The Group Monthly Letter – And I saw heaven opened!
Sigur Ros Concert, Wembley Arena November, 2013
the word became flesh and dwelt…
the word didn’t remain linear and logical, but became flesh and blood, open to the senses.
It was said by a Franciscan Brother, ‘words fly, images remain’. His church in Assisi is full of images painted by Giotto (it helps!), so we can gather he knew what he was talking about.
The word which was penned by scribes is protected from the touch of human hands by using a ‘yad’, or pointer.
The word which becomes flesh is touched, is handled and can respond to our touch.
When the word becomes flesh it is open to the senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.
The senses are not rational or irrational, for that isn’t the measure of truth. Our experience of this word may appear irrational or illogical and most definitely at times ineffable, reflecting our inability to put that experience into words.
A Victory Rose?
I went to a concert by Sigur Ros in the Wembley Arena last week, an Icelandic band who sing in either Icelandic and, as they have coined it, ‘Hopelandic’. I don’t know how many the Arena holds, but everyone there seemed to ‘get it’. The comments on the band’s website after the gig witnessed to what we’d consider as spiritual experiences when watching the band perform.
Words expressed feeling ‘elated’, ‘moved’, ‘welling up’, “in tears uncontrollably”, “I closed my eyes and felt like I was floating in heaven”, “amazing, beautiful, spectacular, moving, emotional, unforgettable”, “still in awe the morning after”. All of these fans seem to me to be talking about a spiritual experience but without the words of religious environments, without a theological underpinning (or training). I’ll stick my neck out and say, that God is doing something which we perceive as new, something uncontrollable, something amazing, beautiful and gravity defying.
As for me, I saw heaven opened!
Whilst all we had to go by were the sounds emanating, reverberating from Jonsi’s voice, it reminded me of the French symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé, who said his work was moving towards not poetic words of clear and irrefutable meaning, but to the sounds of the words bringing meaning. It’s a strange thing isn’t it, because how does this ‘translate’ theologically, philosophically, artistically when much of our work has been designed around the codification of religious symbolism; to articulate truth rooted in logic and linear processes? Evoking emotion is certainly not linear, but immersive.
So when Jonsi sings, people ‘sense’ an emotion, or meaning from the evocative sound. They sense this too through the band’s performance in light and colour.
Transcendence is one word for it.
We are entering a new age, whether the purveyors of religion and religious institutions like it or not. We should not fear this age. Lyotard called it ‘post-modern’. Bauman called it ‘Liquid Society’. In the liquid society you have to learn how to float in the main stream.
The place of the artist in such a time, is not to be a copyist of past work, of historical symbolism, but – and I think I’m just coming to terms with this – we are to be like the word becoming flesh. Our work can reflect, refract meaning and emotion for others to experience. Now I understand if you need to ask how this works and you’ll probably want a theologically verifiable statement, but in all truth I don’t know how this Wind works. It isn’t up to me, I just have to provide the sensual evidence of presence and ‘allow’ that Wind to blow where it wills.
Films, paintings, sculptures, dance, poetry, novels, music wherever your gift lies, can create things which can be sensed: light, colour, form, movement, sonic waves, sensations of touch and smell; need I go on. Such things may lead your audience to feel elated, moved, brought to tears, emotional, spiritually revitalised. If that is the case, then we have done our work.
May our work be formed, caught and carried by the Wind, may it travel where it may (for no borders or boundaries are recognised) and move the heart and the imagination of those who are perplexed by the current state of this world, a world built for peace and love and joy, not war and injustice. May the restoration work occur first and foremost within us.
If at this time you’re feeling unhinged, disturbed and marginalised, maybe even depressed, consider this; you are being carried by the Wind, you will defy gravity and capture hearts and minds of your audience because grace will carry you in the eddies of the Wind.
Peace and Love,