A wintery reflection on what lingers after loss and the struggle to not define something – an experience, a relationship, a life – solely by the nature of its ending.
Listen, stream, or download today as you enter this holiday season...
I find it heartbreaking that native land and ways of life continue to be violated in North America – especially at a time when native peoples' traditional understandings of the interconnectedness of all living things, of water as the source of life, and of non-violence as the way for resolving conflict could provide many of the very things I believe we need to heal as a nation. This song was born of my lament and reflection on such things, and as an ode to the river's beauty.
Mni wiconi (Water is life.)
In compiling a larger group of songs, I realized a pattern forming in this small handful that carry themes of mercy & making. So I got to thinking about how the songs might fit together and then got to work. What you hear is the product of that process.
In Hebrew, the word for mercy is actually the same word as womb with different vowel points. In light of that, I’ve heard mercy defined as “womb-like mother love” or the willingness and capacity to give oneself over entirely for the sake of another. I’ve found that any encounter with mercy seems to be generative of some creative act–either making something of the stuff of our experience or moving us to make in response to it (or more often some combination of the two). This connection in mercy’s etymology to the word womb seems to characterize that nurturing, creative aspect of it that I’ve intuited. And that’s exciting to me.
So these songs explore what mercy makes of us, what it makes of time, and how it can restore what we have made of things when we haven't done the best job.
As for the title, "The Mercy Tapes"... it is a riff off an author whose work I read gratefully. Dr. Brene Brown talks about the "shame tapes" that play in our heads that say things like "You'll never be good enough," or on an occasion in which we might start to believe we could be, "Who do you think you are?!" I'm well acquainted with these tapes, as it seems many of us are. The shame that speaks these lies isolates us. Shame erodes our humanity & sense of worth, it breaks us apart when we're meant to do this together. Another way I've heard mercy defined is a "generous connectedness to the other." My hope is that rather than those all too familiar, all too divisive shame tapes that we might have different words on repeat in our minds–words that remind us who we are and that we belong to each other and that move us to connect generously. Maybe those words would more appropriately be called "mercy tapes.” I don’t claim that the words found in these songs would function as those tapes for all of us, but they are words that I have pieced together in my journey from shame to mercy, from hidden to known, and from alone to together. And I hope they can be valuable to you in yours.
So, “may mercy make much of us as only mercy can"...time and time again,