Knowing Again the Familiar

Often when it’s sunny, when will it ever be sunny again?!, I will walk around our neighborhood loop which takes me by my bro and sis in law’s house. I always glance in their window from the road and give a wave in case I can’t see them due to glare. But last week as I walked by I saw the curtains move and my niece appear waving at me. Made me consider how fast our brains work in recognizing someone and then all in a split second the emotions and thoughts that go along with all of it. Made me glad to see her face and her vigorous wave!

Today is music Monday, so I will relate all of this to music. Recognition. Knowing again. Recognizing the familiar. That word familiar obviously rooted in our word family.

Music has a way of reminding me of the Real things. For example, when I listen to Slave to the Traffic Light on Phish A Live One, those licks by Trey at the end… I recognize them! I recognize in them that feeling of ultimate release, of ecstatic joy. Especially after a particular tense or difficult time you know? That contrast! That elation. The guitar speaks to that.

Or Dark Star by Grateful Dead. Meandering through dissonant chords and sometimes harsh clanging sounds. Finding its way through disorder back to the familiar chorus and often back into the depths. Searching. Sometimes eery or downright scary. Sometimes never knowing if it will find its way out. Sometimes getting lost in the present as if there is no other way. This now. This is what is. Yeah… I recognize that. I’m familiar with that wandering and wondering through life.

Or No Hard Feelings by the Avett Brothers. The reminders of the fragility of life and the ultimate desire to have no enemies. But I have to say that in this song I recognize my weakness. I recognize not only the reality that someday my body won’t hold me any more, but I am also too familiar with the fact that so often I do harbor Hard Feelings. Knowing full well they don’t do much good for anyone, I still struggle with that kind of letting go. I recognize my frailty physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Or wow. Elephant by Jason Isbell. In that haunting and yet beautiful song, I am reminded that this life isn’t all about resurrection. Don’t misunderstand, the resurrection solidifies our Hope. But as Elephant describes, we all have our crosses to bear. I finished Home in 2 days this weekend, and that reality was driven home again and again. In this life sometimes things are really hard. Really hard. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually… all the things. We suffer. And my suffering isn’t like yours. And my suffering is like yours. I suppose there are degrees, but ,then again, of that I’m not sure. I believe that Life comes through and out the other side of this suffering. I believe that resurrection lies on the other side of the execution of ourselves. Our crucifixion. But that load is a real thing. I am familiar with that weight. I recognize that all of us experience that weight in some form or another. The human condition.

Or the Broadway show Hamilton. I recognize the immaculate Beauty of what undeserved Forgiveness looks and feels like. ‘Can you imagine’?! And I’ll tell you what else is familiar to me. One of the most powerful experiences of emotion when we saw Hamilton in Chicago in 2019 occurred when George Washington first appeared. ‘Here comes the general! The moment you’ve been waiting for!’ Because here’s the thing. George Washington was a Black man. I am not familiar with what it means to be a Black man. But I do recognize Justice. I recognize longing for Equality. To be Seen. I am moved by that because I recognize. I know again.

After all I can be familiar with things not just because I have experienced them directly. My niece recognizing me out the window isn’t that remarkable in a certain respect. She’s known me for her whole life. She’s seen my face. But music and other experiences remind of us the familiar that goes outside of our own experience. Familiar. Family. We are related. Connected. I am moved by lyrics or chords or words of Forgiveness or Suffering or Joy or Wonder or Love or Beauty… I am moved by those things because I have known them. I know them because I am made in the Image of the God who encompasses all of those things. That’s why I can recognize those eternal attributes in music or whatever. I can know them again. Because they have been a part of me. A part of us. It’s in our very fabric. In our Humanity.

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