A good friend recently suggested that Avalon Sunset was one of Van Morrison's best albums. Now he's released some 35 and I can't claim, to know them all well, but it is lovely, and one of his most 'spiritual'. One constant feature though of his albums is what one author has called the 'Poetry of the ineffable'. Blimey, sounds a bit fancy, what can the author mean? Well here's a brief go...
He certainly doesn't fit into neat categories, and would not identify with any one religion, although his lyrics often contain very overt Christian content. And what is this 'ineffable'?
'the ineffable. By its very definition it's a slippery word, one that is impossible to pin down by creedal statements or doctrinal catechisms, but Morrison has offered a number of clues that outline its general contours. It's the lost sense of innocence and peace that he hearkens back to again and again in his songs about an idyllic childhood in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It's being fully alive to the moment, attuned to the sense of wonder that can break through on even the grayest and most banal of days.' http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/october-web-only/van-morrison-poetry-ineffable.html
VM often expresses deep longings that there must be more to this life than merely eating, drinking, going to work, raising families and doing all the other stuff which comprises human life. He's certainly a great exponent of human and romantic love, but also recognises that there is a 'greater love' that is available to all.
'there are dozens of songs, scattered throughout an immense and daunting catalogue, that speak of a life in search of God. There are moments of ecstatic bliss, of profound peace and assurance. There are moments of regret, of missed opportunities, of failure. "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God?" (from 1989's Avalon Sunset) is not only a representative song title, but also a lament that will sound familiar to any follower of Christ. On the same album, Morrison offers his most straightforward gospel affirmation:
Heals the sick and heals the lame
Says you can do it too in Jesus' name
And he lifted you up, and he turned you aroundAnd he put your feet back on higher ground
Never quench the quest for the 'ineffable'. Yep for many of us life is good, or even great (at least some of the time). And there is much satisfaction in human love. But that will only ever take us so far, and as VM would say, 'when will we ever learn' (from When will we ever learn to live in God)
Reach out for him, he'll be there
With him your troubles, you can share
Oh, you can use his higher powerEvery day in any hour' (ibid)