my religion

“I see God most in my relationships with other people. Victor Hugo said that ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’ I think our capacity to love is uniquely human and naturally connects us to something higher than ourselves. I even think that loving a baseball team can be a religious experience. I was here in 2012 when Santana pitched his no hitter. Everyone in this stadium was holding their breath at the exact same time. And when the game ended, everyone screamed with the same joy. We all felt so connected at that moment. And I think that was holy. That’s the feeling I want to create in my synagogue.” – Humans of New York

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When I picture that night, I see it in red.

Red lights shining from the stage onto our table, beer glasses, cheesecake, and faces. I see two piano guys winking at us from the stage and playing the songs we requested: “Old Time Rock n Roll,” “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places,” and “Bye Bye Bye.”

Shortly after the NSync song, I turned to one of my glowing red friends and, with a big smile on my face, said, “I decided music is my religion.” And she nodded and smiled like a good friend, and then we continued on with the night – singing, clapping, and dancing in our seats until the piano guys eventually called us on stage to dance to “Baby Got Back.” And if that’s not religious then, well … OK, maybe that’s not religious.

I’m sure saying “music is my religion” sounded like another Joe Drunk statement after I’d downed a Rocket Man margarita and a few beers, but as is the case with some Joe Drunk statements, this was something that had been following me around but hadn’t been said out loud yet.

In an effort to continue seeking some kind of spirituality, the Humans of New York quote above jumped into my mind after a recent Lady Antebellum concert where this same friend and I sat in the grass with a bunch of strangers singing country songs while watching the sunset. It was a good sunset that night, too, and I thought about how every musical event I attend feels a lot like that Humans of New York baseball game – everyone screaming with the same joy. Feeling so connected in the moment.

When I think of being religious growing up, I feel like many of the times I connected with it most involved music. And when I’ve attended a Christian church in Albuquerque here and there, it’s still always about the music. I love the guitars and piano, the drums, and the lead singers’ voices. I love the occasional accordion and flute, and the way that the energy brings people to their feet with their hands in the air. This is new to me. Singing on our feet to a band is nothing like the church I grew up in.

But outside of church, I feel just as strong of a connection – if not more – with people and God through beats, melodies, harmonies, and instruments. Nothing else gives me the chills like big talent on a stage and people cheering all around me. It’s completely inclusive. It brings strangers together in places where no one asks about your past or future because it’s all about being in the moment. Music accepts. It loves. It challenges, grieves, and spreads joy.

I always needed music – I craved it all the time growing up in the kitchen, in the car, and in my bedroom. I’ve also always needed people – family, close friends, and crowds. I needed places where everyone could be themselves and sometimes that’s where religion failed for me. Music never has.

I love the way cellphone lights make arenas sparkle and sway. I love when thousands of hands reach up and clap to the beat, and when the lead singer stops to let the audience finish the chorus on its own. I’ve been at a concert surrounded by lightning and saw it rain at just the right time. I’ve seen a crowd go nuts over the sound of one chord because they knew what was coming. I’ve stood on the floor jumping in unison with everyone around me and danced when a certain song had mandatory moves. I love when lights stay dim and everyone screams for an encore, then erupts when the musicians comes back on stage to belt a few more songs. I love piano bars and karaoke and how everybody cheers each other on, no matter how horrible the sound and ridiculous the dance.

So, when I look back on that recent night with the red lights and my nice friends, I mostly remember how fun and hilarious it was, and how I was driving everyone nuts taking pictures and videos. And I also remember that I meant what I said in that drunken Manette moment – that music is my religion. Because right now, nothing else seems to compete with that feeling.

Tim McGraw, June 2015

Elton John, March 2017

Garth Brooks, April 2017

 

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