Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life 28 The Spawn of the Swinging Sixties Chapter Twenty One A Final Distant Clarion Cry

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

From Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life Book Two.


A Final Distant Clarion Cry consists of diverse unrelated writings which I painstakingly knitted together to make a suitably grand finale to my as yet untitled experiment in spiritual memoir composition. The kernel of the work was Apologia for a Cyber Church, a piece written specifically for a friend. Substantial portions of the apologia are still to be found within The Perils of Church Hopping. To the apologia I added a prose section from the former Some Perverse Will, originally published at Blogster on Christmas Day 2006, while the poetic soul of the piece was incorporated into another story. Also grafted onto Final Cry, and specifically Waves of Bohemia and The March of the Modern, were extracts from The Redemption of a Rebel Artist, initially published at Blogster on the 14th of September 2006. Fireworks Frantically Exploding, The Dispersal of Clouds, The Wilderness Decade, The Summing Up, and Not by a Long Chalk* were all written specifically for Final Cry, which was first published as a whole at FaithWriters on the 13th of November 2007, and then again in December.

Part One

Fireworks Frantically Exploding

The troubled, turbulent 20th Century having ceded to the 21st to the sound of fireworks frantically exploding all throughout my neighbourhood, I discovered through a phone call to my father that my mother was desperately ill with flu. It was a harrowing start to the new century, but once again God poured blessings on my family, and she made a complete recovery. It's crossed my mind since that she may have become susceptible to the flu virus partly as a result of stress caused by the fact that I'd latterly quit yet another course; this time an MA, and one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world, which was a painful experience for me as I felt certain I was headed for a first class degree.

As if in consolation, I was appointed chief musician of the worship band of the Liberty Christian Centre, suburban satellite church of London's Kensington Temple which I'd sporadically attended for a few months during the previous summer. Liberty's Pastor Phil got in touch with me the previous summer through KT about joining a cell group at his home in the Surrey suburbs. This eventually mutated into Liberty, with which I forged very close ties from the outset, going on to serve in the Worship Group until well into 2001.

Once Liberty had come to a close in early '01, I returned to my first spiritual home of Cornerstone Bible Church, a fellowship affiliated to the Word of Faith Movement and specifically Rhema Ministries of Johannesburg, South Africa. Before defecting to the Riverside Vineyard Christian Fellowship, I'd gone to Cornerstone for about two years from early 1993, in fact, had attended my very first service there even before becoming a Christian in '92. Drunk at the time as I recall, I'd sat next to a beautiful blonde woman of about 55 whom I later discovered to be a successful actress who at the height of her career in the sixties had appeared in television cult classics The Avengers and The Prisoner. Apart from an elder from the Jesus Fellowship, who'd laid hands on me at a meeting of theirs in central London, she was my very first spiritual mentor. However, I was never to see or speak to her again as I didn't return to the church for several months, and by the time I did as a newly born again believer, she'd moved to another church. She subsequently came back to Cornerstone, but we kept on missing each other. Tragically, she went to be with the Lord in 2001.

The Dispersal of Clouds

Within a few months of having made the decision to abandon the previously mentioned MA I'd also quit my position as telecanvasser for an e-commerce company based in Surbiton, Surrey, thereby bringing a fairly lengthy period as an on/off office worker to an end. Since then I've worked only casually, rarely remaining in one menial employment or another for any length of time. However, if my job life has been in slow decline since the onset of the 2000s, my musical life has flourished.

A real change in my professional fortunes came around Christmastime when I was made lead singer for a Jazz band which had earlier been formed by an old friend of my father's, multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Harry Shard, going on to be complemented at various times by my dad, double bass player Stu, myself and a brace of drummers, including Harry's son James. We went on to cut several very fine demos arranged by Harry, but they didn't result in the interest they deserved, given the talent involved.

While after much prompting from members of Liberty and KT, I finally wrote a series of Christian songs in 2001 which I hoped would be played by Liberty's worship group, but sadly, the church folded in that year, much to the sorrow of all concerned, as we'd become very close as a fellowship.

I subsequently made a brief return to Cornerstone, before quitting once again in late '02. I did so in consequence of a renewed desire to seek out churches lying beyond the Pentecostal/Charismatic family, this time born of internet research. By this time, after nearly two years of sporadic gigging, the band too had called it a day. We disbanded in the wake of the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival held in St Mary's Church near the village of Shelton, Norfolk, which was a real shame, because those who attended the festival were in my view the audience we'd been searching for all along, evidenced by the passion with which they greeted our final performance.

