What gets my respect: cynical worldly-wise cosmopolitanism, or sincere innocence?
Even 'beauty' is an inadequate articulation for innocence. Innocence has the preciousness, the vulnerability, and small fragility of eidelweiss, but like eidelweiss is enthroned on mountains. Suited to the heights.
Crowned with its own power and, in the end, its vindication over artifice, insincerity, and plotting manipulation, over sloth and mediocrity.
Singing together, particularly folk music, protects innocence, and cultivates it. Grown men singing together? Moreover, singing a song the refrain of which is:
"Ah dee doo, ah dee doo dah day. Ah dee doo, ah dee day dee. He whistled and he sang, 'til the green woods rang! And he won the heart of a lady."
"God bless America! Land that I love! Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with the light from above."
Simplicity and abandonment of artifice are good for men. Moderating our damnable self-awareness and self-importance.
Singing together protects what innocence you have, and can even restore you to innocence. Especially when you sing with friends, who know you and have forgiven you, innocence is undeservedly restored. It is difficult to be forgiven, and to have the humility to accept innocence again from Our Lord, because we don't deserve to have it returned. Our friends know we are not innocent in ourself, and that our innocence is entirely their gift and the gift of Christ. To return to singing together, indebted so to their compassion and solidarity, is humiliating in the creative sense. Man, when he has built himself up falsely, must be made low in the sense that he is made to see the interior reality. His indigence of soul. Then his friends can help Christ raise him along with Him.
It is hard to sing with those who know your faults, but this is the best singing because it can never again become the farce that pop music is. You can never again be puffed up. You can only enter into what your friends offer, and work your way into innocence again, in fear and trembling. It takes humility to allow yourself to feel innocent again, when you are forgiven, remembering this innocence is always Christs, and to an extent the innocence of your friends who forgive you.
Those who know me know well that I am not the catalyst for innocence in our band. I have had to be converted over many years to really see what innocence requires. The singing always had the possibility, though, for Christ to use it. It was waiting to be a means by which He would give me His innocence, if I knelt and whispered, 'depart from me, Jesus, for I am a sinful man.' Watching the words that my friends were speaking, singing so that each one of us would be heard, listening so as to harmonize, relying on the greater skill of others to support my effort.
In thinking about our singing, I began to realize how little I cherish my own innocence, or respect the innocence of others. I began to realize, even that I unconsciously esteem people based less on their innocence than on their cleverness or attractiveness, or their charisma, or the pleasure of their company.
I must cherish innocence. It must have my respect, not in the conceptual way, and especially not in a patronizing way. I must esteem it as my sinful nature would esteem one with clever worldly competence, ability, and power.
I must root out all in me that is cynical and does not protect the innocence of others. All words, all the ideas I suggest, all my conversation, all my songs, all my arguments, all my ideas must bow before the innocence of the other person. Their innocence is the property of God, and I must never trespass there again.
I shouldn't use curse words where others can hear them. I shouldn't laugh at T.V. shows that lampoon innocence, or snicker too worldly-wise at weakness. There is a big difference between sighing with affectionate patience at our foibles, and being entertained by mediocrity and even sin.
Most of all, I shouldn't scandalize others, not even in 'educating' them on the 'real world'. I have in the past been a source of too much reality, if by that you mean mediocrity and sin, and that shames me. Everyone knows about it but forgives. Accepting innocence given, and making that innocence your own leaves you always indebted and the worldly-wise and proud can never do it. It means you can never be cynical towards others again.
And when we are innocent or have had innocence given back to us, we must protect it.