It’s Been a Week…

 

I don’t know what kind of week you have been having, or what kind of words you’ve been encountering, but this is been a relatively rough one for my community.

The words I have encountered this week or words like:

“cancer” 

“overdose”

“suicide”

It goes without saying, but these are not the type of words that we’d prefer to see and hear in a week.

On the other hand, it seems all too common.

So how do I respond? What do I do when those words enter my reality?

I can certainly rail and rage against them. That’s an option that is easy to embrace. But for me, I eventually come up against something that I cannot control, be it other people, disease, (or even broken politics and a pathological culture)

But then again, I am driven back to the simple reality of accepting the things I have no control over, and embracing what I can control (which is mostly my reaction to all of this stuff).

Two thoughts that help me:

First, I am reminded that life goes on. I remember walking the streets of Chicago with my wife on September 11, 2001. everywhere was under silence, exacerbated by the fact that all air planes were grounded, but that reality was shattered when we heard people laughing at a joke. We felt so violated, like that time and space and silence was sacred. Even in the midst of devastating sadness, somewhere a baby will be born; there will be genuine laughter and care in a family somewhere; new, creative work will be done to make the world a better place. When I was younger, as I encountered pain in the world I would expect the whole world around me to stop and be devastated right alongside with me. I always treated it as a grave injustice for there to be laughter in the midst of pain. But now I think I realize that it is both our gift and our struggle that life goes on. What’s more, I know that the cross means that as long as there is suffering in the world, Christ suffers right along with us. Thomas Merton said “Christ remains in agony until the end of time, and in His agony Christ triumphs over all power.”

Second, I find soul-affirming comfort wherever I can. Jesus actually prayed that we would not be taken out of this world (John 17; really, Jesus?). But he also told us that he would not leave us alone (John 14). That means that his presence, and his peace and his love and his compassion is really always available to us. For me, I find it in friends, and in prayer, and also in art.

I stumbled across Bill Fay while I was driving in my car around 2013. Florida State radio station play the song that instantly grabbed me, and also instantly made me think, “boy Jeff Tweedy is ripping this guy off big time.”

(Tweedy appears on “This World, off of Fay’s 2012 record Life is People, and Fay covers Wilco’s “Jesus Don’t Cry” on the same record. Tweedy has also covered a couple other Fay tracks, like “Be Not So Fearful” and “Please Tell My Brothers” in his acoustic shows.)

Ever since then, whenever I need to hear something comforting and gentle, but also full of faith, I turn to Bill thing. I actually even had a friend who, when he did his fifth step in recovery, made sure that he had Fay queued up to play on his drive home from his sponsor’s house.

There are plenty of good tracks, but this is one of my “go-to’s”.

May you be comforted, and remember that “the healing day” is coming sometime for all of us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdZzBO_YPJM

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Noticed in November 1 :: The Healing Day

Every artist is a cannibal / every poet is a thief

All kill their inspiration / and sing about the grief (Bono, “The Fly”)

Like all great artists, I have decided to rip off an idea. My sister, who is better than me at just about everything (especially encouragement) wrote every day in October about music that moved her. I, on the other hand, grew increasingly silent in this space. This is for some highly personal reasons that I am working through, but I also still feel drawn to write. Just this afternoon, while sitting in a class on theology, I decided to do what she did (even though I’m starting way late).

So for the next period of time—not sure yet—I’m going to write about songs that are impacting me. Again, I won’t say much, but this recent season has been a rather intense one in my life, so there’s a lot going on.

Also: get ready, because my tastes certainly run the gamut.

You can hear the songs here.

The first song on the list is “The Healing Day” by Bill Fay.

By nature I am a melancholy person. Most of the time it’s not really that big of a deal (except for the fact that I’m called “Eeyore” at work). However, every so often—maybe once ever 18 months or so—the bottom drops out, and I enter a pretty big skid.

Depression.

I went through a pretty big one—at least 24-30 months—when we first moved to Tallahassee, but I had not really drunk from that bitter cup since then.

Until October.

Maybe it was just seasonal; maybe it was something I did or didn’t do (truth is, it was/is probably a result of a combination), but “The Black”, as I sometimes call it, hit me forcefully in October. There were plenty of days that I limped through (with varying degrees of success), and the struggle was fierce for a lot of it.

(It’s still hovering, by the way.)

Monday, November 3 was a particularly difficult day. I was in Orlando for a class, and for a variety of reasons I was just in a tailspin.

“Despair” is not a word I use lightly, but in this case, well, it fit.

One of my mentors once told me once, “You need to know when to deal gently with yourself.” 

As I drove around northeast Orlando for lunch, this phrase popped into my head, and I found this tune on my phone and pushed play.

Bill Fay is an English singer/songwriter. Though he did most of his work in the 60s and 70s, he released a record—Life is Peoplebillfay2in 2012. I remember hearing the title track and instantly thinking, “Wow, this guy really influenced Jeff Tweedy.” The music is simple and gentle; the word “pastoral” comes easily to mind. I really don’t know a ton about Bill Fay other than these two songs, but they are a good soundtrack when I am trying to “deal gently with myself,” when I am trying to forgive myself and live without shame (which for me is a struggle).

A good friend of mine said recently that he wants to listen to music/art “that will wreck him.”

Sometimes I don’t want music to wreck me; I do a find job of that on my own. Sometimes I want music to help put me back together again, or at the very least just remind me that I’m “okay” even when I am in pieces.

“Healing Day” is not going to be musically revelatory to anyone; it’s pretty simplistic. However, it’s like a great big gentle hug from a good friend or family member when I need it most.

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