Thursday, January 12, 2012

Monsignor Giussani's unlikely brother: Bruce Springsteen

Monsignor Luigi Giussani: meet Bruce Springsteen.

Earlier this week, I discovered a connection between these two men, one the late founder of a worldwide ecclesiastical movement and the other ranked Rolling Stone's 23rd greatest artist of all time. Both men tell us we can encounter beauty and meaning in every moment.

As a woman who started life in New Jersey and now is raising her family here, I am drawn to Bruce Springsteen's soaring, rocking rhythms, and his lyrics, which hold out always the possibility of redemption. As I pulled into the parking lot of the high school the other day, the words of "Tunnel of Love" blaring from my van's CD player, provoked me in an entirely new way.

I was reminded of conversations I've been having with my School of Community as we work our way through Chapter 11 of  Giussani's "Religious Sense," a chapter called "The Experience of the Sign" that speaks to the heart of Christianity.  Every soul, he tells us, has infinite value, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Americans, in particular, think we need to change in order to find meaning: change our town, our job, our spouse even. But no, we do not need to change our circumstances in order to find the Divine, which is, in fact, imbedded in the here and now. Giussani writes:

"Upon gazing at reality, I have before me something which produces openness. Reality presentes itself to me in a way that... solicits me to engage in a search for some other thing, something beyond immediate appearances."

Springsteen's song is about a couple taking a ride at an amusement park. I used to think "Tunnel of Love" was supposed to be a metaphor for sex. But as with all his writing, it is about so much more than that.  Now I think his "Tunnel of Love" is about our experience of reality, the difficult as well as the pleasant. I think it's about the whole of life with which we have been gifted.

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above 
if you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love


  1. Hmm...I'm 56, and I was just as much of a Bruce Springsteen fan as you. He really captured what it was like to be a teenager. But when he started making political statements, I soured on him somewhat. In hindsight, my souring wasn't so much about his politics itself but how he did it. Politically, I'm a centrist, with classically Catholic beliefs in law and order but strong social justice. The problem with Springsteen's politics is that he came off sounding like a Limousine Liberal--it was all reactionary emotion with no reason behind it.
    Plus, he had no solutions to offer regarding what he complained about. But his songs can speak for themselves. However, I thought The Rising was poor, a real downer. His attempts at using gospel singers for backup in order to sound spiritual fall flat. I guess I'm being a real sour puss...

    1. Sour puss? Perhaps! ;)

      Sometimes the challenge for me is to separate the person from their art. The art can be magnificent and the person? not so much. Springsteen isn't a politician so I guess I don't expect him to come up with viable solutions to social problems. (I sure wish our "real" politicians would.)

      Thanks again for commenting. I look forward to more conversations.