I was recently reading about John Denver. Probably my favorite song of his is Thank God I’m a Country Boy (which described, to some degree, the life I aspired to as a child, not the one I had):
I was also extremely fond of Christmas for Cowboys:
Anyway, he had a somewhat tumultuous life and died in a plane crash where we was piloting an experimental plane that he was flying. He was also somewhat politically active, championing environmental concerns, being against the NRA, backing Jimmy Carter, and so on. Still, this was from the time when celebrities didn’t—or weren’t allowed to—mix their politics into their art by way of expressing venomous hatred for fans who disagreed. And without the internet, one didn’t tend to run into their off-duty political rants nearly as often. Ah, the good old days. But it brings up a very interesting point: John Denver meant something very different to a ten year old me than he meant to himself.
In one sense that’s obvious. To me he was primarily his music while to him he was primarily a man. But in another sense, it does bring in a fascinating point about God’s governance of the universe. As I’ve written about, You Rarely Know What Good You Do. Electronic reproduction, which brings out lives into contact with people we’ll never meet, makes this even more obvious. I don’t know whether John Denver was a humble man, but I do know that his song Thank God I’m a Country Boy did help to teach a very young me about humility. I don’t know if he even thought of that song as being about humility. He may well have thought of it as being about not being suckered in by the promises of city life and/or living within your means. But even if he did, it still taught me lessons about humility.
I’ve never understood when people get hung about what their “identity” is. How on earth do they know? First, they’re a work in progress. Second, they don’t know most of what they do. How on earth are they supposed to know what their “identity” is. For the most part our identity is out of our control, anyway. How we relate to others is dominated by the world, not by us. Which means that it’s almost entirely under God’s direction, not ours, even in the limited sense in which our choices are not God’s direction of the world. (Which is a useful sense, even if not the truest sense.)
And John Denver is a good example of this. He was someone important to me but he never knew that I existed and consequently had no idea who he was to me.
Life must be lived in faith, since it sure as hell can’t be lived in present knowledge of what we’re doing.
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