Monday, May 07, 2007

The Orphans of God

Sometimes I lose my patience. Sometimes I fear that "America" and "Christianity" are so inextricably linked that it is impossible to separate one from the other, that Godncountry is just one big, unwieldy word, and that our particular brand of materialistic consumer religion is too overpowering to fight against, and that I should just resign myself to the notion of Jesus the Helper of Dieters and the Divine Investment Counselor.

Then I listen to Mark Heard, who understood those feelings as well, and I feel better.

I will rise from my bed with a question again
As I work to inherit the restless wind
The view from my window is cold and obscene
I want to touch what my eyes haven't seen
But they have packaged our virtue in cellulose dreams

And sold us the remnants 'til our pockets are clean
Til our hopes fall 'round our feet
Like the dust and dead leaves
And we end up looking like what we believe

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins and make flutes of our bones
And blow a hymn to the memory of the orphans of God

Like bees in a bottle we are flying at fate
Beating our wings against the walls of this place
Unaware that the struggle is the blood of the proof
In choosing to believe the unbelievable truth
But they have captured our siblings and rendered them mute

They've disputed our lineage and poisoned our roots
We have bought from the brokers who have broken their oaths
And we're out on the streets with a lump in our throats

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins and make flutes of our bones
And blow a hymn to the memory of the orphans of God
-- Mark Heard, "The Orphans of God"

6 comments:

John McCollum said...

In my opinion, one of the best songs ever written.

Julana said...

I came across Mark Heard about a year ago, wrote post on him, and linked to every article and interview I could find. He was a fascinating guy. I bought the inexpensive pack of cassettes from PASTE and really like the earlier, more acoustic stuff. I've wondered what happened to his wife and daughter, how they're doing.

I am a dumb American!

e said...

Andy, I've always thought this to be a tragic and beautiful song...but I'm not sure what it is about the song that makes you feel better....

Andy Whitman said...

Erik, I don't think it's the song per se that makes me feel better. But knowing that there are others out there who question the way Christianity has been packaged in this culture does make me feel better.

Julana, Mark Heard is my hero. No kidding. I love that guy, although I never knew him. I received an email message from Janet Heard, Mark's widow, about a year ago. No, I don't know her either, but she wrote me a nice note thanking me for something I wrote about Mark (right here, if you're interested: http://artsandfaith.com/index.php?showtopic=10660&hl=Mark+Heard). I didn't get a lot of details, but I believe that Janet and her daughter Rebecca are doing fairly well.

Julana said...

Andy,

Thank you for that link. Your essay gets across the feeling that comes across in Mark's music--he's authentic; he's not apathetic; he keeps working to connect truth and "reality", somehow. In doing that, you feel some kind of visceral connection between his music and your life, when you listen.
In your case, the connection was really specific to time and situation--a direct blessing from him.
I do have to smile at your description of yourself in a few places. I know how that attitude can go, even if you're not an artiste. :-)

Cameron Lawrence said...

Quite simply: wow. I have never heard this song. Looks like I have a mission this week. Thanks, Andy.