Tag Archives: music

How NOT to Express Your Love

Sometimes I think we make extravagant promises because they are easier than little ones— especially true when it comes to love.

Yesterday I was working on some homework when Grenade by Bruno Mars came on the radio.  The chorus played and he vowed his love by singing:

“I’d catch a grenade for you/ throw my hand on a blade for you/ I’d jump in front of a train for you/ You know I’d do anything for you”

This is just one example of the countless number of songs that have this similar theme: It must be real love if you are willing to die.

Now anyone who has read my blog long enough will tell you that I am all about a guy being willing to fight for his girl.  It’s not that I want a guy who will get into a fistfight over me at a bar (please, no); but I do want the guy whose love doesn’t fail when things start to get a little rough.  And I guess that is sort of my issue with songs like Grenade.  Promising to die for your love sounds nice and meaningful, but is Bruno Mars’ girlfriend really so at risk of getting a grenade thrown at her that it even means anything at all for him to make that vow?  I’m guessing probably not…

For me, a much more meaningful demonstration of love would be not a promise of death but of life.  You say you would be willing to die for your love?  That’s great!  But will you live for her?  Will you wake up early and sacrifice your sleep to spend time with her?  Will you stop looking at pornography for the sake of the one you love?  Will you love regardless of your busy schedule or how you may be feeling on that particular day?  It’s the little decisions like these that we make every day that will ultimately demonstrate our love.

An Open Letter to Women…

A common complaint among women my age is an apparent double standard when it comes to dating.  Christina Aguilera sums it up bluntly in her 2003 “girl-power” hit, Can’t Hold Us Down:

“The guy gets all the glory the more he can score, while the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore”

On the one hand, it is good for women to point out this double standard.  Men should not be able to get away with behaving this way if women can’t.  But the solution that Aguilera (and so many other women today) come up with to solve this problem is to “turn the tables” on the men of our society.  Women ought to feel justified in casually sleeping around with as many guys as possible and then bragging to all of our friends about it.  If men can do it, so can we, right?

So, to recap, this is the plan we currently have in place to show men how great we are:

Step 1.) Complain about the way men behave.
Step 2.) Behave in the exact same way.

…hm.  Does anyone else find this a little odd?  Yet this is the basic thought process of much of modern feminism today.  As Alice von Hildebrand writes in one of my favorite books, “Unwittingly, the feminists acknowledge the superiority of the male sex by wishing to become like men.”

I think guys are great and everything, but I don’t really want to become one.  Personally, I think us women have a lot going for us without trying to trade in our feminine characteristics for masculine ones.  One of the greatest tragedies of feminism is not that it is trying to make women too powerful or great.  Modern feminism, in reality, doesn’t truly understand just how powerful a woman can be.  The results of this are disastrous.

“With age…most girls become conscious of the power they can exercise over men.  Those whose hearts are noble…will never use their charm to play with the strong sex, or worse to ‘seduce’ it to gain their own subjective ends” (Von Hildebrand, p. 50-51)

I think the woman that abuses her charm over a man in this way does not yet truly understand just how much power she has been given in her femininity.  If she did, she would recognize what a tremendous gift she had been given in her femininity and would not dream of abusing it in such a way.  To any woman reading this, we need to work together to redefine what it means to be a feminist.  To misunderstand this gift is to do yourself an injustice.

I’d Rather Laugh with the Sinners…

The 1977 Billy Joel song Only the Good Die Young was controversial for its time because many perceived it as anti-Catholic.  Joel himself is quoted as saying that he didn’t so much intend to write a song that was anti-Catholic as he intended to write a song about being “pro-lust”…

Compared to the sexually graphic lyrics in most of the mainstream songs these days, this song from the 70s is hardly even on the register for being inappropriate.  The reason I choose to talk about this song rather than, say, any rap song from the past 3 years, is because I think that Only the Good Die Young hits right on the head the appeal of what all of the other songs are getting at when it says:

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.  …The sinners are much more fun.”

It’s an appeal to pleasure, to simple fun…and it’s a pretty typical way of looking at things.  We have in our minds these images of the saints as being dreary old people frozen in icons with their hands perpetually folded in prayer.  In contrast to that, we see the fast-paced lifestyles of our favorite characters in TV shows portrayed as fun and fulfilling.  What are we supposed to think of this?  We naturally deduce that either fun is “evil”, or the moral authority is lying to us, and things like lust aren’t really that bad for us.  I mean, if it makes you feel happy, it can’t be a bad thing, right?

If you think about that question for more than 3 seconds, you should be able to conclude that it’s a bad way to approach making decisions.  The alcoholic finds that getting drunk makes him feel happy, and then he ends up destroying his life for the sake of his “happiness”.   The drug addict, the cheater and the liar all can justify their behavior by the simple fact that their choices make them “happy” because they feel good in the short-term.  We have no ground to stand on for disagreeing with their actions if we’re using the same logic to justify our own behavior when we give into base inclinations like lust.

