let the great world spin...

Sometimes you just get tired of the same old shit, yes? After fussing and whining for a day or so about "what to read before bed" (a massive problem given the state of the world, I know) I finally resigned myself to something "serious."  In this case, Colum McCann's brilliant, Let the Great World Spin. I bought it a year ago and have been moving it around my bed stand since - choosing various Scandinavian and English murder mysteries and theological reflections on heaven and Eucharist - instead of settling down to a deep read.

Now, there are good reasons for my procrastination:  I like mind candy at the end of the day, right? It helps me let go and drift off into sleep.  And the ordered world of mystery novels, wherein the good guys win (most of the time), is equally satisfying; who wouldn't like the clarity they offer when most of the day is spent in the always ambiguous realm of contemporary church life?  Like cooking or gardening, mysteries offer a clear beginning and end with a clean resolution to the moral quandaries of life. (I used to like to watch Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" movies for much the same reason back in the day when I was doing urban ministry and Cleveland Board of Education politics.  Sometimes you need closure - and the vicarious thrill of an ass-kicking doesn't hurt!)

So I've collected - and read - tons of good level mysteries:  I love the Inspector Rebus series by Scotland's Ian Rankin, Anne Perry  and John Harvey are a ton of fun, too; and Stieg Larsson's "girl" series are a total blast.  Ok, so I am a popular culture mystery snob - I hate the cookie cutter stuff sold in airport shops - and that's ALL that was left in the house after I finished my current spate of theological offerings.  All that was left on my bedside table were Orhan Pamuk's The Red Book or McCann's Let the Great World Spin.  And late at night, Pamuk's 15 page Turkish sentences that build contradiction upon clarification ad infinitum... well, let's just say it was too much for bedtime.

What a blessing... and I am glad I got tired of the same old shit.  Telling the story of two Irish brothers who find themselves in the South Bronx - one a wastoid poet wannabe and the other a Left-wing Roman Catholic servant of the poor urban monk - McCann describes the theology of the street minister like this:

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth - the filth, the war, the poverty - was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn't interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heave. To him that was a dressing room for hell. Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quiet simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it. Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, a cause for optimism against all the evidence.

That's worth the price of admission right there, yes?  And it keeps getting better. This week has been filled with little clues like McCann's "small beauties" idea: 

+ meeting with a colleague in ministry to encourage her congregation's leaders to live into the beauty of their deepest calling as the body of Christ

+  listening to Paul Simon's new work, "So Beautiful or So What?"

+ trying to get my ideas about Christ's open table botched up and then corrected with the help of kind friends

+ playing a killer jazz gig that was energizing, mellow, experimental and beautiful all at the same time

+ enduring a week of wicked rain only to look out this morning at the lush greenery and flowers that have exploded behind our house

+ my daughters heading to our place this weekend for feasting and visiting

I think of another soul who also - call it the fullness of time - grew tired of the same old shit and put it like this in chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... (don't you know that) the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

Today my prayer has to do with looking for the small beauties that are somehow part of the Spirit's as she sighs in way too deep for human words.


Black Pete said…
The holy in the ordinary. Anne Tyler's got that down cold.
RJ said…
Yes she does... another of my favorites, yes? Tell me what was the Anne Perry book you spoke of re: beauty and the arts? I can't recall...
Black Pete said…
It's Half Moon Street", and is about art and social responsibility. Her strength is that she does not cast this pair of occasional antagonistic viewpoints in the usual tired "free speech vs censorship" argument, but takes the whole thing deeper.
RJ said…
Yes, thanks my man: I love her work and will actually look for it tomorrow after church.

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