Monday, March 12, 2012

'Cleaning And Purging' Revisited

I've been re-reading the posts I put in this blog three years ago. Back then, I was chronicling my sense of life as a Lenten discipline. At the same time I was placing that alongside the biblical selections for each day. Some days were better than others. Reflecting on the posts, it's been invaluable to me. I humbly and honestly believe it's the best stuff I've ever written; quite possibly the best I may ever write.

For the 3rd Sunday in Lent, I wrote a reflection on John 2:13-25. This passage recalls Jesus' clearing the Temple of the vendors and moneychangers, and it's the only event in the Gospels where Jesus "loses 'his cool'." (To read the full reflection, go here.) That event was pivotal with respect to how the religious hierarchy saw Jesus. As I wrote, "from that time on it becomes easier for those plotting against Jesus to make false accusations against him, ones that stick."

That being said, the very last part of that passage is also of great importance:
"...many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well"
(John 2:23b-25, New American Bible).

This was then, and is now, a cold slap on the face reminder that we are who we are. The constant sad stories of man's inhumanity to man speak clearly that we are in just as much need of God's merciful love now as compared to 1st Century Palestine. Knowing that it's there and has been there all along doesn't seem to change direction. In my own life this has at times thrown a wicked curve, causing me to question every single thing I do or to which I might aspire, and beat myself up mentally wondering what is motivating me.

There's the temptation here to "give up" - a term with which Lent is commonly associated. But this is not the emptying of the bucket or the cleansing of your temple, to be refilled with good things. No, this is surrendering to the wrong thing, leading to complacency, stagnation, and ultimately, death - death of the spirit, the worst thing a person can possibly endure in this life. No - as long as I can find yourself moving, my mind asking questions, my spirit longing in faith and in hope - life is still in me. I am alive because I am loved. 

To further grow spiritually, I must find something about my human nature and work at improving it beyond the base line John describes in this passage.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What Am I Doing Hanging 'Round? I Should Be On The Last Train to Clarksville, But I Will Always Love You

The entertainment world recently lost two of it's bigger names. Diva Whitney Houston passed away at age 48 on February 11, the eve of the Grammy Awards. Her death spawned a lot of controversy; questions about whether or not drugs were involved as has been the case of many people of all walks of life. February 29, a day that comes only every fourth year, saw the reporting of the death of Davy Jones, a singer in the '60s group The Monkees. Davy Jones died of a heart attack at age 66.

Because of the curiosity surrounding Houston's death, the outpouring of tributes at her passing stirred up a lot of negativity in the social media. Some said her death did not deserve such attention because of her troubled past; she put herself through drug and substance abuse. (NOTE: Coroner's reports, autopsy and toxicology results have since ruled her death to be accidental.) Others said that our soldiers lay their lives on the line every day to in the name of freedom; when one dies in the line of duty there is no nationwide outpouring of sentiment for the fallen soldier. So far, no such backlash over Davy Jones' visit to the locker that bears his name, although it's still early.

Davy Jones was one of a plethora of heartthrobs when I was in my teens, not unlike Frank Sinatra in my parents' generation, or Justin Timberlake to teens of the late 1990s or early 2000s.The Monkees were a band fabricated to be a television spoof of The Beatles, and the show's scripts were campy send-ups to scenes from A Hard Day's Night. As it turns out, talent was spread pretty evenly between Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith. Over the course of the show's run on television, all of them were able to showcase their own talent. Jones and Dolenz provided most of the lead vocals, and probably had most of the appeal. But it was Davy, with that British accent, that seemed to steal the hearts of many teen girls.

I admit to liking the musical styles of both. More to the point, I like the songs they sung. Even further, neither Whitney Houston nor any of the Monkees wrote any of their hit songs (with the exception of Mike Nesmith, whose songwriting was not as ear-catching to me as other Monkee hits). The Monkees' first hit, I'm A Believer,  was a cover of a Neil Diamond song. I'll remember Whitney Houston best for her cover of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You - a song I've reflected on elsewhere among the musings of this blog. I can croon Daydream Believer and Saving All My Love For You with the same sense of joy and delight.

The men and women of our country who die in its service are not to be forgotten by any means. To compare the outpouring of tribute at their passage to someone of the stature of Houston or Jones is an apple vs. orange comparison. All deserve to have their lives remembered for the good they did while among us. Having said that, it's our place as individuals among the living to put these people and events in perspective. Do we seek to promote freedom - true freedom - in the simple acts of daily life, or does freedom mean being entertained while someone else does the work?

I wanna be free
Like the warm September wind, babe,
Say you'll always be my friend, babe.
We can make it to the end, babe,
Again, babe, I gotta say:
I wanna be free 

 --I Wanna Be Free (1966)
 written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart; performed by The Monkees - solo by Davy Jones (1945-2012)

Didn't we almost have it all
When love was all we had worth giving
The ride with you was worth the fall my friend
Loving you makes life worth living

Didn't we almost have it all
The nights we held on till the morning
You know you'll never love that way again
Didn't we almost have it all

 --Didn't We Almost Have It All (1987)
 written by Michael Masser and Will Jennings; performed by Whitney Houston (1963-2012)