Sunday, May 13, 2012

I Love My Zoo

Joy and I watched "We Bought a Zoo" a few nights ago. Great movie with a great story. A single father with two children moves his family to the country after his wife dies. He wanted to get out of town where everything reminded him of his wife, and the house he bought in the country was just enough to take his mind off of her because it came with a zoo.

As the story continues you learn that he wanted that zoo not for his kids, but so he could pour himself into something. He wanted an escape from the hurt and the remembrance. The movie hit way too close to home for both Joy and myself. As we laid in bed that night I asked her what her zoo is. She knew exactly what I was talking about. We shared briefly, and our answers weren't a surprise to each other. We both know where we have run in the last year to get away from the grief that never seems to quit gnawing at our most sensitive memories and feelings.

As anyone who knows me could attest to, music has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up singing a lot. Not just at church where four-part harmony was the beautiful expectation, but also at home. Once I got to high school I made it into every choir I could, played in the band, started a few of my own bands, and sang the national anthem at every sporting event that wanted it. There was always a deep beauty and calm I felt through music, and I still feel it today.

I'm no longer in the choir member stage of my life. Now I'm a music consumer. I regularly buy vinyl albums for my fast-growing record collection, iTunes is usually the largest debitor to my credit card, and I fight hard to get to at least two or three live concerts per month. I love the way music makes me feel. But now i realize it's also my zoo.

Music is the place I go to forget what hurts and pains me. It's what I do when my brain gets too loud and the thoughts I've battened down to be dealt with later begin to creep into the places I've asked them to stay away from.

I realize there is a danger in this, almost like the man who once enjoyed a fine glass of scotch in the evening who now finishes off a bottle per night. Is music a medication to me? Has it become unhealthy for me?

I usually develop some sort of opinion on what I'm feeling before I write about it, but tonight I'm just puzzled. I know my first inclination is to go to music when I'm not feeling well or happy. The fact that I'm not more inclined to pray is what worries me. I'm calmed and my anxieties are resolved by music. Does the Holy Spirit use music? I'm just not sure how I feel about all of this.

Tonight I laid in bed with a drowsy-eyed wife while I played a nine-song playlist for my baby girl. The headphones don't fit around Joy's belly anymore, so we had to improvise a little bit, and Joy was asleep by song number four. I really hope the beauty of music is something I can share with my daughter for many years. I want her to understand and appreciate music the way I do. This is a bond I hope we share.

So, here's the list.

Allen Stone – Sleep

Band of Horses – The Funeral

Carolina Chocolate Drops – Cornbread and Butterbeans

The Welcome Wagon – But for You Who Fear My Name

Old Crow Medicine Show – Angel From Montgomery

Nick Drake – Rider on the Wheel

Megafaun – Worried Mind

The Beatles – Girl

Eric Whitacre – Water Night


  1. Paul & I share your love of music - it is soothing and healing to us. I believe music (the good stuff) is a gift from God (think King David).
    I pray that you and Joy will be given the peace you need and will continue to be a blessing and an inspiration to so many of your friends. With love to you both, Kerry Hise

  2. I read this a few days ago and was thinking about it a lot today, hope you don't mind if I weigh in. There have been times in my life where I used music as an unhealthy escape from working out my own opinions and beliefs about certain things. You can lose your voice with too many lyrics. There's a distinction between using music to prompt or complement reflection/prayer and using it as a convenient stand-in for those things. Obviously I can't say where you fall on that line, but taking a week or two of silence really helped me to figure out when and why I go to music-- I will probably be doing that again soon..

    And fantastic playlist, of course :)