Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The middle of the middle

Even after doing the 'penance' of jet lag, I am so not ready for Holy Week.

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.

As I consider preparing myself for Holy Week, I'm remembering a wonderful man - a story teller in Boston and Cambridge, MA - named "Brother Blue".

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.

Walking into the ancient story of Holy Week and following Jesus to Calvary can lead one through the middle of the middle of one's own life where one might be able to confront at least a modicum of Truth about oneself.

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.


Muthah+ said...

I too am not ready for Holy Week and it has nothing to do with jet lag. It has to do with trying to step into the metaphor of Jesus recognizing the Cross but not willing to do the self-flagellation that the liturgy often does. I am not sure I want to do Good Friday just because I am so weary. I am tired of the guilt-tripping that we have used the Passion for. It is time to enter the Incarnation to understand the joy of newness that Christ's death and resurrection signifies. I have done too many funerals this year.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Muthah+ I guess I've spent so many years side-stepping the "guilt-tripping" and self-flagellation of Good Friday that I've become pretty adept at it. Then again, I haven't been doing funerals. That might make the difference

textjunkie said...

I'm beginning to think that half of being a priest is having the gift of being in the right place at the right time for these incredible experiences that you can write about and talk about in sermons and homilies and such. ;) Music wrapped in a body of snow--I could have lived in Cambridge for years and never heard that. And holy smokes, it's so true (and so apt for Lent!). Thank you for posting that!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Textjunkie - Maybe so, but I just know that if you lived in Cambridge, you would have gone out of your way to be in the path of Brother Blue. And, like me, you would have never forgotten.