Tuesday, August 16, 2011

hello words.

Epiphany is a strong word, and one of my favorites comes from the author James Joyce at the conclusion  of his story The Dead.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world which these dead had at one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, falling softly into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
Beautifully penned, Joyce captures as only he can the epiphany of Gabriel's character that he had truly loved a woman.
While not as perfectly captured or deftly worded, (we mortals are afforded generous allowances James Joyce had no need of) one of my favorite cousins introduced me to an epiphany the other day when I least expected it.

"So Kenny, you like this punk-rock music, huh?" It was a more than fair question I posed to my cousin. Weird Al's music blared from his small phone voraciously, but Kenny paid it little heed as he smiled and seamlessly shot down my cynically-posed observation.
"No. No, I--I just like songs that parody already lame music.
I laughed, and we turned right onto Holly Street. It was time to pick the wife up from work.
"So you just like the words, that they make fun of all regular "lame" songs?"
"Pretty much."

The town we live in isn't by any means large, and soon we were all at home. Seated around the table again, back right where we left off at our game.
"Oh, music." I hopped out of my recliner-turned-dining room-seat (our living room is pieced together as only newly weds can) and hit the spacebar. Immediately our living room was filled with the crisp melody of Metric, an indie-style music selection that is great for ambient background sound.
The minutes passed by as us cousins dove back into the card game spread liberally across our table.
"No, the Moneylender doesn't do that. You have to pick up the other card. Next to it. That one."
"Can you hand me a Cellar? Thank you."
"I just playedit's your turn."
"Everyone check your hand. See, it's a Militia. Discard down to three cards in your hand unless you have a Moat."

Then in the midst of the excited hubbub my introspective cousin voiced his opinion to no one in particular.
"Did that--did that song just--just. Did--that song just say "they're gonna eat me alive?" Because that's stupider than all Weird Al's songs. He's not being serious. They are."
I paused. Yes, that was the line to the song. But it was indie music. By definition they are classified as eclectic and original. Most of their lyrics are abstract and don't make sense. But to my cousin who takes many, many things at face value and very literally, this was not overlooked. The line they had chosen to write was strange, foreign and out of place. 

A senior in high school and one of the most socially practical individuals I've ever met in my life, Kenny's introspect reminded me of something I can honestly say I've missed in the last multiple thousands of hours of my music listening.
Words matter.
Whether they're acknowledged or not. Paid attention to or ignored. True tale telling or made up story to entertain. Vicious or light-hearted. Poetic or not, they always matter.
My music library includes just over 36 days of music.
I am not a "purist" and do not believe that Christians should listen to "only Christian music."
Included in my collection that I've built over the last ten years is 12 hours of classical music, 5 hours of Disney songs,  6 days of film soundtracks, 17 days of rock/metal music, 2 days of worship songs, and my most listened to artist is by no surprise of the imagination Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band I've discovered to be appropriate for almost every occasion.

Not take the idea of words and music in my teeth and dive for the bottom of the swamp, but in all of my appreciation for music itself I'd almost forgotten there were words involved.
Thanks brother-cousin Ken, for helping me see that for the first time again.

From Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man.

"A day of dappled seaborne clouds.
The phrase and the day and the scene harmonised in a chord. Words. Was it their colours? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue: sunrise gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the grey fringed fleece of clouds. No, it was not their colours: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of a language many coloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose?" 

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