Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sad Songs of Hope

Once upon a time, a man's 5-year-old daughter died in an accident.  He was a singer and songwriter, so he wrote and sang songs as he continued to outlive his child and try to make sense of a world where such a thing could happen.

That's the kind of tragic story I'd cry through.  It makes for an album that requires tissues when reading its liner notes, hearing its songs, or even thinking about its liner notes or songs.

I won't lie: this is a painful story to listen to.  But it's also a painful story worth listening to.  Like the best literature, something worthy is there in the ashes.  There's grief and so much pain, but there is hope, too.  The rawness of the grief and pain make that hope feel true, not tacked on in fake, happy ending fashion. This is hope that has been through fire and been earned.

One very thorough review by divad23 said, 'What's an artist (or a listener, for that matter) to do when the harsh reality of life conflicts with the idyllic vision of it that most "sanctified" entertainment has provided for them?'

In a comment, Reg Schofield said, "One of my favorite pastors has said its his job to prepare his flock for death and suffering so that when it happens they will not fall apart . . . "

I suspect the story contained in this album can help do the same thing.

Sometimes you'll hear a song about grief, but it has to go through the whole process in 4 minutes and somehow end happily, or it will never get on the air.  Taking an entire album, hitting many different angles and stages, bringing the story to life chapter by chapter instead of just as a summary, doesn't let us escape the rawness of the pain, grief, and questions.  It forces us to face the fact that terrible things happen to everyone and that if our hope is in something true, it will survive whatever our stories take us through.

I picked this up during the last days of Borders.  It seems somehow appropriate.  I hope some beauty will rise from the ashes of that fiasco, especially in the lives of the decent employees who invested years of their lives into their stores and communities and now how to try to pick themselves up in the wake of their sudden loss of livelihood.  My prayers are with them.

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