Thursday, May 28, 2009

the abstract and concrete can do the same

David Bazan is one of my favorite songwriters from this generation. This meaning, the one where I found myself living some 31 years ago (or so).

Probably my favorite Bazan song of all time is this one, which as I mentioned on a previous post, he apparently won't play any more.


The Secret of the Easy Yoke has such simple words that were so true to life of my experience as an evangelical, and they have their own resonance with my experience as a Reformed Presbyterian and my current experience as a Catholic.

i could hear the church bells ringing
they pealed aloud your praise
the members faces were smiling
with their hands out stretched to shake
it's true they did not move me
my heart was hard and tired
their perfect fire annoyed me
i could not find you anywhere

could someone please tell me the story
of sinners ransomed from the fall
i still have never seen you
and some days i don't love you at all

the devoted were wearing bracelets
to remind them why they came
some concrete motivation
when the abstract could not do the same
but if all that's left is duty
i'm falling on my sword
at least then i would not serve
an unseen distant lord

if this is only a test
i hope that i'm passing
cause i'm losing steam
and i still want to trust you

peace be still


For the past several months, I have thought a lot about Bazan's sojourns in doubt, and am eagerly anticipating his next full length album, which I have had the privilege to see performed on two occasions in small house gatherings.

And while his newer songs have interesting thoughts about doubt and damnation, I keep coming back to this song which is now over 10 years old.

One line reverberates in my skull, and it is this:

"the devoted were wearing bracelets to remind them why they came,
some concrete motivation when the abstract could not do the same,
but if all that's left is duty i'm falling on my sword,
at least then i would not serve an unseen distant lord."

The more I think about it the more I am convinced that part of Bazan's problem (and the problem that we all face) with keeping his faith secure is this mentality that the concrete and the abstract are at war with one another.

We are all concrete people with abstract convictions, not mere ideas or concepts of people. Who are we to shun a world where one's abstract convictions are bolstered by one's concrete experience? And who would we be to have our concrete duties and actions regulated by the abstract?

To deny this interweaving relationship is to deny our own complexity.

Now, whether bracelets are the best form of concrete motivation or not, that is another question for another time....

1 comment:

Steven said...

This is an interesting post. I have never really taken time to look at the lyrics of this song... it definitely is pretty reflective of schisms within and without the Church. I can't help but wonder about where Bazan is currently in his faith. Knowing him, he will most likely leave that undisclosed....sucks.
Thanks for the post....good stuff

-Steven