If I Had an Orchard…

By: Reed Carlson
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The Fleet Foxes are a wildly popular band within certain circles, but if you’ve never heard of them that doesn’t surprise me. They are arguably one of the country’s most popular “indy” bands (which is somewhat of a oxymoron if you think about it).

The Fleet Foxes are a band of contradictions. The two core members grew up in a wealthy suburb of Seattle yet they sing about places like the Blue Ridge Mountains and idealize the simplicity of rural life. The band gained notoriety playing folk music but their most recent release seems to channel a bit of 60’s rock, Simon and Garfunkel-type stuff. They have a mountain-man, flannel sort of look but the Fleet Foxes are most popular with urban hipsters and Europeans.

Below is a new song of theirs that has intrigued me since it’s release. The lyrics (as best as I can tell) are posted below. I’ve bolded the bits that seem interesting to me.

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

What’s my name, what’s my station, oh, just tell me what I should do
I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say “sure, take all that you see”
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

And I don’t, I don’t know who to believe
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing, it’s that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak

Yeah I’m tongue-tied and dizzy and I can’t keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I’ll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m raw
If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore
If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore
Someday I’ll be like the man on the screen

The singer’s attitude (as I interpret it) is one that resonates with me and, I believe, many of my generation. We grew up being told we could accomplish anything that we set our mind to. We were told that we were destined for great things. More so then any Americans before us, we were pampered, protected, praised and pushed to insure we could reach our highest potential.

Unfortunately, while we were given many tools, we were not necessarily told what to build.

Consequently many of us have sobered as we’ve entered adulthood, wondering “just who we should be.” I find it ironic that a chief mouthpiece of the ‘me’ generation would long for being a “cog in some great machinery” provided that he served “something beyond me.” I wonder how many tattooed, independently-minded, self-styled 20-somethings out there are secretly asking the same thing.

Where is the Orchard that the poet longs for? Where is the idealistic cause that’s worth believing in whole heartedly?

Christians believe that we’ve found something worth living for in the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s the story of the renewal of all things. More than anything else, this is the most scandalous thing that Christians believe—that this Jesus who died and rose again is the purest expression of what it means to be alive.

Perhaps we should reconsider forcing people to find their own way or to build their own meaning. Maybe it’s time we be more confident in the orchard that we’ve found in Christ. It’s a fine line between tying someone to your boat versus leaving them to float home alone. I’m the last person to embrace inexorable dogma. But I hope that if anyone ever asked me, “what’s my name, what’s my function?” I could give an answer worth believing in.

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2 Responses to If I Had an Orchard…

  1. Aaron says:

    It is a challenge to urge on toward ‘being part of something larger’, a grander whole of sorts while steering away from the cog in the machine type of worldview that easily degenerates into a form of fascism e.g some of what is seen in more ‘conservative’ or ‘fundamentalist’ religious circles…

    ‘Conformity’ and ‘freedom’ seem to always be in tension– I wonder if the wake-up to a desire for some type of direction on what to build is coming en masse or only in small circles? (I think of the revolution in worldview that the 1960s brought on)… it seems things could be tipping toward some change in orientation in the society at large…

  2. reed says:

    Aaron, I think you’ve identified a key tension. ‘Higher callings’ and ‘divine missions’ are too often associated with fanatics, fundamentalists and manipulators.

    However, I wonder if the fear of ‘fascism’ and ‘dogmatism’ has justified a kind of catechetical laziness for some in the Church. If someone were to ask you what values you held most dearly, would you passionately tell them or shuffle your feet and mutter something about ‘not wanting to taint anyone’s moral development.’

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