I want to go home, too, Oliver.
That was the thought that came to my mind when I first heard Oliver Anthony’s follow-up to the viral hit “Rich Men North of Richmond.” (To be clear, I’m not certain which tune technically came first, but I heard and saw “I Want to Go Home” second.)
While some quickly latched onto the lyric “We’re on the brink of the next world war” as some sort of battle cry, to me, it was a lament. I said as much to my colleague and friend Brandon Morse as we discussed it, observing that Anthony’s crooning reminds me a bit of “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou” — he’s 2023’s Man of Constant Sorrow.
Indeed, the line immediately following is: “And I don’t think nobody’s prayin’ no more,” a stark reminder, in my view, of the spiritual battles that undergird so many of this world’s woes.
It truly does feel as though we’ve lost our way — which is why Anthony’s plaintive call to find the way home resonates so deeply with me. “I don’t know which road to go; it’s been so long.” The expression on his face as he calls out to the Lord for direction reminds me of a tired child — so weary he can only express that most basic desire of going home, where it’s safe and secure, where things make sense.
Though pessimism is not my default setting, I find myself feeling like that weary child with increasing frequency.
I want to go home.
And I don’t mean that in the passing-from-this-plane-into-the-next sense, though I do look forward to someday resting in that peace, as well — I don’t feel like my time in this life, on this Earth, is done yet. I get the sense I’m meant to do more — but what, and how?
I want to get back (or forward) to that place where things make sense and the world doesn’t feel so fraught and anxious that it’s about to tilt off its axis. I want to live in that place where right is right and wrong is wrong, and even the gray areas can be navigated with consistency and grace; where granting one another the benefit of the doubt isn’t naive or dangerous; where leadership includes competence, integrity, and vision; where community is built on connection; where standing on principle doesn’t feel like an exercise in futility.
I don’t know if these are merely the sentimental ramblings of a woman staring down the barrel of 55 and getting caught up in nostalgia. I do know that the world was a chaotic, fretful place when I was born in 1968 and that it has continued to be so in many ways ever since. I’m old enough to recall the end of the Vietnam War, Nixon’s resignation, the Iran hostage crisis, the omnipresent threat of nuclear extinction. I don’t believe life’s ever been a bed of roses.
But I also know that something has changed. It’s palpable. You can see it in the city streets and in the strain on people’s faces. Very little looks shiny and new anymore. We don’t aspire to anything great. There’s a pall that hangs over us. We seem to have forgotten how to laugh, how to feel joy, how to share that with others. We’ve drifted away from God and away from one another.
We’ve lost the plot and lost our way.
And I want to go home.