Those of you who know me well will know that I am profoundly ignorant about music. When I was a teenager, I wondered why people my age were so interested in bands and singers and so on–couldn’t figure it out. As the Indian sages certainly would not have said, my jnana gene was overdeveloped and my bhakti gene underdeveloped. Emotions? what were they?
Years passed. The feelings grew. Gradually I began to love music–the classics first, especially Bach. Then I clued in to jazz, not that I listened to a lot of it. Folk music appealed to my social-justice side. Eventually I found myself, to my astonishment, teaching a course on Leonard Cohen, because I had discovered in him a strong likeness to Thomas Merton, and went on from there to appreciate his gift for melody.
In January I made a trip to Ontario, in the course of which I had a visit with my friend Max Woolaver–priest, poet, singer, bandleader, all-round crazy guy! He gave me a copy of his most recent CD, “Nazca Hummingbird.” I have been playing it almost every day [take note of those last two words] since I got back. I’ve only ever feasted on one other CD to that extent, Anna Baignoche’s “I made a deal with the wind.”
Gradually, one song in particular on the CD began to engage me, “Every day.” It’s a song about failure and success, blindness and insight, falling down and getting up again, keeping on keeping on: I love it. And here are the words.
Every day I thank the Muse for every song I sing; /every day I pray for Mercy above and through everything; /and every day I crawl for miles across the Mountains of Denial; / every day I speak in whispers, / every day.
Every day my spirit travels ‘cross open fields and sky; / every day my plan unravels, I’ve never known just why; / every day the Dream escapes me, and every day the Dream returns; / every day is new Religion, / every day.
[Then comes a heart-breakingly beautiful interlude on electric guitar, by Margaret Stowe–thank you, Margaret!]
Every day I am hoping, this will be The Day; / and every day I am coping, with what … I could not say; / every day I leave a drowning child a debt I’ll never pay; / and every day I live hereafter, / every day.
Standin’ with Elijah,* we need a place to hide / to shield us from the Glory passin’ by; /the Fire and the Thunder was blowin’ us away, / Till there arose a whisper in the heart of every day–in the heart of every day.
Every day I bless survival as I tie up my shoe; / and every day I read the Bible, and do the things I do; / and every day I try to run away, and every day I come back home; / and every day brings New Revival, / every day.
And every day I see an Adam,** and every day I see an Eve–I see an Eve! / And every day, well, I believe in every day; / well, every day I believe in every day.
As I type out these words, I think I should print them off and use them a part of my prayer time in the mornings–the song says it all! I hope you will listen to it on the web: http://maxwoolaver.weebly.com/uploads/1/1/1/1/11114876/12_everyday.m4a
Max’s gift to me–thank you, Max!–and my gift to you.
* The reference to Elijah here comes from 1 Kings 19 in the Hebrew Bible. Elijah, fleeing from the king’s wrath, takes refuge in a cave. He experiences a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but God was not in any of these. Then came what the King James Version translates as “a still, small voice,” or as Max says, “a whisper in the heart of every day.” The reference to “the Glory passing by” also evokes Exodus 33:18 – 34:8, in which Moses asks to see God’s “glory,” that is, the immediate divine reality. God replies that no-one can see God in an unmediated way and survive, but that Moses can see his back and not be annihilated [ ].
**The Adam and Eve story is found in Genesis 2-3.