This post was written by our Mockingfriend Anna Nott. 


I’ve been listening to The Barr Brothers lately, a folk quartet from Montreal. They consist of harpist Sarah Page, pianist/composer Andres Vial, and the [actual] Barr brothers: drummer/producer Andrew, and guitarist/singer Brad. They have this song, “Beggar In the Morning,” which starts with:

Steady woman won’t you come on down
I need you right here on the ground.
I’ve walked the outskirts of this town
been terrorized by what I’ve found.

As with most well-written (read: ambiguous) lyrics, these words are relatable, speaking in particular to the five months (so far) that I’ve spent living in Besançon, France. My head’s been in the clouds, whether it’s because of falling in love or exploring all that this country has to offer, and despite a steady enough routine, I’ve been on a bit of a high.

Alas, what goes up must come down, and there’s been plenty of “down.” Highs, as The Barr Brothers say, require “coming down to the ground”. As in the song, I’ve walked the “outskirts” of Paris and have been living on the outskirts of the country (considering Besançon is in Eastern France). On November 13th, 2015, and for the ensuing weeks, I was “terrorized by what I found.” But the examples of love I’ve experienced here—from a teacher driving me to buy a brace for a sprained ankle, to free homemade treats from Fréderic at Cafe Ost—have been bold and authentic and unmatched.

In the song, following the singer’s terror, there is a bit about Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, religious ecstasy, and theatre. A woman tears the heart out of Dionysus’ side, and “there she cried.” It’s a beautiful picture of death and tragedy: the grapes will shrivel and rot, the harvest will end, religious ecstasy will prove to be another temporary high, and, at times, we will all feel like actors in a play. Even a character like Dionysus, a god, cannot escape death.


So here I am, listening and wondering, why do I still feel this persistent desire to be productive? Despite the very real imminence of death, I am given life. Life on earth is messy, and sometimes I don’t feel like engaging. Maybe by creating my life, God is inviting me to engage. I’m skeptical of the invitation but can’t resist the urge to join in anyway. After all, I still want to experience a happy life.

2007’s The Waitress, staring Keri Russell, has a scene that lays out the desire to understand happiness. It is a simple exchange between two characters:

Jenna: Cal?
Cal: Yeah?
Jenna: Are you happy? I mean, would you call yourself a happy man?
Cal: Well if you’re asking me a serious question, I’ll tell ya, happy enough. I don’t expect much, don’t give much, don’t get much. I generally enjoy whatever comes up. It’s my truth. Summed up for your feminine judgment. I’m happy enough. Why do you ask?
Jenna: No reason.

Clearly there is a reason, though. Everyone is looking for happiness and everyone wonders if he or she could be the cause of happiness for another. This is a recurrent hope–to incite another’s happiness is, of course, a way of inciting happiness for oneself. We beg for the highs on this cycle.

My favorite lines of the song come later:

She said, “Hello, I’m a monster too,”
What poisons me is what poisons you
Into these animals we grew
But when we were young our eyes were blue

Oh, I want an angel to wipe my tears
Know my dreams, my hopes, desires and fears

We may capsize but we won’t drown
Hold each other as the sun goes down

As Martin Luther’s dying words remind us, we are all beggars, and not only in the morning; yet there’s a King who already knows our dreams, hopes, desires, and fears. He’s the King that calms the storm, saying “Peace! Be Still.” He loves us despite ourselves and invites us to hold each other in this messy world.