“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” by R.E.M. in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

We married and moved to a three-room row house in South St. Louis.  Steam rising from asphalt. We passionately loved and more passionately fought. Out of our conjugal clash a child was conceived.

Seeking safety, we moved to the countryside and I became shepherd of a frozen flock. We welcomed our baby home to a Noah’s Ark nursery. I turned her first week into a music video – “God’s Masterpiece.” After a week, I was spent (or thought I was) and retreated to ancient texts and tired truths.

In the disorder, there were moments of delight and we conceived again.  Our graceful pilgrim. We followed a call to a church looking for an infusion of youth.

The delight became dangerously disordered.  It was the end of the world and I was bouncing off the walls. A light fixture fell and I was convinced it was a sign from God.

The next day, I found myself in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital.

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn
World serves its own needs, don’t misserve your own needs
Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt, no, strength
The ladder starts to clatter with a fear of height, down, height
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
And a government for hire and a combat site
Left her, wasn’t coming in a hurry with the Furies breathing down your neck

Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group
But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed
Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Feeling pretty psyched

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Six o’clock, TV hour, don’t get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh-oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline

It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)
I feel fine (I feel fine)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

The other night I dreamt a nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right? Right

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

(It’s time I had some time alone)

(“It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” is the ninth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

They say misery loves company. Mostly misery makes company miserable. As I was sliding into a post-college depression, I had many friends who were good listeners and showed me great understanding compassion.  I was stuck — living in an unfurnished apartment, working in a plastics factory, aspiring to be a writer but writing crap and going nowhere. People without vision perish. I was dying on the vine.

Then a friend of mine met someone who turned his life around. She made someone who was maybe even more miserable than I was happy. I began to believe such a blessing might indeed come even to such as the likes of me. If life wasn’t simply taking the shape of a song for me, I would hum along just the same, like the shoeshine boy in Johnny Cash‘s “Get Rhythm.”

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It’ll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on , get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy
And I thought I was gonna jump for joy
Slapped on the shoe polish left and right
He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight
He stopped once to wipe the sweat away
I said you’re a mighty little boy to be-a workin’ that way
He said I like it with a big wide grin
Kept on a poppin’ and he said again

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
Get rhythm when you get the blues

(“Get Rhythm” is the fifth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“Blue” by Joni Mitchell in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

In November of 1986, I began to process of leaving behind the pot and pills and Pabst that was keeping my peculiar brain chemistry from driving me crazy, but causing all kinds of other insanity. Coming clean caused me to sink into a pit of despair, expressed eloquently in Joni Mitchell‘s “Blue.”

Blue songs are like tattoos
You know I’ve been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
Hey Blue, here is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in
Well there’re so many sinking now
You’ve got to keep thinking
You can make it thru these waves
Acid, booze, and ass
Needles, guns, and grass
Lots of laughs lots of laughs
Everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go
Well I don’t think so
But I’m gonna take a look around it though
Blue I love you

Blue here is a shell for you
Inside you’ll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby
There is your song from me

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

(“Blue” is the fourth song in my autobiographical playlist Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack).

Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack): “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant

Not long ago, I was inspired to create a Spotify playlist to accompany the release of my spiritual memoir  Delight in Disorder.  I was initially led to search for songs with “crazy” in the title and came up with a playlist of 42 songs I titled “Crazy for You.” It is a fun collection I enjoy listening to.  But it doesn’t tell my story.

Today, as I was driving past the madness of Black Friday shopping, a number of songs started playing through my mind.  I eagerly drove home and gathered a collection of 21 songs I’ve titled “Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack).” From start to finish, the playlist tells the story of my life from my birth, through my childhood and school years, my troubled marriage and eventual separation and return to my childhood home.

While I enjoy quality instrumentation, it is through poetic lyrics that I find meaning in music. To share this passion, I’ve decided to feature the lyrics to this soundtrack for my life in a series of 21 posts, briefly reflecting on how the songs connect to my experience.

The first song is “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions
Want confessions
They reach into my head
To steal the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

People see me
I’m a challenge to your balance
I’m over your heads
How I confound you and astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as you can see you can offer me
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

This wonderful song by the beautiful Ms. Merchant conveys both the theology and grandiosity that has marked my life since birth.  My delightful theology leads me to believe that I am one of God’s marvelous creations.  My disordered mind tells me I am perhaps more marvelous than most, that I have a special mission to fulfill beyond the run-of-the-mill labor of life.

This delight in disorder has been both a blessing and a bane in my existence.

When I was young, I could escape the fierce tension at home, satisfied with my own presence.  I would play for hours on an outdoor basketball court convinced there were hidden cameras filming me for a later documentary of a star-in-the-making.

Believing I had a calling led me to be the first in my family to obtain a master’s degree and launch a career in ministry. My disordered mind, however, led me to a psychiatric hospital where I believed it was the end of the world and I alone had the special mission of bringing the elect to safety.

“Wonder” is ultimately a very hopeful song, as has been my life with God. With love, patience, and faith, we will make our way.