On the evening of Sunday, November 6, 2011, I hosted a small dinner party at my St. Paul home, Hare House. It was one of over 100 gatherings that took place across Minnesota as part of "One Day United for All Families," a consciousness-raising and fundraising initiative ofMinnesotans United for All Families. As executive coordinator ofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNI serve on the steering committee of this coalition, one that is playing a leading role in working to defeat the proposed "marriage amendment" which would amend the Minnesota constitution to ban civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Above:Clockwise from left: Jerry, Marcus, Freeman, Greg, Walter, Brian, Bob and Kathleen.
Left:Freeman, Marcus and Jerry – November 6, 2011.
Above: FriendsBob, Brain and Walter – November 6, 2011.
Above:Honoring Tom Bottelene and Pepperwolf, key organizers and leaders in theAlliantACTIONmovement which for 15 years held non-violentvigilsandactionsoutside the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems. Before its recent relocation to Washington, D.C, Alliant TechSystems was the largest Minnesota-based weapons manufacturer and the primary supplier of landmines, cluster bombs, nuclear missile rocket motors, and depleted uranium munitions to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s I regularly attended the weekly AlliantACTION vigil. For images and commentary of this involvement,click here.
Right:My friend Marie Braun, pictured earlier this month at the special gathering in St. Paul to honor Tom and Pepper.
In October, Marie was the recipient of The Courageous Woman Award from the Friends of the Anne Pederson Women’s Resource Center at Augsburg College. This award recognizes women who courageously strive for social justice and peace on campus or in the wider community and whose efforts make a difference to women. It's just one of numerous awards Marie has received over the years. In 2006, for instance, she and her husband John were therecipientsof the Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation for Peace and Justice Honorary Award.
Above:Thanksgivingtrifle! I was fortunate to be able to spend time and share food with two groups of friends this Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me when I enjoyed the company of Ken, Carol, Paul, Carrie, Cass, Oscar and SueAnn.
I did, however, get some snaps that night when at the home of the wonderful Jacquet-Morrison family!
Left:Liana and Curtis (with Eddie!).
Right:Phil and Ahmed.
Above:Rosanne Cash in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra – Friday, November 18, 2011.
This concert was one of two great musical performances I saw in the space of two days. For more about my "musical weekend,"click here.
Above:I was going to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up my Christmas Tree, but decided I'd do so instead while listening as soon as I could to Kate Bush's latest album, the winter-themed50 Words for Snow. It was released Monday, November 21. And that evening seemed the perfect time to set up and decorate my tree! Plus, outside there was still snow on the ground from a weekend snowfall!
For more about Kate's 50 Words for Snow, clickhere.
Above:The trees in front of my St. Paul home, aglow in the early morning light of the last day of November 2011.
. . . As a Christian, I'm passionately opposed to American pretensions that we have special standing with God; to political office-seekers who play on our religious differences; and to the religious arrogance that says, "Our truth is the only truth." But I'm equally passionate about the urgency of creating a culture of meaning that responds to the deepest needs of the human soul. This is a task we have been neglecting at great peril, a task that demands the best of all our wisdom traditions, a task on which people of diverse beliefs can and must make common cause.
Viewed from this angle, the fact that America is not and cannot be a Christian nation is very good news. America's freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, offers every wisdom tradition an opportunity to address our soul-deep needs: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, secular humanism, agnosticism and atheism among others. These traditions are like facets of a prism, each of which refracts a different wave length of the Light that overcomes darkness, including the darkness created from time to time by every nation and every tradition. . . .
Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos y Seña is an 18th-century Spanish priest who wrote vividly of his mystical gay marriage to Jesus. He was beatified in 2010 and his feast day is today (Nov. 29).
Bernardo (1711-1735) was 18 when he had a vision of marrying Jesus in a ceremony much like a human wedding. He described it this way:
Always holding my right hand, the Lord had me occupy the empty throne; then He fitted on my finger a gold ring. . . . “May this ring be an earnest of our love. You are Mine, and I am yours. You may call yourself and sign Bernardo de Jesus, thus, as I said to my spouse, Santa Teresa, you are Bernardo de Jesus and I am Jesus de Bernardo. My honor is yours; your honor is Mine. Consider My glory that of your Spouse; I will consider yours, that of My spouse. All Mine is yours, and all yours is Mine. What I am by nature you share by grace. You and I are one!”
