Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Delightful Blues

I have loved the blues since I graduated from high school.  I think I just realized why.

I don't mean to be melodramatic.  My life is good and fortunate; nothing like the lives of those who wrote the original blues songs.  Moreover, the blues is not a simple wallowing in one's troubles.

Some blues songs are sad; some are happy.  But the divers moods of blues are characteristically expressed through 1) a soulful call and response of voice and instruments, 2) a driving rhythm.

I hear this as an expression of spit and vinegar in response to divers life-circumstances.

The call and response is like our real-life wrestling with our circumstances.  The persistence of the rhythm is like our underlying will to persevere.  Taken together, the blues thus evokes a flexible tenacity, rather than a rigidity, in the face of life's troubles.  In this way, it gives expression to how we must be affected by what we face in life, yet how we can always choose to persevere in the face of what life gives us.  We cannot be a pillar.  But we can be a willow.

That is not all.  The blues sounds good because there is a delight in the music.  I think the reason blues can sound like wallowing to some is that it recognizes that we are not in control.  Perseverance will not always translate to victory.  We all have real difficulties and weaknesses and, anyway, none of us are God.  Blues embraces the fact that we cannot save ourselves or even the people we love.  But it is not a wallowing.  To have delight in life in the face of one's troubles requires a perspective that allows you to get outside it.  My favourite blues always evokes some such perspective in the sheer delight squeezed out of every note.

Let me move beyond blues music a bit.  We are not God, but if Jesus is God then there is reason to take delight in our trouble.  In my experience, one part of the required perspective is knowing that we are doing our best to follow his way.  Things might not seem fair and we may not succeed in every good pursuit.  Furthermore, we have to be humble about how much we are really following Jesus.  We could easily be deceiving ourselves and before God we are all equal.

But, with this in mind, making a few steps in this direction is to enter an adventure.  To defeat resentment in a key moment, to succeed in having a bit of real love for someone, is to act as a character in this adventure.  Our trouble does not go away, but slowly a sense begins to grow in us that this trouble is a part of a fully human life.

It's an adventure and we don't know what will happen.  But we are in the fight.  Even in circumstances that are awful in many ways, this allows us to feel delight: in the call and response, in the rhythm of our tenacity.

Now why don't lets delight in hearing SRV wrestle mightily with the flooding down in Texas.

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