Rag ‘N’ Bone Man is a curiously unlikely name for a pop star, but from the moment the undefended, earthy quality of Rory Graham (aka Rag ‘N’ Bone Man (R ’N’ B man))’s voice supplants the almost mechanical chant of the intro the listener becomes aware that they are on the threshold of being treated to a rare honesty about the human condition.
Here is a link to the song www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3wKzyIN1yk
R ‘N’ B man speaks, or rather sings, from a place of feeling blamed. We’ve all been there, I suspect, at some time in our life. I call to mind a giant foam hand with a pointy index finger, recognisable from sporting events; or worse still a stadium full of fingers pointing at me screaming “I am to blame”. However, with deft integrity R ‘N’ B man eschews the stereotypical response of denial and owns the fact that he is “only human”.
Then in full glare of his audience he enters a space of personal reflection:
“Maybe I'm foolish,
Maybe I'm blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what's behind”
Concluding with utter candour that with “no way to prove it” that maybe he’s “lying”.
He realises his limitation. What is common to us as human beings is, though we often don’t like to admit it, that we are all finite.
R ‘N’ B man then invites the listener to make an honest assessment of themselves
“Take a look in the mirror
And what do you see?
Do you see it clearer
Or are you deceived
In what you believe?”
He observes that we all see things from a different perspective, hinting that no one has a monopoly on truth and asserting that none of us has the right to blame another for seeing life differently.
Then Atlas-like, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, R ‘N’ B man feels the full weight of his finiteness.
“Some people got the real problems
acknowledging that part of what it means to be human is that we “make mistakes”. Admitting that he is “no prophet or messiah”, he suggests that if we are looking for someone who doesn’t make mistakes we “should go looking somewhere higher”; pointing to a higher power, someone infinite.
Blame has been around since the beginning of time. In Genesis 3:12-13 we read that Adam blamed Eve and she blamed the snake, for the ‘original sin’. Finding ourselves on the receiving end of blame, being the focus of the end of the pointy index figure, is uncomfortable because we don’t want to be found wanting, to feel that we have fallen short.
Yet far from being “only human”, Genesis (1:26-27) suggests that human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation, formed on the sixth day, after everything else, and made in God’s image. God commanded humankind to have dominion over the earth (1:28). However, that mandate was given before humanity disobeyed God’s specific instruction not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17). The act of disobedience is recorded in Genesis 3:6. The result (3:7) is shame, the exposure of human shortcomings for all to see. This awareness of our finiteness coupled with our continuing aspiration for dominion sets up an anxious tension within us, which we expend much energy in seeking to manage. It is this, I believe, R ‘N’ B man in wrestling with in his realisation that he is ‘only human’. But what if, as humans, we were never intended to go it alone, but journey through this experience we call life in partnership with the infinite God? But that’s a story for another day.
A registered therapist or counsellor can work with you through distressing emotions such as anxiety and shame and being on the receiving end of blame to gain fresh perspective.
David Sinclair is a registered accredited psychotherapist, counsellor and supervisor and is the Director of Pastoral Care UK, the Pastoral Care arm of the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.