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Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose

Louis Armstrong, La Vie En Rose

Every so often, we come to a place in our days where we can settle-in to a waking peace. A moment in which the noise arounds us fades and we are fully present to ourself in a way that allows us to see clearly. For those who lead an intentionally prayerful or meditative life, those moments may come more often. Sometimes, we find ourselves there effortlessly and unexpectedly.

For me, unexpected moments of peace typically happen in the presence of music. Last night, after a delightful evening with my family (after a week away from my grandchildren!), I found myself in such a moment. It started around 8:45pm with the mindlessness of a kitchen cleanup, shifted into a bit of singing out loud, and then transitioned into thoughtfulness as I sat still with nothing but the music and its accompanying words.

Will you bear with me through a few highlights?

I look at the world and notice it’s turning. While my guitar gently weeps. With every mistake we must surely be learning. Still my guitar gently weeps. – The Beatles, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Life keeps marching on. The world doesn’t wait for us. Through it all, we keep strumming some tune, moving to our own rhythm. Are we learning or do we keep making the same mistakes? For what do we weep? Watching time pass us by, do we feel sadness for moments lost or hopeful for the future that awaits? All the while, we are here, in this moment. Perhaps the greatest mistake is missing the glorious gift of being present for it.

Somewhere out on that horizon, I know there must be something better but its nowhere in sight. – The Eagles, In the City

How often do we look for better times? Staring into the distance, we search for that place where it’s all easier, more balanced, more comfortable, and pain=free. Sometimes happiness seems to live somewhere else. When we’re suffering, we pray to escape the pain. When we’re prospering, we seek more to fill the hole within that never seems satisfied. All the while, we know something better must await just past the horizon. How do we live joyfully at both ends of that spectrum? Happiness will come and go in fleeting pleasures. Lasting joy is found outside of ourselves and we only find it when we stop filling our gaps with things that won’t last and realize that the most valuable things in life are the ones that multiply when we give them away.

Once inside a woman’s heart, a man must keep his head. Heaven opens up the door, where angels fear to tread. Some men go crazy, some men go slow. Some men go just where they want, some men never go. – Bob Seger, Shame On the Moon

When we give ourselves fully to another, we open a door into our most elemental harmony. Made for relationship, we walk into the intoxication of connection. Selfish gratification taken from our interaction breaks the joy of that connection – here, we may lose ourself. The moment passes. The bloom fades. We see our passing fancy and wonder why. Perhaps we can find it again in something, or someone, new? Or, will we avoid it for fear it might not bring the same rush? Such is the ephemeral nature of our emotions and interests. Fascination passes quickly, be it with others, ourselves, or the purposes we pursue. Where do we invest ourselves fully? To what do we commit? Do we persist when the luster wanes or move on to the new or easy? Some men go just where they want, some men never go. Does fear hold you back or do you push through resistance?

Gazing at people, some hand in hand. Just what I’m saying they can’t understand. Some try to tell me, thoughts they cannot defend. Just what you want to be, you will be in the end. – The Moody Blues, Knights in White Satin

Look around. Discord abounds. We join hands with those singing the same songs, wondering why others don’t understand. Meanwhile, they yell at us unconvincingly; seemingly without logic or reason. We live in a 24 hour news cycle running 7 days a week delivering information in 15-30 second increments. We have no attention span for the reasoned argument, lack the intellectual foundations to comprehend or defend, and refuse the civility that might yield common ground. Or, perhaps we’re just lazy: compromise is such hard work and understanding takes so much effort. Villification is much, much easier. All the while, evil walks among us, sowing dissent, resentment, and doubt. Who do we want to be? What will we become? Curiously, this song was released in 1967. Though not written as social commentary, 54 years later, it connects us to another era of unrest. Just what you want to be, you will be in the end.

Half my life is books, written pages. Live and learn from fools and from sages. You know it’s true, oh, all the things come back to you. – Aerosmith, Dream On.

Through youthful education, we are exposed to information in all forms. Learning. Teachers, professors, parents, family, friends, strangers, celebrities, politicians, so many people: fools and sages. So much information. So much to learn. Ultimately, we discover that we reap what we sow. What we put into the world around us comes back in its own way. Now, whether we be fool or sage, we sleep in the bed we made; our life reflects our choices. Eventually, we discover that we’re writing our own story, and though the plot lines of others and the world itself are foisted upon us, we have the opportunity to change the narrative. We can always begin to sow today what we hope to harvest. We just have to begin.