Bernardo’s vision inspired artist-priest William Hart McNichols to paint an icon of Bernardo’s wedding with Jesus.
“I was so taken with this profoundly beautiful account of Jesus’ mystical marriage with Bernardo, including all the symbols of a human wedding. Personally, I am not aware of any other man in the history of Christianity who has had this marriage experience,” McNichols wrote. [Oh, I'm sure many others have. It's just that only Bernardo's has been acknowledged and celebrated in this way.]
. . . While the Catholic church refuses to bless same-sex marriages, the lives and visions of its own saints tell a far different story – in which Christ the Bridegroom gladly joins himself in marriage with a man.
The liturgical season of Advent began this past weekend and as part of my Catholic community's Sunday liturgy, we heard words of wisdom from W.H. Auden. What humans have in common, he once said, is that we are all waiting. And that what it is we are waiting for defines us.
These words have stayed with me for the past two days and have made me reflect upon what it is I'm waiting for. I've come to the conclusion that I'm waiting and longing and working for transformation – my own and the world's.
The type of transformation I'm referring to is grounded in love and blossoms in lives and relationships of compassion, justice, integrity and wholeness. The love that inspires and fuels such transformation dwells deep inside each one of us as well as beyond us.
Like I said, I'm waiting and working for this love's breaking through in ever more resolute and transforming ways into my life, the lives of others, the church, and the world. I do what I can to facilitate and embody this breaking through, but I also know that it's not all up to me. I have to also make room for the Spirit – working in and through others and within those mysterious ways beyond our human comprehension.
No doubt like many of you reading this, I look to the historical Jesus as the one who most beautifully and powerfully modeled such a balanced and integrated life of prayerful waiting and mindful action; as the one who embodied in his human form and expressions the transforming love that is God.
This is whyJesus is my man and why I enjoy so much discovering and sharing the work of thosescholars,prophets,mysticsandartistswho identify, explore and challenge us with the liberating life and message of the one we know as both Jesus of Nazareth and Emmanuel, "God with us."
I start today with an excerpt from Casey’s Fully Human, Fully Divine.
At the time the Gospels were written, the humanity of Jesus seemed self-evident. Jesus of Nazareth was a man who lived and died; he belonged to a particular family, was formed in a particular culture, and was heard, seen, and touched by his contemporaries. Various assessments of the quality of his teaching and the nature of his mission could have been made without going beyond the assertion that Jesus was no more than an extraordinary man.
. . . [Yet] the New Testament consistently affirms that there was more to Jesus than mere humanity. For the next several centuries, the Church struggled to define this “something more” in terms that did not negate the unyielding monotheism of the Old Testament and yet offered a corrective to those reared in the facile polytheism of late antiquity. To us who do not much care about theory, this slow honing of theological concepts seems tortuous and unnecessary. The Councils of the early Church were passionate about getting it right – they did not want to lose anything of the deep mystery of Jesus’ divinity. Unfortunately, the success of this theological evolution brought its own hazards. Once it became accepted among that Jesus was fully divine, the opposite error loomed.
The heresy named Docetism is almost as ancient as the Church. It represents a radical doubt about the reality of the humanity of Jesus, preferring to see it as no more than a kindly pretense adopted by God’s Son to accommodate himself to our weakened perception. It is like an adult pretending to participate in a doll’s tea party; or a visiting abbot, for the purposes of edification, sharing a morsel at the frugal table of the monks, before repairing to a more substantial repast away from the common gaze. Docetism insulates the person of the Word from the drama of human existence. Like most heresies, it means well. It has grasped the important truth that Christ’s personhood is untouchable – not limited or defiled by moral weakness, ignorance, or malice. It has failed, however, to appreciate the astounding “condescension” of God, who has created human nature precisely as a receptor of divinity.
Today, when speaking to believers, the Church faces the same challenge it met in refuting Docetism. It is necessary to affirm that there is nothing unseemly in the fullness of divinity dwelling bodily in Christ, because it was with this end in view that human nature was designed. We cannot emphasize enough that the humanity assumed by the Word was not the untainted boldness of Adam before the Fall, but the shriveled vulnerability we all share. As Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us: “Nothing so demonstrates God’s positive attitude towards the human race as embracing my humanity. I repeat: my humanity, and not the flesh Adam had before the fall. What manifests God’s mercy more clearly than that he would embrace such misery.”
