This summer I was studying abroad at Oxford.
While playing Scrabble in a local pub, I met a man named Karimm.
Skinny, Singaporean, splotchy leather skin, this raggedy ramblin’ man zigzagged from street to grey street corner, across tall country borders, hugging and strumming his warm guitar, wearing a gap toothed grin.
Someone asked him where he was from.
“I’m from everywhere. I’m from nowhere. I wander place to place looking for a groovy sidewalk space to sing my songs and feel alive.”
Someone asked him what he did for a living.
“I’m a pot head.”
Someone asked him why he loved to play music.
“I love music because when I was a child my parents ignored me— avoided me like I was a dog with fleas, ready to bite. No one knew how to hear. I got locked up inside and stopped knowing how to speak.”
“But when I sing, when I play, all those things that are entombed inside me cry out, and I get to see them reverberate with the sound waves around me, bouncing off of all the ears listening.”
“I get to see it resonate like seizing silver bells trembling with the same knowledge of loneliness and desire. Of hell.”
“That’s why I love to play.”
Karimm reminded me of a story CS Lewis once told about heaven, hell, and inbetweens.
Lewis’ hell was not a fire pit. It was grey nothingness.
The curse of the inhabitants was that they could not see beyond themselves; they were stuck, egocentric and alone, even though so many more of the dead were wafting all around them. They chose to be unconscious of others, and it made them blind to God. This is what condemned them.
Karimm is another man just like us all.
He hears his spirit curl out of his fingertips and tremble through his tenor singing, and he knows it is the cry of desperation, of incomprehensible groanings.
Every man, whether he knows it or not, moans with music from his depths to be seen and heard by Love.
Some of us call it worship. Others just don’t have eyes to see it yet.