13 November 2016

A Light that Shines in the Darkness: On the Play, Prayer, and Resistance of Martyrdom

“Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Returning this afternoon from a rare outing to attend a concert of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra I was thinking about a drawing I am working on which is a kind of meditation on the way God was present to me in my Junior High and High School years. I too played in a youth orchestra and besides playing violin I spent hours listening to classical music and pretending to conduct the orchestra playing on my record player! (In fact, most of the classical musicians I know did something similar as kids and we almost never talk about it --- unless someone breaks the silence, and then everyone chimes in to share about their own childhood and adolescent play --- a profoundly serious form of play for most of us that prepared us for adult dreams, commitments,  discipline and passionate living!)

For me music was an awesome source of light and beauty and joy. It brought order and rationality and introduced me to a language which broke every divisive limitation and boundary; here the Transcendent broke into and pushed away the darkness that was present and which sometimes threatened to stifle the life I was also summoned to embody fully, exhaustively. It poured out of my own heart and mind (through violin) and was also present as I touched into the "music" of the universe (improvising and "conducting"). It was here I really began to learn to pray (without realizing this was the case), and it was here that a large part of the experience of redemption in solitude so crucial to the making of the heart of a hermit was centered during these relatively early years. All of this, along with conversations with a friend who is both a religious and an artist, helps remind me that today it is especially important that somehow we each get in touch with beauty and the presence of the God who IS beauty during this time of increased anxiety and concern caused by the ugliness of institutionalized hatred and bigotry --- and the prospect of these being given real legitimacy by elected leaders and their appointees.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian, pastor, and resistance movement member sought to counter and defeat the bigotry and racism of the fascist movement and agenda whose purpose was to make aliens of neighbors and "the other" of friends and colleagues that was such a central part of the Nazi's self-serving will-to-power. The National Socialists who came to power with Hitler, murdered Bonhoeffer; they hanged him at Flossenb├╝rg Concentration Camp on 09. April.1945 in an execution that may have been prolonged to six hours or more. Like Bonhoeffer we are each and all of us called to be the  martyrs of God; we are summoned and in fact made to witness to the love of God, temples who manifest God's glory in the midst of threatening crises and darkness. We are called to be prophets who speak truth to power and do so with a love that does justice.

It is here that serious play, genuine recreation, becomes as critical as the work we also engage in; after all, play can be a significant form of prayer that allows God to work in and through us to quiet, energize, and enlarge our minds and hearts with a life that is "for others", a life that is capable of truly resisting bigotry, racism, and hatred that refuses to see the Divine beauty of each person we call ""alien" or "other."

Sculpture: by Edith Breckwoldt, The ordeal. No man in the whole world can change the truth. One can only look for the truth, find it and serve it. The truth is in all places. (Bonhoeffer)