Paul Poulton reflects on the ways life may not turn out the way we had hoped.
The Beach Boys' song "Wouldn't It Be Nice" begins with:
"Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long?
And wouldn't it be nice to live together In the kind of world where we belong?"
The lush harmonies and cheery tune belie the lament informing us that the singer is not content. The song tells us that he has a nice girl, life seems to be going his way, and yet he has a yearning. I wonder why he's dissatisfied with his lot.
The top ten hit became an iconic Beach Boys' song and still gets airtime 53 years after it was first released. Recently the song is being used in ads for the action role-playing game "Fallout 76" and "Sky Mobile's" TV campaign. The song's theme rings a bell for many people: "Yeah, wouldn't it be nice if."
We may think life would be nice if. But life's not like that, even when we get what we want "life" will simply not run a smooth straight course; it gets rough around the edges and can rip us in two if caution is not taken to negotiate its twists and turns with care.
Most school teachers do their best to educate us, leaving us with the impression that if we have a "smart career goal" the ideal job is just around the corner, also waiting in the wings is a fun-filled family with 1.9 children. There will certainly be SUVs, holidays abroad, and our local football team will one day make good.
And for some of the time, some of our goals may materialise. And when they do, people will look to us as an admirable role model with a shedful of life-skills and they may even base a part of their lives on our success. When that happens the heroes themselves will soon feel the pressure to live up to their own image. For many of these successful "people of the hour" they are destined to be legends in their own lunchtime.
William Shakespeare advised us that "The course of true love never did run smooth." He was correct, but perhaps we can extend his counsel to include life itself, life will not play ball.
Brian Wilson, who sang "Wouldn't It Be Nice," created a collection of sparklingly resplendent music with the Beach Boys, and yet Brian has wended his way through some of life's dark valleys. People who've seen his photo will note that his eyes slope down towards the edges of his face giving him a doleful dejected appearance even when he's smiling. Astute listeners to Beach Boy songs may detect pathos unlike any other band from the vibrant 1960s music scene. Wilson admits that "The sadness came from me. Came from my heart."
At their prime The Beach Boys' image exuded a sun kissed, sportive, sea surfing host of good vibrations, consequently people lifted them high. Some people who gain our attention: politicians, church leaders, the successful businessperson can fall from their state of public grace into the public's distaste. Perhaps one reason why we lift up celebrities high is that we know what goes up must come down and seeing former high-flyers floundering makes us all feel a little more normal and life's game suddenly seems like a level playing field. We know that life is not plain sailing for us or them, we often wish it were - wouldn't it be nice?
If all our friends were faithful and true, it would be nice. If family members never criticised each other and kept in contact, it would be nice. If political problems were easily solved by astute caring politicians, it would be very nice.
But life's not like that! And in one way I'm glad that it isn't. I need to know what I'm made of and what the reality actually is, so sometimes, God, in his grace, allows us to see deep into our own nature and sometimes into the lives of other people. And when we are allowed a window to peer through into the lives of other people, who for one reason or another have fallen from the pedestal that the public placed them on, none of us will be in a position to gloat because, as C S Lewis said, "priests are wicked men like the rest of us."
A new documentary on Brian Wilson is due out in 2019. I've heard about people who've finally got to meet their own particular famous idol (whoever it may be) only to be surprised and deflated by their face to face encounter. Over the years Brian has been notoriously hard to interview and the director of the new film, Brent Wilson, explained that the first two interviews with Brian for the movie "were both 20 minutes of pain." Brent explained that Brian "almost had a physical reaction to me putting a microphone on him."
Famous people are people after all, and we know what people are like because you and I are people. Brent Wilson persevered with the documentary and ended up finding an interesting angle from which to film Brian: Andy Green writing for Rolling Stone says "Contrary to many people's misconceptions about Wilson's mental state, he is eloquent, introspective and surprisingly funny throughout the film."
We all know what life is like with its ups and downs. Life is the great leveller, for we are all levelled by the human condition. Famous people can offer us hope in one way or another. "Pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again (James 5:16-18 MSG).The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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