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Tonight I get to play music with my son. We started a band called The Hiccups. We mainly play covers—the Foo Fighters, Jack White, Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine. My son, Christian, started playing the drums a few years ago, and I figured we needed take every opportunity to play in front of people. The first show we played we did two songs. Looking back, we laugh at ourselves, Christian looking like a deer in headlights, and me forgetting the words and playing too loud. Since then we’ve gotten better. We added a bass player and a singer, though I can’t help but sing along with All My Life. Christian is an excellent player. When we finished a recent show, someone asked him how old he is. He’s 14. They were impressed. Even the bands we open for are impressed. Now I have to find a way to not let it go to his head.
When I was younger I spent a lot of time playing guitar. I taught myself to play by copying Eddie Van Halen and Metallica, so I’m pretty good at the metal sound. Christian is much more into Jack White and Nirvana. A few weeks back we jammed for a while, trying to come up with some original stuff. Of course, I slipped into this Metallica-esque riff, which cause him to stop and laugh. “Too metal-ly for you?” “Ah, yeah,” was the response. So I tried to channel my grungier side.
There’s a joy to playing music that I never used to let myself experience. As a teenager I was too anxious to play in front of others, let alone sing, but being the dad of the band has helped me get past all that. Now I just let loose. People don’t come to hear me—they come to hear my kid because they love him and they think he’s good. I’m just along for the ride. I admit, I get lost in the riffs, the distorted guitar, the guttural feeling of a power chord, and the release that comes with screaming your head off. I love watching Christian play the drums, hitting the toms with everything he has, a surge of raw emotion and power that undergirds everything else on the stage. I love when crowd sings along. There’s something about music, instruments, and a concert that is very pentecost like. It’s very spiritual.
Christian and I recently started watching a documentary on Heidegger called Being in the World. It follows a group of philosophers as they talk about the everyday things we do: cooking, woodworking, and music, just to name a few. They talk about what it means to be so in tune with life, with an instrument or a tool, that you no longer have to think, you just play. This, to me, is the purpose of the Christian life. A Francis of Assisi like being in the world where we get lost, we get caught up, in the beauty and particularity of created life. A Nietzsche like refusal to submit to higher principles that choke the life out of us, and the Julian of Norwich promise that “all shall be well”. Sometimes I think we hear Jesus declaration that “Whoever loses his life will save it” the wrong way. We think it’s about dying and going to heaven, but it’s not. It’s about dying to the false worlds and the false selfs we construct. It’s about killing the god who is not god, and awakening to the life and love revealed in the God of Jesus Christ. It’s about learning, like Francis, to play the fool. That’s what I’ll be doing tonight—playing the fool. I do it because I love my son, but I also do it because life’s too short to care too much what other people think. You’re all invited!