The Monkees and Spiritual Quest

SPIOLER ALERT: If you did not read last week’s RestDay Reflections, take 3-4 minutes to review it… This will make so much more sense if you do!

After reading last week’s RestDay Reflections, and assuming you are either “of a certain age” or curious enough to do a little investigation, it became groaningly clear to you that “The coolest Father’s Day gift ever” was a reference to the American Beetles; The Monkees!

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is located just outside the Capitol Beltway in Virginia. It is one of the best-kept secrets in this part of the world… the only US National Park dedicated to presenting the performing arts.

In classic National Park fashion, there are acres of woodlands, streams, wetlands, critters of all shapes and sizes, and places to hike and picnic. But, unlike any other such park, there are performance venues.

There are two primary stages: The Filene Center, which hosts about 100 concert events a season, and the Theater-in-the-Woods, which is largely dedicated to plays and shows for children.

The Filene Center is a pretty interesting place. It is nearly 13 stories high. It seats 7000 folks: about half on the main floor in theater-style seats, and about half in stadium-styled seating above.

But (and here’s one of the neat parts), in between the back of the theater seating and the bottom of the stadium seating is a space of 25 feet or so that opens to a lush, green hillside with its own sound system. So, you can purchase out-under-the-stars, picnic-while-you-listen, space-to-sing-and-dance, unobstructed-sight lawn seating for concerts as well.

That is where we sat on Father’s Day evening and listened to The Monkees’ 2011, 45th anniversary reunion tour.

I watched The Monkees TV program as a kid – not the 1st run on NBC, I was young and my parents were conservative Southerners. But, the 2nd and 3rd syndicated runs (thank you CBS, then ABC) were played on the little TV in the room Mike and I shared. A lot of my sense of humor (for better and for worse) was forged by that show. And, consequently, I became a fan of their music.

The band had 4 members: Michael, Peter, Micky, and Davy. None of the guys knew each other before they were selected for the show. Nevertheless, they forged a real, live band – even fighting for (and winning) the right to play their own instruments for band recordings and performances.

The concert had 3 of the guys (Peter, Micky and Davy) plus an impressive array of accompanying talent. It was 2+ hours of non-stop singing, swaying, smiling, and strolling down memory lane. Best I could tell there were 3 separate sets the guys played.

The 1st set was songs from the show which were also cuts from various albums during their heyday. I recognized all the tunes (which were accompanied by clips from the show) and knew some of the words.

The 2nd set was songs from a movie they did back in the late 1960’s titled Head. It was in the psychedelic fashion of the day – a comedy/adventure. One of the two writers/producers was an up-and-coming actor himself, named Jack Nicholson. I think only a dozen people actually saw the movie and, while I enjoyed some time to sit back and rest, I didn’t recognize much of the music.

The 3rd set was all top 10 songs. Micky told a short story of he/Davy returning to a home the studio was renting for the band during their first season. They were listening to the radio and pulling into the driveway when… and then the band broke out with the unforgettable, unmistakable intro to The Last Train to Clarksville, and the crowd (me/Adele included) went crazy… and it was non-stop from there to the parking lot and home!! Every song. Every tune. Every note. Every word.

The guys are in their mid-late 60’s now, but the sound – the styles – the banter – it was like being a teen all over again. It was just so much fun!!!

It was a few hours of looking back and capturing a past which I remembered and enjoyed.

For a lot people, myself included, there is an ever-present temptation to think of spiritual quest in much the same way. We look back to a time when we “felt more alive” and we long to recapture that time… to be moved by those songs, to relive those images, to laugh at the former jokes, to reminisce about the stories that surrounded our story back then. 

The word most Church-People use to describe this longing is revival. They articulate, with the best of intentions, the desire for personal and/or corporate revival. It doesn’t really matter what their faith-tradition is… they just sit in today and think about a time when they were more alive, and dream.

I have come to the conviction that, at least in my own life, such a longing is just a cop-out.

When it creeps up (and, like I said, it does), it has become a red-flag for me. It signals that I have settled. I am no longer on quest – no more on mission. All I want, at times like that, is to go back to when I felt more alive rather than do the hard work of going forward to a time when I might be fully alive.

If you know me, you know I am a Christ-follower. I believe it is possible to be fully alive in Christ: To know Him and be fully known by Him. But, I do not believe that path is backwards.

I loved The Monkees’ concert. It was more fun that a barrel of monkeys! But I can no more be a teen again, watching The Monkees on TV, than Peter, Micky, or Davy can be 20 again.

The same is true for spiritual quest. I do not want to go back. I want to go forward. You?


About christmasandicecream

Grace & Peace to you all! I'm Randy. I am a follower of Jesus - sometimes close up and, sadly, sometimes way too far away. My best friend, administrative assistant, partner, and high school sweetheart all live with me and go by the same name: Adele. She and I are part of a relationally-focused, small group based Church family that helps us along spiritual quest. Our boys are both grown now. We have a wonderful daughter-by-marriage and 2 truly GRANDchildren... 1 boy and 1 girl. We are Corgi people and now oversee the care of 1 spoiled Corgi puppy named Elly May. I am a devoted fan of 2 'seasons' in each year: Christmas and baseball!! At my house, a Christmas tree goes up somewhere within days of the close of the Fall Classic (baseball lingo for the World Series) and a Christmas tree stays up all the way through Spring Training. In between it is non-stop celebration of the Incarnation. I live in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S.A. and, among other things, work as a coach and consultant with an incredibly diverse network of churches that make up the BCMD. My Church-roots are in the Baptist bucket of the Christian ice cream shop. But, just because I have a favorite flavor, doesn't mean I don’t like them all! I do. I work with things like soul care & leadership development of pastor/pastoral team members; with small, simple, organic models of church life; with relational strategies of spiritual formation; and with the health of the Church. I taught at New Orleans seminary for a decade and have served in local churches for 30 years. I am currently part of the faculty of Rockbridge Seminary – a new kind of seminary for a new kind of Church – where I also play a role on the Academic Council. *I am obliged to note that questions, comments, ideas, views,... just about anything you read here, are mine, and not those of BCMD, RS, any other organization or school I work for, or those of most normal people. Thanks for visiting. Come back again.
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