be a part of creating it for others.

It’s been a long road since then, but a few days ago I stood up in a small chapel—only 45 people or so—where family and a few friends had gathered to remember “Grandma Alice.” Alice passed away at 94, the grandmother of some friends of mine from my community. Amazingly, I was also Grandma Alice’s worship pastor. Somehow, this woman in her 80s (at the time) worshiped under the leaership of a rock and rolling, guitar playing, melancholic and introspective pastor (that’s me). She was great at giving hugs and giving encouraging words, and I was honored to be a part of remembering her.

The family chose two songs for the service. I don’t know if she had a part of picking them or not. The last song in the service was “I’ll Fly Away.”

Any guess as to what the first one was? IMG_4153

+e

9 BOOKS I’M EXCITED ABOUT READING in the first part of 2016

 

FullSizeRender

I’m almost embarrassed about the numbers of unread books I have in my house. I have a pretty voracious curiosity, and sometimes before I consume a book totally (I’m not the fastest reader), my attention moves on to something else.

So here is a short list of books that I currently already own, but haven’t read yet. Maybe you might want to read one or two as well…

  1. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious ViolenceI love what Rabbi Sacks is highlighting with this book, namely (and I am greatly paraphrasing here) that the solution to religious violence (whether perpetrated by Jews, Muslims, or Christians in particular) can only be found in religion as it is properly understood. He shows how the “Abrahamic Faiths” (Muslims, Jews, and Christians) all share a story of a God who is radically inclusive and accepting. So far, this is inspiring and engaging.
  2. The 2nd Amendment: A Biography. As a self-avowed pacifist and (at least) “non-gun-owner”, the 2nd amendment—and specifically how it has been co-opted by the NRA to fight any type of gun control legislation—is pretty interesting to me. Waldman shows how the original amendment was written to balance “standing armies” and “well-regulated militias,” as well as how the 2nd Amendment took a significant turn (in regards to gun ownership) relatively recently.
  3. Against Heresies. St. Iranaeus was a bishop and church father from the 3rd century. His theology has had a significant impact on me personally, and I’m reading this in order to get things straight from the source, so to speak. The gist of his theology is a bit too deep to get into here, but suffice it to say that Irenaeus emphasizes spiritual growth and transformation in such a way that I think will be significant for the 21st century.
  4. Is God a Moral Monster? Copan tackles one of the more difficult subjects in the Bible: namely the apparent sanction of war and even genocide in the books of Joshua and Judges. Haven’t read too much of this yet, so I don’t have much to say, except that Copan appears to show that those “sanctions” or endorsements aren’t quite as clear-cut as we’d like to think.
  5. The Qur’an. Ever since the rise of ISIS in 2014, I’ve been trying to better understand Islam. (A super helpful book, by the way, is called The Great Theft: Rescuing Islam from the Extremists by Khaled Abou El Fadl.) One of my theology professors told me that he reads the Qur’an every year in order to have profitable conversations with Muslims, and he offered a reading plan that would help me navigate the text.
  6. Interior Castle. St. Theresa of Avila wrote this masterwork of Christian mysticism and prayer. I started this in November as part of my morning prayer time.
  7. No Man Is An IslandThomas Merton (along with Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen) is one of my “g0-to” writers for meditation and contemplation. God continues to use him to challenge me to let go and become better at detachment. I read him constantly through the year.
  8. Short Stories by JesusAmy-Jill Levine is a professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is the “next-level” in understanding Jesus in terms of Jewishness (Levine is Jewish). She brings a thoroughly fresh (and often very challenging) perspective to the parables and stories of Jesus. Really great stuff.
  9. The Ninth Book I’m excited about is the one I’m going to write this year. I have a few things “in process”, and this year is going to be about overcoming “The Resistance” and pushing through the end of this. It’s time to produce. To Make Stuff.

So this is how I’m starting my year; I invite you to engage with any of these with me, and let me know what you think!

What I’ve been up to (or “A Requiem for 2015 and Words for 2016”) 

Well folks, it’s THAT day. January 1. First day of the year. The “threshold day”, where you can look back at what was and look ahead to what might be.

In between. Liminal. (One of my favorite words, btw.)

It’s as good a day as any to set some words down and send them out into the inter-worlds.

What have I been up to? Where have I been? What will I be up to?

These are the questions I’m thinking about today, and the first few days of 2016.

What have I been up to?

