Who’s Angry?

I hear that many conservatives are concerned about the rap they get for being angry. I can appreciate the mischaracterization. The coming trend seems to be, if it can be believed, that now all the progressives are defensive, embittered, and–gasp!–angry.

When dealing with individual persons, it’s almost never a good idea to label someone as angry. If the person is truly on edge, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, not so much a fact. And if it’s true, we can ask ourselves: is such a label likely to be helpful? I have a friend who characterizes himself as happy. He puts it on his blog for all to see. And yet, he’s tripped himself up not with anger so much, but with other behaviors that don’t look happy. Is he one way inside and another way for the world? Could be. My sense is that it’s probably better not to say anything.

I think there are group efforts on the internet that have a relentless mob mentality about them. I don’t think any chant musician wakes up in the morning with the top of their to-do list reading, “1. Insult David Haas today.” But you get a group of like-minded people together, and the temperature seems to have nowhere to go but up. And up and up.

I see my friend Jeffrey Tucker has written another manifesto on the Chant Cafe. With a line like …

The idea (of the 1970/75 translation) was to make the liturgy more directly communicative; but the approach did not stand the test of time and, in the end, managed only to make the liturgy tedious. It was a brilliant but colossal error.

… how can you not, if you care, place yourself into one of two camps: the pom poms or the tums? It’s the kind of tack that happens when one of my brothers or my friend Tom says something outrageous about sports or our family of origin. I either cheer or tell him he’s off his flippin’ rocker. And we have another beer and move on. Like Steelers-Raiders in the 70’s: nothing is settled–it moves on to the next war, the next decade, the next friendly drink. My wife or my mother shakes her head at the incomprehensible rudeness of men. But that’s life.

There’s an idea behind Jeffrey’s rhetoric, and it’s a brilliant and colossal reflection of his criticism of MR1. Posts like his are intended to make an enthusiastic and perceptive argument in favor of chant. But what they do instead is prolong a tedious argument like a pub discussion on the merits of conflicting favorite teams and/or athletes. Nothing is going to get solved. But sans beer, we’ll have a heck of a time releasing our inner enzymes, if not demons. We’ll raise our voices and increase blood flow in our cappillaries. Unfortunately, we won’t get the chance to tell someone quietly he’s been drinking too much, or commiserate about women past and present, or pat him on the back, or make the other connections that come so much more easily in real life.

Somehow, we need that beer. Because lacking it, and the brotherly slaps of affection, this discussion on who’s happier is going to keep spinning its wheels.

I’d say there are enough new people getting into liturgical music of all sorts that any number of people are looking forward to the future. Even for an old hand like myself, I still find excitement in the high school and college students who discover sacred music.  I’m happy to live through music ministry as they experience it–a first Midnight Mass or Easter Vigil or a first time being a psalmist. It’s in the excellence of people, and to a lesser degree, excellence in music that I find liturgical ministry fresh and joyful after thirty years. In the old days, I tended to be more self-critical, and definitely harsh with others from time to time. Today, I’m more angry with incompetence in Rome, but a run through the Serenity Prayer and a few deep breaths, and they haven’t gotten rid of me yet.

So how are you readers with all this: frown or grin?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Who’s Angry?

  1. Liam says:

    St Blog’s is a place where the whisper earns far more attention and credibility than the grandiose gesture. It is already littered with grandiosity and manifestos like so much gravel.

    Amy Welborn and Peter Nixon understood this better than many.

  2. Copernicus says:

    To be fair to Jeffrey this latest posting shows something of a change in his own outlook, which to my mind is most welcome. On the one hand there’s a new warmth towards the renewed liturgy, on the other a recognition that his outlook has been (and is still?) coloured by “dreaming of some idyllic past”.

    Eventually those who know enough and care enough find that they meet in the middle after all.

  3. jeffrey Tucker says:

    Hmmm, not sure I’ve ever really dreamed of an idyllic past, so, sorry to report, that wasn’t self criticism. :) As for the us/them approach that Todd rightly and wisely renounces, I need to be better about looking forward – I try to – and yet I suspect I’ll be forever trying to wrap my brain around the mysteries of the past. I assure you that I never set out to offend or insult even though I do understand that this has variously been the regrettable result.

    Thank you Todd for taking on these issues.

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