The creedal statement that Christ is a “perfect” human being is easily misunderstood. It can make us imagine Jesus as a youthful man with a great body, good teeth, and attractive face – endowed as well with charm, intelligence, and high culture. It is unthinkable for many that the historical Jesus may have been shorter than we, overweight by our standards, middle-aged and bald, with the mind and manners of a first-century Palestinian tradesman. We don’t have any reliable data on what Jesus of Nazareth looked like; our personal picture of him probably reveals more about us than about him. Look at the devotional images that people have and ask yourself what these reveal about their owners; unconscious assumptions about the human condition and about themselves.
Much dubious Christology derives from the fact that many of us have trouble accepting the spottiness of our own concrete humanity, and loving what God has thus fashioned. In this scenario, perfect human beings demonstrate their perfection by being as unlike us as possible. And so we picture Jesus in such a way that he becomes a living reproach to humanity rather than its easily recognizable expression. By thus elevating him, we unprofitably abase ourselves and create a distance between us and him that defeats the purpose of the incarnation. God became completely human, omitting nothing that belongs to our nature. He was without sin, because sin does not belong to our nature.
I’ve noted before how I love a good coming out story. The latest to make an impression on me actually involves two coming out stories – that of actorZachary Quintoand TV anchorDan Kloeffler. Indeed, the coming out of Quinto last month inspired theon-air coming outof Kloeffler.
Of course, some people question all this attention given to “celebrities” who come out. Brian Moylan offers a good response to this when hewritesthat “the more public figures that come out, the more it inspires other public figures to come out. And the more out public figures we have, the easier it will be for gay people everywhere to find acceptance.” And then there's Lucy Jane Bledsoe’sobservation, one that’s applicable to anyone and everyone: “Coming out, and by extension coming out stories, are important because people evolve when they tell the truth. Some people evolve when they hear the truth.”
There’s another aspect to the related coming out stories of Quinto and Kloeffler worth sharing. In a powerful October 16 message on his website, Quintoattributedhis decision to come out to the suicide of gay teenager Jamey Rodemeyer.
When I found out that Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself I felt deeply troubled. But when I found out that Jamey Rodemeyer hadmade an “It Gets Better” videoonly months before taking his own life, I felt indescribable despair.I also made an “It Gets Better” video last year– in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time. But in light of Jamey’s death it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.
Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizen of this country. Gay kids need to stop killing themselves because they are made to feel worthless by cruel and relentless bullying. Parents need to teach their children principles of respect and acceptance.
We are witnessing an enormous shift of collective consciousness throughout the world. We are at the precipice of great transformation within our culture and government. I believe in the power of intention to change the landscape of our society – and it is my intention to live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action. Jamey Rodemeyer’s life changed mine. And while his death only makes me wish that I had done this sooner, I am eternally grateful to him for being the catalyst for change within me. Now I can only hope to serve as the same catalyst for even one other person in this world. That, I believe, is all that we can ask of ourselves and of each other.
See what I mean by powerful?
The coming out stories of Quinto and Kloeffler made international news. Following is howXinhuanet, the top news website in China,reportedthe news on October 18.
TheStar Trekactor Zachary Quinto’s coming out inspired an ABC anchor to publicly acknowledge his own sexuality on the air, according to media reports.
Dan Kloeffler, the World News Now anchor, reported the reasons why Quinto came out and then said, “He’s 34, I’m 35 – I’m thinking, I can lose my distraction about dating actors for that one, maybe.”
Neither Zachary Quinto nor Dan Kloeffler made a big deal about coming out. Quinto, who made the revelation in the new issue of New York magazine, just clarified some remarks about the recent homosexual suicides by saying “as a gay man.”
The actor’s behavior was greeted warmly by both the GLBT community and the vast majority of the general population, and it also encouraged Kloeffler to follow the lead.
Kloeffler later took to the ABC News website to give a more thorough explanation.
“There have been too many tragic endings and too many cases of bullying because of intolerance. As a kid I wanted someone to look up to, someone that could relate to the feelings I was having. Most of all, I wanted to know that it would get better.”
