Making New Songs from Old Melodies
I feel I've done an excellent job of giving my three boys a reasonably good musical education.
I introduced them to what might be considered "classic rock" these days at an early age. They've accompanied me to concerts to see bands like Styx, The Who, Joan Jett, Kiss, Def Leppard, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Black Keys, and many more.
Not too long ago, I was driving back from San Antonio with my two youngest boys, and they asked to play some of their current favorite music for me.
Most of it was a mixture of Soul, R&B, and hip-hop, which isn't my forte, but I willingly listened because they wanted to share. It wasn't lost on me that my boys were educating me, which was a rite of passage for us both.
Interestingly, most of the music they were sharing had elements, notes, shifts, and movements that were reminiscent of songs from the 1970s. I heard echoes of Sam Cook, Marvin Gaye, the Funkadelics, and the like.
But it was different. It was its own thing.
And even though it wasn't the kind of music I typically listen to, I resonated with it because it took inspiration from the past masters to create something new that spoke to emerging generations.
I thought about all of this today as I pondered the deep divisions in our current culture over all sorts of issues.
Some within our society long to return to some imagined past that they believe was more straightforward, more certain, and when their privileged position wasn't being threatened by new ideas, cultural shifts, and people who were different from them.
The problem is that their idealized past never really existed.
There were people in that idealized past who were marginalized, discriminated against, left behind, forgotten, or straight-up abused. To them, the idea of returning to that kind of past fills them with absolute dread.
I read an interesting quote from Cameron Trimble the other day that speaks to this:
We must resist looking to the frameworks of the past to lead us into the future. Doing so is a way to pretend to control, to tighten our grip and reduce our cultural aerodynamic flexibility.
When we look to the "frameworks of the past," we risk losing our ability to move forward. But I think we can transcend those frameworks, even as we include some of the "musical notes" from the past that make sense to carry with us.
In fact, Trimble goes on to say:
Instead, perhaps we turn to ways of wisdom that cultivate intuition, patience, and ingenuity. We embrace the ways of a Mystic Wayfinder, one who purposefully gets lost in order to chart new ways forward.
I love Trimble's description of God as the "Mystic Wayfinder," by the way. I intend on borrowing that. Sometimes we need to get lost to find ourselves. Jesus taught this to his followers.
I also resonate with how Trimble speaks here of the "ways of wisdom" as well. These are the musical notes from the past that I said earlier that we can bring forward to create something new.
What is true for our society is also true for us as individuals.
We can't go back to the past, but we can transcend what needs to be left behind and bring forward what needs to be included---the notes, melodies, and phrases that are timeless and beautiful.
And we can make new music. There will be echoes of what we've included from our past in the new things, but they will be entirely new if that makes sense.
This is how it is meant to be. The Mystic Wayfinder longs for us to embrace lostness, letting go of what was and finding new, hauntingly familiar songs that are entirely different from what we used to sing.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all now and forever. Amen.