Only in the centre of imagining can a new world be envisaged, can change by fired, can hope be born, can vision not only prevent the perishing but pump the blood around the heart of a world to bring God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. – Steve Stockman
The days are getting colder
They stretch before me all in a line
Each night gets a little bit longer
And these stars that once were strange now I call mine
Oh, it’s been so long since I saw her face
And I just can’t find my way out of this place
I took the law into my hands
You’d do the same from where I stand
But the punishment here is much worse than the crime
I guess I get a little emotional sometimes
Each night I light a candle
And I get down on my knees and I pray
My home in ashes I can handle
But not to see my loved ones losing their way
If my tongue sounds lame please don’t turn away
Don’t you see I’m losing it a little bit every day
If you let yourself understand
I’ll give you my heart and hands
Or else the punishment will be much worse than the crime
I know I get a little emotional sometimes
Do you blame me if I get a little emotional sometimes?
Don’t act so surprised if I get a little emotional sometimes
“I can’t just sit down and write a song . . . it has to come from the inside.” – Paul Kelly
If there’s one thing that Walter Brueggemann has taught me to recognise it’s that empires fear books and poets.
There’s something about the poet that can bring down empires and bring new life.
There’s something about the book that can bring to life different memories, and new ways of seeing things… or perhaps they can remind us of past memories that we had forgotten and inspire us to dream of new futures all at the same time.
I believe that there’s something about the song that can do the same, poetry and music, or perhaps music is poetry, either way empires fear them both because one song played by many people can bring down the walls of the most fearful kingdoms.
One of the first things than an Empire does is remove people’s imagination, because without imagination or any idea of an alternative reality one can’t start to hope or believe in another reality. What you find is that over time the death of imagination brings with it a community of hope-less drones that are easy to control.
I’m a firm believer that if we were to look at many of the songs that are sung in our world today we’ll find that they are lacking in vision and in hope, (we) are in a time of oppression. Whether we look at the songs sung in our churches and their fascination with the self and me me me, or with their preoccupation in being melodic and anthemic without actually saying anything of worth at all (and are all about the “feeling” of God or of the Spirit but not about the “reality” of either). Or if we are to look at the music that is hitting our top 100 and their preoccupation with selling a type of reality that is much of the same, commercialist, oppressive, celebratory of the individual’s “right” to do whatever they want whenever they want… just as long as whatever they do is not going to shake the capitalist boat at all.
I need to be continually reminded that music has the power to challenge our reality and to give birth to a possibility that has been kept silent. And I wish that there were more people writing songs that offered alternative realities to the one’s that we’re currently living.
“This Little Light of Mine” is a fun and happy kids song that we safely sing in church, but in a world so immersed in, and drowning in the filthy muck that was apartheid and the injustices being experienced by the African American community in America the song was a molotov cocktail that brought with it the message that everyone has worth.
A child singing this song in church today with some pathetic hand symbols and pithy actions doesn’t bring with it the weight that the song being sung by entire communities of people who had not been given the right to vote, to share community, to eat in certain restaurants or use particular toilets because of the colour of their skin did. Somehow we have forgotten that our vision for the world is fuelled by our imaginations, and that the songs we choose to sing and write have a direct link to our lack or abundance of hope and imagination.
As I said before, a song being sung by enough people has the power to bring down empires.
This song by Paul Kelly was written after he’d read a number of news articles about the Baktiyari boys and the Woomera detention centre.
The song was, and continues to be an act of hope and subversion that raised people’s imaginations to a point where they could believe in a reality that detention centres did not exist. Yes, they still exist now, perhaps we still need to sing the song, perhaps we need to be inspired again and to begin to have visions of a time and place where these centres are only a memory, a distant memory of days gone by.
If a song sung by enough people could bring down the walls of a kingdom perhaps surely it can bring down the razor wire and political crap that surrounds our current immigration and refugee policies and detention centres?
Every time I hear this song I’m reminded of a time that doesn’t exist yet, I’m given the hope to dream and to act, to write another letter of opposition, to imagine.
This is one of the gifts that Paul Kelly brings to the table as a poet and musician.
I think we all need to get a little emotional…
I think it’s about time that we not settle for the unimaginative, bland, commercial music that lacks any alternative vision of the world we live in and start to fill our ipods with music that re-invigorates and re-energises our souls, that fill us with a sense that the world that we currently live in needs to change, that makes us cry (but not only because our ears are bleeding) and laugh and yell and get angry and dance new dances…
I think it’s time that our churches start to sing songs that act like molotov cocktails, blasting through our bland concepts of the gospel and truly start to remind us of the true reality of the Kingdom of God.
Less Katy Perry and more Paul Kelly
Less Gaga and more Tracy Chapman
Less Bieber and more John Butler
Less Usher and more Ani Difranco
Less Hillsong and more Valley Songs
“The practice of such poetic imagination is the most subversive, redemptive act that a leader of a faith community can undertake in the midst of exiles. This work of poetic alternative in the long run is more crucial than one-on-one pastoral care or the careful implementation of institutional goals. That is because the work of poetic imagination holds the potential of unleashing a community of power and action that finally will not be contained by any imperial restrictions and definitions of reality.” – Walter Brueggemann in his book “Hopeful Imagination“