We have a lot of conversations about music in our house because A is a music guy, and he’s trying to expand our horizons. Apart from Over the Rhine (whom we adore) and a handful of other albums since we’ve gotten married, we don’t really buy music these days. I don’t tend to listen to music when I’m alone, and J downloads free history podcasts to listen to on our iPod as he walks to school (as every good college professor should), and when we do listen to music, we just listen to our oldies but goodies.
So yesterday, it was very unusual for me to feel the urge to turn on some music while I was cranking out some hummus to take to a Halloween party. I was feeling particularly old school, so I was going to put on some Jennifer Knapp (whose been in the news a bit these last few months) from my college days. But when I was searching through the “artist” category on the iPod, I came across the even-more-old-school Jewel. It was her first album, Pieces of You, released in 1995 (really? fifteen years ago?), and it probably made every young woman about my age want to play the guitar.
I haven’t listened to Jewel in years and to be honest, since I don’t listen to the radio, I have no idea if she’s even still making music. I do remember, back in youth group one time, our youth pastor was talking about how we shouldn’t listen to secular music and was giving the example of, I think, Marilyn Manson as someone we shouldn’t be listening to. And then he said, “Or, heck, Jewel.” During my impressionable high school years, I felt really guilty about liking her music, and though I am in a different place these days, it was still one of the things that first came to mind when I decided to listen to her yesterday. (I think that’s a bunch of baloney, in case you were wondering.)
So, yesterday, home by myself, I was making bread and hummus and reliving the late 90s, belting out Jewel quite loudly, impressing myself with how awesome I was in remembering pretty much every word. Then “I’m Sensitive” came on. It’s a sweet, gentle song, and I’ve always liked it. When the final verse came around, however, it struck me as rather profound. Profound enough I listened to the song three more times.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few years thinking about beauty, the arts, and what it means to be an artist (writer, in my case, but otherwise as well) and be a Christian, and whether there is such a thing as “Christian” art. I think “no,” by the way, and though that’s another blog post all unto itself, I’ll also say here that I prefer the word “sacramental” as the way to describe this thoughtful, faithful art that leads us into meditation. Sacramental art taps into something deeper, and (hopefully you don’t find this very controversial) I don’t happen to believe that Christians have a corner on this market. “God works in mysterious ways,” we like to say, but I sometimes don’t think we believe it. I do, however, and one of the ways God works is through artists, Christians or not.
Which brings me back to the Jewel song, “I’m Sensitive.” Here’s that last verse*:
I have this theory that if we’re told we’re bad, then that’s the only idea we’ll ever have. But maybe if we are surrounded in beauty, someday we will become what we see. ‘Cause anyone can start a conflict; it’s harder yet to disregard it. I’d rather see the world from another angle: we are everyday angels.
I’ve been thinking about these words for the last day or so, and they seem to be an appropriate Sabbath meditation, especially just prior to an election involving such mudslinging and fear-mongering (don’t even get me started on that topic).
So there you go.
*If you click click here, you can watch a YouTube video of a live performance of the whole song. Though it is somewhat different in style from the original album recording, the words are the same.