I don?t believe in reli­gious exper­i­ences. I don’t trust in the blind­ing light of heav­en. God, I wish I did. But every time we hear the gos­pel, it’s as if we’re listen­ing for the first time. Anew. These thoughts are born again each hour of the heav­en-sent day, called upon whenev­er our unevent­ful unfold­ing requires incid­ent­al music.

This is no pound­ing soundtrack, burst­ing at the seams with action, adven­ture and mind­less melo­drama. We can do that, of course — we’re past mas­ters — but such epis­odes are best saved for out of our heads, out of our minds, out of our cocoon. That time comes soon enough. Always too soon. No mat­ter how much we turn up the volume to drown out all the clocks — alarms, tick­ing and all — the bell tolls from down the hall­way.

Scan­ning the lines, we can see the light in each shad­owy par­able, and we weave our way into words that were once upon a time so secretly swept off those con­crete streets. Always in the bar­fly hours after mid­night, too: vign­ettes penned by one of the city’s army of anonym­ous romantics. Hands in his pock­ets and bent against the sleet and the sickly neon glim­mer, he keeps his head down and trudges home before dawn. Or at least that’s how it seems in my overly poet­ic ima­gin­ings.

We no longer care that each urb­an tableau was taken from aven­ues where we may nev­er walk hand in hand because, by now, we know every foot­print on every pav­ing stone. Famili­ar­ity breeds con­tent­ment.

There’s a fel­low feel­ing in such tales; a sense that they were gathered into the leath­ery fold and scribbled onto creased pages by a kindred spir­it: a world-weary wage slave who can barely give voice to his own name, let alone pro­nounce every twis­ted syl­lable of his frus­tra­tion. He nev­er looks the sub­jects of his stor­ies in the eye, except when par­oxysms of twenty-first cen­tury right­eous indig­na­tion over­take his battered frame. We find ourselves end­lessly fas­cin­ated, unhealth­ily fix­ated, with his dreams and fears. Because they’re our dreams and fears, too. Writ­ten into our skin. Like scrip­ture.

And so we observe these pre­cious moments of com­fort­ing ritu­al, tak­ing refuge in our endur­ing faith. Break­ing each other’s bod­ies, sip­ping each other’s blood, and giv­ing grate­ful thanks for small mer­cies.

The Nation­al
Lyr­ics to Gos­pel

Comments: 3

    This phrase ‘and we weave our way into words that were once upon a time so secretly swept off those con­crete streets’ is so per­fect — my breath caught when I read it.

    Beau­ti­ful song too — a new one for me. I will invest­ig­ate fur­ther.

    jem | 09.24.08, 15:23

    Darling, can you tie my string?

    Ani | 09.24.08, 20:48

    Jem — Thanks, as ever. And I hope you go fur­ther in dis­cov­er­ing the beau­ti­ful music of The Nation­al.

    Ani — Shock­ing! And appalling! This is not a string-tying kind of site!

    An Unreliable Witness | 09.29.08, 11:06

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