WE HAVE A GENERATION GAP. The first time I reckoned with that cultural reality, I was 15ish and wanted long hair. My parents, the Jenks Schools Board of Education, and most other “adults” in my sphere said, “No! And tuck in your shirttail.”

Today the Gap still exists, but I’m on the other side of it.

A few years ago, my youngest son, Kyle said, “Hey Dad. There’s a heavy metal band called, ‘Disturbed’. They’ve done a cover of one of your favorite songs, “The Sound of Silence”.



Isn’t it interesting that the generation gap often shows up in musical tastes. No doubt, adults back in the day found Elvis to be disturbing, as did parents of my day with The Beatles.

Now I am proud of my sons on many many levels, one of those being their breadth of musical appreciation and understanding. I’m especially grateful that they know that I hold the writing of Paul Simon and the music of Simon & Garfunkel in high regard, reverence even, so much so, that when Kyle used the words heavy, metal, cover, the, sound, of, and silence in the same sentence, I was disturbed, and he knew I would be—until I listened to it.

(I can picture right now, my old writing professor, Dr. Spears, writing “DISJOINTED” across the face of this essay in red pencil.)

(Stay with me.)

A friend recently sent me a link to a video of a person watching the video of Disturbed’s cover of the song. Believe it or not, it is a YouTube thing for people to video themselves reacting to music videos. In fact there are numerous reaction videos to the “Disturbed” cover. I have watched several of them and have drawn two conclusions:

1.) It’s scary how many young people have never heard of Simon & Garfunkel or heard their music. That pesky generation gap.

2.) People seemed to be totally flummoxed by the lyrics of the song. Or, worse yet, they don’t seem to be interested in a closer look.

I certainly don’t claim to know the “meaning” of the lyrics of the song, but I’ve had about 50 years to ponder them, and I have. If you have time, let’s see if we can peek inside Paul Simon’s mind:


Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence


There has been speculation that Paul Simon wrote these lyrics in reaction to the assination of John F. Kennedy. The problem with that theory is that he wrote the song before that event.

Why the “sound” of “silence”? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I like to think of it as being lonely in a huge crowd. In this midst of the cacophony of life there is no discernable Word, so it might as well be silence.


In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone

'Neath the halo of a street lamp

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence


I listened to commentary about the song on a website. The analysis was that this could be someone overwhelmed by social media, email, and blogs like this one, etc. Then something happens that breaks through all of that. Seems reasonable—except the song was written in the 60s, before any of that.

There is a jolt, like an awakening or enlightenment. It cuts through. You have to take a moment to picture this guy, in the dim glow of a street lamp, with his collar turned up and all of a sudden: BOOM. A flash. “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.” —Acts 22:6. That kind of flash.


And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

No one dared

Disturb the sound of silence


Sound familiar? A mass of humanity, lots of words but no one “speaking” or “listening”. Are there sage voices today? Is there a “song” written worth sharing. I’m talking song in a metaphorical sense. For my generation that “song”-writer, that voice would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He spoke so powerfully, so relevantly, so prophetically. How did people respond? “No one dared disturb the sound of silence.”


"Fools" said I, "You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you"

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence


There is the word and there is the messenger, but too often there is no one willing to receive the words and they fall like “silent raindrops”.

“In the beginning was the Word… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” —from John 1, The Message


And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls"

And whispered in the sounds of silence


So many times we look in all the wrong places and listen to all the wrong people. Sometimes we think it must be in the cockiness of contemporary culture, or in the arrogant shriek of politics. Sometimes though the message is in a still, small voice, or the words of a child. Sometimes the real truth is right in front of us but not seen or heard.

Simon & Garfunkel’s version of the song, in my opinion, is styled in the voice of a 60s era poet. It is sung, as sort of a lament. Disturbed’s version to me is more the voice of a prophet. It has an urgency to it.

In the 50 years between the two versions culture has drifted and decayed to the point that both versions are relevant for their time.

Here is a link to Simon & Garfunkel doing the song live. Listen to it first because it is the version of the songwriter himself, Paul Simon. It is done with only an acoustic guitar; again, as a poetic lament.

Then listen to Disturbed’s take. It’s almost as if he is saying, “You didn’t listen to this 50 years ago, so let me be a little more emphatic.”



“Poets, prophets and reformers are all picture-makers -- and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.” ― Frederick Douglass

Gaps & Glimpses

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

The only hymn-singing tradition that I'm fully aware of is that of Southern Baptist churches and I've experienced it across the full spectrum for over 60 years: from little country churches where a volunteer leads the singing while standing next to an old upright piano, tuned close enough to recognize the song and off just enough to make it somehow genuinely old-fashioned; to the highest of high worship, as defined by baptists.

