Saturday, October 2, 2010

Losing the Music

I know it sounds weird, but I’m a musician who hates most music.

I have stacks of LPs and a working turntable but I’m tired of all of them. I have an even bigger stack of CDs that I never want to hear again. Sometimes, I’ll put one in the player and the music that I used to crave makes me angry instead.

Before I could talk, I loved music. My earliest longings had to do with wanting new music, either to listen to, or to play. I could sit for hours and soak in the music on my stereo. I used to love working on new music to perform. I sang in school choirs and put up with many a temperamental choir instructor because I wanted to be a part of the music.

I think the longing is still there, but the music doesn’t fill it anymore. 

Sometimes it will still reach me. If I hear a real singer who worked hard enough to discipline his body to do it right, I like it. If I hear a song with real feelings being expressed, I like that. And I still like a little of the older, melody rich music.

In fact, on rare occasions, a real piece of well performed music can me cry.

“Where have you been?” I want to ask. “I’ve missed you terribly.”

Losing the music happened about the same time I lost the sense of God’s presence.

There’s a glib story where the first person says, “Things have changed. I can’t find God anymore.” And the second person says cleverly, “Well, God hasn’t changed. It must be you.”

I freely admit that I’ve changed. I’m more educated and thoughtful. I’m kinder. In many ways I’m better at ministry than I’ve ever been. In view of my growth, I would have expected to see more of God, but instead it feels like less.

It’s not like I can go back and be what I once was. I can’t go back to liking the old music. I can’t go back to praying to the God of my childhood Sunday School.

I have to keep moving forward. But why does growing up make me so empty?


  1. Lost sense of God's presence, but all the other things that moved me still do. What sorts of music did/do you like?

  2. Hi,

    Got here by a comment on Camels with Hammers, I think.

    Your problem with music and growing up made me think of a conversation I had this weekend with a cousin. We were talking more generally about careers though. I spent 10 years teaching only to find an empty directionless feeling. Two of his best friends are in the same boat and don't work right now. The only thing keeping my cousin going to work every day, apparently, are the people he works with. There's a lot of dissociation going on right now rather than connection.

    Just a shot in the dark here, but it seems like 'growth' has been replaced with 'distraction' or 'novelty' nowadays. Everything's so instantaneous and surface-driven that we have sacrificed depth. But as you say, a musician with some discipline can be inspiring. If you can find one these days, I guess.The good and bad of the internet...

  3. Feeling of familiarity here. I've been involved with singing and music since I was a boy, but hardly listen to it any more, just perform. I wonder if the music that still moves me is doing so through its own beauty, or just through nostalgia.

    There's a prayer from my traditions which goes "Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we, who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon thy eternal changelessness."

    I used to think that very comforting. But the truth is that we all change, and a God that doesn't change sounds like a God that gets left behind. In the meantime, it's all very well leaving behind the things of childhood, but I was under the impression there'd be more to replace them with.

  4. Mike, I'm a child of the seventies and I grew up with the Doobie Bros, Chicago, and Beatles. I grew to like Alan Parson's Project, then Manheim Steamroller. All of which I still think of fondly. Later, I listened to and performed a lot of pop Christian music, which i can't stand anymore. Now mostly I listen to public radio.

    Andrew, I guess the price of growth is the emptiness that can come with it. We have to struggle to find that next level and it doesn't come easy.

    Sanityman, I can understand that the comfort of the prayer is that God is solid--someone to depend on. I just figured that as I change, I'll be able to see more of that same God than before.

  5. Good stuff. I like just about everything, but country and polka.