If you were to write a book about “The Story of Your Life” as it relates to your life as storyteller/justice-seeker, what would the title of the book be?
That’s the thing I’m supposed to sort through this morning.
I’m inclined to put “music” in there, but that almost feels like the retelling of my story through other people’s eyes. Music is a part of my story, yes. That’s undeniable. But there’s so much more there; so much behind what inspired the music. I’m actively making changes in my life that privilege my call to ministry over my vocational life as a songwriter, so there’s a real need to envision what my life story looks like outside that context.
I think about Nadia’s Pastrix, and how contextual that title is to her having called that word, in a derogatory sense, by those who didn’t recognize her ministry as valid. But she was already ordained when that book came out. I’m not. I can’t incorporate “priest” or anything priest-related into the title, can I? Maybe something about becoming a priest?
An important part of this assignment is to tie in the title to our sense of being a storyteller/justice-seeker. So, it’s not just an autobiography: it’s a story of ourselves in relationship to this idea of telling stories and seeking justice.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to throw out the songwriting piece.
It Sings, but Does it Read?
It Sings, but Can You Speak It?
It Sings, but Does It Speak?
This is an interesting direction.
There is a point in most songwriting sessions where I draw attention to the fact that we are singing something that means nothing. We have allowed the sound of our own voices to become more important than the substance of our ideas. This proclamation sometimes shuts down the session.
Once, a writer asked if what we really wanted to do was to make people think about the deep things, or to help them to forget. She was serious. It was the most honest, and most troubling example of the ethic of the mainstream music industry.
But that’s not my ethic. I’m not a person who is invested in encouraging people to forget. Frankly, this is why I don’t make very good pop music.
So, Is Sings, but Does It Speak is about this constant pull to reach for deeper meaning, and to shuck away the obvious, superficial glamour. It’s an ethic in my own creative process as a songwriter; which is to say, a storyteller.
It’s the ethic that informs my sermons about white supremacy. It’s an ethic that has led me to write songs about the more difficult parts of love. It’s an ethic that has led me to conclude that the vocation of the priesthood is what I’m called to, because a priest must — absolutely must — speak truth to the deeper meaning of any given situation. The priest has a responsibility to the human heart, and the human heart is not served by the nonsense of pop. Pop music is, by and large, a sedative.
And we need desperately to be awake right now.