“Go to your cell. Your cell will teach you everything.” — St. Moses the (Black) Ethiopian
Of course, St. Moses and the other great monastics of Orthodoxy could not have had an album from War on their turn tables back in the day. In fact, they couldn’t have had turn tables. But, if they did, I imagine any monk or nun would have heard this song and felt it fitting in to their spiritual journey. I forgot that I had a copy of “The World Is A Ghetto” cassette. The whole thing is a masterpiece of 1970’s funk. But, that fourth track, “Four Cornered Room,” strikes me as one of the best songs to prepare for daily prayers. I would dare say it is better than most contemporary Gospel music.
First of all, War was a band that never called to make a living from the Gospel. These were just some dudes from L.A. making songs about “Low Rider” cars, old westerns (“Cisco Kid”), and other stuff to bob your head to. Chances are, most of us aren’t reading our Bibles and singing hymns 24/7. We work regular jobs either as highly educated and trained professionals, something unskilled and minimum wage, or something somewhere in between. And even for full-time pastors and church staff, chances are that your daily duties keep you from any sort of introspective time in reflective self-examination. So, “Four Cornered Room” is not a directive from a pulpit nor a praise break by an on stage performer. It is a hint of what needs to be done by someone as regular as you and I. While ministers and musicians called by God do a service to mankind, there are moments when our souls are better fed by those who offer real words as they walk beside us than from occupants of honorable seats.
It was Jesus Himself that taught us the value of the “Four Cornered Room.” While War wasn’t giving an intentional Biblical lesson, they almost parallel the Gospel:
Thinking, talking; we’ve worked out our problems – Look like we should have better days in front – Just because we took our time to think and talk – For a much better understanding (War, “Four Cornered Room”)
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:6)
Also, consider how many of our slave ancestors took the time to be one on one with God and themselves. How else could we have heard such spiritual lyrics as:
Nobody knows the trouble I see – Nobody knows but Jesus – Nobody knows the trouble I see – Glory Hallelujah.
There is hope that comes from the Four Cornered Room that no matter what our struggles and challenges are, if we would just get to that one place where we can be to ourselves, Someone will meet us and help us come to a better time and place.