5 questions: A recent interview with song-writer Bill Mallonee

1. Your newest albums are Songs For The Journey & Beyond vs. The Power and The Glory. Talk about what sets this one apart from the other.

>>>Right on. “Songs For the Journey & Beyond” is a home recording. Done neat and pretty on a simple digital 4 track recorder. Pushes a certain minimalism at cha, but it I think that’s a great thing. Makes you think about what’s important in a song. I write about 40 songs a year. Use to be 60 or so. I needed an outlet, so I’ve been releasing Eps under the moniker WPA as a way to push some of these songs into the “broad light of day,” so to speak…It’s the 12th WPA EP in 3 years. A nice clip. Usually each EP has about 6 or 7 songs. They’re a good “barometer” of where I’m at as far as song-writing goes, what topics are holding my interest. They are 4 track home recordings where Muriah, my wife, and I play all the instruments. Part of the acoustic Americana thing, I guess you’d call it. Lots of guitar harmonies, which is something I explored on “The Power & The Glory.”They’re visceral and intimate, earthy and immediate. Like I said, they tend towards the acoustic/indie-folk side of things, but there are some “noise-y” one’s here and there.

On the other hand: “The Power & the Glory” was a huge national release for us. It was album number 44 for me. (All of Mallonee’s solo & VoL’s work is up for listen and/or purchase at: http://www.billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com) That’s a LOT of output over 20 years. P&G may be the best. The record was funded by fans and utilized a full band in a rockin’ studio. It’s firmly in the Americana/Rock genre. It’s gotten some fine reviews, so I’m glad folks are “getting it.” Best one could hope for, you know?<<<<<

2. It’s been a while since you’ve made the transition out west from Athens, GA. How has your new environment impacted you as a musician, particularly in song writing.
>>>Ah, sad to say: Athens was never very kind to Vigilantes of Love. The solo life wasn’t much better. But then things are in transition everywhere, aren’t they? We have a small but faithful group of nurturing fans in Athens, so we love playing there. We (VOL) always did far better nationally outside the town. We could never really understand why they didn’t embrace us there. I think VoL was a great “live” band and was constantly garnering good reviews nationally. So yeah, it hurt, because it’s always good to “have home to come home to.” I raised two sons there an worked in the community for over 30 years. I have many friends there, incredible people who are dear to me; Still, since the  “music thing” was ignored, it made it easy to say “so long, farewell” when an opportunity came. You learn to cut bait with negative energies and closed doors, you know?

The Southwest (we’ve lived in New Mexico for 16 months,) with it’s incomparable beauty and stark terrain, it’s vital mix of cultures (Native American, Spanish, and Catholic, to name a few) made it a wonderful place to “make camp.” All of the Southwest that I loved as a kid via western films, books and music, was suddenly available to Muriah & I. So when we had a chance to leave and land in a place that was inspiring, we took it.

I think it has made the songs more unique in terms of topics and themes. My world is very private. The songs have always been very confessional, but you have to skew that a bit. “Tell it slant,” was Emily Dickinson’s way of talking about it.  New mexico is a fairly poor state, so the cost of living is pretty low in the “outpost” towns. We’ve lived in poverty for the last 5 years. It ain’t easy. I think it’s all the  uncertainty that’s pretty grueling, to be honest.

But, you know, we’re a nation going down the crapper these days. We’ve insulated ourselves by pulling up the drawbridge, but not engaging the system to solve problems. Lack of vision, lack of justice, and failed leadership at every level. Rampant cynicism and distrust. It’s gonna take some time to see just what elements we’ll affirm to “steer our ship” by as a country in the next decade.  We’ve seen it on the road for 6 years now. As a country, we are trying to figure out just what caused our economy to tank, and why we allowed our government and Wall Street to delude us. It’ll be an interesting next decade.