Jon Bream's November 20 Star Tribunereviewsays it well:
For her orchestral debut, Rosanne Cash[left]wore black jeans, a sequined green top and a black jacket with (short) tails. The informality mixed with the formality worked for Cash and the Minnesota Orchestra Friday at Orchestra Hall. The symphonic sounds added emotions to a few numbers and buoyed Cash on a couple others. She also offered several tunes, accompanied by her three-man band or merely her husband/guitarist/producer,John Leventhal. . . . [The orchestra's] strings underscored the sadness ofPatsy Cline’s "She's Got You" and added a fitting Irish flavor to Cash’s own "The Good Intent," a dreaminess to "The World Unseen" and a loneliness of "Sleeping in Paris." The best arrangements had to be the swelling "Seven-Year Ache," Cash’s biggest hit, and the closing "The Wheel," her most uptempo and dynamic tune.
Oh, and I'm happy to report that Rosanne sang one of my favorite songs: "Dreams Are Not My Home" from her 2006 albumBlack Cadillac. I particularly love the lyrics of this particular song, including the following.
The waves are breaking on the wall. The queen of roses spreads her arms to fly, she falls. If I had wings I'd cut them down. Live without these dreams so I could learn to love the ground.
'Cause I wanna live inside the world, I wanna act like a real girl. I wanna know I'm not alone, and the dreams are not my home
The future's like a ringing bell, the road to good intentions wanders all the way through hell The note that hangs in the gilded hall, the clanging of my empty rooms. Yeah, I could learn to love them all . . .
Yes, it was a wonderful evening of music, one that I shared with my friend Greg and which I have my generous friends Amy and Dawn to thank for.
The concert was named after a 2006 piece by Erika Foin. This particular piece, which opened last Saturday's performance, was inspired byCicely Herbert's poem "Everything Changes"which Foin was first introduced to ten years ago courtesy of the London Underground!
My good friend Kathleen (left) is the orchestra's Principal Second Violinist, and Saturday's performance was the first forJacob Sustaita, the orchestra's newly appointed Music Director.
The MPO was founded in 1993 by Kevin Ford, a gay man who had a vision of a gay and lesbian orchestra that would build community and fellowship through the performance of classical music.Notesthe MPO website:
Although Kevin succumbed to complications from HIV-AIDS in 1995, the organization he created continues to grow and diversify today. The MPO includes players from a variety of backgrounds and orientations who share a commitment to inclusivity, non-discrimination, and to the performance of works by under-represented composers.
Last Saturday's concert impressively showcased the MPO's high standards of musicality and artistic integrity. I particularly appreciated and enjoyed the performance ofRodrigo's "Adagio for Wind Orchestra," the nimble playing of guest violinistAndrew Sords, and the gracefully energetic conducting ofJacob Sustaita(right).
I look forward to future concerts of the MPO and strongly encourage my Minnesotan readers to get to know this "instrumental voice for the GLBTA community." You can learn about future performances of the MPOhere.
. . . Most of us just want someone to hug us when we're happy or sad, to inhale life's problems, to hold our hand when we get that unexpected diagnosis and to answer "yes" to a question embedded in our soul: "Do you promise to love and care for each other, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, for better or worse, for as long as you both shall live?"
Some of us are lucky enough to have found the partner who loves us enough to say, "I will."
I have a life partner named Becky, my wife of almost 30 years. She helps me breathe after a day of hearing other people's saddest problems, pretends to laugh at my jokes, and walks around the lake without making me say a word, holding my hand.
Why should this be denied to us if Becky were a "Bob?"
Last month the Minneapolis Star Tribunereportedthat Archbishop John Nienstedt had instructed the priests of the Archdiocese to establish special committees in their parishes to rally support for next November's "marriage amendment" ballot initiative. In response to this development I submitted the op-ed reprinted below, one which the Star Tribune declined to publish.
The paper did, however, publish a number of letters-to-the-editor and an online piece by Kevin Winge entitled "On This Issue, Archbishop, You Are Wrong." All these pieces were what some might call heart-based responses. Winge, for instance, stated, "I’m not a member of the clergy and I’m not a theologian, but I know [the Archbishop is] wrong because I know what’s in my heart; and what is in my heart is love."
I have no problem with these types of responses as, without doubt, they can reflect important truths. Yet I also believe that intellectually-based perspectives can also reflect truth. It's also important to remember that not everyone is convinced by a "because my heart tells me" argument. Some are actually turned off by overly emotional responses, and, rightly or wrongly, dismiss them as irrational.
