Life in a song: Box of Rain (Grateful Dead)

The version on the album American Beauty is exactly long enough to make it from River Bend to Memorial Drive in Boiling Springs. I know because when I was a 17 year old pup I would listen to it on the way home from my homeboy’s house. Had the timing worked out just right so I wouldn’t be late for curfew–just like my own 17 year old now when he drives home from BS, SC. 🙂

So many angles to take on these lyrics, which is most always true of Hunter and Garcia poetry. I mean, “maybe you’ll find direction where it’s been waiting to meet you”?!!. I could write pages about that. But today I want to focus on this stanza:

Look into any eyes you find by you
You can see clear through to another day
Maybe it’s been seen before through other eyes
On other days while going home

I’m currently working my way back through the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I was struck by Sam’s thoughts after watching Faramir and his crew battle some of the wild men. Sam remarks that it was the first time he’d seen men fight against men, and goes on to wonder if the “bad guy” that was killed was really evil or if he was just led astray by false claims and threats. Maybe, Sam thinks, the guy would much rather have stayed at home. Ha. Of course the thought is fleeting for Sam because then he sees a long anticipated Oliphaunt.

Further, I’ve developed a morning habit of taking in the daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. One of the selections for today (1/31/21) is from 1 Cor 8:1-13 in which Paul encourages folks to go above and beyond their own comforts and understandings to make sure that they are honoring other folks as best they can. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” says Paul, and further that “anyone that claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge.”

“Look into other eyes” Phil Lesh sings, and “you can see clear to another day” that’s been “seen before through other eyes while going home.”

To me this is about humanity. It’s about recognizing the humanity in each other. I’m sure it’s always been much this way, but certainly in our own time we not only find it easy to withdraw into our own camps, but are encouraged to build walls around our camps and see those outside our camp as the enemy. As less than human. As a destroyer of all that we hold dear. Knowledge puffs up.

But love builds up. Jesus went outside the camp. To me it would serve us well to drop the notion that the Christ needs defending. What will happen? Don’t we believe that all is conquered after all?! Isn’t that the glorious undertaking on Golgotha? Isn’t that the majestic and life altering event of the empty tomb?!

In one of my classes we were discussing free speech and the Congresswoman from Georgia and the statements by others and supported by her of advocating political violence. In short, murdering one who was of a different political party. And I had students who laughed at that prospect. More than just 16 year old male kind of ridiculousness. And I don’t place all blame on them. It’s the society they’ve been nurtured in. It’s the fear that whichever is the other side is coming to take all your things away (whatever those things are), mixed in with habituation towards violence, and an increasingly blatant disregard for the humanity of others. This is real stuff y’all.

And one of the components of my malaise is that this ethos is taking place in the church.

I hope to strive to see the humanity in all. I want to be like Sam Gamgee and consider common humanity I share even with enemies that would slay me if they got the chance. I want to consider what it would be like, if only for an instant, to be able to see through the eyes of another.

My good friend has a tattoo that says something to the effect that the battle rages on, but the war is won. The battle that rages isn’t against those who may believe that health care is a right or that health care is a privilege. It isn’t against folks who place a high value on jobs or ones that place a higher premium on dealing as best as possible with climate change. The battle isn’t about defeating some enemy from without, because as followers of the Christ our Hope rests in that already being completed. The war is won. The battle rages within me. Will I offer grace or condemnation? Will I love my enemies or hate them? Will I long to escape the comfort of my own point of view, and the security of my own walled off camp, or will I seek to understand the value of each person and give them the benefit of the doubt as we all share in grief and trauma and other forces?

Forgive me for rambling. “A box of rain will ease your pain and love will see you through… Believe it if you need it, if you don’t just pass it on.”

Look out of any window
Any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
Birds are winging or rain is falling from a heavy skyWhat do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through?
For this is all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long agoWalk out of any doorway
Feel your way, feel your way like the day before
Maybe you’ll find direction
Around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet youWhat do you want me to do
To watch for you while you’re sleeping?
Then please don’t be surprised
When you find me dreaming tooLook into any eyes you find by you
You can see clear through to another day
Maybe it’s been seen before through other eyes
On other days while going homeWhat do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through?
It’s all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long agoWalk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you’re tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclearWhat do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain
And love will see you throughJust a box of rain
Wind and water
Believe it if you need it
If you don’t, just pass it on
Sun and shower, wind and rain
In and out the window like a moth before a flameAnd it’s just a box of rain
I don’t know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
Or leave it if you dare
And it’s just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
And a short time to be there

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