We’re not alone. People’s ability to make a living doing has been compromised and denied all over this country. These are similar themes that occupied the great writers like John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, and folks like Woody Guthrie. They saw where we’d placed our “faith,” and they saw the toll in human lives. Modern day prophets like Wendell Berry, Jimmy Carter & a host of others will be proved right in the end. Many of the recent works from WPA 6 through the current WPA 12 explore such topics. It’s the stuff of great drama, great heart, great heroes…<<<

3. Sojourn included one of your songs, “Knocking at Your Door”, on their latest Christmas album, “A Child Is Born”. What’s it like seeing a new generation of influential musicians honouring your music in that way?
>>> “Knockin’ At Your Door,” is really kinda a protest song, but since it borrows heavily from much of Isaiah’s images and vision, it qualifies as a Christmas song. Those dreams and texts are very much a part of the Church’s advent and Christmas readings. We’ve released 2 Christmas albums over the years with many Incarnational type songs that I’ve written. One is “Yonder Shines the Infant Light,” and the other is called “Wonderland.” We thought Sojourn did a great job covering it.<<<

4. You’ve always been one to go against the grain in the music industry and that seems to be a big reason why so many fans are drawn to you. Talk about the industry now and how, if at all, artists like yourself can find their place.
>>>I wish I knew “what” the industry was any more. To be honest I hear a lot of  paint-by-numbers-sorta stuff out there. And I think there’s an easy explanation for that: It’s what happens when all you can do is play your home town and listen to someone else’s records. You get “knock-offs” by the scores.

I think, in may ways, VoL were lucky. For 10 years straight, there was the ability to tour 6 months a year behind a national release. We had little or no safety net beneath us. It “seasoned us. Here’s what happened: A particular view of this country and it’s people and their spirit began to integrate itself very naturally in the “bloodstream,” so to speak. But also a particular way of seeing ourselves emerged as well. It went into my songs, and hopefully it made them authentic, more “real deal,” or at least closer to such a standard.

Although VoL had no resources to afford the big PR firms, the great distribution conduits or the “right” connections, we did have great word of mouth on the band. That’s the only reason it went on as long as we were able to muster. We “dropped through the cracks.” And a lot of folks saw it that way, as well, so I don’t think this is some bitter statement. I was there, watching it unfold over 10 years. We seemed “doomed” to be a well-respected, cult band. It makes for some transparent and sober song writing…but inside, after 10 years, it was killing us…

Now, the “digital age” has made it possible for anyone with a 5 chord vocabulary, a guitar, a capo and a Mac with plug-ins to record an album, profile it on the social networks and promote oneself as a “legit” artist. So be it. There’s no turning back. 

But there’s a down side:

(I understand I’m in the “minority” on this point.) To me it simply means “the pond” is incredibly overstocked with “artists” who are only able to imitate what their favorite flavor-of-the-month is. It may not mean any of them have anything to say OR (more importantly) a way of saying it that’s authentic and unique. Yes, I know that sounds harsh, but it I think it needs to be said. It’s “all good.” (Maybe my 20 years in a van doing lots of records at the indie level earns me at least a the right cast a “dissenting” vote?)

When people have come to the place where giving music away for free is considered “marketing,” it shows just how far music has been “devalued.” “Free” doesn’t make it better or more authentic. Too much of anything trivializes it and that’s the place we’ve come to. Sure, these days music is just “commodity” that is to be consumed. Good art and good artists really have to work hard and consistently (and pray for good old fashion “luck!”) when it comes to getting heard these days.

So, I don’t think there’s any one-size-fits-all solution. In my case, I believed hard work, writing 100’s of what I thought to be good songs, relentless touring and authenticity were a worthy treasure to offer. Given the dynamics that govern the music biz these days, that’s not enough. That’s the way I see it, anyway. Still, I try to put all of the trial and tribulation back into the art, into the songs, so while I don’t welcome another industry “sucker-punch,” I’m determined to make music my way on own my terms…and infuse it with those experiences.<<<<

5. One of the great things about your music has been your ability to mix deep theological truths with honest introspection and moving stories. What’s the secret to excelling at this kind of writing without turning every song into a sermon?

