Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Ben Folds Five - Philosophy

"I see that there is evil
And I know that there is good
And the in-betweens I never understood
Would you look at me I'm crazy
But I get the job done
I'm crazy but I get the job done"

So as I continue with my 'Naked Baby Photos' theme I move onto what is probably Ben Fold Five's second most famous song a video of which is included when they performed it on the Jools Holland show.

As you may expect from a song called philosophy it is no surprise that this song provides an insight into what I assume is/was Ben Folds view of the world which resonates so much with the world we live in. 
Ben Folds has little time for idealistic sentiment and so in this song we have a view of morality which is deeply practical and probably most of us can relate with.

We see evil in the world - So we click the news on and we see 'evil' - murder, war etc - Whatever fits in your category of evil.
We also know that there is good - We see in our life real love, real affection - Whatever fits in this category.
So we acknowledge we live with this confusing world. It is goodness and evil all mixed together

The question is why is the world sop confusing? Why do we live in a world of irrational goodness and irrational evil? I have always found the Bible's answer to this compelling. The Bible says that God made the world and it was good - so the world will always contain goodness which we will see. But on the flip side the Bible also says that we rebelled against him and ever since then evil has come into the world and so we see goodness but the goodness is no longer perfection and so it is goodness tempered by evil. What we see in the world I see in myself. I see goodness and I see evil.

Ben Folds does not have a Christian world view and so his response is telling. He sees evil, he know's that there is good so what does he do... Well he get's the job done. This is the story of most of our lives. We see evil and goodness, we see a confusing crazy world, we can't quite work it out and so what do we do? Well we crack on. We get our heads down and we get on with life. In the words of Ben Folds 'Won't you look at me I'm crazy but I get the job done'. In a confusing world why try to make sense of it? Just get on with the stuff you have to do.

Jesus gives us a different option. Instead of ignoring the craziness of the world we live in we can look straight at it in the knowledge that we live in a good but broken world  for which redemption is possible. We don't have to ignore the mess because the story of the Bible is that God has a plan to sort it out.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Ben Folds Five - Emaline

So this week in the car I have found myself listening to 'Naked Baby Photos' by Ben Folds Five. This is a compilation of a mix of songs (some live some album tracks) which has some real high points (Eddie Walker being one of my favourites) and some lows (notably the middle section which consists of songs which barely deserve the name).

Anyway having enjoyed this I thought I'd blog a bit on some of the ideas which had really struck me when listening to this album. The first of these comes from the little known song Emaline which never made it onto any of their albums. The lyrics which have always interested me in this song are these...

She's dear to me, and so expensive.
Now I'm not talking 'bout money.
Money talks,
I hate to listen,
but lately it's been screaming in my ear...

...Don't let me walk away from Emaline.
For stupid reasons,
now I'm talking 'bout money.
Money talks,
I hate to listen,
But lately it's been screaming in my ear.

This seems to very effectively sum up my relationship with money. When money talks I hate to listen. I hate the control which money has over so much of my life. So the jobs I do, the things I do with my spare time, the places I see, even things like the people I am friends with or spend time with so many of these things seem so driven by money. I am friends with people who mainly earn comparable amounts. My social circles are dominated by people with similar access to money. The jobs I spend so much of my life doing are largely determined by the amount they pay. In so many ways money feels like the key determinant and limiting factor in my life. 

Now Jesus is completely radical in his approach to money. He doesn't seem to allow it any sort of hold over him. He mixes with all different types, rich and poor regardless. He doesn't seem obsessed by the acquisition of money or the use of money and so when money talks he is capable of not listening. Now this is key to understanding Jesus' teaching about money. Jesus teaches that as Christians we should be generous with our money. Jesus teaches that those who follow him should not love money. All of this is not Jesus trying to ruin our lives but actually encouraging us to not listen to the voice of money. Jesus says our lives should not be controlled by money but by relationships (with God and other people) and therefore the good news he brings is the good news of relationships which help us to listen less to money. Jesus' teaching on money is to bring freedom not ruin our lives.

I know this and I believe it. I see the way people's lives get taken over by appraisals at work and the thought of more money. I see the way people spend their lives complaining about how much money they get or trying to get more. I see lives ruined by gambling due to this love of money. I like Ben Folds hate it when I find myself listening to and being controlled by money but I have the same problem so often it feels like it's screaming in my ears. I don't want to be controlled by money but when appraisal time comes round I find myself obsessed by how much I might earn and the bonus I might get. When money is tight for a month I feel money screaming at me 'you need more, you deserve more'. When I have to say no to something cause we don't have the cash I feel money screaming in my ear 'just work harder, or give less then you could do more of the stuff you want'. I hate to listen but there are times it is screaming in my ears.

There is no easy solution to this (at least none I have found) but there is one key thing which will make it easier to not listen to the screams and that is to find something you value more highly.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in afield, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." - Matthew 13v44
The way to quieten the voice of money is simply to see it as less valuable and the way to see it as less valuable is to find something of greater value. Jesus does not call on us to give up something we love as a form of self denial he instead calls on us to experience more and more of something better as we experience the forgiveness he offers through his death and the new life of knowing and loving God and people. 

You see money will always talk but when you see the life offered through Jesus' death and resurrection the screams will seem quieter.