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Bruce Springsteen's new album, "The Rising," is powerful. As I walked with long strides to work this morning, listening to the songs on my diskman, I felt love for the people around me. Love for America. I was more aware of the people I passed, more curious about where the old gray-haired man tying his shoe was headed, more intrigued by the young redhead in the bright yellow flowered dress who was racing madly down the street. I asked myself whom these men and women went home to and what was on their minds. I felt part of a community, and I walked down the street smiling.
Bruce Springsteen makes me happy. He always has. His wisdom and faith in America, not blind faith and not faith in our government, but a faith in the people and in the heart of America, reassures me that there is something rich and holy in "this hard land." His faith has always been in the working men and women, whom he believes are our nation's heart and soul. And now Springsteen has extended that faith to the larger world. He has found a faith that treasures the unique heart of America but recognizes that these treasures exist throughout the world, in "worlds apart" with equal wonders, with no less depth and history. This album somehow brings these ideas together.
In "The Rising," The Boss has stood up as the healer we need today, with a hopeful eye on the future and a steady, solemn eye on our recent past. He has managed to commemorate the lost men and women of last September, to honor the pain of their families and the torment of a rescuer, without falling into a trap of sorrow. He brings us all together, soothes our worries, eases our pain, and shows us how to unite in a universal prayer when, in unison with the E-Street Band, he chants, over and over again, "May your strength give us strength/May your faith give us faith/May your hope give us hope/May your love give us love" ("Into the Fire").
Each time I hear the album's first beat get going, I know things are going to be okay. It's a loving, appreciative, and hopeful beat. Life is good, the beat shouts. Here we are. Seize the day. And as I listen to the Arabic rhythm merge with his own Springsteen rock, as I hear his token harmonica harmonize with Middle Eastern rhythms and I am witness to the beautiful melody this marrying creates, I am soothed. Yes, our world can be healed, he says. Yes, love who you love, and your two cultures together can create something that never existed before. Yes, love who you love, and even when you come from religions that stand "worlds apart" and whose histories are stained with blood, the real love between you, the "kiss" and "your skin upon my skin" ("Worlds Apart") can overcome that. While Springsteen's words themselves sound almost trite--the lyrics are on his simpler side--the music proves their worth and stands tribute to their truth.
Interfaith relationships, the deep love between people of different backgrounds and different pasts, the merging and clashes of rich cultures, are what this CD is all about. Call it interfaith or call it globalization, this CD is about not just loss and ruin, it is about the power of love, and it is about hope.
This album is upbeat but respectful. There is more rock than in his most recent albums; the beats are faster, the music louder. In "The Rising," Springsteen has stood up with hope and faith in our country and in our future. He sings with joy and an almost lighthearted contentment. These are the kinds of lyrics we remember from "Born in the USA," from the old songs. We see that happy times are not just in the past. America, Springsteen is reassuring us, is not left in ruins. We may have been hit hard, but this is just a part of our rich new fabric. We stand strong, and our future looms bright. "We've got this moment here today, it's not just dust and dark" ("Worlds Apart"). And that is what I want to hear.
"The Rising" is entirely different from the songs of Natalie Merchant's new album "Motherland," whose lyrics chide America and wallow in its flaws. Yes, we have flaws; yes, our country is disgustingly wealthy and this wealth is clumped in mounds; yes, we are overly dependent on material things, but look at the beauty and depth in America. Look at the hard-working people trying to get by, at the communities where, after work, the guys meet up at "Al's Barbecue," and at the men who give their lives to save others ("Nothing Man"). This is the richness that Springsteen celebrates.
So I listen to the album and I smile. I listen to the album and I feel a little more at ease with the world. A little more hopeful about life, and a little more awed by love. Because whether we are talking about a single interfaith relationship, or about the larger interfaith relationship between country and country, it comes down to love and understanding. "I know that we are different, you and me . . . the time has come to let the past be history, yeah if we could just start talking . . . " ("Let's Be Friends").