Musings, Nits, and Praises: December 2006

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Wonderful Christmas Time?

Now that we're into December and Christmas music is ubiquitous I'm reminded how bad some Christmas music is. Actually, I never really forget how bad it is; I just don't have to hear it eleven months out of the year. Don't misunderstand me, though. Some Christmas songs are terrific. In fact, I enjoy quite a few Christmas carols--"Angels We Have Heard on High," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," "Silent Night," "Carol of the Bells," and the list goes on--as well as old standards like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" or Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song." But for every Christmas song that is the musical equivalent of fresh fallen snow, there are two that are steaming reindeer turds. The worst ones are done by contemporary performers. Generally they do pedestrian versions of Christmas classics or they write their own gag reflex-inducing ditties. Now, there are a few exceptions--Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," BNL and Sarah McLachlan's "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," U2's "Baby, Please Come Home" and I'm sure I could think of others if I thought about it long enough. For some artists, it's a given that their Christmas songs will stink like four-month-old egg nog. NSYNC cut a Christmas album. Need I say more? But what is perhaps the worst Christmas song ever was written by one of the greatest songwriters of all-time. Yep, Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time." There's nothing wonderful about an annoyingly painful chorus repeated thirty times over a chincy synthesizer. Sure, McCartney has written plenty dozens of bad songs over his career, but they don't get played every hour on the hour for an entire month. How on earth did the song become a pop radio Christmas classic?

A Grief Observed

After battling cancer since May, Keith McCord passed away last night. Trying to make sense of Keith's suffering, and ultimately his death, has vexed me a great deal over the past several months (see my "Angst" post). Earlier this week I read C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed for the first time. Simply put, it's one of the most devastatingly honest, heartbreaking, and poignant expressions of grief I've ever read. The book is actually a compilation of journals Lewis kept in the months following his wife's death as a way to deal with "mad midnight moments." Initially Lewis had no intention of publishing the writings, but eventually he concluded that perhaps they could provide comfort to people in similar situations. A Grief Observed is not Lewis as a confident Christian apologist, but Lewis as a man overwhelmed with suffering, trudging his way through anger and doubt, eventually arriving at a renewed, more genuine faith.

Rather than commenting on the book any further, I'll let Lewis speak for himself. The passages I've chosen illustrate his anger, sadness, doubt, and finally his peace.

"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be--or so it feels--welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face . . ."

"Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him."

"Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything."

"It is hard to have patience with people who say, 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters."

"Kind people have said to me, 'She is with God.'" -- "Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."

"Your bid--for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity--will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but every penny you have in the world."

"What do people mean when they say, 'I am not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never been to a dentist?"

"I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted . . . Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear."

"Two widely different convictions press more and more on my mind. One is that the Eternal Vet is even more inexorable and the possible operations even more painful than our severest imaginings can forbode. But the other, that 'all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

"Lord, are these your real terms? Can I meet H. again only if I learn to love you so much that I don't care whether I meet her or not? Consider, Lord, how it looks to us. What would anyone think of me if I said to the boys, 'No toffee now. But when you've grown up and don't really want toffee, you shall have as much of it as you choose'?"

"Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem."

"We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least."

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