I was nostalgically talking to a friend yesterday about some of the music we grew up listening to. The context of the conversation was “one-hit wonders,” and how we remember some of their catalogs going deeper than one hit.
I suggested one band in particular: Eve 6. They had one big hit that everyone remembers, “Inside Out,” and then basically nothing that got real airtime. That song was on their freshman album, which was coincidentally released when I was a high-school freshman myself. I was fifteen years old at the time. That song is catchy, a cleverly lyrical poem about self-destruction at the end of a failing relationship. The rest of the album is more or less awful.
Two years later, when I was seventeen and had enough money to buy music without hearing it first, I bought their second album, “Horrorscope,” on faith. It was a complete reversal in the sense that every song on the album is listenable, and some of the tracks were good enough that I played them to death.
If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that this is the part of the essay where I typically wax poetic about how I had missed some profoundly spiritual lesson in a song, and then share the lyrics and a YouTube link, and detail a few bible verses that highlight those lessons.
This entry is going in a different direction.
About a month ago, I was having a conversation with a friend and mentor, Pastor Mark (of TheSpringsChurch.net), and I asked him a question about finding spiritual balance in my life. We live in a secular, material world that is rife with profanity, hatred, sex, and violence–and that’s just what’s on television! My struggle, I said, was in knowing what parts of my old life I needed to shed, and what parts I could maintain. His answer, which I dive into at a later date, went something like this: when I am living with God in my soul, and a gratitude for salvation, and love in my heart for my neighbors, the rest will take care of itself. When I’m confronted with a behavior that I’m unsure about, the answer will present itself. The old saying about pornography is that “I know it when I see it.” This was the same idea, but on a less specific scale.
Yesterday, I logged into Spotify to relisten to that old Eve 6 album, expecting to be transported back to my youth. Don Draper, in one of the most powerful scenes in the history of television, addresses nostalgia. (It’s worth noting that Don’s mentor Teddy actually misquotes the etymology of the word. It actually means “A painful yearning to return home”)
When I played the album, though, instead of being teleported back to that time, what I felt was more akin to what Mark was telling me about. I felt as though I was sloughing off old skin. Every song was profane, sexualized, and contained drug references. What I once thought was clever now seemed trite and contrived. The entire experience made me anxious.
This was a new experience with nostalgia. I expected to be comforted, and to fondly remember an easier, less stressful time in my life. What I found, however, was a barometer by which I can measure my spiritual growth.
I think I finally understand this verse in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12). My old, childish taste for that album fell away as I ran through the tracks, because it is no longer a part of my journey.