Harmony, Cacophony & Time Out
I've been struck - as we all have - with the events of the last days.....Virginia Tech, Don Imus' radio ranting, a Music Sunday Worship Experience at our church, and then attending a Dave Brubek concert this past Sunday night. Our worship service at Fruitvale Pres. Church this past week was one in which Music was given the forefront....we had several "styles" of sermons - spoken, played, and silent reflection on the scriptures passages for the day. One of those (John 20:19-31
) tells the continuing story of the post-Easter or post-resurrection experience with Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus appears and speaks to his disciples, not telling them how lazy, stupid, irritating, or unfaithful they were, after they all pretty much just abandoned him to die alone for fear of being arrested along with him. Rather Jesus shows up and say "peace to you." Then he says it again. I found myself wondering who of those gathered dared first to approach Jesus, and get a good look at him, touching his wounds, checking out to make sure the whole in his hands (actually more likely his wrists) were legit and not some costume make-up. Then Jesus says to them, "As God sent me, so I send you." I hear in that notions and catch visions of deep respect, a life-giving relationship of connectedness, cooperation and transformative trust, and a harmonious reciprocity in actions, words, and reactions. WOW....we're sent in the same way....with each other, to testify to the life-transforming experience of Christian faith that we've had in a harmonious, collaborative, reciprocal, inter-dependent way.
Sunday night I went to a Dave Brubek concert in the city. It was remarkable. He's like 800 or 85 years old, seemed to barely be
able to stand up and yet filled the room with music, like the incense I light each Sunday morning fills up the sanctuary in our church building. I was stuck in an awe-inducing trance, and struck by the habitual and traditional reciprocity of harmony and collaboration in jazz - of the give and take. The saxophonist steps forward and goes for it on this whaling wicked solo...and then turns, smiling to the drummer inviting him to do the same. The give and take was beautiful - like dancers lifting and holding each other in some sort of radical ballet move...and then switching roles.. I found myself thinking about our church community, and most of my experiences in different sorts of communities. Usually there is that one (or more) complainer, that real pain-in-the-butt, who is never happy, never content, never satisfied (unless of course what was done was their vision, on their terms, in their way, at the financial expense of others) - that person symbolizes the cacophony of our human relationships....we're able to be, act, relate, speak, and live harmoniously for a while...but then we get to that place where we want everyone else to want what we want, to feel our pain, to take up our passionate defense and investment in whatever it might be (the war in Iraq, recycling, supporting Israel at all costs, the color of paint on the walls, the way that the coffee is poured). It's in that movement that we slip from harmony into cacophony - to many voices speaking against each other rather than in complimentary ways that deepen, reflect, and expand upon the others. The Dave Brubek Quartet never made that slip - at least to my ignorant lighter-waving ears - they worked with each other, playing off each other, supporting and enjoying each other....giving and taking. Why can they play like that and yet we struggle to live like that? (part of it might be that it was only a 90 minute set verses a 90 year life....) I thought about the cacophony around and from the destructive words of Don Imus last week...the fallout from it....and then the beauty of those Rutgers women who grace this week's cover of Newsweek
Then the murderous and too tragic (almost to be true!) ramapage at Virgina Tech that happened yesterday. I heard a great interview with Lucinda Roy on Talk of the Nation Today - she wrote a great co-oped contribution for the NY Times. Read it here
. What is it that makes us make that slip, that jump, that radical break from the reality that we all want - one of harmony, collaboration, mutual respect, reciprocity, and connectedness - to that parallel and paranormal reality of fear, mistrust, hateful revenge, isolation, brokeness, and eruptive violence? I don't mean to be trite, or simplistic, or flippant, but maybe it's in all of us...maybe we - and when I say we I mean me - aren't all that different deep down than Cho Seung-Hui
? I'm not going to suddenly go all NRA and buy a gun at WalMart tomorrow...but maybe I'm broken deep down in the same - or similar - ways that he was? I mean I want harmony - I've just been droning on about it - but I also have that devilish desire to destroy at times, to let my cynicism loose to wreak havoc and create a cacophony that I can sit back and congratulate myself on causing.
As I write I think back to the last entries that I've been doing on the blog...about the 40 day Lent Challenge to read through the Bible...It burnt me out a bit blog-wise...but was formative for me in terms of how I reflect on the texts, testimonies and stories that make up the Bible - how they formulate a harmonious (yet often poli-tonal) message - The world is amazing. Something is broken. That brokness ends up screwing the world up as we screw ourselves up. Only someone outside the system, beyond this brokeness of the human condition - God and God in Jesus the Christ - can make things right, pay the price, or write the prescription, or turn things upside down - in order to bind the broken, make whole the divided, and resurrect that which died long ago. This transformation isn't just some sort of systemic social science, philisophical musings, or political progaganda, but a truth that we're invited to experience through relationship and make into the currency, vocabulary, and musical instruments with which we relate to and with each other in a new sort of liberating community.
Not sure what all this means...the past 40 or so days, and the events of the past 10 days....but it makes me wonder as I reflect upon one of the Scriptures I'm preaching on this coming Sunday
"Like good stewards
of the manifold grace of God,
serve one another
with whatever gift
each of you has received."
1 Peter 4:10 NRSV