Thursday, July 12, 2007

At the Intersection of Brokenness and Beauty

I taught myself how to grow
Without any love and there was poison in the rain
I taught myself how to grow
Now I'm crooked on the outside and the insides broke
~ Ryan Adams

It begins with a limping harmonica, and you slowly are drawn in by the fragile tenor's voice wrapping around lyrics that seep in to the bones like the slow chill of morning. This fragile prophet calls to us in a whisper to remember our broken insides. In a world whole-heartedly pursuing and creating a culture that is an El Capitan sized monolithic defense against seeing our real fragility were are ever so subltely yet profoundly reminded "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
I think we need artists like Ryan Adams. I think there is a touch of gospel in his voice. I don't know anything about his spirituality but I do know that the gospel is the great undercurrent of his musical genre and that the gospel finds its way into culture even when the church fails. I don't want to read too much into his lyrics or make him say more than he is saying, but I do believe that writers (be it authors, lyricists, journalists, etc...) sometimes do say more than they intend. Their words fit within a context. Adams words fit into the American Popular Culture context in a way that are salt and light (albeit unintentional). When you listen to most popular music, the undiscerning listener often imbibes non-reality, in the same way a person buys Budweiser because they think it will get them the hot girlfriend. There is a stream of music in popular culture that is realist in its disposition, and Adams stands in that stream. He stands at the intersection of brokenness and beauty and reminds us that there is a touch of grace to be found in entering the broke-down palace of our souls.

And maybe, just maybe we will weep in our dilapidated temple and look out its windows to find the grace that comes from without and erupts like a fountain within.

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