I had planned to share this beautiful cover of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” at some point, but quixotically decided to record my own cover of the hymn instead. You see, kids, this is why we don’t let Adam near microphones.
My wobbly vocals are propped up by a dynamic piano arrangement from Silas Rosenskjold, who made it freely available on his YouTube channel. The photo in the video, snapped by my dad quite a number of years ago, shows the Basílica del Voto Nacional: a cathedral in Quito renowned for its architecture and hideous gargoyles.
I discovered this lovely hymn in a violent video game, of all places. BioShock Infinite, a first-person shooter, offers the most fascinating take on Christianity I’ve ever seen in a video game. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” is part of the game’s soundtrack.
Around the time I shared of how I almost left my faith last year, I found myself often listening to this hymn. Some of its questions seem to be aimed squarely at wavering skeptics like me.
There are loved ones in the glory whose dear forms you often miss; when you close your earthly story, will you join them in their bliss?
You remember songs of heaven, which you sang with childish voice; do you love the hymns they taught you, or are songs of earth your choice?
One by one their seats were emptied, one by one they went away; now the family is parted—will it be complete one day?
One question, the question, stands above the rest: Will the circle be unbroken? Will that legacy of faith, cherished by your loved ones, upheld by generations past, live on in you—or will you break the circle? Will you be the one to shatter this legacy of religious faith?
I know people who’ve broken the circle. I know people who’ve kept it whole. For my part, the circle remains unbroken.
As I work with the elderly, I face regular reminders of the transience and frailty of human life. As James Thurber flatly expressed it, “Even a well-ordered life can not lead anybody safely around the inevitable doom that waits in the skies. As F. Hopkinson Smith long ago pointed out, the claw of the sea-puss gets us all in the end.”
While the skeptical part of me can’t help but question the notion of an afterlife, I rejoice that death is a temporary separation, not a permanent one. I can hardly bear the thought of losing loved ones forever.
When my family is parted, it will yet be reunited one day—thank God.
This post was originally published on June 3, 2016. TMTF shall return with new posts on Monday, September 5!