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Speak Out: Hope and Healing

By Lisa Wersal
ART TIMES Spring 2015

The Winter issue of Art Times is noteworthy, not just for its reviews and opinions, but for its opinions about opinions, which prompted my own…

In his column “To See or Not To See,” Henry Raleigh is circumspect about his profession of film criticism, displaying tongue-in-cheek anguish over the discord among film critics on Woody Allen’s most recent film, “Magic in the Moonlight.” Raleigh is in a dilemma over whether “to see or not to see” the film. An option he did not consider would be to not go and pretend he did. Or, there’s always the Mission Impossible strategy -- go, but destroy all evidence of having gone. I am not a Woody Allen fan, so the solution to Raleigh’s conundrum would be an easy choice for me. Having seen a few of Allen’s films, I would say that I’ve already seen a few too many.

In “Peeks and Piques,” Raymond Steiner forcefully sticks to his guns, defending his “long view” of art. Though he has touched on this topic before, this articulate and well-laid-out explanation got through to me like no other. As a faithful reader, I feel some relief at having reached a level of concordance with our esteemed curmudgeon editor. I understand him now.

Lastly, I will highlight music columnist Leslie Herman’s “Healing the World with a Song,” in which she invites inner-reflection – on meaning, motivation, and emotional depth – as we strive to heal our world. She asks, “…are we rising up, and are we moved as powerfully and profoundly as we should [be]?” In between the lines, there’s an unspoken challenge for musicians and music lovers alike, to move and be moved, to find inspiration, to make a difference. She closes by advising us to keep a song in our hearts.

The song held in my heart these days is “Justice,” by Minnesota musician Kevin Anderson. The lyrics of this song advise that we not hate people because of whom they love, and that we not love and adulate people because of whom they choose to hate. Anderson is a Catholic priest, and his latest CD, “Hope: Vision of Soulfulness,” is my favorite collection of music by Catholic religious since the Medical Mission Sisters ushered in the era of the “guitar mass” with their “Joy is Like the Rain” album of the 1960s. Anderson’s CD contains many spiritual references, and clearly fits the Christian music category, yet his consciousness-raising and prompting of listeners toward social action is reminiscent of 1960s folk music.

Another song from Anderson’s CD speaks directly to his title concept of hopefulness, with lyrics: “Without hope, I can’t. Without me, hope won’t.” Similar phrasing recurs throughout the song, for example, “Without peace, I can’t. Without me, peace won’t.” This song emphasizes that our high ideals and good intentions are for naught, if we don’t put them into action, if we don’t rise up. In this regard, Anderson and Herman seem kindred spirits, encouraging our commitment to purpose.

Can music heal the world? Well, music has certainly been an integral and healing force in my life, so perhaps my best response is to mirror Anderson’s turn of phrase: Without music, I can’t. Without me, music won’t.

(Lisa Wersal is a writer and musician from Vadnais Heights, Minnesota. More info on Fr. Kevin Anderson’s CD, along with a short video of him singing, can be found at http://visitor.stcdio.org/concert-debuts-priests-musical-self-retreat-cd/).

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