This post comes from Mockingbird friend and jazz fan Morris Middleton.

As a jazz pianist I’m always on the lookout for a beautiful song, and in Esperanza Spalding’s haunting song, Espera, I found one.  But in it I heard something even more haunting. The human cry for help.

The word espera derives from the Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese infinitive esperar, “to hope, wait or expect.”  The talented Spalding’s eponymous Espera is labeled a song of hope, yet its lyrics paint a picture as haunting as the minor key in which it is written.

Its lyrics paint a bleak and hopeless picture of human desperation in a desolate world absent any promise of redemption, save old-fashioned, up-from-the-bootstraps human resolve.  Espera turns out to be more a song of hopelessness than of hope.  Oh, all earthly ministrations to the dilemma are courageously brought forth as anointing balm, but this wound needs a tourniquet!  Each fails to end the soul’s bleeding like a depressing application and reapplication of nothing but a succession of superficial plastic Band-Aids.

Pretend I’m just drifting off to sleep, all iDocked into my nice premium 5-star hotel featherbed, this song playing.  It’s a wonderful life in this foreign city of the world.  Until it isn’t:

I almost gave up holding on
Watching us give in to our fears
All the world is helpless sorrow
No hope for the bright tomorrow

Normal.  Yep, we’ve all felt like that.  It computes — I’m only human, after all.  But, I’ll soldier through on a booster of earthly hope.  The best people (I’m one!) have always been strong enough to affect positive change.

But anxiety looms larger with every note of the real picture as it slowly grinds into my earth-weary soul:

Now as I learn how I must work for change
I nearly cave in from the weight
All the sorrows that consume me
‘Til peace among men I never can see

Suddenly, I’m realizing this is no dream, and it isn’t very comfortable.  It would be a bad one, in fact, were it a dream.  But I’ll just have to soldier on!  Strong, determined, self-reliant human beings like I read about rise to occasions like this.  I triumph when I work hard, so here I go:

I’ll keep faith
Like so many souls who won’t be drowned
By evil in the world
I’ll have faith in mankind
That we can guide our choices towards a healthy world
In time to ease our bind

Yet I feel that bind.  As I look into the blackness outside my 45th-floor room’s window I view a world that is undeniably sick.  Things are distorted and evil.  People are hurting and dying.  I too hurt.  I myself will die.  This is hopelessness indeed.  How can that be?  Isn’t one of these other strong humans doing something proactive to remedy it for me? Where are the exit stairs?

As I glance at the familiar foreignness of my hotel room I’m aware I’m suddenly feeling very alone right now. Hope?  This song is about hope?  If it is, then where can I find it?  I need the cure.  Right this minute!

It is high time for the song’s storyline to rise upward.  But, funny, it continues degrading.  The best human beings rally:

I’ll keep faith
Like so many souls who won’t be drowned
By evil in the world
I’ll have faith
In mankind
That we can guide our choices toward a healthy world
In time to ease our bind
For only hard work through time
Can change men’s minds, I know
If we make some small changes now
We’ll heal ourselves
Some way, somehow
I almost believe,
Well, I do believe

That should do it, then.  I can talk myself into it.  Resolve is all it takes.  Inner strength.  Determination!  I do feel lots better now.

Except that I don’t.

Still bedeviling me is that old problem that keeps creeping in from the high darkness outside.  I’m sick.  I’m unhappy.  I’m without hope.  I am alone. I am dying.  On a high floor.

I’m entirely out of options now.   So I’m forced to blindly keep “the faith”—it is the only thing to do.  Buck up and sustain myself.  Resolve:

Oh, the path to peace is endless
So, choosing to close our eyes makes our fault endless
Of this I’m sure enough
I won’t give up
I’m sure enough
I won’t give up
I’m sure enough
And I won’t give up

Stop!  Wake up.  You were dreaming.

But you weren’t.

Were I the sleeper and the story ended here, I’d be so bummed out right now I could barely touch my screen deftly enough to stop that anything-but-dreamy MP3 from rattling in my head.  I quit.  Somebody else don’t give up.  I haven’t the strength anymore. Instead of the fire escape, I might even begin looking for the window in that hotel room.  Oh god!

Oh, God?  Well, yeah, maybe even Him….

Irradiated by Jesus’ Divine light, we have been roused from this nightmare by the Watchman of all nights.  Faith in mankind is no longer compulsory. No self-resolve is potent enough to generate a beam that could even mimic, much less duplicate this warm brilliance.

We dwell in invigorating newness of life; ours is a brilliant dawn whose warm, sustaining Heavenly rays of love, peace and justification shine radiantly upon us.  Thanks to but one little thing: Jesus’ ugly, tragic, unpopular, outré, bloody, dark, showy, sacrificial, beautiful death on the Cross.

I shall fear no evil.
Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, He is with me.
I know the strength of his rod,
and the sturdiness of his staff.

And He knows more than the concierge….

Such are the dreams of a man made new in the Blood.  Thanks to the brilliance of Christ’s gift of grace, I am no longer in my feeble strength required to conjugate the verb esperar.  I have awakened this and every morning to true hope.  I know real hope.  I dwell in hope — and Hope dwells in me.

And that is in the infinite, not the infinitive.