Healing, mostly. Doing a lot of “soul work.” Mining in the darkest places (my heart and yours, folks) for the stuff that has been driving and haunting me for most of my life. I find them down there in the caverns and tunnels and nooks and crannies of my memory and consciousness, and then I haul them (with a fair amount of sweat and tears) up to the surface where they can lay in the sun, where the most amazing thing happens…

Because there they get changed. It’s funny how when the sun strikes something it changes it. If you hold it up to the light, it changes to light.

Things are healed and transformed. Wounds become scars which become stories which become the means by which we offer the world around us hope and healing and strength to go on for another day.

Trouble is, most of us don’t like to go to the mines… Mines are, by nature, dark, scary, and places of sweat, toil, and really hard work.

But that’s where the coal is. (And the diamonds.)

I’ve also been finishing Seminary. I shut down almost all creative output (“making”) around June/July in order to focus on the essentials: teaching and music on Sundays, being a husband/father, and cranking through the last few hours of my masters degree.

I ran a little bit more in 2015 than I ever have before. I ran two races: the first was a 10k in March that was difficult (actually, it kicked my butt), but I managed to finish without too much difficulty.

However, I had also committed to running a half-marathon in 2015, so on October 31 we drove up to Boston, Georgia, and I started running. Two and a half hours (and 13.1 miles) later, I staggered across the finish line, exclaiming, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”

In a few ways, it was, but in many ways it was actually one of the more profound experiences of my life. I learned that the limits that we impose on ourselves are often more illusory than we believe. We can push back on the boundaries (some of which we impose on ourselves, some of which are imposed by others), and accomplish much, much more than we otherwise think.

I also learned that the only race you can run is your own. You can’t worry about other people. I was passed by grandmothers, and I passed teenagers. I learned that I had no control over what other people did: I could only put one foot in front of the other.

Lastly, I learned that, well, sometimes you can’t be “cool.” When I was pushing through the last 3 miles of that race, I had gone well beyond what I thought I was capable of, and I started breaking down, both physically and emotionally. I was in a fair amount of pain, had nothing left in the tank, and couldn’t see the finish line (at least in part because I run without my glasses), and I was on the verge of tears.

But I kept going, and the more I ran, the less I was capable of thinking about what other folks thought of me. For a person who admittedly makes “image” a part of their life (due to a calling that puts me on stages and in pulpits in front of people), this was really significant to me. I had no control over my image. I was a mess.

And I was okay.

I survived, and stumbled across the finish line, and lived to tell the tale.

So that’s a little bit of my 2015.

Looking forward, I have some thoughts about going into 2016. I’m not going to share all of my personal goals (at least yet), but here are some things that I’m passionate about, and that I’m challenging myself (and maybe you as well) to this year.

CHALLENGES for 2016

  • Seek beauty. Start with Hymn to the Cherubim (those Orthodox!)
  • Seek wholeness. Go to the mines yourself. The world desperately needs people who are on the journey towards healing, wholeness, transcendence, enlightenment. They don’t just need a holy club that’s going to heaven. They need (as Jesus would put it), people who are producing “fruit” (and fruit, on the whole tastes good). So go see a counselor. Get quiet. Become aware of the “thoughts” you’re having that aren’t really thoughts so much as they are reactive video tapes.
  • Elevate your thinking. Don’t be satisfied with what the media tells you (whether you are partial to FoxNews, MSNBC, Huffington Post or the Drudge Report). Look beyond the headlines, and evaluate what you hear and read. Have a conversation that makes you think, and that helps you consider something from another point of view.
  • Make something. The only way we are going to impact the culture is to make more of it. I’m paraphrasing author Andy Crouch, and I fully believe in it. The world is not going to change and evolve on its own; and spiritual people are called to help this world grow in love, compassion, and connection. So, write a blog; make some music; make some peace; make some crafts and give them away. Bless the world. 
  • Read something spiritual. Every day. My choice is the Bible, among other things, but you get the point: embrace Spiritual thinking and a Spiritual mode of being in the world.
  • Walk a little. Get physically healthy. We are unified beings: our physical health affects our spiritual health which effects our emotional health which effects our physical health and so on and so on.

So here we go, 2016! Let’s do this people!

Where Do I Send the Bill?

I stumbled across this article on Salon.com that was shaming the New York Times for, well, shaming Serena Williams for her body image.

