Acts of Small Rebellions

You might have heard the name of Martin Luther King and even heard his famous “I have a dream” speech. But did you know how the civil rights movement started? It started like this:

Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955. Early evening. A public bus pulls to a stop and a sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on. She carries herself erectly, despite having spent the day bent over an ironing board in a dingy basement tailor shop at the Montgomery Fair department store. Her feet are swollen, her shoulders ache. She sits in the first row of the Colored section and watches quietly as the bus fills with riders. Until the driver orders her to give her seat to a white passenger.

The woman utters a single word that ignites one of the most important civil rights protests of the twentieth century, one word that helps America find its better self.

The word is “No.”

The driver threatens to have her arrested.

“You may do that,” says Rosa Parks.

A police officer arrives. He asks Parks why she won’t move. “Why do you all push us around?” she answers simply.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But the law is the law, and you’re under arrest.”

On the afternoon of her trial and conviction for disorderly conduct, the Montgomery Improvement Association holds a rally for Parks at the Holt Street Baptist Church, in the poorest section of town. Five thousand gather to support Parks’s lonely act of courage. They squeeze inside the church until its pews can hold no more. The rest wait patiently outside, listening through loudspeakers. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd. “There comes a time that people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression,” he tells them. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid st the piercing chill of an Alpine November.”

(Excerpt taken from Susan Cain’s Quiet: The power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking)

A little bit of context if you’re being introduced to the topic first time. During the time of Martin Luther King Jr. racial segregation was practiced in US. For example, there were different schools for black children and white children. In army, there were black units & white units. However, both of them would be led only by white officers. In the incident described above, there were different sections in the Bus where black or “colored” people can sit and where white people can sit. And then there was a law that allowed white passengers to take seats in the colored section if they so desired. And then came “No”. An act of civil disobedience.

Although not all of us are likely to start massive movements as a result of something we do, let’s take this incident as an illustration of what little acts of rebellion can achieve. Note here that Rosa Parks is going against the law of the land for something she believes to be right. She believes that all people are equal and white people shouldn’t have the right to take seats allotted to black people. And she acts on it going against the law. Going against the current.

In our lives, daily we may come across opportunities to go against the current and do what is right. Maybe it’s helping someone cross the road. Maybe it’s standing up for one of our peers who’s constantly being teased. Maybe it’s owning up to our mistakes when an easy target to shift the blame is nearby. Maybe it’s helping someone. Maybe it’s picking up someone’s trash and putting it in dustbin. Maybe it’s being kind. Maybe it’s being patient. Maybe it’s shutting up when we want to lash out. Maybe it means turning the other cheek. Do we have courage to go against the tide whether or not it’s popular thing to do? G K Chesterton used to say, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Are we dead or living?

As you ponder upon these things, let me leave you with a song. The song is called Small Rebellions by Jars of Clay.

God of the break and shatter
Hearts in every form still matter
In our weakness help us see
That alone we’ll never be
Lifting any burdens off our shoulders

If our days could be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

God of the warn and tattered
All of Your people matter
Give us more than words to speak
Cause we are hearts and arms that reach
And love climbs up and down the human ladder

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

The fall

We will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
The current and the fall

The fall…

You can listen to the song here.

Mercies New

Regrets are the tollbooths of human life. Just like tollbooths, regrets stop us from whatever we are doing and exacts a price from our time & emotional energy. To me, living without regrets seems almost impossible. It seems to me that if we went in search for a man who had no regrets, we would never end our search. And if we do find one, I can safely say that we have found the most ignorant fool on earth. We all have done something we regret. It can be something we did or something we said or it can even be something we didn’t say or do. Whatever the case may be we all have our burdens to bear. These burdens have a way of weighing us down. If we let them, they’ll keep us from getting out of our bed. We won’t have the courage to face the day. I’ve been there and it’s not a nice place to be.

But over the years, I’ve realized certain truths that keep me moving no matter how bad the situations get. Some of them are common sense, but the primary ones are inescapably linked to my faith. I know where I’ve anchored my ship and no matter the size or the shape of storm before me, the anchor will hold. I know that I can lose everything in my life, but I will always have a place to return to. That place is on my knees. I know a love that is more jealous and demanding than death. Standing on these tremendous truths, many of life’s struggles become infantile. These give me strength to be unfazed by the challenges of life.

The secondary truths are more simple and practical ones. I realized long time back that worrying about something changes nothing but your blood pressure. I see each new day as a new opportunity. Even if the previous day I failed miserably, that is in the past. I can’t change the past. The only time I can act is present. And if now I stand frozen at the horror of my shortcomings of yesterday, I will still be in the same place tomorrow, frozen at the shortcomings of my today. The only way to break the cycle is to get up and move.

