Thy Just Punishments

9 Sep

Lately I’ve been going through some difficult times. Big transitions, big karma stuff.

To let you know how difficult this apparent midlife crisis has become, I’ve taken to reading Emerson into the wee hours of the night.

He writes about a certain Great Spirit, a grand order of things. There is madness in it, from the human perspective, but there is also a kind of frightening justice.

For example, not long ago one of my favorite writers, Chris Hitchens, came down with a bad case of throat cancer. Hitchens’ writing has always made me nuts. He’s so very good, and so very smart. And sometimes, so very wrong.

But my point being…

Years ago, I had some drinks with Hitchens in a garden at Johns Hopkins University. Several, actually. He smoked Rothmans cigarettes, and I smoked Camels. We both drank gin martinis, the only kind there is, really.

Over the years, I found the need to give up those delightful things.

Hitchens did not.

Who knows if it contributed to his malady, which I pray – ironically, because he would never ask me to – will go away. But even Hitch has acknowledged that his choices may have led to this. And while I don’t think there’s a moral lesson here, I do think there could be a lesson of some kind.

Whether he should have stopped sooner, or not, who knows? God bless him, he’s brilliant either way and too honest for his own good, probably.

Regardless, all of this has me in a Biblical mood, so I wrote a Biblical-sounding (to my ears) song. It’s about cause and effect, and choices, and things resembling justice, or order. I’m not really sure, exactly.

But here it is. It’s called Thy Just Punishments. The title you may recognize if you are Catholic, or were Catholic. It’s from the confessional prayer: “Oh my God, I am heartily sorry, for having offended thee. And I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments…”

Not to get TOO morose here. There’s sunlight shining through the cracks in this black kettle. Or to paraphrase Leonard Cohen from a recent concert: I spent twenty years trying to learn about the world’s great religions… but good cheer kept breaking through.

I recorded this a few days ago but just laid in some organ to make it extra scary. Father Tillman, eat your heart out. 😉

2 Responses to “Thy Just Punishments”

  1. Tim September 30, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Great song brother Jay. Tough subject, especially to those of us who might have slipped a few times in life and wander around wondering just how heavy the old punishment hammer will be when it falls. You can’t out guilt me, don’t even try. Love Tim

  2. Jay September 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks Brother. I think I might need to redo the vocals. They’re a little strained or affected or something. But your words mean a lot. It seems like when we’re young, we can do all kinds of crazy stuff and kind of get away with it or something. Not so once you’ve set sail on that wide ocean of midlife.

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