I hit a bump on my terribly pot-holed road, and it broke my car stereo.   Or it seems to have.  I’m still awaiting the verdict of any of the two or three mechanically-minded people I’m going to ask to fix it.  In the meantime, I’m listening to the radio.  My local NPR affiliate plays classical music most of the day, and I am just not sophisticated enough to enjoy it one bit.  Unless I’m getting a massage or something.  So I’ve been station surfing, muttering darkly, and coming to understand how it was possible that George W Bush got re-elected.

That is to say, people have shitty tastes.

My friend “Sandy” is a wonderful person who has shitty taste in music.  She used to burn me cds, and I used to pretend to listen to them.  They were full of Christian singer-songwriters and utterly unforgivable pop.   Like the Plain White Tees.

Moments ago the best song I could find on the radio–that is, better than “Girls, Girls, Girls,” a commercial for people who clean septic systems,  and a truly creepy song by Conway Twitty–was “Hey, Delilah.”  Or “Hey There Delilah.”  Or whatever the fuck it’s called.   This song fills me with ambivalence.

I once read some music journalist’s musing on his niece’s deep, abiding passion for this song.  She was fifteen and her boyfriend lived three towns over.  It was her theme song the summer it came out: a song about naivete and romantic longing, a song about the way first loves sort of seem to set you apart from all the people know, a song about how wonderful your life together will someday be when, you know, you don’t live three towns apart.    The writer knew, like I do, that it’s really dumb song.  Badly written.  Maudlin.  But he also envied his niece a little.  She found this song that meant something huge and consuming to her and she played it over and over for months.

I also read the “true story” of the song.  Apparently the songwriter–I could look this up on wikipedia, but I won’t–is grotesquely older than the song suggests, that is, not nineteen.  And he wasn’t experience romantic longing for his first love so much as lusting after a college tennis star who, of course, is named Delilah something or another.  She was disinterested.  I assume, again not looking this up, that her disinterest was based on his creepy oldness and his terriblarious songwriting.

The song always stands in for something larger I don’t understand about the ways in which people–especially Christians–interact with art.  How is it that mature, thoughtful people are enriched or inspired by the hackneyed, the cliched, the plain old lousy?   I always wonder if the failing is mine or theirs.  Am I too jaded to find joy in simplicity, to find comfort in the soft-focus corners of a Thomas Kincaid painting or to think dreamily about Jesus or the boy I like when someone strums her guitar?  Or are other people’s aesthetic senses simply broken or are held hostage by a desire for something easy and unconfusing in a world where faith is daily challenged by tragedy and ambiguity?

When I moved into my office here, it was decorated with cartoon sheep and exclamation pointed reminders to look to the Good Shepherd.  I put the sheep in a box and put up pictures of burned out churches and Victorian tombstones.

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