April 5, 2019
I often feel curmudgeonly since removing myself from much of social media. I made a conscious and conscientious decision to do so for my own sanity and I did so with little fanfare; after all, it should affect only a very small portion of the world if I am not actively liking and retweeting poorly designed typeface-focused platitudes. This is the third draft of this sentiment. The first had no bite, the second was all bite (in all honesty, it was a rant), but those were for me; this one is for you.
I’m a musical person; I grew up in a musical home, in a musical church. It makes sense that I think of making music as a therapeutic endeavor. As I help people with their problems—technological, psychological, religious, or otherwise—I am struck by the fact that I rely on making music more and more for focus, a way to center myself.
Recently, a friend asked me what I do to keep my faith. I gave him a number of ideas: community, time, prayer, removing clutter to make way for more important things, reading things that actively challenge my notions, social and economic justice work. But in the end, I realized the thing that always kept me connected to my faith was my music, music I created.
I saw DeRay McKesson speak at a conference a few weeks back; it was like a dream come true for me. I now have a signed copy of his book and a picture with him, but that doesn’t make me a part of his choir. In his talk, he spoke about the choir as an analog for grassroots organizing. In his book, he proposes that the idea of allyship is being over-utilized and in reality means aligned but still distant; he provides a substitution for that word that resonates with me: accomplice.
Being an accomplice—active participation in a team, a community, a choir even—means putting ourselves in contact with other humans and working together; this is really what makes music a good faith builder. For me, being a part of the choir means that you are forced to rely on others, means that you learn to add your own voice to the larger whole. Such socialistic means embolden my faith because I believe my faith has socialistic ends.
How do you reach other people? How do you reach yourself? Perhaps the latter is largely the question that people aren’t asking or don’t want to ask because the answer is difficult. And the curmudgeonly feeling I mentioned above, I’m starting to realize that’s a side effect of forming a different set of priorities from my peers.
I realized for the first time I was living based on my own standards and not someone else’s. I don’t need to share platitudes on social media or put a sign on my front lawn to have values and live by them. Those don’t really help anyway; what helps is becoming an accomplice to change, it’s sharing the trenches on an issue that may benefit someone else more than yourself, it’s putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and visiting the neighbor in need (and then not telling a soul about it). Because who cares if you get a thousand likes or retweets if you actually make a difference.
Not all music is faith-based nor is all music good for the soul. I do believe that certain types of music, certain musical endeavors and instruments, show the power that God has given humans, intellectually, socially, and otherwise. No matter what music is around you, however, your music should help you connect with others and therein connect with God. Join a choir; learn an instrument; build relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability; and put yourself out there to help and to be helped.