I don’t think there’s a formula. The first thing, I think, is to have no agenda.  Always, always: come with no agenda. I don’t write to ‘save you,” edify you or make you (or anyone else) feel good. I simply write to “save myself.” By that I mean, I write to shake, move, chastize, inspire, and awaken my Self. My theory is that if I do what I do with some transparency and no artifice then it will indeed “resonate” with almost anyone. So, no, I don’t play to or coddle the “pop Church’s” notion of art or aesthetics. I just try not to think too much about it at all. It’d kill the song I wanna write if I did so. It’s just unnatural.

Muriah & I are often amused by the manifestations of the fact that the Church doesn’t seem to believe that God’s Spirit is part of the Trinity. They don’t see Him as this tender Presence, wooing every soul that’s been created. We act as if God needs some serious help in His ability to reach folks. So when it comes to religious truth, the Church dumbs it down, sanitizes it, “spiffy-ups” the Good News.

We fail to truly “know ourselves” and to take our place as part of fallen humanity. somehow that’s a form of lying to ourselves, I think. My view, anyway.

Today it seems the Church’s “artists” are more or less rewarded for producing what amounts to propaganda. Yes, it’s “propaganda” I’ve staked my life on. The tomb was empty on the first Easter morning. But often, such truth is so “glammed-up” and “pop-i-fied,” that rings false. ‘No one’s buying,” so to speak. Real art, more than likely, places ourselves in real life. It does so in full identification with our broken-ness, our wounded-nesss, recognizing our needs, our failures, life’s incongruities and inconsistencies. I think if the person of faith would realize that he or she is not so very different from everyone else (whether they be people of faith, doubt or even hostile to the idea), then I think a “truer” art would emerge. 


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#3 A LETTER TO ATTICUS ON ART

