Monthly Archives: April 2011
It is Good Friday. And it is Earth Day.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22,23).
The world we live in is good. It can be a place of wild and mesmerizing beauty that enchants the day dreamer, acts as muse for the painter or songstress and causes the heartbeats of children to increase pace at the first signs of spring. Golden yellow dandelion florets dance in the wind and glisten in the summer sun. The stars give light by night as the moon plays with the ocean causing its waves to rise and fall. Roses and lilies bloom with intoxicating aroma and inspire the poetry of lovers. And human beings at times act with amazing care and benevolence towards each other and the world we live in.
But the world we live in can also be a brutal and desolate place. Those same dandelions that dance in the wind are an aggressive weed that take over the farmer’s crop and increase his toil. The sun that glistens on them does not let up but beats down and contributes to drought and famine as rains recede. The stars fall from the sky. The moon is thought to have adverse affects on the human psyche, while the ocean waves rise to a colossal crescendo in the tsunami and crush tens of thousands of human lives. Roses bear thorns and lilies fade away. Human beings let love die while hurt, ignorance and hatred fester. We use words, swords and F-15’s to terrorize the lives of others. And time has also shown that no other force in nature has wreaked as much havoc upon the rest of creation as humanity.
A lot of religious people, especially Christians tend to talk about the world as if it were indubitably going to become a ball of fire. We treat our bodies as if they are temporary homes or worse prisons we will one day escape. But none of this sounds anything like Good News.
God made animals and trees and vegetation and said all of these are good. God made people and said this is very good. Our world and our bodies are good! Broken sure; but not disposable. In need of some restoration; but indispensable.
The Son of God does not come to free us from the physicality of this world, broken as it may be. Instead he steps through the door between Haven and Earth and remains permanently bound up with the stuff of creation for the sake of its transformation and ours.
A good response is to start today with taking better care of both our bodies and our planet.
I made the announcement back in January that I would write throughout the year on many of the great albums that are turning 20 this year.
R.E.M.’s classic album “Out of Time” is actually about 20 + a month now. There was not much to write about in January and February (notorious dumping ground for less than the best music and films). Still, this review is about a month overdue (as I have been crazy busy trying to graduate and find a job).
It was R.E.M.’s 7th album overall and their 2nd for Warner Bros. For many people – including me – “Out of Time” was their first exposure to an R.E.M. album. This was no doubt due in part to the world wide hit single “Losing my Religion.” The song was even used on Beverly Hills 90210 in the famous Brenda and Dylan break up in Dylan’s car episode. The massive exposure annoyed a lot of R.E.M.’s long time Indie fans who didn’t want to share their favorite college rock band with teenie-boppers like me (or the rest of the world). But I knew nothing about that at the time. All I knew was that together with albums like Sinéad O’Connor’s “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990), B52’s – “Cosmic Thing” (1989) and Faith No More’s – “The Real Thing” (1989) this was a different kind of music than the teenie-bopper music I was growing out of like New Kids on the Block and Tiffany. It was also different than the hard rock I was listening to like Guns N Roses.
But perhaps most importantly it was a far, far different kind of “alternative” than the grunge scene that would be synonymous with “alternative” by the end of 1991 and dead in a few years. But this was still before all of that and before Kurt and Courtney asked R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe to be the godfather of their daughter Frances Bean Cobain
One of the things that made the album an “alternative” to the mainstream in 1991 was the way the band blended elements of rock, pop, country and for a brief moment even hip hop to create a sound off of the beaten path. Today that kind thing is the norm. But when this album came it was not common for rock bands to have cameos from rappers like KRS-One on their albums, on the opening track no less.
I really do love the whole album. But three songs have always been the trifecta of R.E.M goodness to me: The dark, brooding “Low” showcasing Stipe’s love it or hate it mumbling singing technique. The epic “Belong” with it’s perfect combination of nonlinear lyrics and a semblance of story. More importantly the song’s bellowing “chorus” of “Ahh, ahhh, ahh” after each time a mother tells her child to belong really taps into a human emotion too deep for words. Finally, “Country Feedback” is one of my favorite songs of all time by any artist or band. Michael’s stream of consciousness lyrics in the middle section have always had the power to tear me open like a scalpel:
We’ve been through fake-a-breakdown
Self help, self pain,
EST, psychics, fuck all
I was central
I had control
I lost my head
I need this
I need this
You can stream the whole album here via GrooveShark.
Here is an amazing 2003 live performance of Country Feedback
Finally, while R.E.M. have put out several albums since Out of Time it is certainly worth mentioning that this year on its 20th anniversary they released “Collapse into Now” one of their best albums in some time; quirky and reminiscent if of Out of Time in many ways. I have been listening to that album on repeat for nearly a month now.