The Perils of Church-Hopping

To return to my Walk with God, among the churches I visited after leaving Cornerstone for a second time in the autumn of 2002 were Wimbledon's Bethel Baptist Church, pastored by Bible teacher and writer Jack Moorman. Bethel is what is known as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, based on the US model, and therefore KJV only, which is to say using the King James Version of the Bible alone. I was quite happy there, that is, until one Sunday evening when my train home was severely delayed, and I found myself stranded at Wimbledon station for over an hour in consequence. Despite this, I fully intended to return the following Sunday to see Bro. David Cloud of Way of Life Ministries preach at the church, but for some reason never did.

I also attended Christ Church, Teddington, a Free Church of England fellowship whose rector, with whom I've had several long and interesting conversations is a tall striking man with the magnetizing voice and presence of a classical stage actor. The Free Church of England separated from the established C of E in 1844 in response to the High Church Anglicanism of the then Bishop of Exeter, Henry Phillpotts. It is resolutely Evangelical, as well as liturgical and Episcopal.

By the end of the year, my quest having reached a satisfactory conclusion, I'd begun to make a tentative return to the Pentecostal-Charismatic fold.

Given the restlessness I've just described, many might be forgiven for suggesting that my walk with God has not been an easy one, particularly since about 2000, and I'd be forced to agree with them. This may be at least partly attributable to the fact that I came to faith relatively late. The Bible warns that each person who rejects the sovereignty of the fleshly realm for Jesus' sake will undergo much tribulation and persecution. Perhaps this is especially true of repentant Christians who accept Christ following a relatively long period of time within the decadent heart of the world as avid flunkies of the Flesh. However, as comfort these late converts possess a true and infinitely worthwhile purpose in life. This was something that ever eluded me in my youth, for all the fierce, flaming fanaticism I lent my ideals, whether artistic, intellectual, political or whatever and yet which amounted in the end to precisely nothing.

Part Two

The Wilderness Decade

As I might have already made clear, the new decade turned out to be something of a possible turning point for me, not just on the spiritual, artistic and vocational levels; but in terms of my entire personality, which may have become more inward looking, even by the standards of the previous seven years...more of which later.

My entire presentation of self has changed since 2000. Sartorially it has become less soft, and reassuring, and closer to self-protective armour than the peacock feathers of a dandy. Significantly, the previous year had been the first since about '73 that I faced the world with my hair its natural medium brown, after having used bleach for close on to three decades. What prompted this was not a sudden loathing for the vanity of the bottle blond, but the increasingly violent effects the peroxide-based highlighting kits I favoured were having on my breathing. While I hated being a brunet at first, in time I came to relish the dignity darker hair lent my appearance, rendering it far more masculine.

The truth is that throughout my twenties and for most of my thirties, I saw the soul of the true artist as one wholly unbound by conventional notions of sexuality. In consequence, for most of my pre-Christian life, I took no real responsibility as a man in the purest sense of the word, which is to say as leader, provider, protector, and so on. Instead, I opted for a variety of marginalised and rebellious male personae. I've jettisoned them all, although I still live with the consequences of having adopted them.

So often these iconoclastic personae prove ruinous to a person's healthy social and professional development, which is so vital to their well-being in the long run, to say nothing of their physical and psychological health. Still, they continue to be promoted as desirable through the media and that is especially true of Rock music, although needless to say perhaps not to the same degree as when I was a boy growing up to a frenetic Rock soundtrack in the earthshaking sixties.

Waves of Bohemia

The tenets of Rock, or what could be called the Rock and Roll belief system with its exaltation of rebellion and excess of every kind, were hardly new in the '60s. Indeed, they can be traced back to Man's initial attempts at attaining spiritual ecstasy beyond the will of God. However, in terms of the Modern World, it could be said that the true ancestor of Rock culture was the great 19th Century artistic and cultural movement known as Romanticism. And a strong case can be made for Romanticism as the supreme source of the notion of the artist as tormented genius at the vanguard of social revolution and eternally defiant of middle class restraint and respectability.