Sometimes I’m so carefree, with a joy that’s hard to hide. And sometimes it seems, that all I have to do is worry and then you’re bound to see my other side. – The Animals, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Life as a rollercoaster. We see it. We know it. Yet, we’re still surprised by it. Ours is not an existence meant to be easy. We are formed in the fires of experience; sometimes joyfully, sometimes painfully. The first challenge of our modernity is resisting the urge to surrender ourselves completely to the ride. The second challenge is refusing to drag those you love (or don’t love) along with you when you find yourself carried along on life’s rapids. Of course, we are made to walk alongside one another. We are called to care for each other. We need others as the worries come and doubt assaults us. However, we collectively need to rediscover the “stiff upper lip” that was first introduced to us in 1815. “Bucking up” when things get tough needs to be our first response – not in a denial of difficulty, but in the determination to be resolute as we push through. Don’t fall for the “authenticity” trap. Let’s start with being authentically determined first and only move to dramatically emotional in the most dire of circumstances.

When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we’ll see. No I won’t be afraid. Oh, I won’t be afraid. Just as long as you stand by me. – Ben E. King, Stand By Me

Ah, what a fitting final bit of lyrical brilliance. Beautifully reflecting Psalm 23, these lyrics call us to have faith when all hell breaks loose. There will be times in our lives that are dark and we can’t even see a light let alone any horizon. Rainer Maria Rilke describes these moments as “pushing through solid rock”; times when movement is painfully slow and tortuous reality presses-in upon us from all sides. Sometimes, faith of a different sort is necessary to move through and beyond the direst of moments. Consider the current darkness through which we are passing. With it, I see a world that has developed an unhealthy faith in science as a means to solving all problems.

This “scientism” pervades much of our thinking and leaves us feeling incredibly vulnerable when the answers remain elusive. When the problems we face can’t be broken down into a method or process; when the issues seem intractable through the lens of what we know; or when we embrace science as a form of religion, seeing its rational approach as the only answer to the mysteries of the world around us, we lose sight of the magical, the improbable, or the miraculous in what is or might be. We wait for an answer, a green light, or the “all clear” to begin to live again. Or worse, we give away our liberty in return for the veneer of safety. Let’s keep searching. Let’s keep discovering. Let’s keep aiming for something beyond our understanding, knowing we’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I won’t be afraid. Oh, I won’t be afraid. Just as long as you stand by me.

The Lyrics of Your Life

The songs above were not selected by me; they appeared randomly on Pandora as I was winding-down last night. Yes, Marshall Tucker Band Radio and previous “Likes” narrowed the list to the types of songs I’ve shared. However, they appeared in the order above. Random? Perhaps. Magical? Definitely. It is truly amazing what can be found in those tunes we love.

What are the lyrics for your life? Which songs speak to you and what do they say? When an author or a songwriter captures words and shares them with us, he or she is gifting us with something truly special. Not only do we get a glimpse into what she is thinking or feeling, we have the opportunity to make those words our own. The original intent is interesting and perhaps profound. But what they say to us can be magically life changing. Open yourself to a few of your own favorites today and see what they say to you. Perhaps you’ll find a bit of the miraculous in them.

NOTE: The image on this post is a copy of George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s handwritten lyrics to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” written on the back of a studio sheet in 1968 at Abbey Road Studios.

Showing 4 comments
  • Fred McClaine

    Phil, Jamie and I continue to enjoy your posts! We are on a adventurous journey for the next 8 months as we sold our home, purchased a Motorhome and will be traveling and working from…..anywhere…. These lyrics, the way they “came to you” is inspired. Then the way you interpreted and reflected was beautiful. We plan to spend more time over these next few moths reflecting…. as well and looking around the country in our journey and gaining a beautiful new perspective on what God has allowed us to enjoy in this lifetime. Continue your good work…..and maybe we
    can all …..”LET IT BE”

  • Dad

    Nice piece Phillip.

  • Kenneth Wendeln

    Also enjoy the musical version of La vie en rose – Wynton Marsalis with Richard Galliano –

  • Trish B

    Excuse the late response! This is the 3rd time I have read this and it touches me more each time. From someone who has paid more attention to the “tunes”, I will be listening more to the lyrics.

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