CCM: I think there’s this acute awareness of pain in Rich’s poetry. What is it about brokenness that really binds us together?
JG: Richard Rohr says, “The two most transformational experiences in a human’s life are either great love or great suffering.” And so I think, man, all of our big songs are either about great love or great suffering because those “me too” moments feel especially meaningful, especially in great loss. And so I think pain is such a connector because we need assurance that we aren’t alone over and over again. I also think that we’re so averse to pain, and so afraid of pain, and we want to avoid it that it’s really hard for us to be present to it, which can make us feel disconnected from ourselves in the midst of our own pain—so we not only feel separated from everyone else but we feel separated from ourselves. So those meaningful, careful songs about pain can help us reconnect to the parts of the story that we are afraid to connect with.
AC: I’m a recovering addict. I know what it’s like to be way down in the hole, not delivering any kind of excellence on any level. And I’m keenly aware of people that were kind to me for no good reason. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t repay ‘em. I was a wreck. And there’s a part of me that’s still equally broken, so I best not forget that. And I think Rich was very aware … that broken piece in me, that shattered part of me, that’s the best thing I have to give away. That is the seat of anything decent in me. No question. And I need to stay tied to it.
I feel joyful and grateful to be alive, and to have a life. It shouldn’t have gone down that way. If I personally stay connected to that broken piece in me, then I am very aware of the brokenness around me. If I start to think I have something going for myself, all is lost. ‘Cause even if I do, who cares? Who really cares? [Laughs] Is that gonna’ help anybody?
CCM: Your story reminds me of a famous Rich lyric: “Surrender don’t come natural to me / I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want, than to take what you give that I need.” Does surrender ever become natural, become easy?
AC: I just think kind of all sin is original sin. And that whole desire to be God in my own life and in somebody else’s life … me being in charge has really not worked out. When I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I used to hear the [phrase], “My best thinking got me here.” So, clearly nobody needs to put me in charge on anybody’s committee. [Laughs]
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