Music Monday | Nightswimming – R.E.M. & Losing My Religion (R.E.M. Cover) – Passenger

Twenty-odd years ago when I was still in my teens, I worked at an American Christian summer camp. In our last week, before we all disbanded to travel back to our respective colleges, jobs, and to resume real life, a group of us went skinny-dipping in a shallow cove just around the corner from the campfire bowl. It was the naughtiest thing I’d done, up until that point. We weren’t even allowed to wear two-piece bathing suits at the camp.

R.E.M.’s Nightswimming always reminds me of that evening; bare, barely visible bodies gliding through the water in the dark. Occasionally, a flash of skin, shining in the moonlight. Hushed whispers became squashed giggles and suppressed shrieks. We absolutely could not get caught. I wasn’t self-conscious in the dark, not like during the light of day.

Years later, I learned to play this piece on the piano. And sometimes, when I want to be transported back to the most carefree time of my life, I still do.

Songwriters: Bill Berry / Peter Buck / Michael Mills / Michael Stipe
Nightswimming lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

I worked at a few other Christian summer camps in the years following, in Canada. And while I believed I believed in God, there was always the struggle. The effort of maintaining a personal relationship. Of course, there were times that I thought God talked back. But you can believe anything, if you really want to.

While Michael Stipe of R.E.M. has frequently said he did not write Losing My Religion about religion (“losing my religion” is an old expression from the southern region of the USA meaning to lose one’s temper or civility, to be at the end of one’s rope experiencing feelings of frustration and desperation, or that moment that politeness gives way to anger), I still associate this song with the loss of my own religion. Church was an integral part of my teens and early twenties but my experiences since have shifted my perspective dramatically.

It didn’t happen quickly and it didn’t happen publicly. I hid it for a good few years. But as I’ve deconstructed and deconverted, I’ve also recognised the damage and trauma that it has caused.

And now I have things to say.

Songwriters: William Thomas Berry / Peter Lawrence Buck / Michael E. Mills / Michael Stipe
Losing My Religion lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Music Monday | Friends – Michael W. Smith

Suitcase wheels whir and grate as I haul the rollaboard along behind me, running for the train. Two minutes to departure. And I still have to make it up a level, over the bridge and down an escalator to platform 15A. A lyric pops into my head as my feet beat against the white polished concrete floor of the bus terminal.

And friends are friends forever.

Conversations play out in my head, both real, and imaginary. Constantly. Mostly, I let them create scenes of their own accord and don’t pay much attention. But as I run, I replay the discussions I had over the weekend. I’ve been in Newcastle and Sydney for four and a half days, and due to my recent engagement, most of my talks with friends have centred around relationships, dating and marriage.

A question I used to ask prospective dates, I said to the friend I grew up across the street from in high school, was “How many close friends do you have, and how long have you known them?”

The answer was often indicative of how well a person could create and maintain relational bonds and boundaries. How well they could manage a relationship over time and all the challenges that came with it. How good a friend they could be. No close friends was always a worry. Short-lived friendships were a worry. But not making new friends was a worry, too.

Of the people I connected with this weekend, the range of time for which I’ve known them is between eight and twenty-eight years (or my entire life, if you count my parents). Long-term friendships require work from both parties; they need trust, respect, vulnerability, kindness and love to flourish. And I’ve always found that if you can be a good friend, you can be a good partner. But most of us don’t consider what makes us a good friend, nor what makes a good friend to us in return.

Although I don’t resonate with all of this song anymore in the same way I used to, it’s the one that popped into my head as I ran and the message is still meaningful.

A lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

And I’m exceedingly grateful for mine.

Music Monday | Slow Fade – Casting Crowns

Content warning: This post contains discussion of sexual assault and rape culture.

Locker-room talk.

That’s how Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, describes his lewd conversation eleven years ago with Billy Bush.  In this conversation he brags, in vulgar and de-humanising terms, about kissing and groping women without their consent.

Let’s be clear.

Kissing and groping women without their consent is sexual assault.

Bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent is bragging about sexual assault.  Continue reading