One of the common traits of this hymn-singing tradition is the skipping of the third verse. "Turn in your hymnals to number 241 and let's sing the first, second and fourth verses."

Why? I have no idea. "That's the way we've always done it."

It seems like for me these days, if I am moving toward what might be called spiritual maturity, I'm kind of like filling in the gaps--gaps left by skipping third verses, or certain hard to grasp passages of scripture, or seeing dinosaurs as something bigger than the plastic toys you buy at Toys R Us. 

Oh there will always be gaps and I'm good with that. In fact, I love the mystery and wonder of a divine plan than passes our understanding. These days I'm grateful for the glimpses we get of how things might be designed, what the creativity of a loving God might be like, what's in the gaps. So that's pretty much my spiritual journey these days: gaps and glimpses.

Oh, that bit of poetry I started this post with--that's the third verse of John Lennon's "Across The Universe." See what we miss when we skip the third verse? Note: For my younger readers, John Lennon was in band called The Beatles. ;-)

In case you're interested, I've included the complete lyrics of this song at the bottom of this post along with an explanation of that weird language John used at the end of each verse.

Maybe one day I'll publish a book of skipped third hymn verses. Then someday those amazing poets of old, like Isaac Watts, will come up to me in heaven and say, "Thanks for the book Pops. By the way why did you people skip those verses?" And I'll say, "I'm not sure Mr. Watts, but it may have been for expedience sake. You see it was important that we got out of church by noon so we could beat the Methodists to the cafeteria."

So you'll know; here's the third verse of one of Isaac Watts amazing lyrics:

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, 
    sorrow and love flow mingled down. 
    Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, 
    or thorns compose so rich a crown.  

We shouldn't have skipped that part.

One more example of the treasures we miss when skip third verses (From The Sound of Silence. Simon & Garfunkel):

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared disturb the sound of silence.

Here are the lyrics I promised. Third verse included.

"Across The Universe"

By John Lennon

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe
Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world
Nothing's gonna change my world

The Sanskrit phrase Jai Guru Deva, is a sentence fragment whose words could have many meanings. Literally it approximates as "glory to the shining remover of darkness," and can be paraphrased as "Victory to God divine". --Wikipedia

Navigating St. Valentine's

With Ground Hog Day passed us, we now have to focus on Valentine's Day. This one is scary. There are so many ways to get it wrong and if you get it right, you have to be careful about your expectations of any reward for having done so.

I like to think of myself as somewhat of a romantic; I'm delusional like that. Last Sunday night, without being asked, I quickly switched from the Super(fluous) Bowl to Downton Abbey. Even if it had been a "good" game, I would have made the switch. When we go out to eat, we go somewhere like Cheevers or Charlestons rather than Rib Crib or Western Sizzler.

Relatively, I'm somewhere on a scale between Ryan Gosling and Homer Simpson. And while I do tend to be left of Okie-Normal politically speaking, this time I lean right. But, I do have good intentions.

Because of that I thought I might try my hand at offering some Valentine's Day advice, humbly and from personal experience of course. So over the next few days I'll put up a few posts here at About POPS. Take it all for what it's worth without any guarantee of success however you might define that.


Think about this: Poetry has stood the test of time. Remember Romeo and Juliet? Remember the Song of Solomon? A long time ago I got over that fear of poetry which was strategically implanted in us in junior high. Not only do I love to read and hear poetry, I still try my hand at an occasional verse.

One of my favorite poets is Billy Collins. I'm not recommending Mr. Collins for a poem to slip into a box of chocolates or write in the steam on the bathroom mirror. There are better poets for this kind of thing. Here's an example, Poem #269 by Emily Dickinson written in the mid-1800s:

Wild nights! Wild nights! 
Were I with thee, 
Wild nights should be 
Our luxury!
Futile the winds 
To a heart in port, 
Done with the compass, 
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden! 
Ah! the sea! 
Might I but moor 
To-night in thee!

Back to the poet Billy Collins. He gave some great advice. It was not in the context of developing a good Valentine's Day plan, but it is useful.

"If at first you don't succeed, hide all evidence you ever tried." --Billy Collins

When making your plan think it through carefully but don't overthink it, lest it seems too contrived.

See I told you this would be difficult.

If you're curious why I might not recommend Billy Collins for your romantic verse, check out this video.