The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, December 7, 2018

Hat-Tip: Words and Music

I write to music. It can't be the music that can overwhelm you, and compel engrossment into itself alone. But it needs to resonate with my mood. Not something so powerful as to distract me, but something that jibes with the general emotional state I'm evoking in myself, and hope to share with my readers. Phineas at Bay was largely written to film scores, mostly John Barry, specifically his score to Mary, Queen of Scots (1971).

This year, this parlous year, in which division and distrust have increasingly marred the country I love, I have preached on those themes, and on love--not sentimental goop, but real love, that is, a fundamental commitment to the well-being of the other, however you describe that "other," as the only hope to heal our divisions, and our world.

Just as I have written books because I myself needed them to exist, so too I have preached, as I often do, the sermons I need to hear. I have made myself confront the sins to which I all too easily can fall prey--arrogance in my sense of rightness, self-certainty, and righteous indignation. I have sought to call myself, as well as those who hear me, to the better angels of my own nature.

Along that path, this year, I have written several sermons to the accompaniment of Murray Gold's "The Shepherd's Boy" above. Somehow this piece speaks to me in this year of discord. Perhaps because the long build, the deceptive gentleness of the theme, its reaching a crescendo long delayed, speaks to me of the rebuilding, the re-weaving of the fabric of a nation fraying in ways I never expected to see ours fray.

I won't deny that Steven Moffat's recent writing seems to me to be seeking to that same basic mission, with his repeated emphasis on the virtues of courage and kindness. Ultimately, they are what I think we need: the courage to see ourselves in the other, and the kindness to trade them as we would treat ourselves. It is not easy to forego the luxury of righteous indignation, and choose instead the harder path of love, but, oh, I am trying. And I have many companions on the way--not just my friends and colleagues at St, Barts and throughout the Episcopal Church, but also friends and family writ large. But to my surprise, fiction, storytellers--often authors whose work I haven't visited in many years have come to my aid--T. H. White has more to say to me in my fifties than he did when I was a child, and I learned much from him then. Mark Twain and Henry James, Jean Anouilh and Jean Giradoux, have flared back into relevance this year. They have been good companions on the journey.

So too have Gold and Moffat.

I have read less theology than usual, but more stories, more parables, and I have found in them the resources to do that which has been needful, if only to myself. Robertson Davies's reminder to "never overlook the charm of narrative for the human heart" has come true for me this year. And so being an English major has turned out to be eminently practical after all. As has a taste for music.

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