As mentioned before, it is partly the design of this blog to examine popular music of today and see if there is anything spiritually worthy to mine from what the masses are listening to. Admittedly, it is a difficult task to sift through the vast, shallow sea of songs that bear no fruit – or even bad fruit. However, perhaps my efforts will save yours and together we can enjoy the gifts of common grace and seeing all people occasionally gravitate towards the splendor of absolute truth.
One of the hottest new releases today is the second album from a British group called Mumford & Sons. Their new album, Babel, came out a couple of weeks ago and is already #1 on the charts and has the biggest sales debut of 2012, so far. Obviously, people are listening to these guys. Mumford is certainly not a Christian rock group, formally speaking; but, they have a very strong spiritual tone to most of their songs. For a good critical review of their second album from a Christian perspective, check out this other blog (but then come right back to mine :)). I agree with some critics who say that Mumford kind of “mailed it in” this time for the sake of cashing in on their moment in the spotlight. It isn’t a bad album at all, but I think the real treasure (musically and lyrically) is still found in their first release, Sigh No More.
The song we are listening to today is called “The Cave”. Mumford’s sound is very distinguished and best described perhaps as a cross between Irish folk and Dave Matthews Band. In “The Cave”, Marcus Mumford (lead member) references the spiritual journey of St. Francis of Assisi as told by G. K. Chesterton’s biography of him. In this writing, Chesterton highlights the paradox of Francis’ journey through poverty and simplicity towards the goal of finding rich happiness in God. St. Francis was said to have been converted after spending time in a cell, or cavern, and then emerging from it with a whole new perspective on the world – as if he had walked out of the cave standing on his hands. Hence, the lyrics in Mumford’s song:
So come out of your cave walking on your hands And see the world hanging upside down You can understand dependence When you know the maker’s land
The broad lesson from the song and from St. Francis of Assisi is that we are weighed down, poisoned and brain-washed by the fleeting pleasures of this world. Things distract us from reality. Busyness and media crowd our minds and our hearts. Faith is found when we break free from worldliness and are left with the roar of the certainty of God that rings behind and beyond the sounds of the city. Taking a step back (and maybe even standing on our hands) and taking a deep breathe is necessary for us to gain perspective.
Mumford goes on to expound his resolution on the matter:
And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again…
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind
So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears
But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck
Psalm 141 stands out to me as I meditate on this theme of wanting nothing but God and blocking out the world and evil around me in order to stay rooted to Him. Seeking this involves accepting pain and rebuke in life, not coddling ourselves with every available comfort and distraction that surrounds us. Live a simple life. Help others around you do the same. Stand on your head, outside of the cave, and see that the world is hanging by a thread and that God is holding everything in place by His power and grace. Let the profound words of Chesterton himself be our benediction (if you’re like me, you had this two or three times to get it):
“The mystic who passes through the moment when there is nothing but God does in some sense behold the beginningless beginnings in which there was really nothing else. He not only appreciates everything but the nothing of which everything was made. In a fashion he endures and answers even the earthquake irony of the Book of Job; in some sense he is there when the foundations of the world are laid, with the morning stars singing together and the sons of God shouting for joy. That is but a distant adumbration of the reason why the Franciscan, ragged, penniless, homeless and apparently hopeless, did indeed come forth singing such songs as might come from the stars of morning; and shouting, a son of God.“