As I’ve sought to convey in my last couple of blog posts, the last several months of my life have been … interesting.
Long story short, late last year, I had a pretty serious existential crisis during which I basically ended up withdrawing into myself and cutting myself off from most of the people I know here in Dubuque.
The biggest, and perhaps one of the scariest, markers of this period of my life was the destabilization of my faith. I spent several months wandering around in this existential haze where I wondered whether I believed anything at all. Or perhaps the better phrasing is that I wondered whether I could believe anything at all. I wasn’t sure whether anything was real, or if something was real, whether I would ever be able to know if I found it.
But as is the case for many a person who has gone through a personal crisis, I found solace in music during that time. When I wasn’t sure what was real, I could find artists who used word and music to express that I wasn’t the only one walking that road. When I was overwhelmed with frustration about the world, I could find songs that tethered me back to remembering to see outside myself. When I was afraid because I didn’t know where my deconstruction of faith would end up leading me, I could find some measure in peace in musicians who admitted it was OK to not know.
A lot has happened since that period of my life, even in the last few months, and I’m glad to report that my interior life is much more stable. My faith looks different than it did several months ago, but I have been finding it again in unexpected places. But still, I often find myself turning to the songs that have helped sustain me during this current season of life, to keep me grounded and to remind me that it’s OK to keep walking this path I’m on.
So I thought I would introduce a few of those songs, in hopes that maybe they could help someone. Or at the very least, maybe you could find some new music to listen to. Some of them are more overtly spiritual, while others aren’t necessarily so. (An original draft of the list included a Kesha song, so, you know, I tried to be fair to all kinds of artists). So I hope that wherever you’re coming from, you can find something here.
This is what I listen to when I’m feeling way too existential for my own good. I was able to whittle the list down to something manageable, but there are still too many songs for one blog post. I’ll introduce those at a later date.
“The Anchor,” Bastille
“You are the light that is blinding me
You’re the anchor that I tied to my brain
‘Cause when it feels like I’m lost at sea
You’re the song I sing again and again
All the time, all the time
I think of you all the time”
The anchor is a deeply important symbol in my faith life. It reminds me of hope, particularly when everything feels unstable.
“Brother (feat. Propaganda),” The Brilliance
“When I look into the face
Of my enemy
I see my brother”
I can’t listen to this song without listening to it several times in a row. It helps me to see outside myself, and it helps me to see others rightly. (Also, apparently, the original vision does not have the spoken word portion. I suppose maybe that would make it better for meditation, but I don’t know, I like the spoken word.)
“Oh the vapor of it all
It’s a chasing of the wind
The powers of the earth so pale and thin
We will set our hearts on you again
Heaven taunts the hearts of men
We can feel it from within
The beauty of it all
The swelling of a voice
A rising sea”
When my brain gets cloudy, and I start wondering if anything is real or if anything matters, I turn to this song to quiet my heart.
“Walking With Our Eyes Closed,” Gungor
“We went walking with our eyes closed
Walking with our eyes closed so tight
Then we caught sight of all the fire burning right before our eyes.”
I listen to this when I need to be reminded that it’s OK to ask questions, that it’s OK to change, that it’s OK to not know where I’m going.
“Inland,” Jars of Clay
“You don’t believe in oceans
You, you were a sailor
Who burn your ship and walked on
Far away you walked on
You keep turning inland
Where no man is an island
It’s where you’re supposed to be.”
For when I need strength for the journey.
“The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” Jason Mraz
“I won’t worry my life away.”
So I didn’t know this music video existed, and I’m pretty sure it’s terrible. But there’s something about the anxiety of the words tumbling out in the verses and then the reminder in the chorus that makes me think to myself, “yeah, me, too.” Or, as a friend of mine said when I once tried to argue that we didn’t know for sure that anything is real, even if we’re all living in the Matrix, we still have to find a way to exist and make our peace with life there.