This is a response to a student named Atticus. It was a closing statement to students who attended one of my Concert/Faith & Art Forums in Chattanooga in fall of 2009. 
For a few years, I’ve been playing concerts at colleges and galleries followed by a Q & A forum called “Faith, Art, Cultural Relevance & the Christian artist.” It’s a moniker to market with, I suppose. With 40 some albums spread out over 20 years, & being in the chair as a songwriter, touring artist and producer, here’s a few ideas on the topic…
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Atticus,
I deeply enjoyed playing for you all; Thanks for letting me play the new songs, as well! It was a pleasure to “compare notes” and take questions after the show; And while there were many fine questions last Friday evening, it was the question by a young man named Atticus, that kept me thinking hours later about what I had to say about it. 
And his question was simply this: “What is art?”
Ah, “from the mouths of babes….”
I admitted that i had no ready answer.
But after thinking about it for two days, after thanking him for the question (what’s a speaker to do?), I would answer by saying this:
No one really knows;  Art, in its creation and reception, seems to be about a combination of intuition, well-played hunches…and, maybe above all, risk.
Atticus, no one knows. But don’t let that “spoil your fun” as you become an artist. 
Sure there are academic renderings and wrangling about what “art” might be; Aesthetic philosophers who’ve “taken a swing” at a definition; but no one really reads that far into their various treatises on the subject for two simple reasons:
1. They’re frequently boring as hell and
2. All such definitions fall short; They speak but don’t reveal; They are always “almost…but not quite.” 
At the end of the day, at least to my mind, they all strike me as incomplete. And that’s a good thing. It means art is never static. In its ability to “speak” to us, it is very much alive. The “good stuff,” anyway.
A further response to Atticus’s well posed question might be:
“No one really knows, and it doesn’t matter; In other words, don’t worry about that.” It might well be like trying to describe…God, the Holy, the Other, the Hallowed. Ultimately one doesn’t describe Him. One experiences Him.
And perhaps it is so with Art. If it is God’s nature to create, then perhaps, as ‘Image bearers” we also create worlds, people it with possibilities (including joy, grief, death and resurrection.) Above all, as image-bearers, we try to make such worlds authentic, believable. “Resonate” is the often dropped word in these matters.
For a moment (be it in a film, a poem, a song, a garden, a well-made meal,) we experience that which is beyond description, outside ourselves but which ultimately gives our lives and spirits meaning. 
Here’s a supposition:
The work I’ve engaged in for almost 20 years and 25 plus albums as a singer/songwriter has been to try to put flesh on a skeleton of something intangible and usually, fleeting. But in reality we are all “speaking the same language.” A spiritual Rosetta Stone buried inside similar skin. Still, I suspect we’ve all buried the template so deep that we find it almost impossible to talk about; 
The excavation is not easy. We dig about to find a tongue to speak of our deepest intimations, and intuitions; We plough the fields of our experience to give voice to our dreams and grief, our hopes and our darker elements. 
The language that we borrow, whether it be that of the poet or theologian, scientist or shaman, strains under the task of “naming that thing within us.”
And so what I want to say is this:
Whatever language we borrow to tell our various stories (be it film, music, visual art, poetry or just the day-to-day labors we give our hands to) will always strain under the weight of trying to describe them and then declare their ‘hallowed-ness.” 
Perhaps that is what our art should be about:
Revealing “hallowed-ness.”  Art becomes our sullied, awkward attempts to incarnate, to make visible, and render (first for ourselves and then for others) that hallowed-ness. Perhaps our “hunches” will prove true. Perhaps  such hallowed-ness is “in and around and always among us” in this world.
And so Art becomes a sort of Word made flesh.
The trick is to begin to lose our blindness to such nearness.
The trick is to see where it lies and how to unearth it.
“YOUR STORY, IN YOUR VOICE” 
And so, Atticus, I believe this might be your “charge,” your “calling.”
It is first to get comfortable in your “being.” Awake each day in your own skin, excited, full of a certain readiness, full of a mirth that awaits to create.
Be yourself with your story and your way of telling it in your voice. It will take a life-time of practice. But this world is starving for “authenticity” in art.
And 2nd:
It is YOUR calling to make visible that “hallowed-ness” in the world. You’ll learn to develop a certain eyesight, and a way of seeing just where the ‘treasures’ are. Bring such treasures up into the light, dust them off (or don’t) and show us…ourselves.
For within our skins, when we are given the eyes to see it, is all that makes us truly human. The treasures of pain, grief, loss, joy and hope need excavating; This is the “raw data” of our spirits. That is what you’re “giving voice” to. 
Such art can comfort, cleanse, exhort, confront, challenge, but above all, it should make us not feel alone. It should offer grace. It should be, simply put, gracious. 
And I say this because so much “religious art,” these days, is not gracious. With its tendency towards “propaganda” and delivered from a pontificating stance, it is neither gracious nor does it train the “eyes of our hearts.” It neither reveals nor reconciles us (or anyone) with who we really are.

For the Christian this hallowed-ness finds in clearest expression in the One we claim was the most human to ever touch this earth, Jesus Christ; But let us not get hung up on doctrine, on the tenets.
First is the mystery of Life; First is the language within our skin; First is the knowing of who we are and what our deepest need may be.
Sure, the “nomenclature of the faith” may take out some of the “guess work” for you when it comes to “why” you do what you do as an artist;
But young artist never forget this: Whether we be believer, unbeliever, spiritual, unspiritual, tuned-in or tuned-out, all of us, each and everyone of us walk our days in the same fallen skin, with the same broken heart as a starting point, speaking the same language; 
Letting your starting point be your own broken-ness & your own hallowed-ness. We need your eyes. We need your voice. If that’s reflected in your art, Atticus, it might just be the single best way of not only incarnating Truth, but “loving your neighbor as yourself.” 
All the best to you in your labors and studies,
Courage,
bill mallonee

SONGS FOR THE JOURNEY & BEYOND #1 “THE LAY OF THE LAND”

Blog & Liner Notes to WPA Vol. 12/ “Songs For The Journey & Beyond.”

