Monday, April 28, 2008

Yael Naim - Far, Far

"Take a deep breath and dive...there's a beautiful mess inside"



Saturday, April 12, 2008

Connecting the Dots...

"It takes one hundred billion interconnected cells to conjure up a coherent story of the world. But if neuroscience concludes anything, it’s that sensing and feeling and thinking and perceiving and hundreds of other seemingly separate processes are all conjoined in a huge, dynamic, and continuously revised narrative network. The brain is the ultimate storytelling machine, and consciousness is the ultimate story. Our neurons tell our selves into being." - Richard Powers

The last three weeks have been a little disorienting...that's one of the reasons I haven't blogged. First there was Easter...and while the jokes trickle out about it being the church's Super Bowl, there is a sense of this season for me, even aside from me in my minister's disguise, that always leaves me trying to recover from spiritual jet lag...if there is such a thing. Then my younger brother had to have two blockages stinted from the major blood vessel in the heart...and the well meaning friends of his in the room look at me and say..."don't heart issues generally run in the family?" Thanks...I was not aware of that tidbit of medical insight...just strap me on the gurney now as soon as he's done with it and get it over with. Then on Tuesday his daughter (and my niece) gave birth to her first child... a beautiful girl named, Lily. My niece had been on doctor's ordered bed rest for the last two months...Precious little Lily had been having some issues and baby momma was having to be very careful...but, everything turned out beautifully. On Thursday I went out to Blue Rock Texas, this remarkable artist's retreat and recording studio that was the brainchild and birthchild of Billy and Dodee Crockett . They do a house concert there once a month and some of the finest singer/songwriter/poet/canvas artists in the world have performed there. This month it was the New Agrarians, a super group of sorts with Pierce Pettis, Tom Kimmel and Kate Campbell...all established, respected and gifted singer songwriters in their own right...but couldn't wait. I have heard Pierce and Tom lots of times but only knew of Kate's work on CD. I was not disappointed..they were funny, and insightful and Tom also read some of his poetry, and vocally and musically they were in a groove.

It was close to the end of the first set Thursday night when I became aware that something was sneaking up on me in that room. I came to enjoy music and see friends, but as Pierce, Tom and Kate sang song after song about life in the South, I began to get pulled back involuntarily to the pictures, sounds, smells, voices, heartaches and glories of growing up in South Louisiana in the 50's and 60's. It is not that I ever really have given much thought to discarding those days as an unfortunate prison of ignorance and runaway bigotry...but the truth is, I can talk fondly about Cajun culture and share the recipe for my mom's seafood gumbo...and even tell stories about sneaking out to go see the some of spectacular black marching bands of the 60's at Southern University, Florida A&M University and Grambling. about getting bootlegged tickets to see James Brown (yes...THE James Brown) and being the only white faces in the arena, but, the reality is that those days were dots I wanted to selectively connect, while leaving out some of the others. The mosaic of landscape and experience, the quilt of personalities and nightmares, brought a growing crescendo of memories that made me both ashamed and deeply proud. Sitting at age 6 or 7 on the porch of my Cajun grandmother and grandfather's white frame house at the edge of the bayou in White Castle, Louisiana... drinking coffee out of demitasse cup of coffee so strong that it was three parts milk, two parts sugar and one part coffee, while my 7 uncles (my mom's brothers) all played zydeco music complete with accordions, steel guitar, harmonica, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, and drum kit...It was fabulous, and I was treated to a an imaginative reunion concert in my head while I listened to Pierce, Tom and Kate play on.

Tonight I read an interview with novelist Richard Powers concerning his latest work, The Echo Maker, that was passed along to me by my friend, Bob. It was this line "it’s that sensing and feeling and thinking and perceiving and hundreds of other seemingly separate processes are all conjoined in a huge, dynamic, and continuously revised narrative network" that got me to thinking about the connectedness of all the events of the last three weeks. Donald Miller, in "Searching For God Knows What" contends that perhaps the reason narrative is so intricately intertwined into our existence is that God, the Creator, purposely designed the hardware of his creation, not for robot-like obedience, but flesh and blood improv players in the great story and stage.

Today I performed the wedding for a young woman a who was in the youth group I served a number of years ago. She was kidnapped by her estranged father as a preschooler and didn't see her mother again until over a decade later, when in novella-like fashion, a random correspondence led to the revelation of her whereabouts and her ensuing rescue. She literally had to be reintroduced to normal teenage existence and her mom, faithful school officials and loving church volunteers patiently helped her take baby steps back to normality, and then to graduate from high school and then from college... and today I got the privilege of officiating her wedding.

So what is the connection between civil rights songs of the 60's and a baby being born in 2008? What does listening to a family front porch zydeco band have to do with my brother's heart surgery? What does watching the Drum Major from Florida A&M raise his scepter to the sky and lean back so far that the tip of his fuzzy hat touch the ground behind him, and a wedding in Austin, Texas have to do with each other? It's the is my is our is the STORY...that lives deep inside of every living creature, painted indelibly by the Artist, and recounted in the depths of the soul by the Storyteller.

Once upon a time...