Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Everything is Holy Now

Peter Mayer, a Minnesota singer and songwriter, performed at General Assembly. He is a Unitarian Universalist and is perhaps best known for his wonderful song, Blue Boat Home, but I have been totally enraptured by his song, Everything is Holy Now” (click for a You Tube video), which he performed in worship at GA. My wife, Carol, purchased a CD with that song on it and we listened to it driving from Minnesota to Pittsburgh and then back to Denver.

The song is biographical in the sense that Mayer grew up in the Catholic Church. He studied theology and music in college and attended two years at a seminary before he decided that the priesthood wasn’t for him. The song begins with the following lyrics:
“When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow”

And then for Mayer everything changed. Those changes likely brought him to Unitarian Universalism, but they also reflect a spiritual maturity that informs how he sees and relates to the world. The lyrics continue
“Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now.”

He goes back to the past again:
“When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still."

And back to now:
“But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle.”

He clearly would have been at home among our Transcendentalist forbearers who turned to nature to look for divinity. And so he continues:
“Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all.”

And this presents all of us with a challenge daily.
"So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one.”

Of course, he is not talking about miracles that defy the laws of the universe. He is talking about the miraculous nature of the universe flowing out of the Big Bang and continuing on this planet through the equally amazing and miraculous process of evolution. For him as for Emerson (and me), everything is a miracle.
“When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it.”

Mayer pulls a Platonic influence into the song, acknowledging the philosopher’s belief that the material world was somehow a poor copy of the non-material world of forms, which possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. And so Mayer sings,
“It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now.”

In the end, Mayer reforms religious language just like Emerson, Thoreau, and those other Transcendentalists.
“Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done.”

It is interesting to read the impact of his music in parts of the Christian community. Some are repelled and others are enamored. Of course as Mayer says himself, “As a songwriter I enjoy leaving room for people to find their own kind of faith reflected in my songs. I often do try to focus on what people have in common—religious beliefs, shared citizenry of the world. [I want my songs to] bridge those barriers, so [my songs don’t] favor one theology.”

“This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now.”



Unknown said...

"Everything is Holy Now" has stimulated the emotional and spiritual feelings that were too intellectual when looking at the universe from just a scientific , though beautiful, perspective.

Peter Mayer's song merges with Michael Dowd's message, ("Thank God foe Evolution") perfectly.

Unknown said...

I want the sheet music. Does anyone know whee to get it?

Anonymous said...

i am a big fan of Peter Mayer and have been for years. He lives in Minnepolis,MN and I am sure he would send a copy of the lyrics. Plus I believe he has a web site.

But there are two Peter Mayer singer/ is from Texas and he is good, too....but not this good!