The Sacred Scripture of My Inner Soundtrack

Counties don’t count for much back in Massachusetts.  They exist, but most everything you need done is done by local city or town government and counties could probably be done away with except for the politically appointed jobs they create.  Counties are a different story here in Texas. Counties are prevalent. The are present. They are in your consciousness.  I’ve crossed county lines numerous times already between Dallas County, Tarrant County (which is where we live) and Denton County.  Some of the times I crossed county lines I wasn’t even lost.  Different counties even have different immunization requirements for registering for school.  Every time I’ve crossed a county line during the last few days, I hear Bruce Springsteen singing in my head (I’ve got to unpack the CD’s) from the River’s “The Price You Pay” :

But just across the county line, a stranger passing through put up a sign
That counts the men fallen away to the price you pay,
and girl before the end of the day,
I’m gonna tear it down and throw it away

That’s the end of the song, A song that ends with triumphant hope, throwing out of the way anything that would hold you back. It’s a song that in its own way explains why I’m here.

Now they’d come so far and they’d waited so long
Just to end up caught in a dream where everything goes wrong
Where the dark of night holds back the light of day
And you’ve gotta stand and fight for the price you pay

I think like this a lot. Then I realized I think like this about rock and pop music the way so many people surrounding me here think about Bible verses. There’s a Bible verse for every situation, some folks around here would probably be too glad to tell me. And I could just as easily quote the soundtrack in my brain. This, I have to admit and accept is my scripture. John Lennon said, after all, “I consider it poetry, I just sing it.” Serious pop music is more than poetry, it’s folk music in the deepest sense – the music of the people in our global media culture and at its finest you can find within it human dreams, hopes, aspirations, and thoughts on the mystical and the divine, the political and the philosophical. Pop music can be shallow, but it can also be deep. It’s secular, but can also be sacred. For every circus clown, there’s a Walt Whitman and for every industry manufactured one-hit wonderbread there’s an Emily Dickinson. Well, maybe not for every single one, but there are enough of them.

I’ve been thinking about this since Knoxville, and its been reinforced through our move to Texas. Psalms aren’t the first things to cross my consciousness or quotes from the Gospels or any other world scripture, nor wise sayings from Emerson or Channing, not even Mary Oliver. Nope. What rises first for me is material from my own inner canon: Springsteen, U2, Lennon, Marley, Indigo Girls, Dylan, The Alarm, Martin Sexton, and others. One can’t just go quoting Bono and Dylan at bedsides and roadside accidents, as you may be making references that will fly over the heads of the bereaved and the afflicted, although maybe someday who knows? The psalms were new once.

I look at this with the opposite world view of Rob Fleming (Rob Gordon as played by John Cusak in the film adaptation), the protagonist of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, who asked himself, “Am I miserable because I listen to pop music or do I listen to pop music because I’m miserable.” I tend to think that the music has graced my life, and ask “Am I blessed to see sacred connections because I listen to pop music or do I listen to pop music because I am blessed to see sacred connections?”

I’m coming home with a stone, strapped onto my back.
I’m coming home with a burning hope turning all my blues to black.
I’m looking for a sacred hand to carve into my stone.
A ghost of comfort, angels breath – to keep this life inside my chest.
This world falls on me with hopes of immortality.
Everywhere I turn all the beauty just keeps shaking me.
I woke up in the middle of a dream, scared the world was too much for me.
Sejarez said, “don’t let go, just plant the seeds and watch them grow.”
I’ve slept in rainy canyon lands, cold drenched to my skin.
I always wake to find a face to calm these troubled lands.
This world falls on me with dreams of immortality.
Everywhere I turn all the beauty just keeps shaking me.
Running – end – earth – swimming – edge – sea – laughing – under – starry sky
This world was meant for me.
Don’t bury me, carry me.
I wish I was a nomad, an Indian, or a saint.
The edge of death would disappear, leave me nothing left to taint.
I wish I was a nomad, an Indian, or a saint.
Give me walking shoes, feathered arms, and a key to heaven’s gate.
This world falls on me with dreams of immortality.

Indigo Girls “World Falls” from Nomads, Indians, Saints

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