Which is surely a false one, for at any given time, the percentage of tortured artists is, unless I'm gravely mistaken, relatively small, although they do exist...and as I've already made clear, have sadly proliferated within Rock, and thence the Rock and Roll rebel could be said to be a late exemplar of the dark side of Romanticism.

It was the great English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who might have first given expression to the notion of an avant garde by asserting that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Then, in the post-Napoleonic Paris of the early 1830s, a seminal artistic avant garde if ever there was one was born. They were the Jeunes-France, a band of turbulent young late Romantic writers allegedly dubbed the Bousingos by the press following a night of riotous boozing on the part of some of their number. Their leading lights cultivated dandified and eccentric personae intended to shock the bourgeoisie, while inclining to political radicalism. Needless to say perhaps, they owed a colossal debt to the earlier English and German Romantics, as well as previous generations of dandies such as the Muscadins and Incroyables of the late revolutionary years.

The March of the Modern

The first wave of Bohemian avant-gardism ultimately produced the Decadents, and the great Symbolist movement in the arts, both of which came into being ca. 1880. However, the spirit of the avant garde could be said to have triumphed as never before through the Modernist movement which was at its level of maximum intensity from about 1890 to 1930. This extraordinary period birthed such hyper-innovative masterpieces as Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913), T.S Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) and James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), as well as dozens of revolutionary art movements including Expressionism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism.

One possible definition of Modernism in an artistic sense is the avant garde removed from its true spiritual home of Paris, (via Germany and England) and then transformed into an international artistic and cultural movement of immense power and influence. Some thinkers trace the roots of the Modern to the so-called Enlightenment of the 18th Century, which produced great defiance of God on the part of lofty Reason, and so for them, Modernism is a precursor of the avant garde, rather than a spirit that arose out of it, while others go even further back into the depths of Western history, to the Renaissance and its revival of Classical Antiquity.

Arguably, the Western world has attained the very ne plus ultra of the Modern Revolution, or gone beyond; and one of its possible keynotes has been the mass acceptance of iconoclastic beliefs once seen as the preserve of the avant garde, especially with regard to traditional Christian morality.

This process could be said to have accelerated around 1955-'56, when both the Beat Movement and the new Pop music of Rock and Roll were starting to make strong inroads into the mainstream. Some ten years after this, there was a further increase in momentum as Pop began to lose its initial sheen of innocence, and so perhaps evolve into the more diverse music of Rock. This eclectic art went on to run the gamut from the most infantile Pop ditties to complex compositions owing a considerable debt to Classical, Jazz and other non-popular music forms, and so become an international language disseminating values traditionally seen as morally unconventional as no other artistic movement before it. As a result, certain Rock artists attained through popular consumer culture a degree of influence that previous generations of innovative artists operating within high culture could only dream of.

Part Three

A Taste of Summer Wine

Given the facts outlined above, it's hardly surprising that Rock Music is a time-honoured bete noir of old-school evangelicals, and the internet duly teems with fulminations against it of varying degrees of insight. In 2003, a totemic year for me marked by a passion for doctrinal purity, I briefly declared myself its fiercest enemy, and set about destroying my massive collection of cassette albums. However, by the summer my attitude had softened to the degree that I was able to complete about an hour's worth of adult oriented Rock songs. Inspired by various melodic genres including Soul and Soft Rock, they ultimately defied classification. They were generally well-received, with a small minority declaring themselves to be devoted fans, even though they had been only very roughly recorded on an old-fashioned Sony CFS-B21L cassette-corder. Two of the songs went on to be more professionally recorded at the home of a friend of my father's from South Africa.

In the wake of this project, my father Pat began to plan the recording of an album of popular standards featuring myself and the harmonica virtuoso Jim Hughes. In the summer of 2007, the master was finally created, and the title of A Taste of Summer Wine awarded it in honour of the situation comedy, Last of the Summer Wine. This was due to the fact that Jim's playing had long been featured on Summer Wine, as scored by Ronnie Hazlehurst, who sadly died in late '07.

