Jay’s Jams: Rosanne Cash, World of Strange Design

Well you’re not from around here
You’re probably not our kind
It’s hot from March to Christmas
And other things you’ll find
Won’t fit your old ideas
They’re a line in shifting sands
You’ll walk across a ghostly bridge
To a crumbling promised land

If Jesus came from Mississippi
If tears began to rhyme
I guess I’ll start at the beginning
It’s a world of strange design

Well I’d like to have the ocean
But I settled for the rain
I humbly asked for true love
There was such a price to pay
This room was filled with trouble
And sacraments deceived
Now I’m a jewel in the shade
Of his weeping willow tree

If Jesus came from Mississippi
If tears began to rhyme
I’ll have to go back to the beginning
In this world of strange design

We talk about your drinking
But not about your thirst
You set off through the minefield
Like you were rounding first
So open up a window
And hand the baby through
Point her towards the ghostly bridge
And she’ll know what to do

If Jesus came from Mississippi
And if tears began to rhyme
We’ll have to start at the beginning
In this world of strange design


Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny Cash) was recently interviewed by Krista Tippett on her podcast On Being. What she said about music and performing was lovely and very inspiring to me.

When she first began performing, she “thought that performing was about getting attention. But it’s not about the attention, it is about the energy exchange – I’m doing something for them [the audience], but they’re doing something for me, too. And it’s not hierarchical.”

To me, she is describing a communal I-Thou moment. Martin Buber famously described two kinds of relationships: I-It, where the relationship is transactional and based on how people are useful to one another; and I-Thou, where the relationship enters into a sacred realm beyond any purpose. In I-Thou, people truly see each other and see the beauty in each other.

But, like Buber’s I-Thou encounter, the magical moment Rosanne Cash describes between audience and performer doesn’t last. “Like a sand painting, when it’s done it’s over, it’s all wiped away. It’s part of the mystical beauty – the impermanence of this moment.”

The song I chose for July’s Jam is one of her most poetic, World of Strange Design. In it she evokes a sense of wonder about the nature of our world, our history, our humanity.

Rate this song below. And tell me what you think about the mystical or psychological power of music in the comments section!

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Jay’s Jams post at the beginning of every month. Every song I post will be accompanied by a reflection, often but not always connected to Judaism, which elucidates or complicates the meaning I draw from the song. Occasional contributors will supplement my own favorite jams.


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