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Archive for August, 2011

They don’t smoke, but neither do they breathe

fresh air very deeply

They don’t drink wine, but neither do they

enjoy lemonade; they don’t swear, but neither

do they glory in any magnificent words, neither

poetry nor prayer;

They don’t gamble, but neither do they take

much chance on God;

They don’t look at women and girls with lust in

their hearts, but neither do they roll breathless

with love and laughter, naked under the sun of

high summer.

It’s all rather pale and round-shouldered, the

great Prince lying in prison.

                                                                George Target

God help us breathe fresh air very deeply,

enjoy lemonade,

glory in magnificent words of poetry or prayer.

Take much chance on God,

And roll breathless with love and laughter,

naked under the sun of high summer!

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Sometimes I feel like I spend too much time writing about other people’s ideas, their works of art or their beautifully written stories, thoughts and inspirations.  I wonder if I can ever be original myself?  But there are other times when I realise that all our musings and opinions and expressions are combinations of many things we have heard before in all sorts of places, from all sorts of people and at all sorts of angles.  They pour into the melting pot processor that is our brain and from deep out of somewhere we each mould and create our own, individual perspectives.; perspectives which will pour into others’ melting pot processors to be diced up, rolled out, recombined with bits and pieces and re-presented. 

Just this evening I was listening to the radio and heard 2 pieces that really touched me, which I reflected on consciously for a while but which have now sunk down to a chamber somewhere, all ready to start the dicing process!

The first was an interview with Francisco Goldman, the author of ‘Say her Name’.  He chose to call it a novel, even though it is a sort of memoir to his young wife, Aura.  At the beginning of the book, the reader is told that Aura died by jumping into a wave with a body board in the Pacific Ocean in Mexico.  They had been married less than 2 years.  Aura’s mother and uncle blamed Francisco for her death and do not speak to him to this day.  For many months after the accident, Francisco drank heavily until he was told he was killing himself.  He decided he needed to do something with his life that wouldn’t embarrass Aura and the book, described as a beautiful love story and an extraordinary story of loss, became his life for the next few years.

I don’t know what the book itself is like.  In fact, I’ve read a none too flattering review of it!  But it was Goldman’s deeply personal reflections in the interview that set me wondering.  He questioned why, out of all the people in the world, one person should come to fascinate and captivate us so much that they should fill up our whole life?  And when that person dies, where does that personality go?  Sometimes he felt he loved Aura so much that he wanted to be her, to know what it was like to reside in her brain. 

The only way he could comprehend and accept what happened on that beach was to see every moment of Aura’s life leading to, and culminating in, her leap into that wave.  In the same way, all the twists and turns of his own life led to that heart-beat.  In some way, all their moments were bound up in that moment.

Goldman spoke about the importance he felt of conveying Aura’s mother faithfully and well because of the close relationship she had had with her only daughter.  And this despite her grief stricken accusations against him and his own survivor’s guilt, having so recently vowed to protect his young wife in any way possible.            

 

The second radio gem was a preview of Julian Lennon’s new song, ‘Looking for Love’.  It was one of those lovely moments when I turned the radio on on an off chance, not expecting to hear anything special and then something beautiful was just placed in my lap.  There were so many truthful lyrics but one line in particular struck me. 

‘I need to find someone with the purest heart and mind, it’s the hardest thing to find’.    

It was such an unusual, unexpected, simple sentiment.  How often is purity the quality that someone in a popular song is searching for?!  Isn’t it usually the opposite?  The beauty of the phrase was that just for this line, all instruments were stripped away leaving just the simplest piano notes (and I’m a sucker for the piano!).  The music itself was clear and pure for a short moment.

Well, that’s what touched me. 

You’ll probably be touched by a completely different line.  Or a whole other song.  Or maybe a scene in a film.  These things might not be originally ours, but when they touch us, they blend and integrate with all our other inner swirlings.  And sooner or later originality shows itself.

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The path of descent becomes our own liberation.

Really?

I’ve had a strong inkling about that for a long time. Ever since wandering home from the gym as a 16 year old and thinking how lovely it would be to live somewhere where I didn’t feel so inadequate in the face of the MTV dancers I’d just been staring at for an hour. Where the gym wasn’t an endless struggle to climb some ladder and then stay near the top of it. What a relief!

The great thing about that phrase, ‘descent is our liberation’, is that it recognises that’s it’s not primarily about going out to the needy and handing them charity. Rich at the top, poor at the bottom but oh so grateful! It recognises that real life might actually be found at the bottom.

When I say things like that, a reaction can be that I’m somehow suggesting poverty is a good thing in itself, somehow holy. Or that it’s a bad thing to try and improve yourself or your situation. But I emphatically don’t think that at all. I just have a real suspicion (and some little experience) that the bottom is more than a place to be helped up from. It’s a place where you can be free enough to live a different way, after all, you’ve got nothing to lose.

I recently had to read ‘Interrupted’ by Jen Hatmaker for an essay I was writing. 

But I’m so glad I had to!  I got that little phrase from her and it slapped me right between the eyes. Well, Jen seems to write in a way that does that. It’s funny, light-hearted, honest, direct, self-effacing and sharp as a needle.  And she’s a woman!  (In fact, I’m a little jealous of her eloquence.  Probably because I’m still trying to ascend to be fair.)  So here are some golden nuggets that are so worth repeating. I’m getting goose bumps just going over them. Let’s hope goose bumps turn into something a bit less pointless (surely goosebumps don’t help to keep us warm really do they?) :

“I’m learning what it means to descend, which is so revolutionary, it often leaves me gasping. I have been trying to ascend my whole life. Up, up, next level, a notch higher, the top is better, top of the food chain, all for God’s work and glory of course. The pursuit of ascension is crippling and has stunted my faith more than any other evil I’ve battled. It has saddled me with so much to defend, and it doesn’t deliver. I need more and more of what doesn’t work. I’m insatiable and ironically, the more I accumulate, the less I enjoy any of it. Instead of satisfaction , it produces toxic fear in me; I’m always one slip away from losing it all.

Consequently my love for others is tainted because they unwittingly become articles for consumption…I am an addict, addicted to the ascent and thus positioning myself above people who can propel my upward momentum, and below those who are also longing for a higher rank and might pull me up with them. It feels desperate and frantic and I’m so done being enslaved to the elusive top rung.

When Jesus told us to take the lowest place (Luke 14:10), it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defence. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation…With every step lower, the stripping away process was more excruciating. I had no idea how tightly I clung to reputation and approval or how selfishly I behaved to maintain it. Getting to the top requires someone else to be on the bottom; being right means someone else must be wrong. It’s the nature of the beast.”

“It’s as if Jesus knew that the secret of life awaits us at the bottom. Oh wait, that is exactly what He said, all the time, in every possible way, through parable and story, by example and modelling, directly and indirectly, corporately and privately”.

Maybe the last really will be first and the least the greatest….

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