Several times in my life, someone has skipped the pleasantries and directly asked me, "Why don't you listen to better music?" While most of my friends listen to the same style of music as myself, I've had a few acquaintances with more refined tastes. The question left me embarrassed, for while I enjoy the intellectual work of unfolding the profundity of Kid A, the real reason I listen to pop music has little to do with my standard apologia. When asked, the Christian pop enthusiast is obliged to state his respect for the masters.
Joshua Gibbs recently authored the article, “Engaging Culture, Cloak For Mediocrity: Giving Up On Pop Music.” What follows is intended to be a response to Josh’s article, although it might be better understood as a reaction. This is because, for the most part, I agree with his conclusions. For example, Josh writes,
I am selling six hundred CDs this week, roughly a third of my collection. As career smokers do not believe a day will pass without a cigarette, as pious widows do not believe a day will pass without tears, I never believed I would see the day I parted ways with popular music. Must we all grow up? No. But we are free to grow up, and the freedom to grow up makes it enticing.
Growing up, I’ve always lived in new-built homes. First, and foggy in my memory, was a land-hugging white wooden ranch with a red front door, and a swing-set in the backyard whose ominous height prompted its nickname “The Gallows.” Later came another white wood house, this one with two stories, green shutters, and a storybookish stone fireplace warming the center of the home. Most enduring was the Georgian red brick overhung with live oaks and gray moss, whose double doors made a little girl think she was entering church.
A walk on a cool, winter afternoon can be bracing. The crisp, cool wind blowing along the street pierces straight to the bone. The extremities of your face stiffen as the chill reaches them. Green needles wave on pine branches as the wind passes through them. A single sentence passes into my mind, on this 15th day of March, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” When will it be made into a glorious summer? I ask.
For part one of this dialogue please click here. This is part two. It’s been edited slightly for clarity and length.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of my favorite poems, and every time I read it I love it even more.
Seek ye first the walk and all these things will be added unto you.
Why walk? When I was a child, people would walk a path around the mall. They started early on Saturday mornings and would have already walked many laps before I arrived, pocket full of quarters, to challenge the arcade. Walkers still walk today, although I suspect fewer of them are in the even fewer malls while many of them are marching through neighborhoods, armed with Fitbits.
The idea of the interconnectedness of various disciplines, and the Quadrivium itself, hinges on the necessity and reality of there being an intentional order in the cosmos. If there is no order, then laws of nature, discoverability, and knowledge become chance, capricious, and subjective. If there is no intentionality, then happenstance, luck, and coincidence replaces an almighty but personal God who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
"Interesting" is an overused word by teachers and students alike. Simply banning a word in class is one way around cliche writing (and cliche thought). On the other hand, spending an afternoon overthinking a term like "interesting" can restore value to the word. Lead your students in a conversation about what makes a thing interesting. Your students may write boring papers and essays simply because no one has ever shown them an interesting thing, identified it as interesting, and investigated the qualities which make a thing interesting.