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All Things Begin and End With R.E.M.

October 3, 2011


Photo by Kevan Williams

Over the next week or so we will be posting various thoughts, articles, etc about the band R.E.M., who recently called it quits after thirty-one years. Kicking things off is my sister Brittany Harvey. She has a blog of her own, attends Austin Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of James Madison University. She, like myself, also spent a lot of her childhood in Athens, GA. Here are her thoughts:

It is a common belief in Christian theology that all things begin and end in God. God created all things, and in the end, all things will return to be reunited with God. This is the eschatological view not as popularized in the media as predicting the exact day of the Day of Judgment--win sinners will be condemned and all that mess. I believe the first thought--all things begin and end in God. But I also believe all things begin and end with R.E.M.

My earliest memories of routine are of my dad driving me to preschool in the church we attended, and where my dad worked in Athens, Georgia. On our way we would pass a little red church. At some point the church was taken down--though I always imagined it being transported and set down somewhere else perfectly unchanged--and all that was left was the steeple, rising out of the ground. I had a deep love of this church/steeple as a kid. It was my favorite place in Athens, though I never saw it outside of my dad’s car on the way to preschool at our church.

It turns out that the church we passed everyday was St. Mary’s Episcopal, where Michael Stipe, and drummer, Peter Buck lived, and where the band played its first live show. Though I was in preschool well after the transition to Warner Bros. records, I had no idea who R.E.M. was, and no idea that that steeple on the ground had anything to do with them.

I became familiar with them in elementary school, listening to them as the high school kids in the church youth group who were on the trips my dad led played Automatic for the People and Monster. I kind of stumbled onto a concert they were giving on the National Mall in middle school while on a church trip. I got into them myself in high school. For about ten years, they have been one of my favorite bands. That list always fluctuates, but they are consistently in the top five.

My experience of R.E.M. throughout my life has been one of familiarity--whether it was familiarity with an Athens landmark or my own record collection. It has been one tied to the church. It is through my connection with the church that I know who R.E.M. is, what they sound like, why they matter. If Christian doctrine says that the end is like the beginning, then I guess the end of the world will be familiar in that it will find itself wherever R.E.M is relocated--perfectly reassembled like my childhood understanding of St. Mary’s--and left standing, rising out of the ground like a steeple, directing our gaze beyond themselves. And if Michael Stipe’s voice is at all prophetic--and I believe that it is--then the end of the world will sound pretty good. He will DJ, and I’ll feel fine.

1 comments:

Teach said...

I'm glad you mentioned the red steeple. I thought about it, and then I was like I bet Brittany uses that.

October 6, 2011 at 9:54 PM

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