I have always been a big fan of Roy Orbison. Perhaps more than any other male singer he gives convincing expression to deep emotions of anguished longing. Though his songs are generally framed in a romantic context, I have found them equally valuable from a spiritual perspective where the desire for affective signs of meaning can sometimes remain long frustrated.
His cover of the well-known song "My Prayer" especially communicates well with me in this context. Roy is rightly acclaimed for the dramatic way he concludes many songs with his trademark high-pitched crescendo and on "My Prayer" he truly excels himself in a dramatic finale where his voice seemingly pierces the darkness to touch Heaven itself.
In my early years from the age of 8 - 14 for each Summer I would spend a couple of weeks in the seaside resort of Portstewart in Northern Ireland. During that time I developed a deep attachment to the town which I always considered had a beautiful location. However paradoxically I remember it as the time when I began already to experience social detachment and a profound sense of loneliness. It is then that the longing for a deeper meaning to life was truly born in me which has never ceased. Perhaps because of lack of sufficient direct involvement with other people, I tended to develop a mystical communication with certain places of my acquaintance that thereby became associated with a genuine sense of contemplative fulfilment.
Recently I travelled back to Portstewart for a funeral that was made even more sombre due to the dreary weather. However as I walked down the promenade once again for the first time in nearly 50 years, I experienced a remarkable sense of connection as if the answer to all that former longing was now being revealed. Despite the sense of gloom, my surroundings momentarily melted becoming one with an extended body. And at the centre was the ultimate realisation that everything is truly spirit. So here unexpectedly the personal and impersonal worlds were revealed as indivisible. And in this precious moment when evolution briefly glimpsed its eternal destiny, all questioning ceased.
Subsequently when joining the throngs gathered outside the Church for the funeral, I was filled with a wonderful sense of lightness and peace as if all the events unfolding on the surface represented but an insubstantial play on a much deeper reality now flooding my being.
It was only a few days later when I reflected on this experience that I realised - perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not - that Jimmy Kennedy who wrote the lyrics for "My Prayer" was for many years a resident of Portstewart and that Roy Orbison recorded the song just after my last holiday visit there in the early 60's!