Saturday, November 26, 2005

Making a case

((A bit of history -- this post appeared back on April 22 of 2005. I have thought LONG AND HARD about what kind of post I'd like to create in lieu of the beautiful & dark movie that is Walk The Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon. However, when it got down to it, I figured that I'd let my own words from the past speak for myself. I'm kinda prophetic that way. Hehehe.... And if you haven't seen the movie, do yourself a favor and go see it. Right now. I mean it! Drop what you're doing, take a friend or two and go see this movie. You don't have to be a fan to appreciate it. In fact, especially if you're not a fan, I want to talk to you about what you DID think about the movie. And now, on with the show....))

If you've ever spent much time around me talking about my passions, there are a few things that typically take prominence -- Music, Literature, and a new vision of Being the Church (Gk. -ekklesia). In some cases, these things become fairly intertwined, since I listen to lots of music that's thought-provoking (not necessarily "christian"), I read lots of literature that's thought-provoking (not necessarily "christian"), and I talk with my friends about how Christians have failed the world around them and how we can make things right (or at least grasp a better vision of enacting the "Kingdom of God" as Jesus beckoned us to do in the Gospels).

But if you really want to get me going on something, start talking to me about Johnny Cash. Seriously. Yes, Johnny Cash. No, I'm not joking. I'm a fairly huge fan of his work and I've just begun to scratch the surface of his discography.

(Quick side note here, since I am a lover of literature. There are 2 books you MUST read if you would like a glimpse into Cash's life -- Cash by Johnny Cash & A Man Called Cash by Steve Turner. Both are exemplary -- Turner's as biography and Cash's autobiography as great dialogue. I can so easily envision myself sitting across from him talking to him as I read the words in Cash. Anyway, back to the main point....)

I think that Johnny Cash simply must be one of the 1) coolest, 2) most transparent yet opaque, 3) most underappreciated and misunderstood, and 4) best songwriters of the 20th century. Note that I didn't say that he was a great musician, since Johnny himself was open about the fact that he was rudimentary guitar player. Note that I didn't say that he was a great guy (in the cliche'd role model sense of the concept), since Johnny himself was open about the fact that he had failed so many times and failed so many people at so many times in his music career. But I have to make the point that I DO consider him a great role model -- of success and failure, of reaching for your dreams and seeing those dreams consume you, of loss and redemption, of losing so much in life that you realize that you can NOT live for yourself any longer, of living with the constant struggles of various temptations, and of finally figuring out that God does know what's best even if we don't understand it.

So, why do I like the man so much? My admiration and respect grows for him with every listen through of every song I have in my Cash collection and he's been deceased for 1.5 years now. I think it's because I see myself mirrored in him in so many ways. No, I haven't fought with drug addiction, but I am constantly fighting other addictions. No, I haven't been divorced because I neglected my wife and young children, but I have broken my heart and the heart of several women I've dated over my neglecting of our relationship. No, I haven't gone into drunken/drugged rages in hotel rooms and cars and destroyed them all (which, by the way, Johnny was doing before it was en vogue in 70's rock culture), but I have worked myself into self-righteous and self-depricating fits of emotional/spiritual turmoil to the extent that I've rendered myself incapable of feeling anything for God or anyone else.

Why do I like him so much? Because he's me and I him. I connect with the emotional and spiritual depth to his songs, to the minimalism of the way he crafts his story-songs and favorite hymns, to the way in which he has related to the lives of so many people, both in and out of music. What makes Johnny Cash so "larger-than-life" and so humble, all at the same time, is that he's us. He's all of us -- so broken, yet so healed; so brazen, yet so humble; so sinful, yet so forgiven. I am Johnny Cash and he is me.

Someone tell me I'm not deluded....

(And one final note, if you aren't familiar with his material and would like to be, pick up BOTH of the following collections -- Love, God, Murder (3 CD's) and American Recordings Vol. 1. And no, that's not an advertisement; it's required listening in my world.)


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