It's also problematic when emotionally-based responses are pitted against intellectual ones as if they're automatically superior and/or the only way to respond to them. There can be an anti-intellectual bias in how we choose to respond to the intellectual arguments of others. I'm not saying that this is what the editors of the Star Tribune are exhibiting, but they definitely seem hesitant to facilitate an intellectually-based religious debate. They seem content instead to pit the Archbishop's heady arguments against the supporters of marriage equality's more heart-based ones. This is, however, a simplistic and ultimately unhelpful caricaturing of the two sides of this particular issue.
I strongly believe that as well as responding from the heart to the Archbishop's opposition to marriage equality, we can and should passionately critique and challenge it on its own terms, i.e., intellectually and theologically. I think it's this passion that can tap into the power of the heart and, in turn, help produce a response that integrates both head and heart. It's this type of integrated response that I attempt to make in the following op-ed.
Archbishop Just One of Many Catholic Voices in Gay Marriage Debate
by Michael Bayly
Not all Catholics support Archbishop John Nienstedt's and the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops’ aggressive support of the proposed “marriage amendment” to the Minnesota State Constitution. Indeed, according to recentfindingsof the Public Religion Research Center, “Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall.”
Unlike the bishops, U.S. Catholics recognize and respect that in a pluralistic society such as ours, the Roman Catholic hierarchy should not be expending time and resources imposing its understanding of sexuality and marriage onto wider society. This is especially true when one acknowledges that the bishops’ understanding of these realities is out-of-step with the collective wisdom of the Catholic people. On issues relating to the intimate lives of heterosexuals (such as contraception) and homosexuals (civil marriage rights) the Catholic faithful have clearly moved beyond the hierarchy’s limited understanding of sexuality.
My sense is that the Catholic faithful are not, in theory, opposed to the bishops making statements on important social issues. After all, in the Catholic tradition the bishops collectively comprise one of the church’s three sources (or magisteria) of truth. However, the teachings they articulate must be reasonable. In other words, they must be informed by and in constant dialogue with the church’s other two sources of truth, namely the insights of Catholic theologians and the wisdom of the Catholic people (the sensus fidelium). Yet on issues relating to sexuality, the bishops tragically abandoned such dialogue years ago. As a result, official church pronouncements on sexuality are woefully impoverished and disturbingly fixated on specific sex acts rather than on the relational quality of consensual adult partnering. The bishops have forgotten that truth (including the truth of human sexuality) is discovered through time, and that tradition (including the tradition of marriage) evolves. Thankfully, the Catholic people have not forgotten these liberating hallmarks of our living Catholic faith. Accordingly, we not only respectfully listen to and consider what the hierarchy says, but also seek out the wisdom of theologians and our own and others’ lived experiences. All need to be prayerfully considered if we are to make an informed and authentically Catholic response.
It is also important to remember that in the past, when the bishops have weighed in on social issues such as racism and immigrant rights, they did so in order to reduce discrimination and expand the circle of acceptance and inclusion in our society. This is not the case with their activism around marriage equality. Indeed, they are advocating the exact opposite: discrimination and exclusion. For many Catholics this is a blatant and grievous betrayal – not only of Catholicism’s rich social justice tradition, but of the very way of being Catholic in the world. This “way” reflects the way of Jesus and is always seeking to discern and celebrate God’s presence in the lives and experiences of all. Many Catholics want their bishops to embody this way and to stand boldly for the principles of justice, compassion, equality, and inclusion. Yet when it comes to gay people, gay lives, and gay relationships, the bishops have chosen not to embody these Gospel principles in their words and actions. For many Catholics this is both painful and scandalous.
No doubt some parishes will follow the Archbishop’s recent directive and establish committees to rally support for the “marriage amendment.” They are free to do so. I hope, however, that they and others will take the time to be open to other Catholic perspectives on this issue. A good place to start is with the video series recently produced by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN andpremieredlast month at the Riverview Theater. It features local gay and lesbian Catholics and their loved ones sharing their perspectives on faith, family and marriage. This and other helpful resources can be viewed atwww.c4me.org.
Michael Bayly is the executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.
Following is how OutFront MN's Organizing and Policy Director Chris Stinson introduces and explains the Holiday Conversation Kit.
