Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday musings

It occurred to me last night that the concert I mentioned yesterday - when I saw the Canadian Brass in Calgary 20 years ago, was a turning point in my life. Or, at least, it began to nudge me in a different direction, opening up a gulf that has yet to be closed, and, in the process, causing me to lose some of the innocence of my youth. All because I went with some college friends and faculty to see five guys in tuxedos and hightops play some excellent music.

It all came about because of one song, The Saints' Hallelujah. The story the Brass told was that they were playing for the Queen of England and only had time for one song, but they wanted to play two - Hallelujah! from Handel's Messiah, and When the Saints Go Marching In. So they took the two and made one song, mashing them together into a whimsical, fun little medley in classic Canadian Brass fashion. They played it for us, and I loved it. The playing was superb, and the cuts were hilarious, leading to laughter and smiles throughout the auditorium. I suppose anytime you can pull off Hallelujah in Dixieland style, you're doing something right.

So the show ended, and we all headed out into the cold winter night, walking toward the school van for the hour-long ride home.

I was gushing, excited, thrilled at what I'd seen and experienced. I was inspired to go home and play my trumpet. I wanted to talk about all that we'd just heard and seen.

"Wow, that was incredible," I said to Paul.

"Actually, I was offended by it."

And that - that moment a crack appeared that exists to this day.


And it all came back to that song.

"Hallelujah is a sacred word. It has to do with God. How can they treat it so lightly? I thought it was atrocious."

And I was soon to learn that the majority of people in our group agreed. The Canadian Brass had made a joke of a sacred word. I heard the word "sacrilege" thrown around. Nobody wanted to talk about the antiphonal Gabrielli motet, or the Barber adagio we'd just heard. Instead, the conversation revolved around the CB "laughing and lifting their hands while singing 'hallelujah.'" "Don't they know that that is worship!?!?" So everybody was offended.

I, on the other hand, couldn't figure out why. It was just a fun song. And Hallelujah is, after all, just a word. It's a word that is in our common vernacular, not necessarily imbued with magical powers or anything. And so I tried to argue, but I was quickly shut down. You can't after all, easily convince an offended person that their offense is misplaced, especially when you are a college freshman dealing with upperclassmen and faculty.

It didn't ruin the night for me, but it sure put a damper on it. I also began to realize a few things that night.

For one, I realized how far away from these people I truly was, which didn't bode well for the future. How can you trust your college faculty to teach you anything, when you come to see how goofy their opinions are?

I realized that night that there are many Christians who go out of their way to be offended. Who will ignore the wonders of art and music and friends all because of the smallest perceived slight. Who will pass the opportunity to actually enjoy themselves because their worldview is based on fear and suspicion.

I realized that I'm not meant to spend much time around fundamentalists. They tend to ruin everything in their opinionating, in their accusing, in their constant harping on every little detail that doesn't line up with their view of "how the world should be."

I also realized that many people spend their life being offended. Name the subject, and they'll be offended by it. And then they'll be snarly about their offense. The world offends them. Sinners offend them. Society offends them. Breaking any of their myriad rules offends them. They just can't enjoy life because life offends them.

And, finally, I think I realized I had to live life differently. Jesus entered into this world, he enjoyed people, he went to dinners and parties, he spent time with saints and sinners alike. It seems that the only thing to offend Jesus was Religion's propensity to be offended by "the least of these." And so I had to jump into life, choosing to embrace it rather than be offended by it. I wanted to be surrounded by good music and interesting people. I wanted to make music, to read books, to have conversations with all sorts of people, seeking to find the Divine Spark rather than being offended by the stain of sin.

In many ways, who I am today began on that cold Canadian night, as many walked away disgusted in their offense, while I entered into a trajectory that sought life and love and laughter (and humor), instead.

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