Every once in a while, new music will catch my ear and I’ll wonder how I’ve gotten to this point in my life without it. I can distinctly remember the very moments when Nirvana and Stan Getz and Nat King Cole came into my life. I can actually remember a friend giving me a mixed CD with The Black Keys on it, and being a little hurt that no one had told me about them sooner. My new favorite band of the moment is a British post-punk band called Idles. Their most recent studio album is called Joy as an Act of Resistance and they almost had me at the title. I don’t know what kind of music you’re into, and it might not be for everyone. You probably won’t hear any of the songs in a Sunday service (though after the soulful version of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” we had a while ago, I won’t rule it out entirely), but the album title alone is worth contemplation.
We are gearing up for another presidential election with all of its attendant finger-pointing and nail-biting. We are scrambling to react to a new virus that, according to the internet will either amount to nothing at all or will systematically force us all inside. The cloud of climate change continues to grow and darken. We live in a time when it seems like the only thing we can agree on is that no one can agree on anything. And in the midst of this we also battle our way through all of the day-to-day struggles that come with being human, just so that we can arrive at the end of each day in one piece if not always unscathed. Giving up is not an option, the stakes are too high, but how do we fight back against the tide of anger, worry, and fear in troubled times?
Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xia wrote, “The greatness of non-violent resistance is that even as [people are] faced with tyranny, and the resulting suffering, [we] respond to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason.” If this seems a little too naive, remember that this is coming from someone who was denied medical treatment and lived for years under house arrest because her government feared her. We can’t fight anger, worry, and fear with more anger, worry, and fear. Voting helps preserve democracy, but unfriending relatives does not. Handwashing prevents the spread of viruses, but worrying does not. Lowering carbon emissions helps the environment, but fear does not. The antidotes to hate, prejudice, arrogance, humiliation, and violence are love, tolerance, humility, dignity, and reason. And to all of these forms of resistance, I would add joy. Surviving dark times is good, but finding joy is better. Finding joy in the midst of them is more than avoiding defeat–finding joy is winning.
So as we continue to fight the good fight in all of our public and private struggles, big and small, it is my prayer that we will each remember to keep our ears open to the sounds of joy that call to us through all the noise, and remind us that as long as we can hear the song, we are unconquerable, and every breath is a victory.