Thousands of pro-equality champions are heading home for the holidays. If you're not exactly looking forward to the conversation turning to theanti-marriage amendmentyou are not alone.
But this is an opportunity that we can't afford to miss. The single most important action you can take is to start a conversation about why marriage matters to you. How else will your friends and family know that defeating the constitutional amendment is important to someone they love?
We know it can be difficult, but it's worthwhile. That's why we've prepared some materials if you feel like you could use some help:
Also, if you haven't already read our bookletSpeaking from Faith for Marriage Equality, I really recommend it if you anticipate having a discussion with relatives for whom faith or religion is very important.
These conversations make a big difference: people who've talked to someone they know and trust about marriage equality are much more likely to support marriage for same-sex couples.
Not all Minnesotans have thought about how harmful a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples might be for our state. We can't afford a Minnesota where our marriages may never be recognized: where you and the love of your life could be treated as strangers even after 5, 10, or 25 years of commitment to each other.
Defeating the amendment will not only be a huge achievement for marriage equality and all the couples and families it would have impacted, it will energize all other areas of work being done to bring full equality to Minnesota. Similarly, if we fail, the road to full equality for LGBT Minnesotans becomes much longer and more difficult.
Will you start a conversation with your family and friends?
– Chris Stinson Organizing and Policy Director OutFront Minnesota
Earlier this evening a friend shared the above photograph on Facebook. It shows Egyptian Christians linking arms to protect praying Muslims from police violence in Cairo's Tahrir Square. I'm thinking it was takenearlier this year. One commentator says it depicts "true love," another, "revolutionary reconciliation." I just know that it's actions like this that give me hope in and for humanity.
"I'd had this idea for some while to do a wintry album, and pretty soon after I started writing for it, I homed in to the idea of snow. It just seemed such a fascinating subject that it was very easy to think of so many ways of writing about it. It's such extraordinary stuff, isn't it? Even a single snowflake, when you look at it under a microscope, is such an incredibly beautiful thing. And apparently they are all different."
– Kate Bush
The season's first snowfall is expected here in the Twin Cities this weekend. I can't say I'm particularly looking forward to it, but I am excited about next Monday, November 21, when the incomparableKate Bushreleases her new album50 Words for Snow.
I've been an admirer of Kate and her music sincemy high school days in Australia, where her debut single, "Wuthering Heights," was a Number One hit in 1978. I must admit I wasn't that impressed by her 2005 albumAerial (although one track from it did inspire ahomilyof mine!), nor her more recent collection of "reinterpretations" of a number of tracks from 1989'sThe Sensual Worldand 1993'sThe Red Shoes.
Still, we're talking KATE BUSH here – an artist who is both hugely influential and a one-of-a-kind. Any new release from her is an event, especially since her output in recent decades has been far from prolific.
From what I've read andheard, 50 Words of Snow is a typical Kate Bush affair – idiosyncratic, hauntingly beautiful, and full of surprises! The first track released from the album is "Wild Man,"describedby Priya Elan of New Musical Express as "Bush's beautifulYetiode."
Bush's whispered vocal delivery of the lyrics (which are full of geographical intrigue and century old myth) is full of the right balance of fear, intrigue and empathy towards the plight of the shadowy figure ("I can hear your cry/Echoing around the mountain side/You sound lonely," she sings).
As for the chorus, it bursts forth mid-eruption; a choir of strange voices; echoing the 'Wild Man''s own explosion out of habitation into civilization in the narrative of the song. Bush tackles this by a multiple layering of voices, creating several personas and the atmosphere of a village set adrift by the sudden intrusion. It's a style which recalls some of her most classic work.
With Friday evenings often being "music night" here at The Wild Reed, I thought I'd share this particular track from Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow, along with a excerpts from a number of reviews of the album. Enjoy!
They call you an animal, the Kangchenjunga Demon, Wild Man, Metoh-Kangmi. Lying in my tent, I can hear your cry echoing round the mountainside. You sound lonely.
While crossing the Lhakpa-La something jumped down from the rocks. In the remote Garo Hills by Dipu Marak we found footprints in the snow.
The schoolmaster of Darjeeling said he saw you by the Tengboche Monastery. You were playing in the snow. You were banging on the doors. You got up on the roof, Roof of the World. You were pulling up the rhodedendrons. Loping down the mountain.
