“We got language so we can’t communicate
Religion so I can love and hate
Music so I can exaggerate my pain, and give it a name”.
You just read the second verse of The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone), the opening track on U2’s surprise new album Songs of Innocence. Which is free. Thank you Apple.
The tune is a tribute to punk rock. Disinterested? Me too.
But the catchy song is full of deeper hooks to lift a pensive stay-at-home mum from her reverie.
I was thinking about death and loss.
We said goodbye last week to Launceston deputy mayor Jeremy Ball, offering condolences to family including his wife and two young sons. What a shock. Images of the car wreck, family snaps published in the paper on subsequent days and the chalk sketches by children on the pavement of Prince’s Square during his wake have lodged in my mind.
I “got language” but I “can’t communicate” the wrench this news has caused.
I used to think grief was an indulgence reserved for nearest loved-ones. I know it to be a lie now, and once again identify the downward tug, like my throat has relocated to the soles of my feet.
There is the same heavy sensation when I see blatant lack of compassion for asylum seekers and those caught up in the cycles of poverty both in our own ‘burbs and across seas.
It’s there when a friend confides the loss of a dream – to experience a natural birth or to repair a marriage, for example.
Why do such things affect us?
I’d say Bono’s mention of religion – a belief structure that determines right and wrong – is not just for religious types. We all love some things and hate others. Once the poles of morality were more rigid – and there is grief in seeing our society so influenced by political correctness that the very notion of right and wrong brings accusations of discrimination.
In a strange way I’m thankful for the wrench of grief as it reminds me that it was never meant to be this way. If you allow me to “exaggerate my pain”, it’s as if the soul has been rubbed the wrong way, bruised and dumped in an unfamiliar place.
Grief – the friction, fight and mourning of the natural order of things – is affirmation of a short but well-known verse in the Bible, “(God) has set eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Even those who do not believe in God will say, “It shouldn’t be this way”. Why? Because God’s perfect plan is a part of us, like it or not.
So what do we do with this plummeting feeling of grief that can at once numb us to life’s beauty and heighten our understanding of it?
Allow it to exist in whatever form, exaggerated or understated, but not bottled.
Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I’ve read that verse before and kinda rolled my eyes at it. Stating the obvious much? With time and maturity, and all that…
Not all of us find the freedom to weep, as our country’s horrendous depression statistics tell (1 million Australians currently suffer from depression).
Perhaps we need to learn to name our pain and give it breathing space – singing it in exaggerated music lyrics like Bono or simply weeping as Jesus did when he witnessed the hurt of his friends.
“I think it’s possible we cry tears of grief as a way of washing out debris from around our souls,” Sean Bess wrote in an article for Relevant Magazine.
Let them fall, because it was meant to be better than this.
And it will be.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday September 29, 2014.