Misunderstood: this year's good friday experiment...

Can you believe that it is only a month until Holy Week? O I understand
that most people don't measure their time in reference to the church calendar - a loss for some and a blessing for others - but I do. Not only is my professional life grounded in the cyclical realm of liturgy, but so too my private life. Like an old monastic, it gives shape, form and rhythm to my days. Right now we are in the middle of Lent - we just marked the third Sunday in our journey to the Cross - and there are only four more weeks until the Feast of the Resurrection on Easter morning.

So we start to kick into high gear as we start to shape this year's Good Friday experiment in song, silence and story:  MISUNDERSTOOD.  Last year we built an evening around DISORIENTATION - how God's grace and the whole story of Jesus turns everything upside down - and this year we are playing with the notion that not only was the life and message of Jesus misunderstood by those closest to him, but that we, too share a sense of being misunderstood in our everyday lives. Our sexuality is often a mystery to us - or others - same for our politics, our inner reactions to wounds and shame - even our commitment to a spiritual path is more mystery than clarity.

I am so ready to work on this new creation: not only is the process an act of co-creation with colleagues and Spirit, but the end result often opens new insights to God's grace that were never imagined when we began rehearsals. This poem by Pamela Spiro Wagner gets at the heart of it all:


First, forget everything you have learned, 
that poetry is difficult, 
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you, 
with your high school equivalency diploma, 
your steel-tipped boots, 
or your white-collar misunderstandings. 

Do not assume meanings hidden from you: 
the best poems mean what they say and say it. 

To read poetry requires only courage 
enough to leap from the edge 
and trust.  

Treat a poem like dirt, 
humus rich and heavy from the garden. 
Later it will become the fat tomatoes 
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table. 

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day. 
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands 
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun. 

When you can name five poets 
without including Bob Dylan, 
when you exceed your quota 
and don't even notice, 
close this manual.

Congratulations.
You can now read poetry.

The poet Rilke put it like this - and this rings true, too:

You ask whether your poems are good. You send them to publishers; you compare them with other poems; you are disturbed when certain publishers reject your attempts. Well now, since you have given me permission to advise you, I suggest that you give all that up. You are looking outward and, above all else, that you must not do now. No one can advise and help you, no one.

There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, "I must," then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity. Your life, in even the most mundane and least significant hour, must become a sign, a testimony to this urge.

Then draw near to nature. Pretend you are the very first man and then write what you see and experience, what you love and lose. Do not write love poems, at least at first; they present the greatest challenge. It requires great, fully ripened power to produce something personal, something unique, when there are so many good and sometimes even brilliant renditions in great numbers. Beware of general themes. Cling to those that your every- day life offers you. Write about your sorrows, your wishes, your passing thoughts, your belief in anything beautiful. Describe all that with fervent, quiet, and humble sincerity. In order to express yourself, use things in your surroundings, the scenes of your dreams, and the subjects of your memory.

If your everyday life appears to be unworthy subject matter, do not complain to life. Complain to yourself. Lament that you are not poet enough to call up its wealth. For the creative artist there is no poverty—nothing is insignificant or unimportant.

Methinks we'll start with the words Jesus spoke about "taking the plank or log out of our own eyes before evaluating and judging others" and then cut to silence before his cry:  My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me? Time and again I keep hearing:  some thing's going on all around you and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

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