I was driving home from West Texas in early fall, alone in the car tuning the radio as the sun waned, its warming rays settling below the horizon behind me. I stopped fiddling with the scan button when I heard the plaintive first notes of a male singer, sort of country, some blues, wail from the speakers. Trying to drive and scribble “Baby, you can go or you can stay. But I wanna love you either way” in broken, inky half letters on a coffee, stained fast food napkin I thought about pulling over and googling the lyrics right then and there. I had no clue who this guy was. Thirty seconds into “Either Way” I was smitten.
His was that kind of music. Thrilling to the point of ‘frisson’. At least in my case.
A throwback from our evolutionary hairy past, according to some research, frisson is a French term meaning “aesthetic chills”. Also known as chill bumps and certainly almost never described as skin orgasms in anything but research papers, it is literally waves of pleasure running all over your skin because of music. Researchers estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of the people will have some idea what I am talking about.
Given my faith tradition and penchant for spiritual considerations, I’d love to say I felt it as a Missionary Baptist neophyte belting out “Bringing In The Sheaves”. That however would not be true. While not the same memory of a more familiar use of the term orgasm, I remember my virgin experience of both with equal clarity. Early frisson from music started happening with my family around a turntable and an album called “1001 and Strings”. Sensing the ramifications of his thirteen year old daughter’s heart and psyche, Dad bought me a clunky, black headset. I drowned in the first swells of a crescendo made from cat gut in concert. Tethered to the stereo cabinet, chill bumped legs crossed and eyes closed, I never knew that my sing along was rarely on key. Later it was memorizing something from the piano bench well enough to transmit my heart onto black and white keys. I guess it was a majority of a hundred like minded teenagers driven by frisson of some sort that created the regionally award winning high school Acapella choir out of a little town in Arkansas in the 70s. And then the day came, when a son of my heart brought home the recording of his marching band performing Platoon’s “Adagio for Strings”.
With a bit newer headset, I let the sounds, the music sweep across my mind, looking into the eyes from the son sharing the majesty of it all, no words necessary. Of all the things I had to convince my sons of as their mother, the ability of music to transport the soul was not one of them.
I was and am and always will be a music junkie.
So you can imagine my joy when I found Chris Stapleton.
I was even more joyous when I found out he would be playing at the Houston Rodeo. I read the reviews from his first visit last year. I asked around for who else might be interested. I bought tickets. I got eight. At the top of the stadium. At. The. Top.
I wasn’t the only person who liked Stapleton’s music.
Climbing to our seats, I realized something very distinctly was true about this concert. We weren’t only the oldest people in the place, the over 50 crowd was in the minority. And it wasn’t all white faces. It’s true that Stapleton lives in Nashville and he’s definitely going to be on your country station, but being some kind of county singer wasn’t what brought me to listen. And I would have guessed this age group, this demographic would have gone for someone different than what Stapleton might be advertised as.
When 75,000 people sang along to every song, most of them original to Stapleton, and the place rocked with that many combined voices, I knew we were all there for the same reason. There was no denying his voice, the words he could write, his guitar(s) but behind that was a sense that he loved the music because it was music. In the world of music purveyors, he’s a standout for the soul of it all. His earnestness is obvious.
I looked around that stadium.
A conclusion that puts hope in my heart every time I see it was obvious.
It doesn’t matter what your political party is or the color of your skin or if your face is lined with wrinkles or smooth as a babies butt, there are universal truths that apply to us all. We all seek honesty. Nothing in society will ever change that. Our ability to find it might be hard, we mind get blinded initially but in spite of everything, we pretty much know it when we see it. Genuineness speaks to everyone.
So that makes me wonder about Jesus
And Sam Harris.
Next week I’m going to compare the two. Honestly.
PS I’m listening to “Traveler” .. chill bumps all over me.