After I read the article, I had two immediate thoughts:

  1. I really can’t believe how stupid people can be.
  2. Can someone pay for the 3 minutes of my life that I spent skimming it? (In all fairness, the Salon.com piece was good, but I couldn’t believe how many other articles they referenced, and I’m glad I didn’t spend the time reading those links as well.)

I used to be a fan back in the Borg-Connors heyday, and it was classic. (Also was a big fan of Ivan Lendl, but hey who’s counting?)

These days? Not so much.

But this weekend, when Serena won her 6th Wimbledon title, I tuned in, and I watched Twitter a little. What I saw (mostly) were tributes to possibly one of the greatest athletes of all time (oh yeah, and she’s female).

When I saw an interview with her, I saw a female, African-American athlete at the peak of her powers. Her body is her instrument. Her “femininity” has everything to do with who she is, and at the same time nothing. She has trained her instrument to perform at the highest level, and she has succeeded.

Who talks about Aaron Rodgers’ “body image”? Does anyone comment on how “masculine” (or not) Lebron James looks?

Is Cristiano Ronaldo in danger of not looking manly enough?

Now, I know this is the unfortunate reality of what it means to be a woman: to be judged according to standards of body shape and image, but (and I can’t believe this still has to be written)… those standards are ridiculous and de-humanizing. 

Serena is a woman athlete; perhaps one of the greatest of all time. Her body reflects her passion, her craft, and her achievements.

Period. 

Maybe it goes without saying, maybe not: Ladies, your bodies are your own. Tune them and shape them into whatever tools they need to be in order to accomplish your dreams. Go for it. 

Oh yeah, I get it: please don’t send me a bill for your time.

Noticed in November, Pt 7 :: “I Don’t Wanna”

Hear all the songs here.

So… I started playing guitar probably in 1982 or 1983; this means that I am, more or less, a musical child of the 80s. This means a couple of things: first, I definitely know how to play guitar solos. It was like essential musical knowledge for us. A lot of that changed literally after Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but before that, the notes and the fingers were a-flyin. 

Secondly, I’m influenced by the way music was played in the 80s. To make a long story very short, the 80s were a study of musical contrasts. On the one hand, some bands were very distant and style-conscious. Music could be very cold and precise. On the other hand, there were a handful of artists that rebelled against that detachment and chose to wear their hearts boldly on their sleeves. In a documentary on the making of U2’s The Joshua Tree, Brian Eno said that U2 recognized that “being cool was a sort of detachment from yourself,” and they decided to reject that. Their music is full of vulnerability and “grand-ness.”

But they weren’t alone.

There were other bands who leaned into this engagement. They decided to make music that was big and emotive. In ways it was very un-pretentious, and it lacked self-awareness. It just… was. People jumped around on stage; there was no shame in “being into” the music. Enthusiasm was welcomed.

The other two bands that most readily come to mind that made this kind of music were The Alarm (from Wales) and a band from America called The Call. (If you listen to The Call’s, “What Happened to You“, you can actually hear a young singer from Dublin who named himself Bono singing backup.)

Neither of these bands achieved anywhere close to the longevity of U2, but for those of us who were there, we realized that bands like these were touching something inside us that was innocent and excited to be alive.

Sometimes I wonder where music like that is now; it seems like bands—and music in general—exist in this calculated, “always on” zone where “being cool” is always necessary. At its extreme, it can feign humility and flirt with some kind of false embarrassment about being in a band, like enjoying art is some kind of crime.

The Call’s “I Don’t Wanna” is about as simple of a song as they come: it’s two chords, for crying out loud. Over a tribal drum beat, singer Michael Been sings tortured lines to someone or something. 

Truth be told, I don’t know the exact story behind the lyrics, but they are powerful to me, particularly these:

I ain’t here to tell you what you need
I ain’t gonna take a noble stand
I ain’t here to look you in the eye
Or beg for you to understand
I can only tell you what I’ve seen
I can only tell you how it felt
When my heart was crushed so bad inside
Till I felt the hatred slowly melt

I need this, have felt it once or twice, that moment when something presses down on you so heavily that all of a sudden the walls come down and you feel something break and release inside you.

It’s sort of what it means to be alive, I think.

Enjoy.

The video below is their first single, “The Walls Came Down”. (The studio track surprisingly featured Garth Hudson from The Band on keyboards, whom I wasn’t to discover for another decade.)

*Postscript: Singer Michael Been tragically passed away just a few years ago at the age of 60. However, his son was in one of my other favorite bands from the early 2000s: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. He did some shows fronting the Call in a tribute to his father. Legit.