Play It Forward

When a lesson is learned, collectively across members of several generations at the same moment, something like a metaphysical earthquake ruptures. Unity abounds. Love punctures hate. Time, both kairos and chronos (memory-making and allotted hours in the day) freezes quietly. Art is a catalyst of these actions. Three works of art in poetry, television, and music have caused me to stumble again on the wealthy attention of a perfect and holy God. Psalm 33 is a hymn dedicated to purpose and hope, the series finale of Parenthood paints family with bravura, and the “Forever Young” cover by Rhiannon Giddens and Sam Beam closes out this set in peaceful harmony.

Whatever is thought of Christianity, the contents of Psalm 33 are cheerfully grateful, descriptively gorgeous, and steeped in the tradition of communal sharing and singing and reciting. Visions of worshippers gifting their voice and instrument, love in terms of endurance (“steadfast”), and nature’s Benefactor observing and tending his creations spin around the narrative like woven gold. Here stands the Lord Almighty who commands awe and explosive response to the goodness. The poem works from an opening line that requires God’s praise into particular reasons for that praise (“…the word of the Lord is upright…faithfulness…righteousness…justice…”), then elevating pictures of God’s power just below hope in His future. David may or may not have written this particular Psalm, but the theme needs no certain author: confident anticipation of the Lord’s character. While the words speak for themselves, several ways to read or sing this poem exist. To remain consistent with the theory of unity, a choral reading offers beautiful reference to the generations gathered for the lesson. As John Witvliet says, in The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship, “…the interplay among readers is useful for capturing the dialogic nature of many Psalm texts.” The lesson uncovered by such lyric, dialogue, and community is that “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Hearing this in a room filled with others delights and probes. We praise our Benefactor and march on to the tune of happy grace.

The Benefactor in Parenthood is family. To provide specifics, the children and children’s children of a man named Zeek Braverman nest here. The very name Braverman helps compile a mix of relatable, honest, broken characters filling the space of a California-based clan. You have rebels, overachievers, snobs, and drama queens. Likely, they’re all in one person, causing my husband to deem this “the yelling show.” But the yells are so candid, coming from a place of tough love and committed love. The eldest brother Peter is a no-nonsense sales guy who picks on younger dreamer Crosby. Sarah is the Daddy’s Girl and single mom paving the misfit way opposite corporate lawyer Julia. There are many in-laws and grandkids, as well as grandparents Zeek and Camille. What twists the siblings up is Peter’s son Max having Asberger’s Syndrome (a fantastic job of writing in this personage), Crosby marrying his biological son’s mother to become a family man, Sarah falling in love with a man also dealing with Asberger’s (Ray Ramono- exceptional) and Julia’s “perfect” marriage falling to pieces. Everything culminates in the very last episode: unconditional love of family trumps everything. Long harbored resentments are freed by gratitude and kindnesses amidst knowledge of life’s brevity. Community, in this case the show’s viewers, can rally behind it all and there is no yelling in such final moments.

Notes escaping the mouths of singer-songwriters Rhiannon Giddens (a soloist, The Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Sam Beam ( Iron & Wine) have already proven their talent. Giddens has her own unique voice and then impressed Parenthood‘s creator Jason Katmis with the collaborative album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (a Bob Dylan tribute). Beam worked with Katmis on this show’s soundtrack already. Together the two covered “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan. Although both performers have experienced sold-out, bells-and-whistles concerts, this song appropriately feels like company in a fire-lit basement. Toned-down piano, guitar, percussion and strings are like wind to the vocals’ swirling leaves. It’s a fitting partner to the last episode of Parenthood. That it was Dylan’s lyrics a generation ago, causing hearts to come together, is precious. Read:

“May God bless and keep you always

May your wishes all come true

May you always do for others

And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

May you stay forever young

Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong

May you stay forever young

Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful

And may your song always be sung

May you stay forever young

Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.”-    Bob Dylan

Society gathers to be thankful for love and the idea of eternity. They are spurred on in 2015, thanks to two brilliant musicians. This Benefactor is the staying power of covers.

Monotonous human suffering can vex us. Political posturing, stories of unchecked greed, and surging deaths wreck the globe. How is this met? The Benefactor, illuminating all art, assumes the position of peace and harmony. Forsaking doubt, giant groups of humanity join hands to point this out and make songs for the next set of the masses.

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About violetprose

Writing pulls me out of myself and into a world of color. It soothes, encourages, and inspires, among other treasures. I use it to love, work, and play. I pray it breathes life and shares hope.
This entry was posted in Come Read With Me and Share My Love. Bookmark the permalink.

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