+ why i prefer depressing music

I meet with a group of guys about twice a month, and we have been reading and processing together a book by Eugene Peterson called Leap Over A Wall. While I’m a bit of a bibliophile, and so would naturally recommend any good book, this one has been exceptionally moving. Peterson spends the pages delving into and discussing the life of King David in such a profound manner–connecting us with the grimy reality and Divine redemption of the mundane, the painful, the secular, the religious, the wilderness and all the other beauty that we share in humanity.

After a wonderful weekend with family (Alyssa’s grandma Ellen came down from Seattle and her brother Avery and wife Miranda came from Spokane), Alyssa and I vegged in front of a very entertaining, yet painfully illuminating movie about a military guy recovering his daughter from a human-trafficking gang. The part of the film that was difficult was watching a fictional rendering of a reality that is present: people being forced into the most destructive and demeaning forms of slavery.  Living here comfortably, that nightmare is in some other world, and one that I would not go out of my way to encounter.

After the movie, I jumped back into my reading, and was reviewing a section in chapter 11 that talks about lamentation and grief in Davids’ life. I was struck after re-reading Peterson’s description of the poem David writes in 2 Samuel 1:19:

Beauty. Lament isn’t an animal wail, an inarticulate howl. Lament notices and attends, savors and and delights–details, images, relationships. Pain entered into, accepted, and owned can become poetry. It’s no less pain, but it’s no longer ugly.

Earlier in the text, he talks about how our culture has a great lacking of realized compassion. We have a lot of looking on with concern, but entering into and experiencing the pain and walking together is much more rare. The desensitizing rush of media that tells us about broken relationships and loss; disasters, disagreements and death. All of that without pause to recognize what and who is lost, only that there is loss. We can hardly mourn someone we don’t know from Adam, and the constant barrage of unknowns makes it even more difficult to enter into and experience grief that is real and close to us. It’s not that we have to directly know the parties to give them some dignity; in fact, David actually decreed that the entire nation learn the song he wrote for Jonathan and Saul. The idea that I’m wrestling with is how we can truly be compassionate and honor both the grief near to us and tragedies that aren’t so near.

I’ve always found myself drawn most to music that is ‘depressing;’ sounds like Guster, Dashboard Confessional, and other emo, girlfriend-missing, best friend-betrayed, peer-disowned artists who find their expressions of pain owned in song. Maybe that is just my way of compensating personally for what seems a lack of expressions that deal with and honor loss in our culture.

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