Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Waking up my inner voice

I think I've had internal laryngitis lately... my inner voice has just been so quiet. But, inspired by Rand's post reminding me of the beauty of language, I thought I'd put a few words down about a couple of songs that have been playing on my mind lately.

I've been very bad and not bought much music lately, finally managed to pick up a CD in Sainsburys last week - the new album from Pink. I've been a fan of hers for a while - I listen to most things under the sun: prog rock, americana, lesbian folk rock etc. you know the usual - but I feel like she does the thinking woman's pop rock extremely well. If I'm feeling like I need a pick up then on goes Missunderstood and I get to the washing up.

Anyway... enough side tracking. The song that got me when I heard it for the first time the other day was Dear Mr. President. Yes, it could well be considered a little twee and pop-political but the thing that gets me is the sound of disappointment in her voice.

One of the songs that has always got to me as being so desperately sad is 'From a Distance', written by Julie Gold and made famous by Nanci Griffith. I've often seen it sung on Songs of Praise or on other religious programmes and I've always been a little puzzled. Its a beautifully simple song and sounds on the surface like it might be suitable for Christian worship. But if you dig a bit deeper, and think more carefully about the lyrics, it really isn't. From my understanding the Christian God has a few key characteristics i.e. loving, involved, omnipotent, omniscient etc. The God that Julie Gold describes is too far away to see what has become of his/her creation.

The (scary?) thing is that it fits my idea of what God might be like - too far away to see what is really going on. When I studied philosophy of religion at school it gave me a way to articulate why I had such a problem with the loving God portrayed in Christianity - the problem of evil. Despite all the theodicies that have been developed by great theologians over the past couple of thousand years I wasn't - and I'm still - not convinced that you can reconcile the Christian qualities of God with life here on Earth. Something in me likes the idea of a creator god, and a good hearted one, so maybe he/she just isn't omnipotent or omniscient or both. So maybe 'From a Distance' is my song to God.... its just not one of worship... more of puzzlement.

3 comments:

Lex Ham Rand said...

Thanks for the link! I appreciate your comments about what happens when you engage in what my grad school professors (many years ago) called "close reading," i.e. being very, very careful with the reading exactly what the words say. Some of the biggest examples of "mis-reading" that I have seen include using the chorus of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" as music for a Chevrolet advertisement (when the entire song is a dark lament by a Vietnam veteran). An even funnier factoid is that "America the Beautiful," which is a song near and dear to many who are quite conservative politically and who are usually quite religious (and homophobic) was written by an "out" lesbian college professor in 1893!! One can read the lyrics of that song in an entirely new light after knowing that information.

doctor/woman said...

I love the song "From a distance", i think it is very beautiful, but have to say I am equally mystified about its use in worship programmes. If the song is supposed to be about a Christian God, it has a major flaw. A Christian God, by definition is one who chose not to simply watch us from a distance in some kind of wishful-thinking way, but to come to no distance at all and become one of us, experiencing first-hand most of the worst kinds of suffering the world has to offer. I have not studied theology like you have, so won't try and present a "theodicy" for why suffering happens in the first place, but I don't think that if you believe at all that God came to live with us as Jesus, that we can say to Him that he doesn't see or doesn't care about our suffering.
Congratulations on waking up your inner voice, by the way, I feel that mine has been more active than usual recently. having a place to write about things helps, I think. Sorry for long post...

AdventuringJen said...

I think the use of From a Distance on programmes such as Songs of Praise comes from Cliff Richard having covered it...and anything Cliff does must be ok by SoP...
Or something like that.
I'm afraid neither my inner nor outer voice are awake enough yet this morning to write more sensibly...