NPR has graciously given us an interview with Unitarian Universalist pastor Jeffrey Symynkywicz and an excerpt from his book The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Redemption from Asbury Park to Magic. Because it's Monday and I'm off to a bad start to my day, I'm posting the Boss' Ten Suggestions for Spiritual Living here so that we can all memorize and hopefully make the world a better place:
1. The world has gone awry. The world according to Bruce is often portrayed as a gritty, conflicted, sometimes dark and sinister place. It differs for the particular characters involved in each song, of course, but the darkness is always there on the edge of things or not very far beneath the surface.
2. There is a power within the souls of men and women to transcend the world and to achieve real victories in spite of the world. For every homeless loser who has left his wife and kids high and dry back in Baltimore, there is that good man or good woman who works endlessly at a thankless job to meet his or her responsibilities. People have within them the power to choose to be true to themselves and what really matters.
3. The world is as it is. There is both great pain and great joy in life, Springsteen affirms. Once we have accepted that the pain is part of the deal, then we are free to experience genuine joy when it comes our way.
4. Life without connections is empty and dangerous. Springsteen sings of a stark array of misfits, criminals and losers. But there is always compassion in the portraits he presents, and we sense that the line between winners and losers is a narrow one and that what differentiates the former from the latter are the connections they have with other people.
5. Our stories symbolize something deeper. The great lie of our contemporary, celebrity-crazed culture is that only the rich and famous have stories worth telling. There are almost no celebrities featured in Springsteen's songs. His stories are our stories, and the wisdom (as well as the folly) they contain is ours, too.
6. Life is embodied. Sexuality is intrinsically neither good nor evil, Springsteen implies; here, as in all human ventures, only good soil will produce worthy fruit.
7. It's all about change. If we cling to the past, it withers and dies. If we let it go gracefully and move on to the next stage of our lives, the gifts of the past can continue to bless us.
8. There is no guarantee of success. Sometimes life teaches us lessons about humility and silence and emptiness and pain and unanswered prayers. At those times, we know that our true treasure is the power of our own integrity, and our reward lies in keeping faith with those other decent, down-to-earth, hardworking people everywhere.
9. Hope is resilient. The men and women in Springsteen's songs may win or they may lose, but they seldom abandon all hope. Despair is seldom, if ever, given the final word. It is hope that carries us human ones on the sacred vector toward life's divine possibilities.
10. There is always something more. If Bruce is luminous in his work — shining a light of perception on the horizontal dimension of this earthly life — so he is numinous as well — casting this life we lead in the brilliance of an almost mystic glow; shedding the radiance of discernment on that vertical beam which crashes through the linear plane of existence and points it toward that which is higher, deeper, somehow transcendent.