Thursday, January 26, 2006

For Him Who Has Ears to Hear

I continually amaze myself. And that’s not good.

Last week I posted a snarky review of a CD I had received. It was witty and smug as it complained about Hallmark Card lyrics in Christian music, and it concluded with a little Hallmark Card poem about just how much I hate Hallmark Card lyrics. Delicious irony, no? Damn, I’m good. So I was feeling self-righteous and funny as hell, full of self-congratulatory bonhomie and zest, until I received an e-mail message from the person who made the album. He essentially said that it was okay if I didn’t like his album, but he wondered why I had to be so mean-spirited about it.

Yeah. Just why is that?

Yesterday was a day full of little epiphanies. I read Erik’s post about his father. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s a wonderful, painful reminder of the sorrows that some people tote around for a lifetime. Sometimes I forget that. Ram Sridharan and Gabe and Ann Williams came over for dinner last night. Ram, who comes from a Hindu background, and Gabe, who comes from a Muslim background, talked about what it was like to be disowned by their families because of their Christian beliefs. It’s not all shades of grey. Christianity requires stark choices, and sometimes I forget that.

Jesus asks all who are weary and heavy-laden to come to Him. As I survey the emotional and psychological landscape, that would appear to be just about everybody. It was certainly everyone I encountered yesterday. Everybody’s toiling up the hill with a million-pound load on their backs, the weight of sorrow, poor choices, generational sin, or just plain horrible circumstances pressing them to the ground. And if I claim to be a follower of Jesus, and I do, then what right do I have to belittle and mock these people? I can’t play Jesus. I can’t remove the weight. But I don’t have to jump on their backs, either.

After everybody left I sat down in the den and listened to some albums I have to review for Paste Magazine. All through the dinner conversation I struggled to hear soft-spoken people. Then I went in to play rock ‘n roll critic. That irony isn’t lost on me either. But I can put on the headphones and turn up the music as loud as I want.

One of the albums I played was by Jules Shear, an old New Waver turned introspective folkie. Jules sang:

I’m not accustomed to the clearness
I’m not accustomed to the view
I’m not accustomed to the clearness
When I am standing facing you
I guess I got used to believing in me
Believing soon turned into truth
I’m not accustomed to the clearness
Seeing everything new

Even with a hearing deficit, I heard that loud and clear.


John McCollum said...


You and me, both, Andy.

I've actually put a lot of thought into this issue lately (my being a smug, critical, self-righteous asshole, not you), and I'd love to sit down and chat with you about it.

It must be even more difficult when you're actually PAID to be smug. I do it for free, I enjoy it so much.

Reminds me of when I used to design negative political advertisements for a living.


Thanks for posting.

Andy Whitman said...

John, yes, let's do that, and let's talk tomorrow night about setting up a time soon. I'd really like that to happen, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. For what it's worth, in Myers-Briggs terms, it's the "J" part of our personalities rearing its ugly head.

And it is ugly. This aspect of my personality honestly distresses me. I don't like it, at all. But I don't always know how to deal with it. I don't think the solution is to adopt some wishy-washy relativist thinking that says that everybody has their individual tastes, and we can't really talk about "good" or "bad." Screw that. But maybe that's my "J" side showing again. You think?

In any event, let's talk about it.