Tuesday — In Sabbath Moment last week, we used the metaphor of the artist and being tethered to that authenticity given to our childhood. And how life knocks it out of us. How we become untethered from that which grounds us—from the name we’ve been given.
In the opening scenes of Shine, we first meet the middle-aged David Helfgott (played by acclaimed Australian stage actor Geoffrey Rush), babbling to himself incessantly and wandering in the rain, in a state of transition. Behind him is the isolated existence as a child piano prodigy whose emotional turmoil led to a nervous breakdown, and a series of stays in various mental institutions. Ahead of him is his eventual reconnection with the world around him, guided by both love and his virtuoso talent that has been long abandoned. We witness the awakening of the artist. In the movie (and in real life), David eventually moves toward that which gives life.
For me, the tragedy is that (in the name of love) David’s father (Peter) squeezes the artist out of the prodigy. But in truth, it doesn’t always require a pathological “love” to hide or extinguish the light.
In the movie rendition, there is a scene that stops my heart. David and his father are walking home after a competition. David has placed second.
(In his father’s eyes, anything other than first is a failure.) The father is seething, and there is no hiding his disgust. David has lived his entire life absorbing his father’s pathology, doing his very best to make his Daddy happy. The father walks ahead, hurried, his spirit heavy. David follows. On the sidewalk, in chalk, there is a hopscotch pattern. The camera follows from behind, and we see young David unconsciously, intuitively, childlike, hopping and skipping and jumping–the joy and the light (and the artistry) of his childhood still alive.
So here’s the deal: The artist—the authentic voice, the authentic name, the authentic wardrobe—in David did not reside only in the talent or prodigy or genius, but in the spontaneity, vitality, innocence, passion and delight.
And we remembered Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, “So; chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and discipline. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
I like the paradigm shift. We are not mandated to design or create or assemble the wardrobe.
Only that we inhabit the wardrobe we’ve been given.
Yes… that we live into the name we’ve been given.
Young David dressed in—he honored—the wardrobe…
Yes. And amen… Let the child, let the light, spill.
Wednesday — This week the story of the Nigerian woman, a physician working here in the US, whose given name meant, “Child who takes the anger away.”
How do we not forget what tethers us and give us our bearing?
How do we not forget the name we’ve been given?
I like this story because it is about what enables us to stand still rather to see our value and meaning as an assignment, urging pursuit and the need to add something outside of our self to be okay.
This voice of grace is music to the heart and soul. And music unlocks mercy… and who knows, maybe even the possibility for healing.
“Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear came from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear, are the same ones they heard, the night they met. Maybe that’s how they found each other. Maybe that’s how they’ll find me.” (From the Movie August Rush)
Remembering what tethers us… yes… and this, from Richard Rohr this week did my heart good… “The good news is that there is a guide, a kind of inner compass—and it resides within each of us. As the Scriptures put it, ‘the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:5). This Holy Spirit, described in John’s Gospel as an ‘advocate’ (John 14:16), guides all of us from home and toward home. The Holy Spirit is entirely for us, more than we are for ourselves, it seems. She speaks in our favor against the negative voices that judge and condemn us. This gives us all such hope—now we do not have to do life all by ourselves, or even do life perfectly ‘right.’ Our life will be ‘done unto us,’ just as happened with Mary (see Luke 1:38).
Optimism is a natural virtue and a wonderful gift of temperament when things are going well, when we think tomorrow will be better than today. Yet Christian hope has nothing to do with the belief that tomorrow is necessarily going to be better. Jesus seems to be saying that if even one mustard seed is sprouting, or one coin found, or one sheep recovered (see Luke 15)—that is reason enough for a big party!”
Thursday — Driving east this morning, just before sunrise, toward the McDowell mountains north east of Phoenix, AZ. The morning sky is mantles of clouds as if calligraphy, as if scrolled from a divine cake frosting decorator. The layers, saturated with plum and amethyst.
The sharp outline of the mountains is edged against the sky. And just above the mountain line, a layer of deep orange incandescence. It’s worth driving slow for this…
Yes. The gifts of this day are enough. It’s been a very full day for me.
And as it is my birthday, I give myself the permission to put my pen down… and savored what remains… I’ll catch up with you all tomorrow…
Friday — This week we took heart from the story of the Nigerian woman, a physician working here in the US, whose given name meant, “Child who takes the anger away.”
I resonate with the Nigerian doctor’s story because I know about anger and its power. It can be like acid, corroding the heart and spirit. It’s not as if I even require an enemy. I lash out indiscriminately (without asking why). It doesn’t mollify much, other than taking me away from myself.
Here’s the deal: Anger can find a home in the shape of sadness or brokenness or despair or hopelessness or loss of control. And we give in to anger because we are afraid, or we feel out of control. Because we live from fear, it’s no wonder we wish for control. We feel at the mercy of. So, our lives simply react to chaos.
Plato reminded us that, “What is honored will be cultivated.”
I like the verb honor. It’s not about belief or cognitive assent.
How did the Nigerian Doctor honor the name her parents gave her?
She lived into it. But we give way.
When my identity is hijacked by distraction, I cannot honor.
When I am consumed by prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, I cannot honor.
When I label or dismiss others, I cannot honor.
When anger consumes my energy and I overreact or wound, I cannot honor.
When I cannot honor, I lose sight of what is real and authentic.
And so, we need to keep telling stories that give us hope… I continue to find great solace in the story that took place after the tragic bombing in the town of Omagh, Northern Ireland (in 1998 twenty-nine people died as a result of the attack and approximately 220 people were injured; the attack was described by the BBC as “Northern Ireland’s worst single terrorist atrocity” and by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as an “appalling act of savagery and evil”). After the attack, Daryl Simpson created a choir of Catholic and Protestant teenagers, to use music as a way to begin the healing. (“Love Rescue Me” is a U2 song sung by The Omagh Community Youth Choir.)
Love rescue me
Come forth and speak to me
Raise me up and don’t let me fall
No man is my enemy
My own hands imprison me
Love rescue me
It’s the little things… One song at a time…
Finishing my week with a lovely afternoon and evening with dear friends north of Tucson, AZ. The Santa Catalina Mountains our backdrop. Oh my…
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.