A blog for Joe Henry fans

vrijdag 30 maart 2018

'God only knows' in the eyes of P. Otten

On this Easter weekend, I'm sharing someone else's thoughts on Joe's song : 'God only knows'

I came across this text this week, and I wanted to give the opportunity to the non-german speakers, a chance to read it. So I made this translation.
You can read the original version on theosalon.blogspot.

This is a song that lures you to look at life with mercy. Because Mercy says: The world is better with you than without you. About "God Only Knows" by Joe Henry.

- By Peter Otten

A friend brought this song to my attention, and after several listens, I thought: it fits wonderfully in these times. In how long it is no longer black against white, lie against truth, fake against news, me against you, yes against no, all these things that are defined against us. We are somehow in a time of sharp contours. No place for the in between. No room for pastel. No resonance space for intermediate tones. "We'd almost lost the heart to know" sings Joe Henry. " How to keep our best in mind."

'The best of me'. At first, I had to think about what that is for me: ‘the best of me’ - It's nice that someone is singing it. I nearly would have forgotten about it. But what is the best of me? I could list all kinds of talents now or things like that. However. Joe Henry seems to be on a different level. The best of you is the ability to look with Mercy to the world.

Mercy is a strange, antique word that we do not use in everyday life so often. I know it from movies about knights: where a warrior swings his sword over someone vanquished and decides in the next second whether victory plays out his power and takes the life of the vanquished, begging for mercy. In movies, It always implies power changes. A warrior lets his power go. And by letting go of his power, the other is left in dependency. He owes the other man that he is well. That he lives on.
But it actually means something else. Mercy is that extra that someone gives without him having to. Without hidden motives. Out of an inner exuberance, a positive mood, feeling of affection. A love for life, creation, or an other person. Mercy comes from an attitude of love for life, love of life, affection for other creatures. Mercy means: The world is better with you than without you. And I want you to be well, that you live well, that you have all the life you need. I want you to have your luck. No matter who you are. In French there is a term gratuité. It’s not so easy to translate, but it describes much better than the German term gnade, what it is about. Gratuité means that extra that someone gives that’s not at all necessary, that extra that no one releases, gives, puts in the bag - not to buy another one, or to prove his power to him. Gratuité is the more without hidden motive. It is the unnecessary more that no one can simply expect, but that has only one purpose, namely, that you fare well. Your well-being makes the world a better place.

But the world is not like that, Joe Henry knows that. It has an angry face. People are acting unforgiving. The use of will and power does not automatically give you the right, neither yours or our freedom. Automatically nothing works here.

But what should be done? Joe Henry grabs an image. He describes a loving couple who may be embracing down the street. Both lovers create a retreat, "a full retreatment", a retreat, a kind of space capsule. In a sense, the two of them create a secluded, mild perspective on each other - and with that : on the world as well. “The worst of life looks beautiful as it slips away in full retreat " The world is beautiful when viewed from a hideaway. Out of a kind of space rasp, which creates the view for what is actually necessary : that people can be happy.

So this song asks for your refuge, your retreatment, your space capsule.

Perhaps it is the space capsule of the togetherness that attracts people to the exuberance that mercy also contains. Being together, being safe in one another, love - maybe this retreatment - whatever it is – it seduces people to do more.

Sometimes this ‘more’ is no more than just letting go of your own personal interests. Not to overlook one's own weaknesses or weaknesses of others, but not to make one's own attitude the sole standard. Sometimes it's just that: let the joy of life just take you, no matter where.
This is a song that entices you not to forget the best of you: to be gracious to the world, to look at life, yourself and me and others. All this with an attitude of gratuité, that uncalculated More. With generosity. With an open view. Friendly. Honored. Mildly. Not immediately surmise and see restrictions where there are none. This is not a song for the discerning, but a song that sings of generosity. Because even the God over whom Joe Henry sings, can only be imagined generously, not as a whiner. “God only knows that we mean well, God knows that we just don't know how.” Even when it doesn’t always work.

Now isn’t that a comforting Easter image.  Sing if you can : “But I'll try to be your light in love, and pray that it’s enough for now”.

That’s enough. That’s Gratuité,  that’s the best of you.

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