Raise my hands / paint my spirit gold

I want to live in the world, not behind some wall

Want to live in the world where I will hear if another voice should call

to the prisoner inside me, to the captive of my doubt

who, among his fantasies, harbors the dream of breaking out

and taking his chances alive in the world (J. Browne)

I had satellite radio for a while, but my free trial expired and I don’t miss it. For me, listening to the radio is the aural equivalent of mindlessly flipping through channels on TV: all you can do is Keep Trudging and Hoping Against Hope. After a while the dreck just rots your brain. You are what you listen to.

Picture 123
Self-portrait, Santa Fe

I am obsessively intentional about my listening habits and my collection has been carefully curated over the years. This passion has its roots in my childhood (as…indeed…what passion doesn’t?), and I inherited it from my dad, who inherited it from his dad. We always had very complicated audio set-ups: hi-fi speakers the size of dressers, mysterious add-ons like woofers and tweeters, also that disc-washing system with the squirty stuff you stored inside the brush-pad thing. You had to be very, very careful with the needle because it was a DIAMOND, for heaven’s sake. Which meant you couldn’t just walk past the turntable with your regular feet because the needle would skip.

From my earliest years, I would lie on the floor in front of the turntable with headphones listening to the music of the house: folk, classical, soundtracks (Gilbert & Sullivan, Rogers & Hammerstein, Disney…even Captain Kangaroo.) Then there was the occasional new artist. I remember the day my dad brought home Abbey Road; the whole Paul-is-dead business was my first Beatles experience. (He wasn’t–and isn’t–dead.) John Denver came into my life in the same way. (He is, unfortunately.)

Then, later, when I started falling in love and I began to pick my own music, I developed a special penchant for the depressing stuff. I would lie on the floor in front of my own turntable, usually in the dark, and listen to the same albums over and over and over.

Sometimes my dad would make me stand in the middle of the room the better to Experience The Music Fully. (“WAIT!” he’d say, “listen for that harmony/banjo/drum!”) Of course, I subjected my daughter and son to the same lessons in listening, and I happen to know that they have done the same to their friends. I’m so proud.

Listening to music (carefully chosen) with one’s whole body and attention and spirit is a soul-cleansing practice. I listen to music the way some people read their horoscopes or self-help books. In the music I find God, meaning, direction, and encouragement. I receive assurances that I’m not alone in what I am feeling and thinking and dealing with at that moment. Often, often a song or a lyric or a chord change will pierce my thoughts, or my troubles, or my heart, affecting my outlook.*

Thankfully, while I still love the depressing stuff, some songs are guaranteed to raise my spirits. The title above is a little lyric-gem from the British band Mumford & Sons. The song, “I Will Wait” is in my current car-listening loop,** because it just makes me happy with its gale-force harmony/banjo/drums.***

What do you listen to?

*In the interest of full disclosure I must confess that I am working on reading the Bible with the same devotion.

**Also in the current loop: Walk of Life (Dire Straits), Choctaw Hayride (Union Station), Part of the Plan (Fogelberg) and Obvious Child (Simon) among others.

***Here’s a link to the video. Best served loud. http://www.artistdirect.com/video/mumford-sons-i-will-wait/136538)

2 thoughts on “Raise my hands / paint my spirit gold

  1. “Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    “May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung” – Bob Dylan.

    (You) never really had no choice.

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