Thursday, February 7, 2019

a quiet, small taste of god's grace in real life...

This morning, we were walking around the kitchen singing the old Pete Seeger ditty, "Get Up and Go." The chorus cheerfully proclaims: 

How do I know my youth is all spent, my get up and go, has got up and went;
But in spite of it all I'm able to grin and think of the places my get up as been! 

That rings true to me today: I AM grateful for all the places my get up has been! I couldn't help but think more about this while watching "Springsteen on Broadway." Once again, I was moved to tears as the Boss told of his incremental reconciliation with his father. Those who know Springsteen's canon remember that when he began as a wild ass New Jersey rocker, his stories about "dad" were rebellious. and caustic. There was a bond between father and son, and love too, but it was fraught with conflict, mistrust, anger and shame. Musician Springsteen would rail against the elder, working class Springsteen in songs and stories of an agonizing divide. The first arc of this tale begins with "Growin' Up" and ends with what is perhaps the most poignant rendering of this conflict, "Adam Raised a Cain." (This one is my favorite version from Springsteen's extended solo acoustic tour.)

Phase two of this journey is more nuanced and open: the Boss is aware that his father may not have been as one dimensional as previously experienced. He whispers this in "Factory" and states it more clearly on "My Father's House." In this era, Springsteen begins to face his own demons of anxiety and depression - and senses that they also haunt his old man. In concert there is less carping and more tenderness. You can hear the shift in "Living Proof" a rocking confessional that materializes after his first marriage has crashed and burned and his first child with Patti came into being.

By the close of his father's life, however, the gap between father and son has been closed. A healing has taken place. Something momentous and hard won has occurred within both men that the artist explains during the monologue in "Springsteen on Broadway" before the song "Long Time Comin'." This soliloquy finds the Boss weeping. It is the most vulnerable and intimate articulation of his life I have heard in 30+ years of being a fan. He speaks of ghosts as well as ancestors, those who live into the fullness of love honestly - with grace, fear and trembling as well as lots of forgiveness - and those who become more and more cynical, agents of despair rather than hope.

And then he sings...  Its a song I never paid much attention to before. But given the trajectory of this father's journey with this son, and the deep inner work both men have attended to over the years, "Long Time Comin'" becomes a sacred celebration of paternal love. Its a tune about a wounded healer who passes on both the wounds and the healing to the next generation. By sharing both this story and this song, Springsteen illuminates a bit of God's grace in the midst of so much darkness. As he has said before, most of his songs are about small triumphs, times that could easily go south, but don't because a choice has been made. Sometimes the choice is made to spare a life or heal rather than hurt someone's heart. Other times a choice happens so that for just a day there is a little more peace in the world than was promised when the sun first  rose. Sometimes its active, other times its passive, quiet, loud and all the rest. For me, this song and story is yet another quiet reminder that God's grace is alive and well in our world. Jean Vanier puts it like in this morning's email

The beauty of human beings lies in their capacity to accept who they are, just as they are; not to live in a world of dreams and illusions, in anger or despair, wanting to be other than they are, or trying to run away from reality. They realize they have the right to be themselves. And there, they discover that they are loved by God, that they are unique and important for God and that they can do things for others.

Bruce Springsteen says much the same thing in this song. Take a listen if you can and may it nourish your choices, too.

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