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Just As I Am (One More Step / Purity Games / No Broker)
Three songs in one, in a round
This super rough home recording is an experiment: I had written three different song-snippets over the past couple years, each of them thematically related to each other, and I wondered…what if these could be combined into the same song? What if they function as a good ol’ round — one that we might sing around a campfire, or hear in a musical?
This song is highly dependent on the musical composition, not just the lyrics, so I’d recommend you grab some headphones or move to a quiet space where you can hear how it works. To support that, I won’t quite share the lyrics in the same way I normally do.
Have listen (no reading ahead, and then)…
Here’s the story:
Using this fun auto-beat from my grandpa’s old keyboard (reminds me a lot of “Waiting for the World to Change” by John Mayer), I put this together one morning this summer. I added in a hand-drumming on my conga drum: my partner got this for me for my birthday in our first year of marriage, 16 years ago, and I’ve never used it in a song!
The first song snippet I think of being voiced by a desperate past self on the path to purity and perfection, falsely pursuing an idea of a love that needs to be earned.
“One more step and then I’ll be perfect,” the character encourages himself. “One right prayer and then I’ll be good.” I think of the sinner’s prayer, the constant refrain of the person worried their salvation “won’t take.” The mantra continues: “If I do things right, God will love me; if I don’t, then I’m gone for good.” A little bit of constant fear-of-hell thrown in good measure, the constant calculus of morality and worth weighed against potential wrath.
It loops. Of course it loops. I wrote it first as a loop. A never-ending internal loop of constant self-talk, reminiscent of the life inside the skin of the treadmilling believer.
Song two, that’s how the loop breaks: a declaration. “I’m done with these purity games. I’m done with this cycle of shame.”
“I accept myself just as I am.” What a statement.
Can you really say any of those statements? Can you just be done with allowing yourself to visit shame as a place of residence?
Can you accept yourself just as you are?
I don’t meat that as a challenge. I mean that logistically: like, “Can one travel to the moon by ferryboat?”
What does it feel like to try saying it?
“I will not get caught in religion again” — aw, that one’s awkward to say. I mean, anytime we create statements of finality, it makes it tricky to evolve and change. But what I mean here is that Religion, as in, a system where authority demands a pattern of belief and behaviour in order to gain acceptance or acceptability — that’s done. Acceptance and acceptability has no fences, boundaries, gates, hoops or keepers. It’s in you, baby. You, the image of the divine, is in you. No steps, moves, statements, prayers, codes, hymns, chants, words or rites can get you in or out of the presence of Love that is here, now, present.
Legal disclaimer: I am not attempting to undermine anyone’s experience in communities of faith. This is a personal statement only. Human beings gathering in groups to discern the divine and work together towards fruitful aims can be glorious.
Also, colonization (of self and other) is known to occur as a byproduct of intense devotion.
I carry a resistance to the strain of religion that would subjugate. That would impose superior ways of thought upon those viewed as inferior and less-than. A religion that would connect with empire, insist on a right way of being, wield power, disarm its own constituent members, and enforce conformity — that’s what I desire to not get into.
So enter song segment three: I think of it being called “No broker.”
I improvised this song into existence one night in May 2021, after putting the kids to bed: the simple heart-and-soul piano accompaniment was a perfect base for creating line-after-line of “what I don’t need.”
I need no broker,
I need no lamb.
I need no go-between
I need no middleman.
I need no altar.
I need no goat.
I need no voice from above telling me:
”Cut the rope.”
An extended version of “No Broker” segment on its own would include all sorts of twists and turns. Here’s one of my favourites from the improvised first voice demo:
You, me and the raindrops
Me, you and the dew
Mushrooms below us.
Endless sky overhead, blue.
The kingdom’s for children
I’m one of them too
I need no curtain
I’m just coming on through.
I had written dozens of extra lines that didn’t make this mash-up version:
”I need no temple; I need no church. You keep your answers, leave me with the search.”
I’m curious: what would YOU add to the list? (It would be interesting to hear in the comments…doesn’t have to rhyme, but what’s not making the cut for you?)
For this version, the one where they combine into a medley or round, I wanted to keep it straightforward, because there’s enough wackiness to keep track of when they all begin to blend.
So: then they all come together; all three song snippets swirling in a rather disorienting medley, until the piano and drums drop out. The manic mantra of the looping believer; the shameless declaration of the person accepting themselves; the no-broker lines about cutting the rope, all taking place in one cacophonous moment.
Perhaps it sounds like insanity, or simply the soundtrack to the inside of my head, or maybe that’s religious trauma syndrome set to music.
Either way, something about, it though, feels a little cautiously celebratory.
The voice from segment one would say it’s too good to be true, and too heretical to be heard.
The voice from segment two would say, “You are enough.”
The voice from segment three would say, “Just be.”
And that? That’s some good news.
May love encompass you on your journey, shining bright like last night’s full moon, radiating with harvest gratitude.
During this project, I’ve been sharing lo-fi home recordings of songs I wrote throughout the past 2 years, along the pathway of processing the impact of colonization in Canada, religious trauma, purity culture and how it connects to the body, and expressing it through music. Big themes, scary to share at times, but it’s been a really valuable journey for me. If you’re on this list and listening, thank you. It means a ton.
If you’ve found any of these posts meaningful or valuable to you, please let me know with a like, comment or email; it’s very encouraging to me personally. I also value respectful dialogue and exchange, if you’re curious about asking questions.
Following along with this journey is free; choosing a paid subscription helps me raise money to polish and release these as full songs on streaming platforms like Spotify. There’s work to be done improving the recording quality, creating artwork and getting it out there, so if you’d be interested in finding these songs on streaming services (instead of in your inbox), a paid subscription would help along that pathway — just use the fancy button below.
If now’s not the time, no pressure at all; healing is for free. Thanks for listening!