(Stocki's script of the Pause For Thought that went on air this morning... music as a catharsis...remembering Lindsay (Anderson) Emerson)
I knew that day when I left Lindsay’s house that it would be the last time I would see her. I found the whole thing deeply painful. Lindsay was 23, we had worked together on a project in South Africa, her husband is one of my dearest friends. She was suffering in a way I was not. Alain was suffering in a way I was not. But my suffering was watching my friends go through the most awful suffering of all: cancer ripping them apart by a premature death through an awful disease.
Before I set out on my journey home I put together a playlist of songs on my iPod that I thought might help me deal with it all. Tolstoy said art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man. I would go further and say that it’s a means of prayer between humans and God. On that drive home I used songs to wrestle with God and my own soul about what was going on in my life. Songs are a potent resource for dealing with pain. Someone said that “The blues is what you get when life ain’t right” So too many of the Psalms in the Bible. Musicians over thousands of years have used songs to exorcise their own emotional responses to pain. Maybe Elton John got something right when he sang “They reach into your room/Just feel their gentle touch/When all hope is gone/Sad songs say so much.
It might seem a bit frivolous to talk about pop songs as we head towards World Cancer day on Friday. Well, I am a pastor and I never diminish the pain of illness or loss. I personally believe that God is somehow a presence in such times. God never promises to take suffering from us in this life but does promise to somehow be with us in the midst of suffering. As I drove home from Lindsay’s I was literally crying out to God to bring some comfort to Lindsay and Alain and myself and their family and friends. After all Jesus did call The Holy Spirit a Comforter.
But I do believe that one of the conduits for God’s comfort is lament. The Bible is full of it - angry, frustrated, painful. Songs of lament do something deep in our souls. They can drill to the nerve centre of our pain, somehow empathise, soothe and mysteriously be companions as we journey through dark days.