Looking back, I’ve always had more belief in songs than I have in religion. I don’t mean that to sound derogatory or offensive, in a lot of ways I envy others of such resolute devotion to their chosen institution. But for me, I never really got it, to be honest from a young age I felt more connection to the littlest hobo, always trying to fit in but forever skirting the fringes of my peers.
I remember that first introduction to the church, peeking sideways glances as those surrounding me committed to prayer.
For me there was always something more powerful in music than mass. Madonna’s Vatican provoking black Jesus and Bon Jovi’s flammable mullet as he encouraged us to Keep the Faith was more redemptive of my soul than any blessing or confession.
At the time I dutifully said my Hail Mary’s, fingers fumbling clumsily over rosary beads as if reading braille.
I found myself at odds with the church. I felt no bond with its teachings, yet I was captivated by its history and architecture, a living relic, a stone husk, refusing to give up its body to the decay induced by time. It was the stoic resilience of its bricks and mortar, the thought of all the bodies that may have lined the rows of its once polished pews that instilled a sense of calm in me, a glimpse behind the curtain, that everything is eternal.
It was the first place I forgave myself for poorly perceived sins. Not in confession, but alone, shrouded in dusk. As the congregation were drawn to the alter, dripping in gold leaf, coercing attendants to kneel in supplication, outside the bowels of the hall my body wept at my own hand.
I found in that moment my first comfort. I walked away from the church, but you can only ignore a wound for so long before it begins to fester.
Immersing myself in music was a blessing, pardon the pun. The answers I couldn’t find in myself I resonated through verse.
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was the first time I felt forgiveness that no priest had ever managed to convey; these cuts I have, they need love, to help them heal.
Music is timeless, it defies our mortal realm and maybe re-mastered and re-packaged in many guises, but never loses its luster, born anew to another generation, at some point though, just as with pass the parcel and musical chairs, the beat stops and someone is left empty handed.
For reasons I won’t bore you with a number of years ago I began attending counselling and from it I realised that I had to learn to place some degree of faith not just in a catchy chorus, but in myself, which is easier said than done after spending a couple of decades cultivating a culture of negativity that bred monsters within me that would put the Gremlins motley crew to shame. What comforted me most was the ideal that every behaviour could be un-learned, no matter the time that accrues in the task, and that in our own way, we are each as magical and unwavering as our favourite lyrics. To be bound to the earth forever, our bodies shed and re-imagined, given up in its bounty.
My favourite Christmas tradition is to watch the Muppets Christmas Carol on the eve of the event, preferably with a generous Bacardi and coke, ending with me helping Santa get down a mince pie or two. In my opinion it has one of the best opening lines, “The Marleys were dead, to begin with” but what makes it resonate with me so deeply is the message that even the darkest soul is capable of being saved, and that in the end, the only person we need to rely upon to exact a change in our track is ourselves. In the words of the supreme Tina Turner We Don’t Need Another Hero.
In a way, we’re all a walking case study of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, carrying at our core the spirits of generations, past, present and future. The cavities within us housing a complex network of souls, a familial quilt.
It always used to bother me when I was younger, who was I really praying to? Who was listening? As Sam Smith admits, everyone prays in the end, which I would bet is quite close to the truth, and whilst I don’t bring my palms together in prayer, I do reach out. I close my eyelids in the velvet dark and cast out my heart to reach those souls no longer with me, draped in half light, those still woven into the current fabric of my life and those I have yet to meet.
To quote the Goo Goo Dolls ageless Iris; when everything’s meant to be broken, I just want you to know who I am.