September 30, 2020

To Make God Smile

Try to stay with me here.

The Beatles (remember them?) released Rubber Soul in time for Christmas, 1965. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said this was the best album he had ever heard and set about to create his own masterpiece. In May of 1966, Wilson (who turned 70 yesterday) and the Boys released Pet Sounds. Paul McCartney heard Pet Sounds and said it was the best album he had ever heard. This set in motion Sgt. Pepper’s, which many recognize as THE greatest album of all time.

That sent Wilson back to work on his next composition, a “teenage symphony for God.” Yet this was the beginning of Wilson’s dark night of the soul. His mental health issues and growing drug use made him a virtual recluse, and this next great album was shelved, only to be revived and finally released in 2004.

Brian Wilson wanted an album, he said, that would make God smile. I think he did it. The layers of sound make this a composition that ranks up there with some of the great symphonies of our time. And the deep and often silly lyrics can’t help to bring a smile to one’s face. Three of Wilson’s greatest songs—“Heroes and Villans,” “Surf’s Up,” and “Good Vibrations” (the latter being one of the greatest songs ever written by anyone)—are here, surrounded by tunes that encourage you to eat your vegetables and brush your teeth.

Are there great theological teachings here? Not that I can hear. But does there have to be? Brian Wilson wanted to make God smile. Is there anything greater we can do than that?

This video is 52 minutes long. Wilson leads us through Smile in its entirety. Stay with it through to the end and watch how the audience reacts to the incredible performance it witnessed. This is worth every second. Maybe, just maybe, it will make you smile as well. Enjoy.

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  1. I can only think of quotes from Rick Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life” about God’s smile being our motivation, which sounds ok, but is a subtle legalism. Only one thing makes God smile, and that it His Son, in Whom He is well-pleased.

    • Professor Failure says

      “Only one thing makes God smile and that is His Son”

      I’m sorry. I think that this statement is complete nonsense.

      God made an entire universe of things that are NOT HIM. Presumably not out of a desire to dominate those things, but because it was good for their to be things that are not him.

      I believe that any God worth his salt would smile at a universe of wonders, of things different from him.

      If Jesus is all God smiles at, I want nothing to do with such a God. Because he’d be a bore.

    • Spot on, dumb ox.

      As the Scriptures say, “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”

      I can’t pretend to know what makes God smile, or not. But I do know how God views us (read the first few chapters of Romans), and I do know what God is after in us…’faith in His Son Jesus’.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Then why don’t we just suck a load out of a shotgun, because then why bother?

      • Brian Roden says

        Our righteous deeds are worthless insofar as we try to earn salvation by them. But once we have been saved by grace through faith, which is a gift from God, we are to do the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10, which people always seem to forget when quoting vv. 8-9). I think when we carry the imago Dei as we were intended to, it makes God smile.

    • I am with Professor Failure on this one.

  2. Talking of God smiling reminds me of this bit from G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy:

    “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

  3. I almost picked up the vinyl of The Smile Sessions the other days, we’ll see if it comes down in price I might. From what I’ve heard, I’ve enjoyed it a little more than Brian’s Smile solo album (mostly because the other guys’ voices really are good – and it’s the band in their prime).

    Even then, I sometimes I get why Mike Love didn’t like the line “Columnated Ruins Domino.” Van Dyke Parks could be just a wee bit pretentious and obtuse for a band that was singing about Barbara Ann and cars a few years prior.

  4. You might enjoy an article about this album, “How to Smile”, from Ben Shive at the Rabbit Room website:

  5. Also, the new album is out, and there’s some surprisingly good stuff on there. If Brian’s getting a creative spurt at 70, then all the better. Listen to “From There to Back Again”

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says
  7. I was at one of the first shows of the Smile tour. Yes, the music was great, despite to toll of years on Brian’s voice. The extended applause at the end was not just for the music, it was a heartfelt encouragement from the audience for his continued recovery, to move past the debilitating isolation and abuse he suffered at the hands of his ex-psychiatrist.