Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Good Mourning, Good Knight

I shop at H&M just like everyone else. So it should be of no surprise to you that sometimes, just like everyone else, I can't fall asleep.

I love when I can't sleep, because my mind starts going places it normally wouldn't go during the day. In the dark of my quiet bedroom, away from the noise and distractions of the day, my imagination can tend to run a little wild.

A few nights ago there was a lunar eclipse. I don't know if that played any significant role but I couldn't sleep. It was 3:30am and I was writing a song in my head. A silly, Celtic folk jig about... well, I typed it all into my phone so I'll share it with you. I hope you laugh as much as I did the next morning.

It goes like this, 6/8 feel, kind of like an old Christmas carol:

Good mourning, good knight
Suffer well, suffer right
There's no telling of what they might say
In sackcloth and ashes each moment that passes
Is all the more reason to pray

Verse 1
You had no idea of what would occur 
when you left for the war on that day
They came from the forest and took your Delores 
and sailed with her countries away

Verse 2
And on your return you were chagrined to learn
That your lover was stolen away
By privateer merchants two years ago
Searching would be of no use anyway


Verse 3
On the day you wake up with no pain in your gut
You must set off to seek your revenge
And may you never rest til you sever the heads
Of the men who had taken your love


Profound, eh? No? I agree, it's funny. I even demoed it out in the morning with three part harmonies and picking acoustic guitar. I think I'm going to add an accordion to it to give it that circus-folk feel. I can picture drunken Irish sailors swinging steins of beer, belting out this song with thick accents. New demographic perhaps?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Benefit of the Doubt

The principle we read about in Matthew 7, the 'Golden Rule' so to speak, is that if you expect people to have grace for you - to give you the benefit of the doubt - then you must do the same for others. This is a virtue that is rare in our culture. The way I see it, we are pretty quick to judge, convict and even demonize people who don't line up exactly to our expectations, and we do it with such a subjective perception of their behavior or performance. From the far left everyone looks like Wesboro Baptists, and from the far right everyone looks like Hitler. We try so hard to paint a grey world black and white, or blue and red, and we rarely try to understand people or find the good in them. We rarely attempt to give people the benefit of the doubt.

We pass a homeless man on the street and we justify NOT giving him something. We say, "Well, he'll just spend this on drugs or booze, so I'm doing him a favor." We keep for ourselves the benefit of the doubt. It makes us feel better, it gives us a smug reason to remain indifferent. There's ways around that doubt, like offering food, but we're satisfied with our own judgement. We quickly "judge-jury-executioner" the poor guy and go on our merry way. 

I've always tried to be incredibly nice to fans of our band because I know this to be true: If you're nice to someone they'll tell one person about you, but if you're rude, mean or even withdrawn, they'll tell a hundred. They'll tell a hundred people about what a jerk you are. I've heard numerous stories from people saying "I heard so-and-so is a major asshole," and then I meet that person and they turn out to be one of the sweetest, kindest people I've ever met. Maybe on the day they walked passed the alleged "victim" they were in a funk, maybe sick, maybe sad. Whatever it is, it's always inescapably perceived as "Jerk." We rarely give them the benefit of the doubt.

Have you ever met a celebrity? Has he/she walked passed you, eyes to the ground, perhaps trying to avoid you? Or maybe they've even been short with you? What is your natural response to this? What's the first thing someone asks you when you say you've met someone "important"? It's always either "Was he cool?" or "Was he a jerk?" The Jerk stories spread like wildfire. We love to spread negativity and we rarely give people, especially those "important" types of people, the benefit of the doubt.

I've encountered this with live music A LOT. People go to see a band and snap judge whether or not the band is "good live" off of one show. They don't take into account the venue's sound equipment and lights, the sound engineer, or the fact that the band hasn't had a day off in two weeks, or the fact that they drove over night 12 hours to be there and didn't sleep, or the fact that the singer lost his voice singing for people like you because he didn't want to cancel the show and upset everyone (COUGH COUGH). People withhold the benefit of the doubt. They reserve it for themselves without ever giving it out. What's even worse is that they make these judgement calls about live performances by watching cell-phone recorded YouTube videos! It baffles me. I can truthfully say that as a band we've had a lot of great performances and a handful of bad ones, but because negativity spreads faster, the bad ones always tend to make their way in some video form to YouTube, where of course they get more plays, and somehow happen to be better quality than the good ones. The critics always tend to lack any unbiased sympathy. They make their mind up quickly, withholding any benefit of the doubt.

People have told me certain bands I've toured with are "terrible live" when I know for a fact that they aren't, because I've personally watched 30 of their shows and 29 of them were incredible. Musicians aren't invincible, they're human, and bands on our level don't have the big money production to fall back on. We're exposed, which it's awesome when we're great, and terrible when we're not. The benefit of the doubt is something I've rarely experienced in this area. Everyone is a music critic with a strong opinion even if it's the most uninformed, ignorant and subjective opinion one could hold. Sweeping statements are never true (I realize that in itself is a sweeping statement), not just about music but about anything. Nothing human is all good or all bad, and there are redeeming qualities in every human experience. The world isn't black and white. People are flawed and ugly and beautiful and good. The world is grey, and we must give the "white" in everyone a chance. We must attempt to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Mother Teresa was a person who truly gave people the benefit of the doubt. She understood what Jesus was saying in Matthew 7. She understood that regardless of the possibility of a negative outcome one must still choose to do the right thing. She puts it beautifully in this commission she wrote entitled "Love Them Anyway":

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa