In my entire life, I'd never before met a real Québécois, someone totally given to the proposition that the rest of Canada, any bit of it that wasn't French-speaking anyway, could basically go to h-e-double hockey sticks. I knew such folks existed. I remember Trudeau, after all, and I knew there was a province of Canada that was so history-laden it matched, marker for marker, anything we had in Massachusetts.
Furthermore, there remains today as many French-named Lakotas out west of here as Jacksons or Smiths because the only palefaces anywhere close to the Floyd River, circa 1700, were French trappers who married (sometimes, sometimes not) Native women and basically spent their lives along streams and rivers across the prairies and plains.
I knew of the Québécois, but not until I met these guys about a month ago, did I ever really sit down and eat and drink with any. 'Twas a revelation, and a darling one at that.
I've long ago learned that it's a joy just being around people who love what they do, and this French folk-ish gang, absolutely love what they do, as every last pair of eyes in the Unity Performance Hall understood with the first few bars of their concert a month of so ago. They didn't sing a word of English--all night long. Yet the standing ovations they received weren't just another form of Sioux County Nice. No. People loved 'em, and most didn't even know how to pronounce polly voo fraansay. You want to hear more, just google 'em--Le Vent Du Nord.
Trust me--I respect deeply, even love, my heritage of faith and life. I've written about it for just about forty years. I think the best Christian story of the entire 20th century belongs to relatives in the Netherlands, the stories of those Dutch Calvinists--and there were many--who saved Jewish people, not because they knew them or even liked them, but because of a principle driven by their deep faith that God wanted something completely different for their Jewish neighbors than did this shrimpish madman auf Deutschland, mit the moustache. Dutch Calvinists went to the wall, and many died, resisting him and his henchman.
But when I sat there listening to these French Canadians do their thing, when I sat there and saw faces lit with joy, people clapping and stomping their feet, a performance hall full of Sioux County folks, religious to a fault, having a great time in the spell of that music, then I wondered if maybe my traditional upbringing didn't skimp on what we might call "pure joy."
Pure, after all, was a word that could, theologically, only be used theologically. Nothing human could possibly be pure.
Or how about I use another word?--fun. Put those together--"pure fun." I sat there listening to this Francophone madness thinking that somehow maybe, just maybe H. L. Mencken was right--"Puritanism [which is to say Calvinism] is the haunting fear that someone somewhere is having a good time."
All of this rises because of a Facebook post from a woman I know and respect--the Grand Ole Opry edition of hymn-singin' down at the bottom of the post. I listened to it because she said it was worth hearing, and then, once again, felt something fresh in the joy--the fun--of the whole event, something that I'm wondering if, once upon a time, I missed.
There's plenty I didn't, and even if there was, I'm an old dog looking strangely at new tricks and not about to become Pentecostal. What's more, there isn't a Pentecostal church that I know of in Sioux County.
An old friend and musician, a bluesy/country/piano banger/singer, once told me that it was, a quarter century ago, more than a little difficult to play at colleges from my tradition of Dutch Calvinism because kids there just didn't know how to feel. He'd play something yearning and prayerful, he said, and they'd be with him in the music; but they didn't know how to tell him so, so they'd clap, which was the not the way to react, he said. They lacked the language of emotion.
Yeah, well, it's probably different today, when the chapel can be a madhouse--hands raised, kids spinning and wheeling and carrying on like, well, like Pentecostals.
I'm not unhappy with who it is I've turned out to be, but that ease doesn't mean that there doesn't come a moment in my life now and then when a bunch of musical Québécois or a guitar-picker in a cowboy hat doesn't make me smile or laugh out loud and wonder what I might have missed.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!