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Advent Day 21: Valium

So when I find a scientist to help me And if I meet the maker of all the universe I'll ask him why we're here and what we're here for And I'll tell them all the stories about our little world

Well, I've been waiting Well, I've been waiting

Sometimes your love it's so quiet I don't even need to speak Sometimes your heart it's so loud I can't even hear the beat


Valium, Lisa Mitchell


 

This is one of my favourite Lisa Mitchell songs. It preserves the playful innocence of her signature sound, but with some added darker undertones. Her soft, almost fragile voice creates a kind of intimacy, especially when paired with the evocative piano part in this song, which helps build towards a gently epic climax. I realise the description, 'gently epic', is a huge oxymoron, and yet I think it may be this very tension that makes ‘Valium’ a uniquely beautiful and haunting song.


Through both the music and lyrics, Mitchell expresses the contradictory nature of love that reveals our fragile humanity as well as the depths of our inner strength and feeling. Valium feels like a particularly interesting choice of simile for talking about love, because it both suggests its wonderfully, intoxicating power, and hints at the brokenness of the human heart and mind that require some kind of medication to survive this world. Even in the childlike wonder of her lyrics, we can hear the quiet echoes of pain and the accompanying questions of the confused human heart:


And if I meet the maker of all the universe I'll ask him why we're here and what we're here for And I'll tell them all the stories about our little world

Listening to this song during advent has again got me reflecting upon the Christmas story, and particularly Mary’s experience of giving birth to the Son of God. The nativity shows us how God chooses to come into the world; he comes humbly and gently as a fragile baby. It’s an entrance that raises almost as many questions as it answers. How completely overwhelming and mind-blowing must it have been for Mary to bring up her son, telling him “stories about our little world”, when this was the very world which he had himself created at the beginning of time? What kind of ridiculous religion is this that believes in a God wrapped in swaddling-clothes?


And yet in some ways, it is not so very odd at all. I think ‘Valium’ helps us to make some sense of this incarnation madness (although I somehow doubt Lisa Mitchell was intending to give us a lesson in theological doctrine)! There’s a fantastic childlike logic in her lyrics; in one sentence she hopes to question her creator with some of life’s biggest questions, and in the very next, she wishes to tell him stories about this universe that he has created. This is what an authentic child-parent relationship looks like. Children love to ask questions, but they also like to share their own ideas, happily oblivious to the possibility that you might already know the answers.


This is exactly the intimate, honest kind of relationship that God wants to have with us. He doesn’t come to this earth to get us all in line, tell us all the answers, and then return to his nice, tidy heaven as swiftly as possibly. He lets us hold him as a baby in our arms and he receives the love of a young, inexperienced mother. I can almost imagine Mary saying these words as she nursed the baby Jesus:


Sometimes your love it's so quiet I don't even need to speak Sometimes your heart it's so loud I can't even hear the beat

This tiny baby grows up to die for the sins of humanity. He is the embodiment of the ‘gently epic’ oxymoron; he arrives so quietly and humbly that we could almost miss him, and yet he is also the saviour of the world.


He is love Himself, the love that we have all been waiting for, the love “that tells us why we're here and what we're here for”.

 

This is part of my LittlePonderings series: "Unseasonal Songs: An Alternative Advent in Song Lyrics". You can find out more here.

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