I’ve been trying to write about Sam Rocha‘s album Late to Love all morning long. It’s such a saturated phenomenon that I’m having trouble paring down the superlatives, so it doesn’t look like I’m kissing too much butt.
The album bills itself as an Augustinian soul album. Its lyrics range from despair to joy, from praise lament, there are even a few pieces played solely on instrument.
The opening song of Late to Love, “In the Self’s Place,” first caught my attention because it is the first song on the album. I’m not the sort of person who starts and album backwards, or somewhere in the middle.
There was plenty to digest there for a phenomenology geek like myself. The song gets its title from Jean-Luc Marion’s most recent book published in English, also entitled In the Self’s Place. If one sentence summarizes Marion’s book-length reading of Augustine’s Confessions then this would be it (from a rather famous essay of his included in this invaluable collection):
Before the subject can constitute itself, the call to being has already exiled it.
Sam’s song begins with a kind of lament for the self not being able to constitute itself in the flow of time:
I miss myself—a man I never knew.
I miss myself—my soul abides in you. I miss myself—you were there before.
I miss myself—walk on distant shore. I miss myself—look what I’ve become. I miss myself—when I was young.
I miss myself—take me where you are. I miss myself—so close, so far.
Then it complicates things by deflecting and exiling its intentions away from the self toward God:
I wanna stay with you.
The song rounds itself out with a delicious bit of irony. It exposes its initial concerns as an illusion:
Only you. Only you.
Cause there is no self.
There is no autonomous self, because we are persons constituted by our communion with God, others, and his creation.
The rest of the songs on the album are just as provocative. I won’t bother you with more interpretations. You should open yourself to being surprised by them.
Experience shows me that kids love it too. While listening to the album in the car our five year old Dominik likes to play philosopher with the hooks. For example, whenever “In the Self’s Place” plays he always repeats the following hook with a a bewildered and amused “I LOST MYSELF?!”
His question/exclamations always exile me into attempting to translate complex philosophical ideas into five year old talk. I believe this is what Jean-Luc Marion means when he talks of reality as an “endless hermeneutic” in In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena.
Take the time to listen and purchase “Late to Love” right here. It takes you out of the comfort zone of pop and indie music shallowness. More selfishly, I’d like to see Sam make enough money to make another album.
OK, now I’m late to pick up my wife from work, but I couldn’t resist the call to encourage you to support this album.
I’ll only add that there’s a connection between Jean-Luc Marion and my recent post on martyrdom. Enjoy: