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rock god - page 8


Thoughts and prayers, a phrase and a sentiment, one we now cast off in blithe sympathy or fleeting cruelty, or worse, both. I don’t think thoughts and prayers are working because I don’t think we’re thinking or praying, not really.

We have staked our hopes, dreams — the future — to tech, to our creations and to all they create. I can’t promise you this is for the best.

I can tell you that at present it’s stripping millions at least of their spirit, their anchors, their self.

Some respond to this by killing.

Two of the best singers of the 1970s, Anne Murray and Elvis Presley, offered us stirring renditions of Gene MacLellan’s “put your hand in the hand,” yet it was Ocean, unknown before and forgotten since, which provided us with the very best version of the song, a rousing, welcoming call to honest, open thoughts and prayers and togetherness.

“Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water. Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea. Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently. So put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.”

It seems worth trying.


I thought we’d be farther along than this, honestly.

Second half of the second decade of the 21st century — 21st! — and we’re still driven by consumption, still substituting our good works for product, still aligning our goals with buying another.

Could Janis Joplin live in such a world?

That gorgeous voice masked beneath meek looks, that fiery spirit cradled inside a plain and portly facade.

So much there. So much broken.

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV? Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me. I wait for delivery each day until three, so oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?”

You worked hard all your lifetime. That’s it?


Is there meaning to life, a purpose to yours?

Even after the New York Times said God is dead?

Elton John takes the terrible tale of Levon, his son he calls Jesus, Alvin Tostig, and a world focused entirely on everything wrong, and weaves it into a chorus of fun and visceral wonder.

Just one song.

You have an entire life to create joy and wonder.

“Take a balloon and go sailing.”


“Every single one of us, the devil inside.”

Michael Hutchence was showy and sexual, the popular lead singer of the popular Australian band INXS. Hutchence died of his own hand, and much too young.

If the devil inside you, cast it out.


Then starve it to death, no food, no oxygen, give it no fuel to live on, no means to survive inside you.

It’s still there?

That’s your reminder to keep doing good.

“Future uncertain but certainly slight. Look at the faces, listen to the bells. It’s hard to believe we need a place called hell.”

We can’t know why Hutchence killed himself. Fame, fortune, and a broken family no doubt all played a part, but life is so precious, so exceedingly rare that violating its glory, casting aside this almost infinitesimal gift seems to most of us unconscionable.

Let’s take pity over anger.

The sky above won’t fall down.


Why do we continue to create tools and entertainments that remove us from the availing blessings of our planet, the stars, the universe?

Is it a retreat?

Or are we somehow uniquely endowed with the drive and ability to extricate ourself from all that surrounds us for reasons not yet fully revealed to us?

The cave affords shelter and we collapse deeper inside it?

John Denver went to the mountains and was changed.

“Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams seeking grace in every step he takes. His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake”


“You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply.”

God need not enter your life with a boom.

Is that what you need right now?


Nina Simone was a bird, light and feathery, hollow bone and morning glory, and with a broken wing. She could not leave the ground, no matter how hard she fought, but she was still able to teach others to fly.

“So I run to the Lord
Please hide me, Lord
Don’t you see me prayin’?
Don’t you see me down here prayin’?
But the Lord said
Go to the Devil, the Lord said
Go to the Devil
He said go to the Devil
All on that day
So I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, I ran to the Devil”

We each want a purpose, one glorious, fulfilling, a purpose that raises us up, makes us known, beloved, maybe wealthy, yet the crushing of reality reminds us that possibly, maybe probably, our greatest life, our truest mission, is in the lifting up of others, helping them to fly.

How we respond to this weighty blessing — part affliction, part superpower — fully reveals who we are.

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