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I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics, philosophy, and commerce in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, and music” – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.

There is hardly anything I like more than music,

That’s why it’s almost hard to talk about.

While I scribble this, I glance to my left and see an electric guitar plugged into an amp. On the wall, two acoustics hang beside each other. Around behind me sits an old piano that three of my most loyal comrades helped me haul up a flight of stairs. Under this table there’s a record player and close by a microphone and two channel box for recording my own songs, written into notebooks strewn about the room. If you were to rip music out of my life, I’m not sure how much would remain.

But for some reason it’s really hard, feels strange, for me to tell you why I like a song. You could ask me why “Ames” or “Love Isn’t Made” are some of my favorites, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you. It’s like I’m not good enough at the English language to show you why songs are good through my eyes. Maybe music is a language of its own – one more sacred than these words I’m writing.

I am persuaded that the Holy Spirit actively runs us into the things we need. Scripture that we happen to turn to on dark days, songs coming across your Pandora, dreams of things you thought you’d forgotten – I think He moves with us and uses what’s available for helping us. Books, movies, conversations. I’m saying that stumbling onto your favorite things might not be an accident. Maybe they’re pieces of a language more sacred, more holy, and better able to slip past your defenses than the language you speak. Maybe it’s the language of the spirit. This is why I find it asinine to stuff life into genres and categories. Christian, secular, rock, gospel, R-rated, it’s just not that helpful.

C.S. Lewis says that fiction is able to sneak past the watchful dragons of religion. It becomes more powerful to speak in poetry. The song goes straight to the heart while the numbers and the math of it will never be able to reach that” – Jon Foreman. More powerful indeed. More emotive – more real. But I reckon no easier to explain.

It’s a bit like trying to see a dim star out in the darkness. Looking directly at it certainly doesn’t help. In fact, if you try to focus on it, it entirely disappears. But if you resign to keep looking straight ahead, it’s there, always in the corners – shining just a little. Like a dream within a dream or a word you’ve heard but could never say.

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