Why Ukulele Steeple?

If you want to skip to the quick explanation, click here.

The Story Behind the Title

Why “Ukulele Steeple”? Well, in part because (one of) my current obsessions as I’m starting this blog is Amanda Palmer. You can check her out here. My son-in-law gave me a CD of hers (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?) years ago. I listened, politely. Fine. Okay. Not my era.

Then someone on some podcast somewhere recommended her book, The Art of Asking. “Every artist must read this book.” Well, I’m hungry enough, so I thought, “Why not?” I bought the book. Started reading. Gulping tears by page four. I’m serious. She hit a nerve. And kept hitting the dang nerve. Then she hit other nerves. Wonderful. 

So I’m now an official Amanda Fan. In what some might say is a backwards route (I’m pretty sure my son-in-law would say that) … Amanda has also introduced me to Neil Gaiman. So I’m now reading through his oeuvre. Imagination run wild, yet with astonishingly beautiful control. It’s opening me up to my own wild control, I believe. Yay.

Reading Amanda made me feel more like myself than almost anything I’ve ever read. Maybe more than anything. Here’s this “young” woman–I get to call her young because she’s the age of my daughters, I’m her mother not her sister. She has lived a life so completely other than the life I’ve had. And I feel like she’s been living the life I always knew I was built for. Secretly. It’s prompted me to write my own life anew, an “as if Amanda” story. Maybe that will become a public thing–either lived or published. We’ll see.

Amanda interpreted “the art of asking” in a way that made me hear it. Made me hear it. Not sure what I mean by that verb, but there’s a “making” aspect in it somehow. Anyway, I’m filled with gratitude for that. It’s a truth I’ve always known. Her book re-connected me to Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. And to my first (and third) fabulous mentor in my MFA program (that would be Kenny Cook)–both of whom (Hyde and Cook) have demonstrated for me the “gift culture” that feels more natural to me than breathing.

I’ve been holding my breath.

I’m tired of holding my breath.

Maybe I’ll stop, holding my breath. I suppose that’s what the blog is for?

The final set of lyrics in Amanda’s book was this: “Ukulele Anthem.” I immediately knew that these lyrics were going at the top of every course syllabus from now on. This is what I teach. This is what I’ve been teaching. In every class. For years. This is truly a prescription for life. It’s one I’ve believed in forever, I think. And it’s what my own teaching is about. Since I currently teach in a Seminary, and since that’s all about churches and the like, the title “Ukulele Steeple”  felt right:


“Ukulele gleaming golden from the top of every steeple!”

So you’ve come all this way, and now you know where I got the notion of a “Ukulele Steeple.”

The Ukulele Steeple

It seemed a good image for my own way of being in the world — all these confusing passions that I have. How do I put it all together?

I teach folks who go to work in buildings that have steeples on them (sometimes). The ukulele is a symbol of freedom — at least in Amanda Palmer’s conception. Too often those buildings that have steeples are not places of freedom.

So I’m swapping out the old kind of steeple for the ukulele steeple. Because it’s freedom that matters. It’s the freedom that matters.

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