Monday, September 8, 2008

Into the Mystic

I'll always remember the moment when I first became a Van Morrison fan. I was maybe 19 years old, home from college and flipping through the channels when a movie called "Immediate Family" came on. I don't know anything about the film (I just looked it up a moment ago to be sure of the title). What struck me was the song playing during a powerful mother/daughter/healing scene. The song was Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."

There was something magnetic and mystical in that song that made me stop my surfing in mid-click. Maybe it was the slow and steady ryhthm of the guitar, or the line "Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky." It could've even been the spaces between the words and the music that opened me up to sweet contemplation. Isn't it always the silence, the rest within the notes that moves us most? Whatever it was, it sent me on a journey to the music store, to pick up the Moondance album and a host of Van's other works since then.

"And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home. And when the fog horn blows, I want to hear it. I don't have to fear it."

Into the Mystic led me into the Mystery! The sense of wonder that song stirred up in me was an invitation to ask the deeper questions. It's the sense of wonder and mystery that the modern heart, I believe, longs for more than any material possession or position of power. We want always that open door, that path before us that leads to the More that we are made for. The one who no longer thirsts for answers drowns in his own Narcissian pool.

Getting answers is great, don't get me wrong; it sets us on the path to begin the walk. But those unanswered questions, those mysteries, are what keep us moving, searching, and seeking. Boy did it take me forever to learn that lesson; that life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.

In last Sunday's gospel, John the Baptist drew people out into the desert. They brought their questions, their ponderings and wonderings. They wanted answers to life's deepest questions. And John gave them solid answers. "What should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."

John was short and to the point when it came to those nitty gritty questions. But he openly admitted that he was only paving the way for Something Deeper; his water would yield to fire, his mediation would turn over to the mystical. Enter Jesus.

Jesus doesn't always give us the straight answer. In fact, He rarely does this. In contrast to John, when questions come, Jesus simply invites us into them. "Consider this parable..." He says to the questioner. "Follow me..." He invites the inquisitive.

When two disciples of John's followed Jesus, he turned and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" He said to them,"Come, and you will see."

"Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky.... Let your soul and spirit fly into the Mystic."

* originally posted on The Heart of Things

Howard Jones and the Meaning of Life *

Howard Jones. This name, depending on how "old" you are, may have stirred up images unbidden to your mind, images from a faraway past; images of parachute pants, breakdancing, big hair (exhibit A), scenes from random movies involving, perhaps, John Cusack or Sean Astin from Goonies. Ah yes, the 80's...

I grew up in the 80's and was shaped by the soundtracks of John Williams, the movies of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and yes, the lyrics from songs like Pink Houses, Cherry Bomb, and artists like Bruce Springsteen, Journey, and Mr. Howard Jones.

The 80's culture wasn't all squealing guitars and bad hair you know (except maybe Flock of Seagulls... Now that was some bad hair).
As in every time and place, there were human beings with the same longings and desires of the heart for love and beauty and freedom that there are today. As I re-listen to the songs I used to love, I realize that there were some profound truths whispering through the big honkin' headphones of my big clunky Walkman. So let he without Reboks cast the first stone...

Ponder these lines from the song Everlasting Love by Howard J.

He wasn't looking for a pretty face
She wasn't searching for the latest style

He didn't want someone who walked straight off the TV
She needed someone with an interior smile

This is what Pope John Paul II would allude to in his teaching on human sexuality as the "interior gaze" that men and women should have for one another... To see the person and not just the parts... the soul and personality shining through the human body.

She wasn't looking for a cuddle in the back seat

He wasn't looking for a five minute thrill

She wasn't thinking of tomorrow or of next week

This vacancy he meant to permanently fill

YES! Love is meant to be exclusive, faithful, more than a flash in the pan. Howard, you are the man.
And then he cries out with a longing that I know echoes in my heart, and must in every heart... a longing that betrays the lies of our wounded culture that sees sex as the be all and end all of life here below. No, human love is pointing towards a Love Divine, and "Everlasting Love!" That's why we are so caught up in it in our movies and our music.

I need an everlasting love
I need a friend and a lover divine

An everlasting precious love
Wait for it, wait for it, give it some time

Wow... so today, in the office or in the car, listen in to those "soft rock" stations, try and discern in the lyrics of these lovers this longing for More. We can't deny it... we are made for it.

Let's end with another icon of the 80's.... John Cougar Mellencamp:

A million young poets
Screamin' out their words
Maybe someday
Those words will be heard
By future generations
Ridin' on the highways that we built
Maybe they'll have a better understanding
Maybe they'll have a better understanding....

* originally posted on The Heart of Things