Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The middle of the middle
First of all, it's a little late in coming this year. I'm used to Easter being in mid March, not early April. The weather has been weird, this year, for winter and early Spring.
But, that's no excuse, really.
Maybe it's all the excitement over the unexpected defeat of the Anglican Covenant in the Church of England. It feels like the Anglican Communion has been given the gift of the resurrection.
Nah. As happy as I am, that's overstating the case just a tad.
Perhaps it was those three weeks in with the monks at the Wat in Thailand. Maybe I've already had my deep encounter with Jesus.
It could be that, having traveled across the International Date Line and back again, my sense of time is all upside down and out of whack. I still can't get my head wrapped around the fact that it's already tomorrow where some of my friends live. And that, for them, I'm actually living yesterday.
How weird is that? And yet, it's true.
During Holy Week, we are asked to walk back in time and relive an ancient story with Jesus. It's a very powerful experience, if one allows oneself to enter into the story and, simultaneously, allow the story to enter one's present reality. We do this to live better lives today - and into the future.
Having had my sense of time properly warped, I guess I have a deeper appreciation and respect for that dynamic of stepping into an ancient story and allowing it to become part of your own story. That appreciation and respect, interestingly enough, makes it harder to do.
Well, his real name was Hugh Morgan Hill but he was called that because he always dressed in blue - from his socks to his beret to the butterflies painted on his palms. Brother Blue spent a lot of his time in prisons and on street corners, but he also spent a great deal of time in Harvard Square, which is where I first met him.
Brother Blue transformed the classics into a modern setting. He placed his version of Romeo and Juliet in the inner city. He updated the plight of King Lear-Shakespeare's aged, battered royal hero, to talk about the homeless people of today.
He would tell us, “We ain’t nothin’ but music wrapped in a body made of snow.”
When we were at seminary in Cambridge, MA, we would see Brother Blue on the street and, no matter if he had just begun or was just ending or was right in the middle of telling one of his stories, we would always stop and listen.
He always began his stories in the same way: "From the middle of the middle of me," Brother Blue would say, swirling his finger in magical airs in the space between you then gently tapping it toward your heart, "to the middle of the middle of you..."
Blue's storytelling career began with the tales he told his beloved handicapped younger brother Thomas who was unable to read and write. Unable to say "Hugh" clearly, Thomas spoke his elder brother's name with a sound close to the word "Blue," a nickname which became a sobriquet which came to reflect Brother Blue's personal journey.
History records that Thomas died young in an institution. Brother Blue's versions tell of how Thomas was "special" and mostly wanted to fly, so he climbed on the roof of the house and fell to his death.
Blue mused, "Thomas...he thought he could fly, he thought could fly, so he tried." Brother Blue would often explain that, ever grieving, he was still looking for his brother, and "he might be you."
I've decided that I need to heed Brother Blue's words this week in order to get ready for Holy Week. I need to get myself ready to go down - deep down - to the middle of the middle of me to find the middle of the middle of the transforming story of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.
I need to plow through this time-bound, snow-wrapped body and move down to the middle of the middle of me to get to the eternal music of the resurrection.
It's going to be another long journey, across international and ancient time lines to get to the middle of the middle of the truth of who Jesus is for me, and rediscover him in the ancient story once again, for the first time.
I think this is where some of the chants I learned from the monks will help me to let go of this moment and step into a non-moment in order to be more fully present.
It sounds nonsensical, I know. Then again, Holy Week doesn't make much sense, does it? Most of our liturgical year and all of our observances seem like an exercise in futility.
I'm learning that sometimes, following what seems like a futile path can lead to a place of Great Importance.
I make that journey every year. I'm not ready to do that. Not yet. But, I'm getting ready.
I've got the memory of voices of the monks to follow and the muse of Brother Blue to guide me.
As Brother Blue would say, "We want a story from your heart. If it's not from your heart, don't tell it."
You know, Jesus, like Blue's brother Thomas, was special. He thought he could fly so he tried but he fell and died. And then, he rose up again and like the butterfly, began to fly.
And, who knows, that butterfly might be you.
You'll only know if you let the middle of the middle of the story find the middle of the middle of you.