SONGS FOR THE JOURNEY & BEYOND ~ (New Years Eve)

“THE LAY OF THE LAND”

“Road songs” have become “Life songs” for me. Travel from “A” to “B” seems to have a way of unlocking deeper parts of my spirit.

Having lived the better part of the last 20 years on the road as a “band in a van” or as a troubadour, I became immersed first-hand in what historians & writers have called, the “American Experience.”

Those variables of limited resources & hard luck, when fused with faith, courage & (often) sheer “pluck,” were vital to transforming this great country. The idea that we could all dream and find ourselves a “lil’ part of Heaven,” initially “looked good on paper.” We had, so to speak, a lot to work with here. The grandeur and resources of such a land as ours is, to my mind, unrivaled in the world.

We all play out a certain drama:
We learn the ropes of life.
In doing so we learn of our own gifts and our weaknesses.
We are thrown back (like it or nay) on something larger than ourselves.
We try to bet on hope in the face of grief.
We champion courage while attempting to keep despair at bay;
…and we take a stoic stock in a sober faith that “it’s all going somewhere.”
Those ancient stories and myths you try to make your own.
Call it naive. Call it infantile; Call it uninformed, it is, nonetheless the “Faith” we have cobbled together from our American Experience.

It is this “faith” that attracts me to a guitar, and the possibility of a song being born. Of something coming to life.

If we “dare to look it in the eye,” this raw energy of our individual lives, dreams, and struggles, we will have more than enough “grit” to make for great songs. Whether it’s themes of heroes, thieves, lovers, villains, misers or the “down-&-out,” it has been such experiences that have informed my world without…but mostly my world within;

Early on in my life, i was deeply aware of a universe that was full of great beauty, joy & hallowed-ness. Still, such beauty (earthly or heavenly) comes to us in fits and starts. It introduces itself in such fragility and vulnerability that it appears tentative, even disposable.

We are victims of all that seen (as opposed to the unseen, even in ourselves.) Fear drives us to soul-less solutions. People get hurt. In our mad rush towards materialism as “individuals” we are easily seduced at the altars of wealth, success and violence. People and things are deemed, “expendable.” Even our relationships become defined in terms of “Gain vs. Loss.”

Having lost touch with things of Spirit, we tend to devalue that hallowed-ness in the world. We miss such hallowed-nes in our neighbor and sadly, even in ourselves. We miss Spirit, ignore it and (often,) ruin it, by our own devices. Lacking a sense of connection with our world, our fellow man and ourselves, we manifest no pulse…We are running on empty.

I count myself in such a category, living at such a residence, punctuated with the occasional “mini-epiphany.” Perhaps we all live at such address.
It’s that “almost but not quite” aspect of our lives.

And, if by chance, we should wake up to that “larger, brighter world,” embrace it, cultivate it and above all: Chalk it up humbly to grace.
And that “not of thyself.”

And for those of us who still walk wounded, lingering in the twilight? Well, “be ye kind, tender-hearted & forgiving” to the rest of us.
Such displays of virtue may be the only “sighting” of that larger, brighter world we “unbelievers” will ever see.

Maybe that’s what these songs for the journey & beyond are all about.
Joy & courage on yours, dear friends,
bill mallonee

New Years, 2012

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#2  NOT A LOT…BUT A LITTLE  (Keeping Death at Bay, Christmas 2011)                  by bill mallonee

I write songs to keep the darkness at bay. I’ve done it for over 20 years. It’s worked on most days. I wrote (and still write) to try and parry death. That darkness I still see as primarily within, but we also live in a world where it’s “entered and signed in.” It has external manifestations.

I still write for that reason. But more and more it’s feeling like just a losing battle.
A worthless, “Ecclesiastied,” expenditure of time and energy.

And you know what?
It doesn’t have single thing to do with success as an artist or not. If life was just a ledger sheet, I’ve had my share coming up in the “plus” column. I’m kinda comfortable in my skin.

