Monday, May 4, 2009

Sending Out an SOS

Suffering can set us free. Crying out can often lead to a catharsis. Sorrow affords us a chance to struggle and squirm our way out of the black cocoon of self and into the wide expanse of the world of the Other.

The song Message in a Bottle by the Police captures this journey of self-discovery through suffering. Sting, the lead singer of the former band, is a much revered icon in the music world today. He confessed to Jools Holland of the BBC that Message in a Bottle is his favorite song.

Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh
More loneliness than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh

In the late and great Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the Holy Father seeks to answer two questions that I feel everyone in their heart of hearts asks at some point in this life:

What does it mean to be human?
How can I be truly happy?

In the first question, he looks into our origins, our history, and our destiny to discover just what it means to be to be human. The Pope's early life was fraught with sorrows - loss of family, Nazi occupation, friends sent to concentration camps, and a Communist takeover of his beloved Poland. But he didn't let these sorrows exile him to an island of isolation. To make sense of it all, he dove into a heartfelt reflection on our beginnings as man and woman. One of my favorite reflections in his Theology of the Body centers on the idea of Original Solitude. That is the experience of Adam, in the beginning, as a being that is in fact "alone."

I'll send an S.O.S. to the world
I'll send an S.O.S. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle,
Message in a bottle...

Alas, Adam cries out, I see myriads of creatures, beautiful and diverse, but not another person I can love who can return my love! Sending out an SOS is Adam's first "prayer."

Pope Benedict once wrote that "man comes in the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts. He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift… One must wait for it, let it be given to one. And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved...”
(Introduction to Christianity)

A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life but
Love can break your heart

Adam falls into a deep sleep, an "ecstasy" in the original language. He realizes, perhaps, the risk involved in what lies ahead but he must make himself vulnerable; he must be open and ready to receive the gift that will make him whole. And the God Who Is Love draws a lover from his side. Only "love can mend your life." Adam receives the gift of Eve, and this love wells up in him, giving birth to the first love song, the first poem in human history!

Alas, this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!

Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone in being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home

The home we are all seeking is this communion of persons, formed by God right from the beginning! It is Love that is the meaning of life, love that can move not only mountains, but islands! As we look out on our wounded world today, at the faces in the crowd, the faces in the subways and trains and malls and marketplaces, tiny islands of solitude and loneliness, let us call out to them in love. Sending out an SOS, a prayer for everyone. Let's pray that all of us castaways might find a home in God, the source and summit of meaning and purpose and direction in life, and in relationships with others, for we are each another incarnation of His Love in the world!

For a video of the first live performance
of Message in a Bottle, click here!)

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't seen this blog until now. This is a great idea. My sister and I actually did a presentation when I was in youth group about pop songs reflecting God's love. I'll be back to read here often!

    God bless!