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Noli Timere

‘Don’t you worry about any little thing, every little thing’s gonna be alright.’

The singer in the Bob Marley tribute band sang the familiar words and the small crowd in the tiny Northcote venue danced with sheer joy. Marley’s music is deeply political. He was no stranger to struggle, pain and illness and died at the age of 36. Nonetheless, he produced this body of work that is protest music that is deeply feel-good with a convincing sense that, despite appearances to the contrary, in the words of my favourite Redgum song, ‘It’ll be all right in the long run’.

‘How can I keep from singing?’, is a song popularised by Eva Cassidy who, like Marley, died of cancer in her thirties. These lines have a key to the attitude espoused by the host of artists who were no strangers to suffering and yet were convinced that evil and hate and pain and violence would not prevail:

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

Legendary mystic, nun and theologian Mother Julian of Norwich, was born in the 14th century, just before the plague known as the Black Death swept across Europe, killing 60% of the population. Despite this, she preached a deeply loving divinity, maintained that God’s love was like that of a mother and her most oft-quoted line is ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.

Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s last words to his wife Marie came in the form of a text message that read, ‘Noli Timere’, Latin for ‘don’t be afraid’.  This is a phrase that occurs no less than 70 times in the Bible, a book filled to the brim with catastrophic events and human agony. As a Christian, I have clung to those words in times of personal anguish or when I have felt utterly overwhelmed by the state of our world and by the griefs of others.

Maybe this is why so many people dance for joy when Bob Marley’s music is played. Because it epitomises the courage and faith that doesn’t take the evils and grief of the world lying down, but at the same time believes that there is love at the heart of the universe and that this love will have the last word.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 17 March 2019




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Reader Comments (2)

Brilliant,Clare. Thank you!

March 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRicky

Amen and Amen Clare

March 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRod

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