I hear them all  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

            Last night we went to a concert at an amphitheater at the Minnesota Zoo. Storms had raged through two hours before, and the concert was delayed to give the crew time to squeegee water off the rows of benches. As we stood in line to gain entrance a lion roared in the growing twilight. The Music in the Zoo series is one of our favorite venues, and the music last night by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings as the moon rose over the ponds where swans and geese swim was like a dose of joy in audio form.
            I hear the crying of the hungry
            In the deserts where they’re wandering
            Hear them crying out for Heaven’s own
            Benevolence upon them

            I hear them all
            I hear them all
            I hear them all

            The set list last night included Rawlings performing “I Hear Them All,” a song he co-wrote and that was originally released by the Old Crow Medicine Show on their album, Big Iron World (2006). It fits nicely into the long tradition of folk/country songs that are shaped by the ancient cries of prophets who are unwilling to remain silent in the face of the brokenness of the world.

            I hear the sounds of tearing pages
            And the roar of burnin’ paper
            All the crimes and acquisitions
            Turned to air and ash, and vapor

            I hear them all
            I hear them all
            I hear them all

            I find the song deeply moving, a reminder that to cover my ears to the sound of suffering proves not only the poverty of my own soul but that I have hardened my heart to the call of my Lord. Still, I am glad the song is not true in the narrow literal sense of that term. I could not bear hearing them all.

            I hear the tender words from Zion
            I hear Noah’s water fall
            Hear the gentle Lamb of Judah
            Sleeping at the feet of Buddha

            And the prophets from Elijah
            To the old Paiute Wovoka
            Take their places at the table
            When they’re called

            I hear them all
            I hear them all
            I hear them all

            Both grace and wrath are evoked by the injustice that has made humankind act like a cancer upon the earth, and the memory of the sound of rushing water in the days of Noah is a hint of what is to come. It is not wise to be complacent, and a world in which it is imagined that justice will never
finally prevail is a world that seems to me to be unworthy of the sufferers that inhabit it. And how appropriate for our postmodern world: the gentle Lamb of Judah and Buddha, not standing as equals but one at the other’s feet. The instinct (if not belief) of hierarchy is correct, though my reading of reality as a Christian would reverse the order.
            I left the Zoo last night so glad I had been there. It began raining again as we drove home. Rawlings’ fine guitar work, Welch’s sensitive vocals, the lovely harmonies, and lyrics that made me think and imagine and wonder.

            I cannot hear them all, and that is a good thing. I am glad to serve One who can and does. But I do want to hear. May it be so.

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