They want to know you. They will hunt you down, then they will kill you. Run away, run away, run away . . .
While crossing the Lhakpa-La something jumped down from the rocks. In the remote Garo Hills by Dipu Marak we found footprints in the snow.
We found your footprints in the snow. We brushed them all away . . .
From the Sherpas of Annapurna to the Rinpoche of Qinghai. Shepherds from Mount Kailash to Himachal Pradesh found footprints in the snow.
You’re not a langur monkey nor a big brown bear. You’re the Wild Man.
They say they saw you drowned near the Rongbuk Glacier. They want to hunt you down. You’re not an animal. The Lamas say you’re not an animal.
There are many peculiar things about Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow. If it's not strictly speaking a Christmas album, it's certainly a seasonal one, and the seasonal album is these days more associated with Justin Bieber than critically acclaimed singer-songwriters following their own wildly idiosyncratic path. It devotes nearly 14 impossibly beautiful minutes to "Misty," a song on which Bush imagines first building a snowman and then, well, humping him, with predictably unhappy consequences: "He is dissolving before me," she sings sadly, not the first lady in history to complain about an evening of passion coming to a premature conclusion. It features a title track that turns out to be more prosaically named than you might expect. Over pattering drums and an almost acid house synth line, Stephen Fry (perhaps possessed by the spirit of his hero Vivian Stanshall's cameo appearance on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells) enunciates 50 largely made-up synonyms for snow with fruity relish, while Bush offers encouragement from the sidelines: "Come on, man, you've got 44 to go."
. . . 50 Words for Snow is extraordinary business as usual for Bush, meaning it's packed with the kind of ideas you can't imagine anyone else in rock having. Taking notions that look entirely daft on paper and rendering them into astonishing music is very much Bush's signature move. There's something utterly inscrutable and unknowable about how she does it that has nothing to do with her famous aversion to publicity. Better not to worry, to just listen to an album that, like the weather it celebrates, gets under your skin and into your bones.
50 Words for Snow sees Bush devote herself entirely to the impressionistic evocation of winter scenes. It’s perhaps surprising that she hasn’t been moved to embark on such a project earlier … Bush’s habitual provocations to abandon day-to-day concerns while cultivating romantic, internal landscapes have always felt slightly like the work of someone gazing from a window into a blizzard. This, one senses, is her natural territory. . . . Where her past work has often been heavily-layered and breathless, 50 Words for Snow uses negative space to impressive effect; much of the album features little more than voice and flurrying passages of piano which gust across the stave, changing pace and melodic direction as if they’re suddenly hitting updrafts . . . played and arranged so exquisitely that even the most po-faced should be able to acknowledge the scale of its achievement. One struggles to think of a record which calls to mind a particular climate as powerfully as this does. . . .
. . . [T]he individual tracks . . . coalesce gently, like snow gathering in drifts: most consist of simple, unhurried piano parts, underscored by ambient synth pads, strings, and occasionally a touch of jazzy reeds, or Oriental-sounding twang. The result is a lush, immersive work which is sonically more homogeneous than her earlier albums, reflecting the conceptual solidity of its wintry theme, in which fantastical, mythic narratives are allowed to take shape under the cover of its snowy blanket. . . .
Six years after Aerial’s bursts of summer sound, Kate Bush’s winter album arrives, each track exploring the long Christmas months. They reflect a season which brings out the profound and absurd in equal measure – the feelings of longing and loneliness that emerge as the dark nights bed in, the party-hat silliness that pops up when the same nights stretch out. 50 Words for Snow initially aims for the former value, with Bush’s son Bertie taking the opening vocal on "Snowflake." "I was born in a cloud," he sings eerily, like the ghost of Little Lord Fauntleroy; he is constantly falling, all "ice and dust and light". His mother keeps appearing – he sees her "long white neck" – promising to find him, but we don’t find out if she does.
. . . Her voice is noticeably older now, full of earth, heft and husk, and works stunningly well with little more than her piano’s sustain pedal – especially in "Misty," her already widely-commented-upon love song for a snowman. Giving Raymond Briggs’ famous concept an X-rated twist – he is "melting in my hand", the next morning "the sheets are soaking" – its 13 minutes are spellbinding. The album’s finale, "Among Angels," is even better, a torch-song for a friend in need, with a stunning central lyric: "I can see angels standing around you / They shimmer like mirrors in summer / But you don’t know it." Throughout, the piano sets a magical mood, all dark, loud and heavy.