This final section of this experiment in memoir composition sees me anticipating the eventual commercial release of A Taste of Summer Wine, as well as the final editing of the first large-scale literary project with which I can say that I'm perfectly content. The fact is that within a short time of giving my life to Christ, I began to experience extreme difficulties when it came to writing creatively, as if the Lord was preventing me from expressing myself on a literary level. The outcome was that I eventually gave up writing altogether, although I kept on periodically attempting to do so, only to end up destroying the results. Precisely why it was that I became so burdened by a kind of forbidding leaden heaviness each time I tried to write for about ten years from the mid 1990s I can't say for certain, but I have my theories. To begin with, my work back then reflected a continuing preoccupation with subjects that had held me spellbound prior to become a born again Christian. I glorified these despite a false admonitory tone which served as a cover for my true motives. Furthermore, some of my writings mixed truth and fiction to produce an unsatisfactory hybrid. God requires that all those who take the name of Christian adhere to absolute truth to the very best of their ability. Others contained passages manifesting a dangerous degree of disrespect for the Holy things of God; and I thank the Lord he allowed me the opportunity of decimating these. Finally, in January 2006, God made it clear to me that I was sufficiently mature on a spiritual level to be able to write again.

The Summing-Up

There are those who might look at me and see an individual who treated some of the most precious gifts a person can be blessed with during the prime of their young life with a nonchalance so utterly cavalier as amount to blatant contempt. In terms of natural endowment, these would include the kind of intelligence that produced an articulate speaker at just two years old, as well as health so robust that all serious childhood sicknesses were kept at bay until I was 13, when I caught meningitis following a spell as a foreign exchange student in Saint-Malo off the Brittany coast. As if these weren't sufficient, my father procured for me one the most sumptuous educations hard-earned money can buy. By my early twenties anyone who knew me then would be forgiven for believing that if anyone was destined for ultimate celebrity it was me, “le futur celebre”, as I was described in a letter in late '77 by a former friend from France…or something similar.

These theoretical critics of mine might make mention of the fact that for all my lavish good fortune, I've finished up in a small lower floor flat in a housing estate on the edge of Greater London, a lost soul haunted by the past, and tormented in the present by unfathomable regret. That is far, far from the way I view my situation. Some people in this city don't even have a roof over their head. As for my being a lost soul, nothing could be further from the truth. While I won't deny that I'm inclined to the occasional remorseful mood, the fact remains that my soul has been salvaged not lost which means that one day all my tears will be wiped away for all eternity. At least, that is my hope.

I'm not the most social of beings I'll admit, and yet paradoxically perhaps, I love to wander among crowds of people, gaining great comfort from doing so. The truth is that for one reason or another, I'm relatively incapable of pretending to be anyone other than myself in a social setting. This in marked contrast to the myself of thirty years ago who was a dangerously gifted social enchanter. That said, I consider myself to be a person of far greater integrity today by the Grace of God. At the same time, I've never been more aware of the necessity of my reliance on God, nor of the truth that He'll never leave me nor forsake me. When all's said and done, therefore, I'm a deeply blessed man for all my superficial so-called woes. I have my faith, I have my family, and together they mean more, infinitely more to me than fame, wealth, and social status ever could. I'm not saying these latter wouldn't enhance my life because of course they would, but they'd serve as a bonus, nothing more, because my heart's desire has already been fulfilled. As for my supposed melancholia, this particular thorn in the flesh has been afflicting Christians for centuries. To cite some examples for the sceptical…Martin Luther suffered for much of his life from a tendency towards dejection of spirits which he attributed to a variety of causes including spiritual oppression in the realm of the mind, founder of the Quaker movement George Fox was a “man of sorrows” by his own admission in the early days of his walk with God, poet and hymnodist William Cowper was a lifelong depressive who endlessly doubted his own eternal salvation, Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon was prone to inexplicable anguish accompanied by lengthy bouts of solitary weeping and so on and so on. What though are the tears and trials of this brief life when compared to the fathomless joy that awaits the true Believer in Heaven?

Dear Friend I Salute You

Now that I've put the finishing touches to the very first large scale writing project of mine of which I'm pretty well 100% certain I'll not end up destroying, is it time for me to abandon creative writing altogether, in favour of music, an art I'm far more suited to than writing, or even acting, which is the one art I've never really had to work at, with the possible exception of singing? In reply, may I say that I've already started working out a second, more detailed autobiographical volume in my head. However, whether it ever gets written or not remains to be seen. So, for all intents and purposes, my literary career is at a close...for the time being anyway. If these writings have touched a single living soul, and there is some evidence they may have done, then my work has been worthwhile. For anyone still reading...thank you for your patience, dear friend, I salute you. *Omitted (2013). Edited 28/2/18.

Submitted: December 04, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Carl Halling. All rights reserved.

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