As the great philosopher once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I think I deceive myself into believing I’m pretty good at following that advice. I take time to stop and engage meaningful art on a daily basis, sure. But I’m an expert in avoiding life’s stresses by lesser means too.
I play mini-golf on my iPhone enough to be counted among America’s top 1,000. I turn that off and check Twitter, then Facebook, then Gmail for new messages and validation. Then I cycle back to Twitter to see if anything new had appeared in the previous two minutes. Somehow, I don’t think this is what the philosopher meant when he invited us to “stop and look around once in a while.” But still, I’d rather be on my phone than actually be at rest.
In listening to The Arcadian Wild’s newest record, Finch in the Pantry, I heard these struggles and insecurities echoed back to me. Of course, the delicate bluegrass instrumentation and three-part harmonies made the pill a little easier to swallow. The album begins with “Hey, Runner,” a blistering tune filled with intricately interwoven mandolins and guitars. “You better run fast / Get it done even if it takes all night,” the chorus warns, reminding us of the world’s mantra to prioritize work over rest and quantity over quality. As the song continues at an anxiety-inducing tempo, The Arcadian Wild ask us to examine the speed at which life is currently pushing us.
However, distraction is often a much easier route than quiet self-examination. Even as I try to write this, I feel a million urges to direct my attention elsewhere, a sentiment intimately expressed in the song “Silence, A Stranger.” The pleading ballad begins, “Silence is a stranger that I’ve never let inside / I hear him knocking, but I do not dare reply.” Silent reflection is such a vital precursor to personal and spiritual growth, yet it remains a constant adversary to our insecurities and self-dissatisfaction.
The daily struggle with silence reminds me of Paul in Romans 7 as he laments doing what he hates and not what he knows is right. However, there is a hope which cuts through every distraction and commands, “Peace, be still.” Our only requirement is surrender, like in the song’s final stanza, “Quiet, I’m listening this time / I need you on my side / I’m out of reasons why / I can’t keep up this fight / I want to feel alive.”
Even when we’re able to confess surrender and embrace internal quiet for a time, the world continuously throws stumbling blocks in the way as the very next song explores. The ironically upbeat “Food Truck Blues” reminds us that the daily grind is necessary since “We’re all trying to get our bread, pay rent, and just survive.” Our need to move up in life from “fry cook to the Opry” pushes us to continue taking life into our own hands instead of resting on the hope we’ve found.
Despite moments of clarity, it seems the mental “Civil War” wages for eternity. “What if we never really stop?” The Arcadian Wild ask, acknowledging the tendency to remain busy even when they shouldn’t. In this light, eternity is exhausting—an endless “wondering if and when you’ll reach the other side,” as they sing on “The Graduate.” However, there’s more of the story to tell, and eternity itself has already been redeemed.
In one chorus, The Arcadian Wild have so passionately and gracefully conveyed foundational theology and exhorted us to hold on tightly to these wonderful and eternal gifts.Chris Thiessen
As I listen to the album’s penultimate track, I’m filled with thankfulness for two of the greatest gifts we are given in this life. The first is the confidence which allows us to instead wonder “when, not if, we’ll reach the other side,” no longer burdened by the world’s anxieties. The second is the church, a “body of broken bones” built together on the promise that “together, we’ll make our way home.” In one chorus, The Arcadian Wild have so passionately and gracefully conveyed foundational theology and exhorted us to hold on tightly to these wonderful and eternal gifts.
As the album neared its close, I couldn’t help but think again about the album’s title, Finch in the Pantry. I’ve never asked them what it means or what the inspiration is. However, it reminds me of one of my favorite passages of scripture. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Finches don’t belong in pantries, spending their days worrying about their food stock and stuffing themselves with what they’ve accumulated. In the same way we have no need for anxiety about our pantries, whether it’s the literal kitchen pantry or the ones we own for storing money, social status, etc.
Finch in the Pantry reminds us that we have no need for the “get it while you can” or “live while you’re young” attitude propounded by the great philosopher. “Life moves pretty fast,” it’s true. But what the philosopher didn’t realize is that it never ends. As the album’s final “Benediction” tells us, “Death has already lost.” Eternal life has won. I hope I can experience it as God intended, always embracing the freedom to wander through and enjoy this infinite wild.