Listening to Melanie Safka is an old habit. She’s performing Brand New Key1 on our lounge room playlist right now: ‘I rode my bicycle past your window last night,’ she says and adds, ‘I roller-skated to your door at daylight… I asked your mother if you were at home. She said yes, but you weren’t alone…’ Great song writing; but—all you artists with that chip of ice in the heart—we’re not just talking songs here. This is a brutal, crushing moment and there goes that crestfallen girl, without another word, cruising away from some boy’s front door.
Bruce Springsteen2 follows the thread further: ‘Had enough of heartbreak and pain. I had a little sweet spot for the rain. For the rain and skies of grey…’ Now we’re walking in the rain, alongside a man and a mistress we might call ‘loneliness.’ Wow! What about a dog, late at night and perhaps a gun somewhere? Loneliness is starting to look good, even sweet: cool.
The dictionary tells us that romance is a ‘feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love’. So, there it is, it’s possible to have a romance with loneliness. But maybe it’s not the loneliness we are in love with, maybe it’s nothing more than being infatuated with lost love? Springsteen’s lyric warns us, ‘You fall in love with lonely, you end up that way…’
Before we wind up this digressive blog, we might stop by Charles Williams and see what he has to say about it…
Drawing on the poetry of Dante3, Williams suggests that these glimpses of ecstatic joy, which send us into a stupor—whether it be another human being, a mountain or a river—are tastes of Almighty God: a God so desirable that we lose control of ourselves and fall victim to unrestrained appetite. Hence the need for God to be veiled in order for us to come close without making total fools of ourselves, and in the process, extorting and bullying the person, devouring the mountain or draining the river: oblivious of the embarrassing fact that what we are really trying to extort or devour is Almighty God.
Not surprisingly, if this is to go well, there must be numerous surrenders along the way: pride, self-will [not free-will by the way] and greed to name a few. And appropriately, we are both terrified and mesmerised by the prospect of what feels like a slow romancing of our souls by this great Spirit of Joy. For this is a Being who wants to know us in the deepest sense of the word: a betrothal you could say, a blurring of the I and the we. ‘Love you? I am you!’ A lover might say to their beloved, God might say to God: and we might say to God, whilst laughing at the wonderful absurdity of it.
Williams explains that the holy eucharist is a great picture of this event, of this in-Godding. And we long for the eucharist because it resembles that other great sacrament—the most intimate of human affections. St. Augustine puts it this way, ‘Our souls were made for You and are restless until they find their rest in You.’
1 Songwriters: Melanie Safka
Brand New Key lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
2 Songwriters: Bruce Springsteen
Hello Sunshine lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
3 Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice (The Apocryphyle Press, Berkeley, CA 2005, [Faber & Faber 1943]), p. 7—8