27 May 2012

downside up

(pentecost sunday, 27 may 2012)

the room was a dark, dingy grey. an outward reflection of their inward reality.

the lack of hope in their claustrophobic space was compensated for only by the abundance of despair permeating the caustic air they breathed, the cataclysmic sky closing in upon them.

they were waiting. for God only knows what.

or when.

or who.

or why.

until they detected a tiny ripple on the surface of a glass of old wine siting on the table in the center of the room. and then the ripple became a subtle rumble of the table itself, which spread to the floor beneath them, and the walls around them, and the roof above them.

perhaps it was the combined trembling in their bodies and souls that was manifesting itself. an outward reflection of their inward reality.

but the power was coming not so much from within them but from around them. an abundance of caustic, cataclysmic air, breath, spirit, stirring their claustrophobic cloister with a faint hint of freshness, opening up a new, fearfully wonderful reality in their midst.

the darkness of grey was infiltrated with the presence of fire.

the tongues rendered silent by grief were awakened by grace.

the hearts frozen with terror were thawed with trust and ignited with inspiration, ablaze with awe, awash in wonder.

that dark, dingy room and the lives therein were engulfed in flames, luminous with Love.

that earth that has fire at its core, deep below its surface, saw its reality turned upside down as flames fell from the sky above.

and what was hidden within that room and their lives in shame and sadness was turned inside-out into power and passion, unleashed upon their community, their city, the surrounding regions, and eventually, the whole damn, blessed world.

today is pentecost, the day in my faith tradition represented by fire.

and the skies are grey.

and it's pouring down rain.

no place for even a tiny spark to fan into flame.

all the smoldering embers drowned out by a deluge that both nourishes the earth and washes away any glimmers of warmth and light.

and the ironic appropriateness of it all and where it finds me in this strange and seemingly meaningless season of my journey elicits both laughter from my chest and tears from my eyes.

that this day, this season, is pulsating with the presence of poignant perplexity and paradox...

where all my expectations are exfoliated and excommunicated...
where all that i thought i knew and believed and staked my life upon is cast upon the sea of uncertainty...
where all that i had supposedly found in my life is gradually and irretrievably lost...
where my life itself is cataclysmically and completely turned inside out and upside down.

where the 'day of fire' is called on account of rain.

but i also sense that perhaps what creation is communicating, at least to me, is some kind of subtle solidarity with me in my sullen, sordid state of semi-being.

that as i wait for God only knows what to happen God only knows when for reasons God only knows why, what my soul needs most is for the heavens to shed tears of rain...

not to wash away all my fears and strain, but to remind me that i'm not alone in all my tears and pain.

not to extinguish all flickering embers of hope, but to somehow enable and even ignite a trust that the life i am longing to live exceeds all my expectations so powerfully, it will not merely transcend my terror. it will take my breath away. and give me new air to breathe.

the room was dark, dingy grey. only a dim sense of shape was perceptible.

a circular stage with musicians upon it.

a second circular stage above it with scaffolding and lighting not yet engaged.

and then a story is enacted of a boy named Ovo, who lies in a field of grass looking up at the sky above him.

until a tiny ripple in the sky alters his perception and his vision of reality is disoriented and confounded. and then transformed.

the sky above him becomes the ground below him. the ground supporting his body becomes the sky that releases him. and he is set free to experience an exhilarating new way of life in an inconceivable new state of being.

downside up.

and as Peter Gabriel and his daughter, Melanie, sing the story from the grounding of the lower stage, all  appears to the audience as just another fine song in the set of an excellent rock concert.

until the lights dim further.

and the band plays a mysterious combination of notes and chords that descend ominously, and then ascend gradually.

and the lights reappear as the music builds to a climax.

and Peter and Melanie are singing once again. but not from the expected position on the stage below.

they are suspended from the stage above, walking its circumference upside down.

downside up.

and whether it was the time i saw this magnificent 'miracle' happen on stage in person years ago, or every time i've watched it on video since, as soon as they appear, my breath is taken away momentarily, and the tears start streaming from my eyes like rain from the heavens.

not because it looks so disturbingly painful, but because it is so disorientingly beautiful.

not because it appears to be so impossible, but because it is so paradoxically possible.

and i am always uplifted after watching it because it reminds me that beyond my slightly askew and overwhelmingly limited perspective, there is a reality that is transcendently transformative...

where dim, dingy, claustrophobic spaces are infiltrated and infused with tiny sparks of light, love, hope, and fresh bursts of air, breath, spirit.

where rain doesn't extinguish fires, but ignites them.

where upside down is downside up.

(Peter Gabriel, 'Downside Up', from the Growing Up Tour, 2002)