I am back from Michigan. I had a great time. I had an exhausting time. I want to sleep for about five straight days. I heard some wonderful music. I heard some inspiring thoughts. I networked with people famous, not-so-famous, and perhaps infamous. But I don’t really want to write about the conference, at least for right now. I want to write about my daughter.
This weekend I spent time with my daughter Katryn, 20 years old, home for spring break, and reluctantly embarked on a road trip with the old man. And that roadtrip certainly highlighted some of our differences. I am academically oriented, theoretical and abstract. Katryn wants to have fun, and has told me in fairly matter-of-fact terms that this Christianity business impinges on her ability to have fun, and that she’ll take a pass for the time being. On the downside, I think she’s missing out on a rich life. On the up side, I think it’s quite possible that she has more fun than I do, and not in the obvious hedonistic ways, either. She’ll see a situation and laugh at it, while I seriously evaluate it and analyze it. That, in essence, is what makes us different.
Katryn loves great music, and she has extraordinarily good taste in music, if I’m allowed such a boastful, proud papa claim. She’s less enthralled at the prospect of dissecting music, discussing it from every literary and theological angle imaginable. And the conference we attended was a mixture of both. Katryn is a joy. Katryn is a handful. She’s opinionated, she’s articulate, and she has little trouble communicating exactly what her current likes and dislikes are. This weekend some of her dislikes included arrogance, pompousness, intellectual pretension, and abstract thinking that seems to have no relevance to the real world. And that was just me.
Against that backdrop, my favorite conference moment occurred during a session in which Neko Case was being interviewed. Neko Case is a singer/songwriter, and a very good one. She records her alt-country/folk noir albums under her own name, and her rock ‘n roll alter ego contributes greatly to one of my favorite bands, The New Pornographers. How ironic is it that a member of The New Pornographers should appear at a conference about Christianity and music, you might ask? Pretty ironic, I’d say.
At any rate, the interviewer asked Neko a very convoluted, academic question, read a fairly extensive quote from William Blake, compared her lyrics to Blake’s poetry, and wondered if she had ever made those connections. Neko looked puzzled for a moment, then said, “No, not really, but it sounds cool.” And then she laughed; a big, hearty laugh that was not demeaning in any way, but that probably took in the absurdity of an aging punk with dyed hair sitting center stage at something called The Festival of Faith and Music. I think that laugh was my favorite part of the conference. My serious, sensitive side was probably a little taken aback by it. The side of me that wants to be a better father told me that I’d better get used to it, or something like it, and that if twenty years hadn’t done the trick yet, we had some more time to work it out.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the conference, I have great, great respect for the interviewer, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about what I learned in the days to come. But my best times this weekend took place in a minivan, during the twelve hours it took Katryn and I to travel from Columbus to Grand Rapids, and from Grand Rapids to Kent, Ohio, where I dropped her off at Kent State to conclude her spring break. We didn’t talk about the difference between propaganda and art. We listened to Neko Case, whom we both love, and we cranked up the volume and rocked. It was challenging at times. But mostly it was cool.