It’s the world that’s my problem. It’s people. It’s the unseen me.
I’ve shaken hands with death. We’re old friends.
We are all engaged in ushering it in. “Sit here by the fire, sir. May i get you some tea?”
We welcome him and his manifestations like an old friend.

So much so that we’ve created world where a young, beautiful and academically gifted college age woman can be abducted, give her kidnappers all her money, pray for them and still wind up shot dead. My sons have both lost best friends in college for the most ridiculous/absurd reasons. I’m talking situations where more questions are created than ever could be settled.

We’ve created a word where multi-national corporations hide behind limitless walls of artifice and legalese to engage in the rape of cultures, the poisoning of oceans, the polluting of the earth and space….and still sleep conscience-free at night.

We’ve created agencies that, with the governments knowledge defraud people, drive them from their homes and shrug it off as fate. Something we’re powerless to derail. “Luck of the draw, or “business as usual.”

We’ve created a status quo for this sort of behavior and called it democracy.

And I have no idea how to stop it. On most days, I am ashamed of all I am and all i should be but am not; I suspect it’s because, at heart, unless it’s out own ass on the line, we really don’t want to stop it.
We are drugged
We are complacent.
We’re in love…with death.
Can you say that with me?
“I am part of the problem and part of the darkness. And I love it too much.”

Maybe it’s the end times. You know, the “men’s hearts failing them for fear,” and “nations perishing for a lack of vision” kinda times.
I don’t even have the vocabulary to describe it anymore.
And that’s funny…because I’ve been lucky to make my living as a respected songwriter. You know, i’m a “word guy.”

Funny week. I’ve been reading the daily Advent Mass as a way of getting into to spirit of the season. Many passages are these wild & passionate hopes & dreams that Isaiah has regarding some future that is blessed, restored and (above all) defined by knowledge of God.

To those sages/prophet types those dreams were about relationship. You know: To know Him because He wants to be intimately known. Passages that say He wants to lavish crazy Love on His people. Those kinda dreams.
And the New Testament passages are, of course, about this fulfillment of of all these wild, crazy hopes and dreams in the coming of Jesus Christ. It looks good on paper, so to speak.

But it feels so distant. So far off, removed. Is God absent? Does He care?
I can whisper, “Sure, He does.” But I can’t shout it on most days.
I write songs to “pep-talk” my way out of the oblivion. It takes a lot of energy.

I have little idea what faith is anymore.
I dunno what it looks like.
I wish I did.
Here’s a hunch:
Maybe faith is a little less about the “content” and much more about just doing your best with what little you know about anything. Maybe it’s saying that even the “anything” is also unfathomable. Giving it all your heart, when you have no more heart left to give, after all the edifices and walls you thought would keep death and all of it’s manifestations, away…maybe it’s just “showing up for work,” bored, sad, grumbling perhaps, shoes untied…and just doing.

Maybe it’s trying get outside your own skin to help a fellow traveler who lost that daughter to a gunman, a father to alcoholism, a son to a war, or a drug overdose.
Faith: Keeping old man death (and all it’s manifestations) away.
Away from yourself.
Away from your loved ones.
Away from your friends.

Christmas and it’s hope?
Sure, I still believe it…
I can still believe it with a giddy joy that i can conjure in the memory but rarely grasp for long, if at all in the real world.
But that does not negate it’s truth.
It’s more like something closer to “yearning” these days.
Yearning with a whisper….just under your fragile breath.
Yearning:
Like wanting dad to hurry and get home so we can eat.
Or wishing school was out and over…forever.
Or wishing a violent argument would be over.
Or wishing daughters were given back healthy, happy and whole.

Religion?
We’re all “up in it,” so to speak.
All of us religious. All of us “mystics.” Faith or non-faith.
All of us scrapping and scraping and struggling on this lil’ rock of a planet to make sense of what seems so irrational that on most days, it’s so scary & sad that you can’t possibly “look it in the eye.”

