Category Archives: Music

The Music of My Life

Originally Posted on January 27, 2011

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.

(Author’s Note:  Currently on Blogging Vacation.  New Posts Will Be Back on September 22nd)

Heart Like Mine

“I heard Jesus He drank wine
And I bet we’d get along just fine
He could calm the storm and heal the blind
And I bet he’d understand a heart like mine”

When a popular song mentions the name of Jesus, my ears tend to perk up a little.  There are so many misconceptions about who Jesus is and what Jesus is about, that I always fear the worst.  And while I am by no means anywhere close to the final authority on all things Jesus and all things Christian, when I heard Miranda Lambert’s Heart Like Mine a few months back, I still listened carefully.

[If you’re not a fan of a ‘twangy country music voice, you may not like the song.  So you can find the lyrics here 🙂 ]

What I love about this song is that she points out something Christians and non-Christians do often overlook. Jesus is not just some figure in the paintings on our walls or in our Churches.  He was (and is) a real person—a real human being.  This means that He laughed.  It also means He felt pain.  And since He happens to also be God, the Creator of everything including us, He knows us better than we know ourselves.  So He knows our pain, our joys, and our sufferings—deeper than we do.

Jesus loves us with a perfect and lasting love.  As my theology professor puts it, Jesus loves us just the way we are…but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.  And I think that this is where Heart Like Mine perhaps falls just a bit short on proclaiming the name of Jesus.

We’re never supposed to justify our less-than-awesome behavior by simply saying, “Jesus loves me no matter what I do.”  Of course He does, which is why He feels pain when we do things that cause us, or those around us, pain (and that’s all sin is).  He loves us so much that His desire is for us to be happy—only He doesn’t just mean, “feel good in the moment” happy.  No, we’re worth more than that to Him.  He won’t be satisfied until we are living a life that leads us to real, authentic, and lasting happiness.  And He knows that we can’t do that without obeying the Commandments, and living our lives like He lived His.

When I listen to this song, I hear a woman who has felt pain in her life, and I love that because I, like anyone, can relate to it.  And instead of pretending like everything is fine and dandy, she points to the one person she knows can understand her heart better than anyone else.  Despite my little quibbles with this song, above all, Jesus is represented as someone of hope, friendship, and even joy.  So, I guess I’m pretty okay with the use of His name in this song.  🙂

Change – How Long Can We Wait?

——Guest Post Written By Katie Mueller ———

 Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

 

Waiting on the World to Change – although not the worst song I have ever heard, it might be one of the most misleading.  The song insists that we are victims, with no power to change or influence our world, and that our best option is to idly let the world change itself.  It’s much too hard to make a difference, so let’s not try at all?

Let’s face it, as young Catholics we have more than a few topics to choose from, but there is no point in beating around the bush.  I want to talk about abortion.   Anyone who has seen my facebook knows that I am pro-life, and also knows that I use my facebook as a tool to spread information about the reality of the abortion industry, the effects of abortion on mothers and families, and current events relating to the pro-life movement.  Do I do this because I enjoy debating my friends on ethical issues?  Well, yes 🙂  but also because I know so many people who are simply misinformed.  They believe the people who tell them that it’s not considered abortion if there hasn’t been implantation; they believe the people who tell them abortion is safe and is a fundamental right; they believe the people who tell them the baby isn’t alive until the heart beats; and they believe the people who tell them that it is okay to end a life if it isn’t convenient for the parents.  Why do they believe this?  Maybe it is because no one has told them otherwise.

Ignorance is one of the greatest disservices to our world, and to our Church, and to ourselves.  As Catholics, we are obligated to engage in a never-ending pursuit of truth and to share these truths with our fellows.  The fight for life is our duty— a mission entrusted to our generation.  If we are not educated ourselves, how can we defend our stance?  This is a plea to young Catholics to get involved first by understanding the battle, and second, by using your knowledge to educate others.  This will set the foundation for change.

Every day on our Facebook pages, we share with all of our “friends” how bored we are at work, what we made for breakfast, or a funny cat video we found on YouTube.  If this is worth our while, then surely protecting the dignity of every human life can also be a regular part of our lives.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director (now pro-life advocate) said something to the following, “If you aren’t doing anything to stop it, you are supporting it.”  Our generation must take a stand; we must be active in our battle for a culture of life.  The first part of this is educating ourselves and our world.  I will not tolerate having people I care about be hurt by abortion because they didn’t understand the decision they were making.  I will not be comfortable in silence and let the pro-choice movement do all the talking and mislead my generation to hurt and regret.  We need to show the world that we do “stand for something” and we are willing to fight for it.

At the end of the song, good old John Mayer tells us, “One day our generation is gonna rule the population, so we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change”.  Well guess what folks, NOW is the time for our generation to rule, and we can’t wait on “the world” to give us the go ahead.

Lord, please use me today as tool to spread your truths and to evangelize.  Your will be done.  Amen.

Need help getting started?  I’ve got you covered:

– Katie

Katie Mueller recently graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she earned her BA in Legal Studies.  {She’s also my cousin! :)}

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Last Friday Night

A few months back, I wrote a post about how the music we listen to—whether we want it to or not—has a real effect on the way we behave.

With that, I thought I’d write a bit of a reflection on what, unfortunately, seems to be turning into a sort of “anthem” for people (especially girls) around my age.  I’m talking about Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night”—currently the 3rd most downloaded song on iTunes:

“Last Friday night
Yeah we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
Think we kissed but I forgot

…This Friday night
Do it all again”

I could go on, but I assume most of you have heard it, or if not, you get the picture.

Katy Perry is known for her catchy, upbeat songs with lyrics meant to shock.  After all, she first topped the charts with her 2008 hit, “I kissed a girl (and I liked it)”.  The mentality of her music and those who listen to it is one of a certain type of mockery towards any sort of perceived moral authority.  It’s not that she intends disrespect, but the thought of her (and her listeners) goes something like the following:

Whether people like it or not, this is reality.  People our age do things like this.  Rather than condemn and judge, we should embrace different ways of living, and then maybe by doing so, we will eliminate the unnecessary guilt and shame attached to partying, sleeping around, etc.

(and you thought I was just some naïve Catholic with no understanding of the way “the real world” thinks 🙂 )

My main issue with songs like this is that they only last around 4 minutes.  In the real world, we don’t live within the parameters of any 4-minute, feel-good song.  And no matter how many times we try to play it on repeat, eventually it ends, or gets old, and our “nothing can take me down” mentality fades out with the final chorus.

Unfortunately for us, once that happens there is usually a new song to live our lives to for a short time, and then it takes us even longer to find what we are truly looking for.  Because when it comes down to it, what we are looking for to vindicate us of feelings of shame or regret cannot be found in a catchy melody or the lyrics of a song (as profound or “meaningful” as they may be).

If you get nothing else from this post, remember this:  We are already living in a world with pretty low standards when it comes to morality.  The fact that “Last Friday Night” is such a popular song speaks to this.  So if you are feeling shame or regret because of something you are doing, it is probably not due to other people “judging you”.

Just some food for thought.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Article first published as Last Friday Night on Technorati.

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.