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Weathering Paradigm Shifts: “Where do we begin, the rubble or our sins?”

We have all heard it said, many times, that the one constant in life is change. Despite our cultural heritage, political heritage, religious heritage, some things will change in some way, to some degree, and those changes, even those that clearly promise the most positive outcomes in the short term or long term, always negatively impact someone. Even the good cannot help but choke someone it catches unprepared, someone who doesn’t see the change coming, even if it is inevitable. What am I talking about? I am referring to any major shift in the norms to which we have grown accustomed. For Catholics, the more explicit, public revelations about serious problems with sexual abuse shook the Church to its core. What was far more troubling, however, was the way the Catholic Church first appeared to be dealing with the issue. While complete resolution and restitution is far from being achieved, the process seems to have picked up steam with the election of Pope Francis, who appears to be guiding Catholicism into a new golden era.

Mind your footing.

Politically, this happens more often. A candidate one chooses to back or follow, can often turn out to be someone unexpected, even the opposite of his or her advertised position. Even more often we find ourselves disillusioned by broken promises or an inability to combat the gridlocking politics as usual. Any perceived momentum can stall at any given time. Sometimes, the rug can be pulled out from under us. For example, when SCOTUS recently gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act in a landmark decision that practically claimed that America had overcome its racist past, what could the rest of us do, those of us who see the world as it really is, other than sit in stunned silence, while the work that so many civil rights activists had sweated and bled for came tumbling down?

These are the moments in our lives when we question humanity, when we even begin to question ourselves and the sides we have chosen. For many people, these examples and countless others lead to crises from which some never recover. I currently find myself trapped in the middle of multiple crises: political, cultural, religious, and, therefore, existential.

Whatever your crisis, whatever your trial today, consider the words of the following song. When I would hear it on the radio, I would sing along as much as I could, with the few words I had picked up from all of its airplay. Eventually, however, I took the time to really listen to the lyrics, which made me experience the song in a whole new way, even the music itself. Because my expertise lies in literary interpretation, taking the time to break this song down has done wonders for my psyche. I often feel like the walls are tumbling down. I often close my eyes, hoping that the very words of this brooding song will ring truer, that, simply, “nothing changed at all.” Of course, we have all been there before, and we all will be again and again to some degree.

Music soothes the savage beast? Sure, but for me music, even the words put to it, can soothe, plain and simple, or at least offer an outlet, even that elusive Aristotelian Catharsis. Even if you have heard it before, I hope you will enjoy Bastille’s “Pompeii” again, listening carefully to the words. And, yes, there is an extended metaphor at work. What is it? That, my friends, is entirely up to you. May this message, or that of another song, carry you through your own crises, whether political, cultural, or religious, this day and always.

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