Religion?
I’m not talking some crazed, cultic fundamentalism here.
Not pietism either.
Not even close.
I know a lot of folks who are “in recovery,” so to speak from such approaches.

Like you, I’ve heard all my life that: “God Loves You.”
And then I’ve heard it also uttered/declared (usually with even more passion) that “some restrictions may apply.”
Do they?
Really?
All my life I’ve wondered, just like most folks, if they’ll “fess up,” what such restrictions are.
How big (or small) is the Cross?
How big (or small) is hell?
How wide (or narrow) is the Gate to Life?

Where falls the threshold, the chalk line, of God’s grace and mercy?

Where does mercy end and torment begin when it comes to His wayward, dumb/blind/irreverent/errant creatures?
Is there a “line in the sand,” a “point of no return?”
No need to answer: Some people seem to be in the business of saying and convincing others that they do in fact “know” about “the restrictions” on perhaps the greatest words ever uttered or written: “God Loves You.”

The only problem with that?

There’s a proof text for almost anything. Religion’s sullied, bloody history is one of turmoil between Law & Grace.

Law & Grace. The line where one begins and the other ends.
The church has battled for centuries over it’s exact address.

What I do know? Thoughts on a screen, as substance-less as
I ache all the time inside and I do not know why. 

What do I yearn for?
I wanna be good. I wanna help others. I wanna be loved. I wanna maybe be remembered. I wanna go to heaven. I want “every tear to be wiped away,” all the sins cleansed, all the balances to be evened out. I want death, in all it’s forms, to go to hell.

I want “all to be most well,” to quote Julian of Norwich.

But in the “here & now” world?
All one’s best intentions go to crap and/or are misunderstood. Or are even worse, ignored. We stumble, live in fits & starts; Are insensitive, blind and callous. We war within to be human, not knowing exactly what that end looks like.

We devise, implement, deploy, vote our responses to death; Those tumults of men, wrestling with, grasping at, even imposing their answers. And still, the planet spins colder with every passing year, decade, century, etc…

And that’s on the “good days.”

The good die young.
And death? It stands there in the shadows, grin in place, smirking at our attempts to steal ourselves against it’s next appearance. 

The real world.
Where all of one’s initial child-like wonder with the universe is gutted and systematically taken down, notch-by-notch, till we all are tempted to capitulate to the cynicism of the day.

The energy it takes to “stare it down” is amazing. What the hell can a song do?
Faith?
No guarantees here.
Maybe faith is getting up and raising whatever skirmish your little fractured heart’s rag-tag militia can muster; whatever battle you can mount, with whatever resources you throw. Staring down that something-you-can’t-see. That joy-robbing something which is likely so overwhelming that you and your puny efforts aren’t going to make much of difference.

Or do they? There are heroes who will never appear on a talk show, be on the 6 o’clock news, or an AOL Huffpost feature. Perhaps you, by “doing your level best” at staring death down, are a saint. Saint “Showed-up-bored-grumbling-stain-on-the-tie-mustering-what-lil’-passion-i-can-muster” YOU.

If this is “faith,” then I’m surrounded by folks who have it in spades. And if this is faith, then i’ve know this as a “tenet,” so to speak, for a long time.
Maybe from birth.

Every once in a spell I get the impression that death retreats.
You know: Takes one baby step back.
It even seems surprised.
It happens when I kiss my beloved.
When I hear her wonderful voice.
When I catch up on the phone with my sons. When I hear the grand excitement of youth-still-alive in their voices
Death steps back when I notice some little smiling, new-born life in a buggy at the dirty Walmart, grinning his or her “Gee, it’s good to be here!” at every passer-by.
All up inside this thing called Life.

Death takes a step back when I can be still and catch a New Mexico sunset in the desert.
When I pick up my guitar and write a new, fledgling song.
It retreats when I look at the manger scene on the window sill and see the vulnerability of a Christ whom we call “Lord.”

It retreats when i can do nothing save weep…because there are no words left to explain anything at all.
Death retreats.

Not a lot…but a little.
~ Bill Mallonee