Music is one of the few experiences we have in this life that is truly magical. By some miracle, a collection of words and sounds can be combined to utterly transform our mood, our thinking, and overwhelm our soul with emotion. At times, our entire perspective can be altered as we inhabit the thoughts and emotions of another human being through the power of music. “Citizens” by Jon Guerra, I believe, is one of those experiences.
“I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”
It was late summer of 2017, the sun was just starting to sink, although still well above the horizon. Golden hour. A warm breeze filtered through the car as I drove home from a long day of work. The radio host of the local top 40 radio station announced a new hit single from Kesha. My temptation was to change the station, assuming a newer variation of Your Love Is My Drug was about to play through my speakers. But I didn’t, and instead a slow, somber, piano began to play. The first lyrics of the song told a story that felt oddly familiar to me.
It’s not always the easiest to see,
But when you look, it becomes clear
That beauty lives amongst dirty air.
When I think of the word wonder I think of a kid walking into Magic Kingdom at Disney World for the first time. Their faces express an overwhelming feeling of awe that this beautiful place they’ve heard about for all this time is actually real. When expectations and reality match, that’s wonder.
It was something completely contradictory to what I had imagined. There was a group of people safe enough where I could share the weaknesses that kept me limping along for ages. Up to this point, my experiences had taught me not to trust. To let people see what was happening underneath would mean that from that point forward, I would be seen as damaged goods, and there was no coming back from that. But then, something remarkable occurred.
I was introduced to John Mayer in 2007 by my son. Mayer had just recently released the Continuum album and the lyrics on “Stop This Train” moved me. I was intrigued by how relatable they were. He sings about him being “scared of growing old” and wanting to “get off (the train) and go home again.”
My introduction to Bob Marley came during my freshman year in high school. I had heard songs like “No Woman, No Cry” and “Three Little Birds” on the radio, but I had never really dug into his music. Like most people, that introduction was through the Legend album. I soon found myself singing along to each song, taking in the lyrics and reading up on his life. At the time I didn’t always know why, but his music moved me in ways few others could do.
I have an ache that Advil can’t help.
This pain doesn’t reside in a muscle;
It sits in the background of my soul.
When you read the lyrics to the song “Joy to the World” you cannot help but start humming along. Joy To the World is one of the most recognizable Christmas songs of all time, but it actually wasn’t written to be a Christmas song at all. If Christmas is about Jesus’ first advent, Joy to the World is really about Jesus’ second advent. As the old saying goes, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it,’ and Joy to the World wears the Christmas shoe quite well.