So why do we have these inclinations at all if they are “bad”?  Why can’t we just give into every desire we have?  If you read my post from last Thursday, then you remember that I said that simply by virtue of the fact that we are human, we are called to be great.  Greatness is not easy.  It requires discipline and hard work.  Like an athlete training for a tournament, we must all train and work hard to be the great men and women we are created to be.

Yes, we do have natural inclinations for things like food, sex, and sleep; and so do animals.  The difference is that animals are subject to these inclinations.  Their life is lived merely in service of them.  The life of a pig is to eat, sleep, and reproduce.  But we are meant for more.  We are meant for greatness, which means being in control of our inclinations, not merely slaves to them.

So to Joel’s “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints”, I quote the 19th century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, and say:

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”

And PS – if you read the lives of the saints of the Catholic Church, you will meet some of the most fulfilled and authentically happy people in the history of the world.  Freedom from slavery to our base passions means freedom for living the lives we were meant to live.

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Article first published as I’d Rather Laugh With the Sinners… on Technorati.

What Defines You?

There are few things in life that have the ability to unite people the way music can.  Sometimes even the way we first get to know people is through music.

I believe this is especially evident in people around my age group—specifically on college campuses. Freshmen year of college, the first few days of living with a new roommate can be awkward, so a common thing to do is to turn on music to fill the silence.  A conversation begins, “Oh you like this band?  You should check out this other group I have.”  For many, music is the beginning of friendship.

This is of course a positive thing; but sometimes I think we can use music as a cop-out to not be completely who we are.  We can hide behind music and let ourselves be defined by the music we listen to.  I personally think this is a kind of sad reality of our generation.  It’s awesome that you were the first of your friends to discover the latest indie-band, but in the end…what does it really matter?

It is one thing to identify with the lyrics or message of a song; it is another thing entirely to feel that the entire meaning of your life is encapsulated within a 3-minute melody.  But this is something we do.  I know I am guilty of it.  I will hear a lyric that really hits home at a specific moment in my life.  A break-up is a great example of this.   Your heart feels like it was trampled on the floor…you think that no one can understand the pain you’re going through when suddenly, just at the right moment, a song on your iTunes shuffle sums up exactly what you’re going through so perfectly and succinctly…and only in a few rhyming words.  It’s cathartic.  It’s beautiful.  It’s healthy even.

But then I take it a little too far…

Instead of identifying with the line for a brief moment in time, I’ll listen to it over and over again, until before I know it (or really realize what I am doing), it is no longer I recognizing myself in a song, but the song dictating the way I am acting and viewing myself and my situation.  I get stuck in a rut of sadness and borderline despair and wonder why my life isn’t getting any better.

We are a funny generation, because on the one hand we acknowledge the great power music has to influence the culture, but on the other hand we sometimes deny the effect it can have on each of our individual lives.

We can’t listen to music without being affected by it to some degree.  So we need to use discretion when listening to music.  It’s not that everyone who listens to angry rap music is going to go hold up their local AM PM; but the ideas and themes in the songs we listen to do affect us.  To think that listening and rocking out to a song that speaks about women in an offensive manner won’t affect the way you view women is illogical.  Just like the compulsive liar who ends up not being able to discern between even his own truth and lies, neither will we be able to keep a strong hold on our convictions if we constantly listen to music that celebrates going against them.

This of course implies that we have deeply-held convictions in the first place.  What are yours?  Where did they come from?  Think about it.  Decide for yourself.  Don’t let the culture and the music you listen to decide for you.

Composing Hallelujah

Have you ever heard a line in a song that, no matter how many times you listen to it, it always just sort of tugs on your heart?  For me, it is the following lyrics from Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”.

But remember when I moved in you,
And the Holy Dove was moving too,
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah?

Most people who know me know that one of my favorite ways to pray is to write God letters in a prayer journal I keep.  It’s a habit I picked up when I was younger.  For Christmas one year, my grandparents on my mom’s side got all of the families what they called “Prayer Boxes”.  The idea was that, throughout the year, we were to write letters to God whenever we felt like it and put them into the box.  Once they were in the box, they were out of our hands and out of our control—they had been given to God.  So writing letters to God became a way I liked to pray.  Today I keep my letters in a journal, but the idea is the same.  I like to think of them as letters to my best friend, or just love letters to my King.

But as much as I love writing letters to God, this practice makes one very well aware of the deficiency of human language.  I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down to pray in the chapel with my journal, overcome with either love, joy, stress, pain, or heartache—and yet I can’t get more than two words written on the page.  Usually, all that escapes me in those times is just a simple sigh.

And then I think of the words of Saint Paul; and I am reminded that sometimes words are just simply unnecessary.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

-Romans 8:26

If we have true love, we won’t always have the words to articulate it.  This is because true love goes beyond words.  Authentic love is so consuming that it even changes the way we draw breath.

“But remember when I moved in you, and the Holy Dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was Hallelujah?”

These are lyrics that both break my heart and call me back to that consuming love each time I hear them.  They are beautiful lyrics of a love song that capture but a small glimpse of a love that is too deep for words.