As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Monday, August 22, 2016

Music, Christianity, and The Tragically Hip

"Mommy, is this song Christian?" my daughter often asks.  Much of the music we listen to is by Christian artists, even if it doesn't necessarily fit the "Christian" genre.  Sometimes we'll be listening to an artist that identifies as Christian but the lyrics are not overtly religious, and so she'll ask.  And I always respond to her that God created us for joy, and that even if an artist or a song isn't necessarily Christian, if it moves our hearts and brings us happiness then it is indeed Christian, because Christ is in beauty - in it our hearts are drawn to Him.

I love music, but as I get older I'm becoming increasingly picky about what I listen to.  And whether something fits the Christian genre is irrelevant to me.  What moves me are lyrics, musicianship, and true expressions of humanity.  I grow increasingly impatient with cheap rhymes and cookie-cutter sounds and find myself truly drawn to artists that walk me through a true human experience.  Such was my experience watching The Tragically Hip in their nationally broadcast hometown concert this weekend.  I have never been a die-hard Hip fan but I love many people who are, and so have come to an appreciation of their music through that lens. 

This concert was more than simply a great band playing for a National audience, because woven within that was the story of lead singer Gord Downie's battle with cancer.  People tuned in knowing this to be an historic moment, likely this much-loved band's last concert.  All across the country hearts bled as we watched this courageous and very ill man take the stage and pour himself out for all of us in a three-hour concert that would have pushed even the healthiest and able-bodied person to the brink of exhaustion.  They came out for three encores and just kept on giving and giving and giving, right to the very end.

During the concert I wanted to write something poetic and profound, but I struggled to find the words.  So I jotted down a quick note about a fond memory I have of my husband singing one of their songs as a teenager, and how proud I was to be sharing this moment with fellow Canadians.  I have been sitting with my feelings about their concert ever since, the deep connection between life, faith, my love of music, and a band who brings such beauty to me despite no particular affiliation with Christianity very much resting with me. 

And my husband?  He took in the concert on the edge of his seat.  He knew every word to every song, and his body kept the rhythm of every note.  The two of us transfixed, living this experience in our living room, very much present like much of the nation.  These are things that touch me - profound, deep and inspiring lyrics (for which Gord Downey is known and immensely gifted).  But it's not just that.  Each song is made up of complex melodies, rifts, and instrumentation.  How do people do that? How do they hear the lyrics and chords of a song and think "I know just what will sound right with this,"?  Does it sound the same way every time they play?  Symphonies and sonatas have sheet music, but the average rock and roll song is a blend of creativity coming together not born of one mind but many, possibly transcribed and recorded but so often I think inspired in a moment, maybe never one time the same as another.  It's not something just anyone can create, and watching them and being touched by their creativity and their gift was very spiritual for me.

And then, of course, there was the humanity of the band members.  The concert began with a shot of the musicians backstage, preparing to go onstage and embracing one another.  Throughout the night there were many moments of affection and quiet attentiveness between them.  But perhaps the most touching moment for me was after their third (and final) encore, when the band stood together with their arms around each other's shoulders.  I can't possibly conceive what must have been going through their minds at that moment, but to me it was so incredible to witness and be present in that moment.

To me this is Christianity, Christ present in everything.  And even if a concert isn't particularly Christ focused, where there is beauty He is there.  The beauty of every life, of our humanity and our frailty, the celebration of life and a nation rallying together behind a beloved hero facing tragedy.  Is this Christian?  Yes, it very much is.  

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