bread AND roses...

Every day I discover a new song that speaks to my heart. Yesterday it was news that John Legend was reworking Brian Wilson's masterpiece, "God Only Knows," for Sunday's Grammy Awards. (check it out:  According to Paul McCartney, this may be the most perfect pop song ever crafted - and I would agree. And having been moved often by Legend's insightful reinterpretations, like this take on U2's "Pride in the Name of Love," heightens my anticipation.
This morning, while sipping Sabbath tea and reading the newspaper, I saw that a new biopic about Django Reinhardt is soon to be released after opening the Berlin Film Festival. Director Etienne Comar focuses on the early hopes of the Gypsy Jazz guitarist who believed that the joy of his music would keep him from the clutches of Nazi white supremacy only to flee Vichy France in 1943. By this time, thousands of Jews, Roma, trade unionists and other "undesirables" had been transported to death camps. (check it out: The joy and jump of Dgango's music certainly offers a refuge from sorrow, but only organizing, prayer and solidarity can beat back a monster (in his era or ours.)

As a musician steeped in the practice of theology and social change, these two tunes keep my head out of the clouds even as they strengthen my heart. As the early feminist trade unionists in Lowell, MA taught:  "Give us bread AND give us roses!" The late Henri Nouwen put it well:

Consolation is a beautiful word. It means "to be" (con-) "with the lonely one" (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care. Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the mother who lost her child, the young person with AIDS, the family whose house burned down, the soldier who was wounded, the teenager who contemplates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive. To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, "You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here." That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it.


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