As my obsession with my own mortality continues to dominate my thoughts, I've become incredibly attuned to commonplace things of beauty on a regular basis. Lately it's been in music.
Take for example Middle Schoolers singing Christmas carols. Last night was a "worship night" at Mosaic's Sunday PM which is the 6-8 grade ministry at church. I lead a small group of about six boys in the sixth grade, but they are part of hundreds of middle-schoolers that attend regularly. Usually our night is divided up into 3 areas; gym time, large group teaching and small groups. Because we're so close to Christmas, they just made last night to be mostly singing and then released to small groups.
There was a single guitarist/vocalist, Jayden Lee (formerly of Sons of Korah) who lead the group of students. Because their voices weren't drowned out by the usual over-accompaniment of drums, bass, etc, the student voices were more audible than usual. The young voices filled the room with hymns and carols.
I'm not sure why it was so breathtaking to me. Maybe I've become soft at 50. Maybe it was the sense of hope that these kids will grow up to be okay in a world that is not. Maybe it was the fact that 200 teens found time to be in church on a Sunday night when the rest of their peers were texting, facebooking, or gaming. I do know that it was a reminder of why I was moved to help lead middle schoolers when all I could do was think of reasons why I wasn't a good fit. God said "Wrong again, Jim."
I'm not sure why it hit me, but lately nothing surprises me. Being 50 with one less brother in the world tends to change one's outlook in dramatic ways.
On Friday night I was watching a video of Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush where the video focused strictly on him. Now, if you know anything about rock music, Neil Peart is perhaps the most well known living rock drummer. His drum set surrounds him and none of them is unused by the end of a concert. Trust me, he's good, if not the best.
So I'm watching him and I'm caught up in how privileged I am to see a man with this kind of skill. He is a craftsman in every sense of the word. I think of all the hours of practice he must have put in so that he could one day say he was the best. Of course, he's the best in my generation and that made me think of previous generations who had their own best, Buddy Rich, John Bonham, etc. For some unknown reason I was almost brought to tears.
Then there's Mark Knopfler's guitar and lyrics on the song So Far From The Clyde. Everytime I listen to it I get goosebumps. It's crazy because it's about the decommissioning and recycling of a ship. If you listen to the lyrics though they speak of the human condition, at least to me. The guitar riffs are so sad and forlorn that they just break me. Simple sounds that have a thousand layers.
I was watching Bruce Springsteen Live in Dublin where he was playing the Pete Seeger sessions. He plays with about a 10 piece band including fiddles and a complete horn section. Listening to it is an absolute audio buffet. The thing that struck me is that in all of the chaos, there is a complete order to things as well. That's what makes it so outstanding. One of the best parts is when the horns kick in and start dragging. It is amazing how it pulls at my soul.
So, I'm not sure why it is so much in my face lately, but the beauty of life is there. Music is just one area that I'm writing about. It's there in so many other places as well. It's right there for anyone looking for it. Right there.