July 12, 2006

College Radio

It seems to me that one of the greatest things that can happen to someone is to be forced to take the "critical turn." We begin to question what we have been taught, we wonder if the baseline wisdom we have received about being a human being in the world is actually right, we wonder if there isn't something better.

For Abraham it was the call to leave his native place. For Paul it was the Risen Lord speaking on the way to Damascus. For Augustine it was the frustration of not being able to figure himself out with his own mental power. For Francis it seems to have been the war of the Assisiani with Perugia and his encounters with lepers.

Now I wouldn't dare compare myself to these great converts, but for me it was college radio.

I think I was about 10 when I started listening to popular music. And I listened to what seemed to be the music that all of my peers were listening to, the "top 40" songs that were playing on the radio.

When I was 14 or so, a friend recommended to me that I turn my radio dial to the left and tune in some college radio. So I tuned in WNHU from the University of New Haven, and it changed my life. In some very real ways it set me on the path I'm trying to follow today. Every saturday they played underground heavy metal and on weekday afternoons a combination of hardcore punk and what would later be called "alternative" rock.

I recognized the superiority of the music immediately. It was more energetic and visceral. It was more interesting because it often spoke of real issues and emerged from social consciousness or radical politics. And it started to change my basic orientation toward the world. If the music that everybody else liked so much wasn't actually any good, maybe their ideas about the world or their wisdom about going through life was open to question too.

I started to question authority. Eventually I started to question even the fundamental understandings of the world that were around me. One thing led to another, and to make a long story short, I eventually came to Christianity in my desire for a seamless way to grasp and understand human being in the world.

Fortunately, I've been living in a good college town these past few years, with good college radio.

2 comments:

Steph Bachman said...

Cool story. Isn't it funny that you can trace such a big life change back to a change of station. I was just listening to WRAS Album 88 this afternoon and thinking the same thing about the mainstream radio.

Jeff said...

Interesting story, Friar...

I recognized the superiority of the music immediately. It was more energetic and visceral. It was more interesting because it often spoke of real issues and emerged from social consciousness or radical politics. And it started to change my basic orientation toward the world.

Come to think of it, that would be a good way to describe my attitude towards the blues when I started listening to it in earnest during my teens, when no one else around me was interested in them. You have me wondering if it had a similar effect on my outlook.

My cousin does stints as a DJ for a blues program on a college radio station at St. Michael's in Vermont. He has me burning with jealousy. That should have been my gig. :-)