Just after the song’s start, you also hear Bush stop for a second, take her fingers off the keys, and whisper the word "fine." In "Lake Tahoe," the song also breaks suddenly at 8.44, leaving Bush to exhale one sharp, startling breath. 50 Words for Snow may threaten to lose its way in the blizzard sometimes, but it is moments like these – jolting us from her world for a moment, reminding us of how all-embracing her talent can be – that show just how much she can move us with her fire and ice.
. . . 50 Words For Snow goes beyond good taste, because it is as intriguing and eccentric as it is restrained … Through an artistic process Bush is bringing us up close to a deep aspect of her life, while also capturing the childlike wonder of falling snow. The mood throughout the album is stark and, although it’s a word that gets applied to Kate Bush rather too much, ethereal. There’s a sense that the natural world is home to the mysterious beings that crop up in folklore and fairy tales … Ultimately you have to ask: would 50 Words For Snow stand up, away from the cult of Kate Bush? Yes, because it is odd, beautiful, and quite unlike anything else out there.
– Will Hodgkinson The Times November 18, 2011
In seven long tracks, the album does just what the best of Bush's work has done since she burst on the scene, Spandex bat wings flapping, at the dawn of the New Wave era. It melds extravagant tales to unconventional song structures, and spirits the listener away into Bush's distinctive hyperreality.
Each song on Snow grows as if from magic beans from the lush ground of the singer-songwriter's keyboard parts. The music is immersive but spacious, jazz-tinged and lushly electronic – the 53-year-old Bush, a prime inspiration for tech-savvy young auteurs ranging from St. Vincent to hip-hop's Big Boi, pioneered the use of digital samplers in the 1980s and is still an avid aural manipulator. This time around, drummer Steve Gadd is her most important interlocutor – the veteran studio player's gentle but firm touch draws the frame around each of her expanding landscapes. But Bush won't be restricted. Like Mitchell on Don Juan's Restless Daughter, she takes her time and lets her characters lead.
The album's scenarios are as startling as the ones Bush spun in the plastic-fantastic 1980s, when she became famous for taking on myriad alter egos, fromHoudini's brideto Wilhelm Reich's son to a whole menagerie of mythical creatures. But the tighter focus of Snow makes it one of Bush's most cohesive works, despite the daunting length of each track. (The shortest is nearly 7 minutes long.) Spinning variations on a theme instead of offering one long narrative, Bush reimagines the concept album as a poet would, connecting its elements with delicate thread.
The opening and closing cuts invoke a chill as they dwell on the ephemeral nature of the life cycle. "Snowflake," which features the choirboy pipes of Bush's 12-year-old son Bertie, gives voice to the melting consciousness of the natural world itself; "Among Angels" reads like the sweetest kind of suicide note. In between there are imagined couplings – with a gender-bending snowman in "Misty," and with a lover found and lost through many reincarnations (and played with brio by Elton John) in "Snowed In At Wheeler Street." The bounding "Wild Man" chases a yeti. . . .
. . . 50 Words For Snow is an astounding piece of work unlike anything else. Initially baffling and at times so sparse and slight it appears to melt away as soon as the notes are struck, over time it reveals itself to be an incredibly fulfilling and enchanting collection, twinkling with magic and frozen beauty.
I established The Wild Reed in 2006 as a sign of solidarity with all who are dedicated to living lives of integrity – though, in particular, with gay people seeking to be true to both the gift of their sexuality and their Catholic faith. The Wild Reed's original by-line read, “Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective.” As you can see, it reads differently now. This is because my journey has, in many ways, taken me beyond, or perhaps better still, deeper into the realities that the words “progressive,” “gay,” and “Catholic” seek to describe.
Even though reeds can symbolize frailty, they may also represent the strength found in flexibility. Popular wisdom says that the green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. Tall green reeds are associated with water, fertility, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. The sound of a reed pipe is often considered the voice of a soul pining for God or a lost love.
On September 24, 2012,Michael BaylyofCatholics for Marriage Equality MNwas interviewed by Suzanne Linton of Our World Today about same-sex relationships and why Catholics can vote 'no' on the proposed Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment.
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