The whole world stands nowhere but upon the grace & mercies of God. The sun shines both on the good and the wicked. All of us have sinned and fallen short. But to all of us, a promise is also given. A promise of forgiveness and redemption. A promise of renewed mercies every morning. And he says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

To conclude, let me leave you with a song that communicates beautifully the truth of God’s mercies. It reminds us that the stores of his mercies are inexhaustible and no matter how many times or how far we have fallen, we can always come back to the mercy seat. The song is “Mercies New” by Nichole Nordeman.

Is it fair to say I was lured away?
By endless distractions and lovelier attractions then
Or fairer still, my own free will
Is the better one to blame for this familiar mess
I’ve made again

So I would understand if You were out of patience
And I would understand if I was out of chances

And Your mercies are new every morning
So let me wake with the dawn
When the music is through or so it seems to be
Then let me sing a new song, old things gone
Every day it’s true, You make all Your mercies new

The distance left between East and West
Is how far You would go to forget the debt I’d owe
And thrown into the sea, the wicked ways in me
Will never have a chance to wash back on the sand

So I would understand if You would make me pay
And I would understand lying in the bed I made again

Your mercies are new every morning
So let me wake with the dawn
When the music is through or so it seems to be
Let me sing a new song, old things gone
Every day it’s true, You make all Your mercies new

Up comes the sun on every one of us
Gone, gone, gone the guilt and shame that knew Your name

Your mercies are new every morning
So let me wake with the dawn
When the music is through or so it seems to be
Let me sing a new song, old things gone
Every day it’s true, You make all Your mercies new

You can listen to the song here.

A Secret Chord

It’s been long time since I wrote a blog. And there’s so much going on around the world and in my life that I don’t get time to write. I’ve been trying to focus my writing on current affairs but to my horror no affair seems to be current for more than a week. I’m like, “Hold on! Think about this for a moment.” But nobody’s listening. Everybody has moved on to the next big controversy. Or the next big tragedy. Blame it on technology. Blame it on progress. But the end result is we have become a civilization that is on the run. From what? To where? We don’t know. But everybody runs.

But that’s a rant for another day. Today I want to focus on something else. I want to focus on something that everyone likes. Do you know what the most generic answer to the question “What are your hobbies?” is? Listening to Music. Today, I want to do 2 things with this blog.

  1. Introduce a new Series of blogs.
  2. Highlight one of my favorite songs.

Let’s get on with no. 1. Music has been my anchor through good and bad times. It’s been my teacher and comforter. Perhaps, I’ve learned more lessons from music and songs than from anything else. But how? How can music teach? Isn’t it there just for entertainment? Not for me. How dare anyone limit the scope of music to “just for entertainment”? I have learned singing, English, interpreting poetry, philosophy, theology through music. I developed a taste for sublimity from nothing but music. There are great treasures hidden in the songs that we hear. I just want to highlight these treasures.

And when I say that the music has a potential to teach, that potential comes largely from the lyrics. However, with great music accompanying great lyrics, the lyrics come alive and become unforgettable. Sometimes, the songs become the part of our own identity. And in this way, some songs become timeless artifacts of the human condition. They become eternal, relevant through all times. Very much in contrast to our current tendencies of running after the next best (or the worst) thing. I think the way to cure our world from chronic amnesia is poetry. And the world needs poets and romantics more than it needs economists, technologists & politicians.

So, in an attempt to nurture poet inside you, I want to do a series of blog posts that will highlight an artists or a song that has stayed with me for years and will stay with me for years to come. These songs have struck a secret chord with me and I hope they do it with you as well. I will be tagging all my articles in this series with the tag “a secret chord“.

Let me introduce the song that I want to highlight today. It is also a song from which I’m stealing the title for this series of blog posts. It is, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohan. The best musical rendition is from “Jeff Buckley” but a lot of other artists have also covered it. Here’s the lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing “Hallelujah”

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 2]
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 3]
Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 4]
There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 5]
You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 6]
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

[Verse 7]
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

So, why do I love this song? Because it defies categorization. There are parts of the song that I don’t fully understand, but I can’t deny a certain mystical allure of the song. It haunts me from time to time. It is not perfect. It is broken. But still, it’s beautiful. It’s something to wrestle with.

As this is just the first post, I won’t go in deeper into the lyrics. I’ll leave that to you. For now, go on and listen to the song from Youtube.