One of the best friends I've ever had in this life was Ann Ball. At the Catholic high school I graduated from, she was my English teacher during my senior year.
Ann was a little older than I, but a large margin wiser. She smoked like a Texas City refinery and let us crash on her sofas when we were too drunk to go home. She was one of the most dedicated religious people I've ever known, as well as a writer whose books are still on shelves at Christian bookstores everywhere.
Although she was immensely influential on me, I didn't absorb every lesson of Ball's. She was uncommonly kind, a trait I'll probably never have or even understand. She was no holy roller, either. She was faithful, but she made her devotion seem so damn cool.
One lesson that stuck regarded the Christian practice of Lent, the six-week period preceding Easter Sunday that begins today. During this time, Christians frequently practice self-denial and wallow in repentant prayer; it's basically the time of year when Christianity goes emo.
Ann advocated for taking on something instead of giving something up. Her reason was simple -- doing something requires more action than not doing something. That action could also have a broader and more lasting effect.
So, by her example, I'm asking you Lent-practitioners to not only give up some things, but to consider doing some things, too -- all music-oriented, of course. I'll never be as awesome as Ann, who's been gone long enough now to know how to sneak a cigarette in Heaven. But she'd like this idea. And I like that.
Give up booze at a show for one night. Go straight-edge. If you practice Lent, there's a good chance you'll be forgoing the Devil's Milk. Last year, Christianity Today surveyed over 100,000 Tweets and found that alcohol was fourth among all things people planned to shelve for 40 days and -- perhaps with more difficulty -- 40 nights.
If you're the type that has a drink or 12 before or during a music event, here's your chance to see whether you're having such a fantastic time because of or in spite of the hooch. My guess is, if you're seeking out music you love anyhow, you'll have at least as much fun as usual. Maybe you'll notice some things about the music and the shows you generally would miss.
Read about music and share what you've read. I admit, this proposed Lenten promise seems a bit self-serving. I'm not saying you have to read about music here, necessarily, but...you're already here, right?
Seriously, there's so much music-related content available to us all now, you can actually seek out your specifically odd strain and find at least one blogger covering it. If you want to know more about Hoomi, a.k.a. Mongolian throat singing, you can Google it. Not sure what mathcore is? You'll find an answer, and possibly a new style of music to love, on the Interwebs.
While you're at it, don't forget to read about music the way we classic-rockers had to do it once, by finding music magazines and books at bookstores and libraries. If you're not sure what's available, just get out there and scour some shelves, or get some recommendations from Rocks Off's most avid reader, Bob Ruggiero.
Give up time to support a traveling musician. Lots of Lenters like to give up time for a worthy cause during these days of self-reflection. They volunteer in the community instead of sitting home watching Hollywood Game Night.
Traveling bands make up a musical community you could benefit. You won't need to croak, cross Hades or pass the Pearly Gates to get your reward, either. They'll be grateful you're there and will tell you so.
Stripping away all the music stuff, at the core of this exercise you're really just being there for someone who could use a friendly face in a strange place. Sounds pretty righteous to me.
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Share an inspirational song with someone. A good song is like a prayer. Affording it some time and really reflecting on it can empower you. Some songs that have had that effect on me include Living Colour's "This Is the Life," Modest Mouse's "Float On" and Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." We all know someone who could use a kind gesture. While Skeletor is Love helps a lot, he's a busy guy and can't always be there for us.
That's when we need to reach out to one another from the love in our own hearts. Music is an easy, not awkward or unintentionally creepy way to do that. Since the musician created the song from her or his own heart with that intent, we're just continuing this love line by sharing with others in need.
Go to "church" and put something in the collection plate. "Church" in this instance is a local show featuring local acts. Thankfully, we have many ministers in our midst, all spreading the glory of Houston-based music. They're out there preaching nightly, hoping to grow this religion outside of the city and all over the world. That's the sort of prosperity that would warm Joel Osteen's heart.
So, giving to the collection plate means buying something from these hard at work preacher men and women. Purchase an album, a T-shirt or a show ticket. If they have an Indiegogo campaign running, help them take their good news on the revival circuit. Can I get an Amen?
Thank someone who turned you on to music. Maybe it was your parents, older siblings, a high school friend or the dominatrix you spend Tuesday evenings with -- already paying for your sins? -- but someone helped you grow the lust in your heart for music. That sounds deliciously sinful, but it's really a blessing. So let them know how their good taste and own passion for music has made your life better.
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