How, you ask? Take Otis’s gem ‘Try A Little Tenderness.’ This song has a mysterious power to it: it not only talks about tenderness; it is tenderness; it drives you to be tender. In Catholic theological lingo, it’s sacramental, a symbol that contains the very reality it points to. It’s like how baptismal water is not only a symbol of the Holy Spirit at work; it actually is the Holy Spirit at work. We have seven official Sacraments of the church, but that’s not to say there aren’t ‘lowercase-s’ sacraments that do the same thing on a smaller scale. For me, the sacrament of Otis reveals and enacts a transcendent love and hope and faith. It’s kind of like Communion. Kind of.
Rick Moody’s brilliant essay ‘On Celestial Music’ puts this a lot better:
…you can be made a better person by watching Otis Redding deliver this song; you will go into the next room, and you will look at your husband, or your wife, or your child, you will look at the people whom you have treated less well than you might have, and you will kneel in front of these people and you will beg for the chance to try a little harder and to make their burdens a little less burdensome. If those five minutes of grace are not an example of what lies out there, beyond what we daily understand, if those five minutes are not like unto a candle that glimmers in the unending darkness of life on earth, then I have no idea what paradise is.
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