I never lived in one city long enough for these things to catch up with me..is that it? But it was inevitable that necessity would catch up with me. Why?! Does it just inevitably descend upon as you “mature”? Are such concerns normal ? Crap like “We don’t have enough money to pay the bills, or much worse crap like “Did you hear what so-and-so said about so-and-so?” or “How do you like that pastor of ours? Did you notice how he’s trying to allow more colored people into our nice congregation!?” Not to mention all the anxiety, innuendo, and jealousy that goes on in the unspoken realm all the time anywhere, even in churches.
No, I consider myself very blessed to have remained unobservant in this setting, and I think also in other situations very much like this, whether it be in high school, workplace or neighborhood. I’m so glad I was able to remain unobservant much of the time. I can’t say that I remained as able to not notice things in high school, however. And things deteriorated even more after that in college. Nevertheless, throughout my life, I think my overall focus has been somewhat different from many people around me. I looked through the eyes and heard through the ears which I was given very early,
Which begs for a more detailed description of my experience in church. If I wasn’t noticing the petty (if they weren’t also tragic) things which went on all the time around me, just what was it that I was taking in?
I was noticing that God was irresistibly present and real, that his love was radiant, warm and full of energy. I could sense that his love was for all of us, each concrete personality, and that the suffusing presence we found ourselves experiencing was full of both beauty and surprise.
Day by day, life was shaping up to look very much worth living.
What remains pertinent to my life as an artist is how I began to see that spirituality was a palpable reality. It was NOT cut off from the realm of sound, and taste, and sight and touch. All the sense aspects of the material world were infused with a surging energy, like marvelous waves of a brilliant sea, beckoning me to swim in it.
In the midst of these experiences, every week I would intone the following words along with the entire congregation, each of us at various stages of life and mind, whether we were challenged and uptight about life, or gently open like flowers to catch the sun’s rays. Young and old, skeptical or accepting, whether our state of heart was one of abject existential pain or ecstatic belief, all of us together reading from the hymnal or confessing from memory..the core of it was:
We believe in God the Father, infinite in wisdom, power and love, whose mercy is over all his works, and whose mercy is over all his works, and whose will is ever directed to his children’s good.
We believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man, the gift of the Father’s unfailing grace , the ground of our hope, and the promise of our deliverance from sin and death.
We believe in the Holy Spirit as the divine presence in our lives, whereby we are kept in perpetual remembrance of the truth of Christ, and find strength and help in time of need.
We believe that this faith should manifest itself in the service of love as set forth in the example of our blessed Lord, to the end that the kingdom of God may come upon the earth. Amen
My experience speaking these words was, and still is, a powerful, deeply assuring experience. In the midst of this confession of faith I lack nothing, except.. perhaps an active, continuing creative participation in the emergence of the Kingdom.
And for me, it all started back there when I was a child in church.
What I eagerly drank in streamed through the stained glass - light, shining through saturated color, making each color brighter than the vivid pigments fired into the glass.
And I can only begin to describe how it reached me through the music, music that wasn’t driven like the music I would encounter later in life. Even though I confess to a deep love and affection for rock n’ roll, especially during the hurtling sixties, this early encounter with hymns in church had a deeper-rooted effect on me.
Rock n’ roll was moving and beautiful, but it drew its energy mostly with the way life surged and always kept escaping. It was music about the way my body was changing, and the way I began to look outside myself at the way others looked and how they regarded me. It was extremely self-conscious music,
Rock n' roll celebrated the sexual. I had no problem with that. From age 13 to age 20 I loved sex. But sex didn’t love me back. Sex was a moving target. It promised much, thrilled briefly, and then always, always left.
It resulted not in my own fulfillment, but resulted in the birth of yet another complex and wonderful being. A bad infinity, as Berdyaev calls it. Both my parents are dead, and my children, bless their hearts, have their own lives. And so do their kids. So much for evanescence and rock n’ roll.
But the music which I experienced in church was singular in its multidimensional presence. It always seemed to hold me and know me. It was always in motion but never left. It was music wherein people’s voices were each distinctly pivotal to its structure, yet at the same time each was one with a total sound being made. It was music that responded to God’s love and gloried in it.
This music, and the sound of my father's grand, exultant singing voice have continued to connect me with a realm far kinder than this one. That's why I hope I can yet tend to not notice the discordant, driving noise of the world. I DO want to still notice his magnificent love. When I begin to feel misunderstood, forgotten and old, the realm I've been speaking of reminds me that.. He will never leave me nor forsake me.
Notes on the vicissitudes of the creative life.