Hallo again to all.
For the last two weeks, we've asked you to share with us your favourite hymns. Share you did, and we've been humming in delight. Our inbox has been flooded with the joyful songs of John Mason Neale, the Wesleys, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frances Ridley Havergal, Augustus Toplady, Isaac Watts, John Bacchus Dykes, and Thomas Ken. The results of our survey are now in course of tabulation, and we hope you'll delight in them next week as we have in reviewing them.
We confess that in these last weeks—in between Jerusalem the Golden and St Patrick's Breastplate—we've been unable to get out of our heads a song of a very different kind.
In recent months, few people who listen to popular music on the radio or who pay attention to the musical trends of young North Americans have escaped an opportunity to hear Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen. Her single Call Me Maybe has been admired and despised, copied and mocked, and even transmuted into the speech of a head of state.
Setting aside the aesthetic mess of the song itself—it's an earworm, we're told and do in part believe—and the odd sexual politics manifested in the song's music video, there are four lines of Call Me Maybe that have haunted us since first we heard them:
These lines talk about a presence missing in the human heart to the point of longing. They articulate in simple but serious and sincere words the notion of a presence that makes its absence known through a sense of loss. They talk about missing a good in retrospect because of our knowledge of a current relationship. We know full well that Carly Rae has said the song is about her chess-playing architecture student boyfriend. And we know, too, that the official video associated with the song shows an object of affection who is uninterested in the woman who gives him her phone number. The lyrics nonetheless speak in their misdirected way of a spiritual reality that sounds a bit different in Latin:
Or, in Edward Bouverie Pusey's memorable Englishing of Augustine's phrase:
Bear with us in our plunge from the sublime to the ridiculous and our return to the sublime.
are words well spoken by the Christian soul to God the Holy Trinity, whom we all miss in our hearts before we know its indwelling. They are words well and often spoken among evangelicals to Jesus Christ himself, and understandable to anyone who has a deeper awareness now than before of a close and living relationship with Christ. They are probably idolatrous when anyone says them to a boy or a girl, but we doubt the theological intention required for Carly Rae to be really transgressing against the Decalogue.
She is a hymnographer à son insu, and we don't mind putting up with the earworm for a fresh way of speaking to our creator in wonder, love and praise.
You can have the Hymnal back now. See you next week.
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