The clip was recorded recently inside an ancient monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church in central Armenia.
Such beauty. Such transcendance. Everybody who was passing through on that day stopped and listened, transfixed, to these singers.
For some of us though,there is no beauty to speak of in our lives. No favours; no free rides; no second chances. Mercy seems in short supply and justice is hidden out of sight.
As I write this I am thinking of the young mother and her little girl whose skeletal remains were discovered hundreds of kilometres apart, years after they had had their lives snuffed out, by someone (or ones) they should never have met, let alone trusted.
Life was not beautiful for them. The young mother had walked out of the family home, and took her little girl, barely two, with her. Living out of a car, they existed on the margins, drifting wherever the wind, or the mother’s whims, took them. There would likely have been a series of benefactors: boyfriends; ‘protectors’; drinking buddies; casual acquaintances; even the odd kind hearted person now and then.
Running away from who knows what at home, they bounced from place to place like pinballs. There were few flashing lights though, and no winner’s bonuses. The mother was killed in a lonely forest and her body left under a pile of leaves, to be found by chance long after there was any possibility of identification of her remains. The daughter, and I shudder to think about this, was taken away and killed some time later and her body shut up in a suitcase and tossed into scrub alongside a country highway about a thousand kilometres away.
I guess the only miracle that ever came their way was that they were both found, identified as mother and daughter, and probably will be laid to rest together. (Great police work!)
I sit and think about them and I feel conflicting priorities. I feel a rage that makes me want to scream out at the obscenity; this manifest evil that crouches at a safe distance and smirks at me, challenging me to do something about it. Or, more correctly, taunts me for my inability to do anything at all to make things right for this mother (herself barely a child) and her little girl. I also feel a sadness that extends outwards, beyond time and place.
I refuse to believe this is where it ends. Inside I scream for justice and demand to know why this happened to two innocents. It is not right and not how I want the world to be. But I have lived long enough to have learned that what I think about such matters is not relevant to the outcomes.
Instead I choose to believe that evil does not have the last word. I choose to believe that those two young souls matter; that they are not (and never were) disposable and inconsequential. I choose to believe that somewhere, one fine day, they will be surrounded by the love and care they failed to find in their short unhappy lives.
One fine day.
Meanwhile I am grateful for the beauty that for whatever reason is strewn in my path. The song clip above is one I recorded recently in a cave monastery in Armenia. It continues to send shivers down my spine, and reminds me that no matter where I find myself, there is something beyond me and that something is good.
If I would be so bold as to ask anything of God this afternoon, it would be that young mother and child would know such beauty too.
A quote from Annie Lennox caught my attention this morning.
(Annie Lennox – Google Images)
Now until a few minutes ago I knew nothing about Annie Lennox. That's right- THE Annie Lennox. That admission alone, I imagine, will see me disappear from Christmas card lists far and wide. As so often happens to me where popular music is concerned, I'm not up with who's who, having misspent my youth apparently, on other interests. You'd be surprised just how many conversations hang on possession of a treasure trove of trivia about popular singers and songwriters. Then again, maybe you wouldn't be.
Well now I've admitted publically such an embarassing gap in background knowledge, may I jump to the quote?
“There’s this youth culture that is really, really powerful and really, really strong, but what it does is it really discards people once they reach a certain age. I actually think that people are so powerful and interesting – women, especially – when they reach my age. We’ve got so much to say, but popular culture is so reductive that we just talk about whether we’ve got wrinkles, or whether we’ve put on weight or lost weight, or whether we’ve changed our hair style. I just find that so shallow.” Annie Lennox.
This lady is on to something!
I want to applaud her. Yes! Yes! Yes! Well, apart from the 'especially women' jab. Don't write off us guys because were not female Annie: That would be unfair and not nice. Men are people too and interesting! But I am straying from the point.
Our background western culture is built on youth and trying to stay forever young. Gyms, fitness clubs, cosmetics sell the eternal youth myth but it goes much much deeper than that. Marketing at all levels is saturated with youth. It wallows in it and glorifies it. In the West we worship youth as a self evident value. We buy clothes and cut our hair (if we still have any) in ways we think will make us look younger. We laud our kids as our 'best friends' (Good grief! Your child doesn't need you as their best friend. They need you as their parent; an entirely different thing). We seek employees with youth and energy over those with age and experience (regardless of age discrimination laws which no one seems to take seriously anyway)
Youth worship is so deeply embedded in our values, I think, we often don't even know we do it. Take this paragraph about Annie herself from an 'Over 60s' web site:
“Annie Lennox turned 60 on Christmas Day, and to those of you who feel 60 but don’t look it, or look it and don’t feel it, Annie is a shining inspiration. Can it really be more than 30 years since her mega-hits with the Eurythmics tore through the charts of the 80. She really doesn’t look like a day has passed!”
Do I really need to point out the irony of an 'Over 60s' web site that appears to be sucked in by the 'youth is good', 'youth is everything' mantra? I mean why is it a good thing to be 60 yet not look it? What on Earth is wrong with being 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80 and looking your age? Is it shameful to look your age? If so, why? Why is it better to look 30 than to look 40, or to look 20 rather than 50? I guess there might be a point in misrepresenting your age if you are on the lookout for a sexual partner maybe, or if the whole idea of wisdom and maturity eluded you, and you lived your life completely superficially.
Youth is great. Youth is to be celebrated and enjoyed as long as it lasts. However youth is not the essence of life. Youth is not who we are. Youth is not the answer. It is more a symptom of not having been around long enough to know much about yourself. Enjoy it while you have it by all means, but to attribute the meaning and value of your life to it is beyond sad. You and I are much more than our youthful looks and boundless energy even when we are in the midst of it all. We are an important part of the story of life, and we continue to be an important part of that story as we leave youth and grow ever older.
Annie is quite right and quite insightful. Our western culture doesn't value people for who they are. It values them for their looks and their absence of blemishes and wrinkles. The irony is that the richness and beauty of life only becomes apparent to most of us until long after youth is gone, and few want to listen to us anymore. The wisdom that comes (sometimes) with age allows us to accept gracefully being ignored, dismissed and devalued because we are not as young as somebody thinks we should be before they will take us seriously.
I love life. I like myself. I am comfortable with who I am. I see beauty around me in the faces of grandchildren, of my wife, children, friends, and sometimes in passing interactions with people I don't know. I can see connections now that were invisible to me when I was young. It all makes a kind of sense. I count for something. I have value despite my wrinkles. I am part of something bigger than myself. I don't have to prove anything, and certainly not to anyone who looks at me at age 61 and looks away again, looking for something I left behind a long time ago.
A selfie. Maybe I should have used some face cream.
(Maybe Annie's doing a bit better than I am.)
A short biography of Annie Lennox from Wilipedia for those, like me, who weren't switched on or plugged in in the 70s and 80s:
Annie Lennox, OBE (born 25 December 1954), born Ann Lennox, is a Scottish singer-songwriter, political activist and philanthropist. After achieving moderate success in the late 1970s as part of the new wave band The Tourists, she and fellow musician Dave Stewart went on to achieve major international success in the 1980s as Eurythmics. Lennox is the most recognised female artist at the Brit Awards, winning a total of eight awards, including Best British Female Artist six times.