The Church of Wonder pt.2

continued from part 1

After wearing out Isn’t she lovely for a couple of days (sometimes I wonder if I’m OCD unawares) I let something happen.

I let Wonder happen.

At the end of Isn’t she lovely the next song actually abruptly begins. I kept having to yank the turntable’s arm up at the end of Isn’t she… and place the needle back at the groove at the beginning of the song (risking scratching the record every time…my- my- my how times have changed).

This time around, however, I just let it play.

The next song on the album almost made me forget all about Isn’t she lovely. To this day, Isn’t she lovely, though the biggest hit on the album, is actually my least favorite song of them all. And I do mean all, cuz we’re talking about a double album PLUS two 2-sided 45s.  I had never seen anything like it before and haven’t since. It’s like he had so much he wanted to share and so little wax on which to put it.

The next song was called Joy inside my tears

See, when you let Wonder happen, something wonderful happens.

After that experience, I decided to start from the beginning of Album 1 side A and listen through in the order Stevie had lined them up.

It took maybe three months for me to learn every word of every song…but, at that time, I found myself returning over and over to one song. A song called Summer Soft.

Summer Soft, was the first piece of music ever that inspired me to pick up a pencil and a piece of paper and write down a thought.

Say what? That’s right! Stevie taught me how to write.

This was not a “children’s song” per se. But, it was the simplistic profundity of a child’s mind encountering the awesome power of nature.

I was 10 years old, mind you, and I understood this song the way a child might understand Mother Goose, only this made those Mother Goose stories pale in comparison. Stevie wasn’t piously condescending to me, like an adult speaking in a child’s language so that we can grasp his message. He was singing his heart, and mine. The feelings I had when I would sit in the window wondering what nature had in store.

Bear Mountain

Like if a picnic excursion to Bear Mountain or some other State park was planned, I’d sit in the window that morning and try to pray the clouds looming overhead away with visions of a basket filled with friend chicken and potato salad, coolers of Kool-Aid and lemonade, frisbee football, hiking and swimming. All of which would be postponed if inclement weather ensued.

I wrote such a poem (with rhymes) at that time, my first, about a cancelled picnic and the resulting disappointment later exacerbated by the sun’s return some time before noon that day. I don’t remember the exact words of this poem or the others I wrote and collected in little black composition notebooks, but I remember that in many of them I had anthropomorphized various aspects of nature and acts of God. And Stevie’s message: that change, though painful at times, is the most natural and awesome thing this Higher Power has set in place, that what may appear to be pranks at first glance are really part of some great revolutionary design you’re not meant to so much understand as to be awed by and respectful of even in your ignorance. And, even when it makes a  fool out of you, know that it’s not done out of spite by an aloof deity, but out of a mysteriously cyclical and abiding love evidenced in all things natural, or as Prince (another messenger with a similar though sexier message) would later say, “Elephants and Flowers.”

This message  inspired most of these poems. My first fledgling steps towards my eventual agnosticism.

I would sit and listen to Summer Soft over and over until I fell into a kind of spiritual trance with a Stevie Wonder soundtrack. With no church to speak of, Songs in the Key of Life became a sort of Gospel to me. It was Stevie saying, from the pulpit, “I know how confused you feel, young brother. Here are the answers to the questions you don’t even know how to ask, yet. And if you ever have any other question, holler at me. I got your back! I’m here for you. Just trust in me, and I’ll never lead you astray.”

Years later, though, in my teens, of my own volition, I drifted astray, away from Stevie and his I just called to say I love you tripe; which sounded disgustingly close to Louie Armstrong’s, What a wonderful world nonsense. (I mentioned before what I thought of Armstrong) Yeah, I see trees of green and red roses, too, but I also see people I know strung out on crack mugging their own grandmothers, and I see blood trails on the sidewalks on a daily basis. What’s so wonderful about that? What’s that you say? You just


called to say you love me??? I come to you for answers and that’s all you’ve got to say? You love me??? Well, Stevie, you know what you can do with your love, right?

Yeah, I had made my exodus from the Church of Wonder. Reluctantly,but I did. The time was ripe for rebellion and atheism, and I went all out. Stevie had gone establishment, I’d concluded. Too much love…not enough sex. Too much peace, not enough noise.

I became a member of the Nation of Gods & Earths, a Five-Percenter, and for years I protested I was God. The ultimate fuck you to everything Stevie stood for. I never listened to Stevie, anymore, unless it was some pop tune of his, some song that affirmed my decision to part ways with the man. I was never a Christian so I had no church to rail against, like most Gods. In my heart I was preaching against the truth I’d learned from the Songs in the Key of Life.

But, even at that time, when I’d find myself alone and exploring the honest depths of my personal beliefs, I knew that I retained a faith in not so much Stevie, or in some mysterious Christian God, but in that Higher Power. A Creator.

THE Creator.

I was an agnostic posing as an atheist.

And one day it so happened, I really needed a higher power.

I was in deep shit!

click here for pt.3





3 thoughts on “The Church of Wonder pt.2

  1. Badboy says:

    If a caveman scratching on a cave wall were to stumble upon a Rembrandt I imagine they might feel like me after making a post and then reading this.

    Lionel,Stevie…the 80’s and early 90’s were not a great time IMO.
    I slipped into Rap/Hiphop in an escape attempt and realized I was home.

    Looking forward to the next page of this story!!

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