I didn’t listen to sermons very often. My dad preached a lot, but what knowledge I gleaned from the sermons tended to be while I was trying to distract myself, gleaning tiny notes I could add to conversations later on to avoid an ass kicking. But I did pay attention to the one my dad gave with his hand on the pulpit, his voice loud and terrifying, when he began THE ROCK IS GOING TO FALL ON US.
He quoted the whole song.
Not as a song, not as this tale of back and forth. He recited it as poetry, without pitch and timbre, and with the building, frothing cadence of a preacher. From the timid lurking fear of the beginning to the crashing, potent terror of the last segment, this song was turned to the Christ metaphor. He closed a sermon that was laden with eschatalogical terror as it was with exhortation to do better in our own lives, with the line the rock slips a little bit.
The story of the original song, when expressed by Harry Chapin didn’t seem to have that same religious potency. It was about people. It was about listening to the outsider in our midst. It was about a person who respected what could go wrong so well they worked and struggled and strived and used what they had, even to their last, to try and save people from worse fates.
It’s a scary fucking song.
But the thing about the song that I’m reminded of today is of a friend, dear and kind, who is up on the hillside, building barricades. They’re fighting against something that doesn’t have to happen again. They’re striving and struggling and they are doing their work in part with poetry and with music, things that scored this message into my mind in the first place.
You do not believe it right now, so I have written it down and you can come back and check:
You are beautiful.
You are wonderful.
You deserve to be heard, respected, and loved.
And anything that tells you otherwise wants to lie to you to control you.
Please do remember this.