Freedom and Music
Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director
Music is a primal human phenomenon. It affects all of us, but in very personal and unique ways. I enjoy a diverse and wide range of music. However, as I’ve written about before, some of my favorite music to listen to tends to be a bit heavier than what you all might be interested in…
So, imagine my delight when, at this year’s GA, a woman- perhaps a bit younger than I- started her homily for the youth synergy worship service like this:
“Punk rock changed my life.”
Her name is Ayanna Kafi, and you can listen to her homily here at about 27:30 minutes in: https://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2019/worship/synergy
As she talked, I felt my soul stirring, my emotional memory bringing me back to the days of my spiritual formation when I was being awakened to life outside of my parents’ middle class suburbia mind-set. Ayanna’s words felt magical to me in that moment, as I think a lot about music and what I listen to and why I like it, knowing that much of it is not what you’d call “mainstream”. In fact, Adam (your music director) often asks me why I like listening to what I like and so I’ve had to be more deliberate and specific in my explanations. It’s not always that easy to explain. But to hear someone else explain it to a few hundred or more people was not only validating, but freeing.
“It was a parachute when I was free falling. It was beans and rice and spice soaked kale before I even knew of kitchen witchery. It was reason and logic when the world outside of my headphones didn’t offer any. It was open arms, inclusion, and my very own activist fairy godmother. It unsettled the status quo and whispered that I didn’t have to accept less than humane treatment. That no one has to accept less than humane treatment.” Wow. I love those words she offered us.
Although I have certainly expanded my musical repertoire since my younger years, I still listen to a lot of it. One of my mind-freeing favorites, “Summertime Rolls” by Jane’s Addiction, is a song I love to listen to when I anticipate the coming of summer (and when I was teaching, I probably listened to it every single day in May just to remind myself that freedom was near! It’s a tough job y’all!). It’s a song that played in my head this summer as I traveled. I carried it in my mind while at the beach, sitting in the waves and hearing the children laughing, laying in the grass in Spokane with my daughter soaking up the sun, and out in the Wisconsin woods feeling the gentle breeze as it moved through the trees and the weather was just perfect. But most of all, this “trippy love song”, as it’s been described, reminds me in some strangely soothing way to keep disrupting the status quo (if you’re at all familiar with Jane’s Addiction, then you’ll understand why). And, if I pay attention to Ayanna’s words from her homily and apply them to my experiences, then I know that at the very center of my origin story was born a young woman driven to disrupt the status quo for the sake of finding a wholeness that honors the divine in every person. Seems to me like many Unitarian Universalists may find such a story lingering in their past. Go ahead, put your records on.
Music is primal. It affects us all. I love it when it energizes us to do the work the world so desperately needs us to do. Tell me good people- what music calls you to disrupt the status quo?