Posts Tagged 'R.E.M'

Losing My Religion

“Oh, life is bigger.
It’s bigger than you.
And you are not me.
The lengths that I will go to.
The distance in your eyes.
Oh no, I’ve said too much.
I set it up.”

From “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

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As The Bank Of England Monetary Committee go as far as to say the UK is now in a “deep recession”, we all seem to be tired of bad news.  Life is big and often I feel so small.  I think we are all hungry for good news.

Whilst the photo above may be a bit blurred – the notes I scribbled in my pad last Sunday at church merely amounted to “Save us from religious observation.”  That’s really what I feel just now.  If I can’t imagine life without the hope my faith brings me, how come I feel inclined to keep it to myself so much?  As the old H-Street skateboard video was so brilliantly entitled – “Shackle Me Not!”

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Imitation Of Life

“You want the greatest thing
The greatest thing since bread came sliced.
You’ve got it all, you’ve got it sized.
Like a Friday fashion show teenager
Freezing in the corner
Trying to look like you don’t try”

From “Imitation Of Life” by R.E.M.

So I found myself sat staring into thin air in one of those great British institutions, the roadside service station, a few weeks back after a coffee that can at best be described as mediocre and way too large.  You know the sort, it burns your taste buds at first slurp and is lukewarm by the time you get halfway down its supersized cup.  It was accompanied by a sandwich I didn’t even like the look of.  I had that fuggy headed sensation caused from driving for several hours combined with my retinas adjusting to the artificial lighting in the sticky food court. 

As I waited for my wife and daughter to return from the toilets I found myself playing drums on my knees in time with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as it came over the tannoy system.  I was on auto-pilot and knew exactly how the cymbals sound in time with the bass guitar notes after Slash’s guitar intro. 

I got to thinking, how many millions of people must have learned to play this song over the past 22 years?  Hundreds of thousands of teenagers learning guitar in their bedrooms, jamming with friends or forming their first bands – tens of thousands of folks mimicking the guitar riff on “Guitar Hero” on their games consoles – thousands of kids trying out guitars they will never be able to afford in music shops the world over…

Yet, once upon a time, someone came up with the notes for that famous guitar intro.  Some friends busked along in a rehearsal space that gave birth to a classic rock song that largely catapulted Guns ‘n’ Roses into international stardom.  Even folks who don’t like metal or rock music probably recognise the song.

Why do so many people play cover versions of other people’s music?  Re-interpreting songs is one thing, but playing straight cover versions or murdering the original versions is something quite different.  

It doesn’t really hold true for other art forms, does it?  How often do film directors re-make someone else’s work story board by story board?  How often does a novelist try to commit their own favourite work to memory and then re-write it verbatim?  How often does an artist try to recreate every brushstroke and tonal variation of a classic piece on their own piece of canvas?

How do we engage with culture?  Do we shun it?  Do we embrace it?  Do we mimic it?  Do we try to influence it or create it?

Several folks from the small group who regularly meet in our house have attended something called the Q Conference in America over the past few years.  They have come back energised and stimulated by ideas.  That, in and of itself, has been fairly contagious.  The simple notion of people seeing how to use their skill base in the places they find themselves in order to change things –  whether as entrepreneurs, influencers, artists, musicians, thinkers, writers, bloggers, ordinary radicals or whatever…

One of the things I got linked to through that was the Fermi Project.  Their Society Room DVDs and the Fermi Shorts series of essays are thoroughly stimulating.  I came across a brilliantly engaging essay they produced about all these idioms of culture and our response to it which you can find out more about here.

Lucky

“It’s gonna be a glorious day”

From “Lucky” by Radiohead

When Thom Yorke delivers the above line, it is a crecendo which soars and lifts my spirit.

Today I was awoken by the my daughter’s calls for me which have become my Sunday morning alarm.  Once I got focused, I realised that I had a heart and head full of content thoughts having spent the last two evenings in the company of important friends, chatting to the wee small hours over good food and red wine. 

After a read of yesterday’s Guardian whilst my daughter watched a little TV, I pulled on my jeans and wind-cheater and strolled down the road to our favourite, nearby, cafe to pick up fresh coffees and pastries.  The sun was still low in the sky and bright enough for me to squint into it for most of the walk.  The air had that frosty chill when you inhale deeply followed by steam exiting my nostrils.  My Bloody Valentine provided a perfect sound-scape from my headphones as I tried to dampen the muffled sound of the passing cars and their long shadows.  There were copper leaves in the gutter and middle aged women carefully delivering communion galsses to the local church.

Sunday is often referred to as a day of rest.  We had the best laid plans of making it to the early service at 9.30 as my wife was heading off to a class with a friend at 12.  We were nowhere near making 9.30 and had thought of just ditching the 11.15 service in exchange for a family day together and, maybe, a drive in the car listening to last week’s sermon on iTunes.  20 minutes before the 11.15 service, our nearly four year old started saying how much she wanted to go to church.  Five minutes later the two of us were properly dressed and bundled into the car with her singing “Worthy, You Are Worthy” the whole way there.  (It is usually that, or “The Milkman of Human Kindness” from the child seat these days and either is fine with me).

We made it to church on time and joined some close friends in the pew.  The music was great and my daughter was desperate to go down the front and do some actions she had learned to “Worthy You Are Worthy”, before disappearing to Sunday Club all by herself like a proper little indie pop kid.

The sermon was powerful.  Our Senior Pastor Karl noted, “We are here today because God brought you here”.  I was there because my insistent nearly 4 year old wanted to be at church enough to kick my butt into action and I am more than grateful to her for it.  As I type this, my wife has headed out to the evening service to hear the same sermon.  As I look at the scribbled notes I took during the sermon, I wonder what specifically I was meant to hear?  What is to be illuminated to me and how will I respond?

The afternoon was spent helping my daughter on her bike, aping around in crunchy, fallen, leaves, playing in the swing-park, eating a late lunch and playing “nurseries” whilst being scolded any time I tried to sneak off to play my drums.

All in all, it has been a glorious day. 

I once heard Rob Bell deliver an amazingly helpful sermon on what it means to keep the Sabbath.  He described it as “the day when my work is complete, even if it’s not”.  A time to intentionally set aside the things that so often consume us, to rest and be fed instead.  He encouraged the listeners to find out what feeds their souls and to do that.  For me, I really miss church if I’m not there on a Sunday – not out of any sense of religious guilt, but, simply because it is a great place to be.  A place where I am accepted, stimulated, challenged and leave with a bunch of thoughts and ideas scribbled in my notebook and bouncing around my  head.

Feeding my soul might include anything from spending a lazy day with my family, a cozy afternoon in our home with the rain drumming off the skylights or paddling out into the sea on my surfboard to try and catch some waves – just feeling small in the vastness of nature, but fully alive.  And yet, any of those activities would take second place for me when compared with getting to one of our Sunday services.

Morrisey once beautifully sang, “Every day is like Sunday.  Every day is silent and grey”.  I no longer see Sundays or Sabbaths as something to be endured, but rather as something to be embraced.  As the Icicle Works put it “Love is full of wonderful colour”…or as REM put it, “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight losing my religion”.  But, what I have found is something stripped of tradition and ritual and yet appreciative of what those things point to or can help with.  My faith has felt more alive and stimulated in the last three or four years than it has done in a quite some time.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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