Sunday, April 21, 2013

Getting Beat and Getting the Beatles

Many years ago, I was in Bardstown, Kentucky.  I was channel surfing on AM radio and I found a station playing "I am the Walrus" by the Beatles.  I stopped the car, got gas, bought some stuff in the store, and started the car again after ten minutes to hear the same station playing the same song - "I am the Walrus".

The station was playing that song on an endless loop - "I am the Walrus" all weekend long.




***

Yesterday, actress Maria Romine and I were driving back home from Fairhope, Alabama, and we got through about half of Mississippi listening to 780 AM playing all Beatles songs.  But playing only the left channel of each stereo number.  Thus a few of the songs had no vocals, and "Martha, my Dear" had no horns or bass, only piano, strings and vocal.  (The right channel of that song - a minimalist mix of vocals, bass, drums and horns - is much more interesting, as you can hear at YouTube).

"I wonder why the folks who run this radio station can't tell that they're only broadcasting the left channel of each song," I said to Maria.  Then I realized.

It's AM radio.

And it's Mississippi.

***

Today I heard "We Can Work It Out", a song that has significance for me, and a song that served as a consolation, really an answer to a prayer.

And I thought of the Beatles and Getting Beat - rather, getting beaten - by life and by our sins and by the sins of others.

The trouble with the sort of fame the Beatles had, and with the sort of affluence many of us have, is really the camel through the eye of the needle trouble.  When you're "bigger than Jesus" as John Lennon observed the Beatles were at one point, you have no boundaries.

And without boundaries, we make a mess of things.

***

If I've learned anything from the past nine months, it's this: you can't be happy in this world even if you follow your heart's desire.  Even the path of love, the path of beauty, truth and goodness will make us miserable if we have "disordinate affections".  Indulgence makes us miserable, not happy and certainly not peaceful - for indulgence is another word for "disordinate affections".

But "disordinate affections" means simply "love without God's order", "love without the priorities or boundaries God has built into it".  It can mean having too little affection and burying your talent in the ground out of fear; or too much affection and being too interested in the financial sense, and by analogy in the psychological sense.  It can mean putting your ego so much on the line that worldly failure means shame, dishonor and hari-kari; or pulling your ego out entirely, taking no chances and settling for a safe part-time job at Taco Bell when God is calling you to be Commissioner of Baseball and save the sport.  (St. Peter on the day you die: "Well, we'd let you in heaven, but why were you working at Taco Bell when God made you to be Commissioner of Baseball and solve the steroid problem?")  It can mean sleeping around with anyone who moves, or never going on a date because you're afraid spinach will stick to your teeth at dinner and your boyfriend will think you're an idiot.  "Disordinate affections" means too much or too little libido / Eros / philia - it means love without its proper order. And it means heartache.

If you don't believe me, look at the world around you.  What has "following our bliss" meant, now that "free love" has been available to us since the Pill?  It has meant the death of the family, STDs, abortion, perversion and misery.  As Chesterton says, speaking of the pull to perversion the hedonists of old inevitably felt ...

"The wisest men in the world set out to be natural; and the most unnatural thing in the world was the very first thing they did. The immediate effect of saluting the sun and the sunny sanity of nature was a perversion spreading like a pestilence. ... When Man goes straight he goes crooked. When he follows his nose he manages somehow to put his nose out of joint, or even to cut off his nose to spite his face." 

And when he follows his heart, he finds heartache and he puts his whole self out of whack.

Unless he follows His heart - His Sacred Heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

If "All You Need Is Love" and if that love is an unbridled love of the world - a love of disordiante affection - you'll end up like John Lennon and like most rock stars who are given the strange blessing of following their hearts' desires without limit - you'll end up a hateful unhappy heroin addict who sings about "peace, peace when there is no peace" - no peace at least in your own troubled soul.

Thus the importance of mortification, sufferings, penance - at the very least they force us to stop playing God, to humiliate ourselves, and to honor His boundaries.

***

So always keep in mind ...

We plant, another waters, and God gives the increase.  The increase is beyond us.  The increase may be "natural", but it is from beyond nature.  It is miraculous.  It is not of us; it is of God.  "We Can Work It Out", but only if we renounce ultimate control and lay it all on the altar of the Cross.

"We Can Work It Out" when we let Him work it out.

If we're bigger than Jesus, we won't be "too big to fail", we will have failed already.

1 comment:

Jeff Thompson said...

I just want to comment about the Beatles thing... now I know I wasn't crazy. I was visiting family many years back in the Horsecave area and one am station I swore was only playing I am the walrus all day and night all weekend long.. I was sick as a dog all weekend so i wasn't sure if it was just the meds or what.. thank you for confirming at least in that instance I was not crazy :)