Things that begin with ‘F’: Feet Hanging Over a Cliff, Fundamentalism, Fish, and the Film of my Life.

Mostly in life, you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. It’s like you’re poised, watching your life play out like a film. Some people believe you need to take control of the film you star in, but at lot of the time we’re not like that. We’re similar to a school of fish, swimming our best upstream, all of us flashing this way and that, changing our direction as the community is buffeted (an ancient English word I believe to mean swept around) by strong currents, predators and all the unpredictable events that occur in the world’s larger picture. Sure, perhaps there are some people (e.g. Aussie Dick Smith); leaders who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and direct their own life as a feature film, making significant ethical money and changing the course of the world — but isn’t this a novelty and not the normal? Don’t most of us swim along with the fish school, never actually knowing what we contributed to the community around us? Significant ‘events’  make us feel more alive than we’ve ever felt before, and then in a second it flashes another direction and someone else has the lead, and we’re following the crowd.

Those flashes are what I see in the Biblical text, and why it’s so powerful to me. I kind of have my toe in the water of Narrative Theology at the moment, which speaks of the short stories or vignettes (and sometimes more lengthy tales) of individuals named Job, Moses, and Paul. Now these characters are perceived to be strong – but what is this strength we see in them? It’s usually a particular response found deep within when struggling against “buffeting” forces, a threat of death, dislocation from family, an angry Imperial power, or a shipwreck – and it allows them to triumph, to become the hero. But as I read, I watch the way they respond to continual buffeting (still a weird word hey haha) in the stories, that weave themselves into a book. And I continue along like unraveling a big ball of string, observing various layers of audiences and their conclusions (ancient Jewish Peoples colliding with the modern and post-modern voices floating around me as I sit with my Bible resting on a red plastic tablecloth from Target)… and I see all those push-and-pull responses, all these characters from the story mirrored – they are inside me. In it all, somehow, God’s story is told. Sometimes the me-ness in the text engages The Other with a capital ‘O’… God, The-One-Whom-I-Can-Never-Control. And there is a dialogue between Him and me that makes me feel less like a fish, and more like an actor playing in a film. I’m not the director, but he listens to my ideas. To me, that dialogue is the resilient strength of Job, Moses and Paul. Which is why I could never be a Fundamentalist, or “the bible says it, so I do it” – if you can read the Bible that way, you’re a better Christian than I am. For me, it’s not which one thing the Bible says, and it’s more like trying to model all the dance moves you’re being shown at a loud party.

Anyways, I’m not a biblical scholar – I had to substitute Greek and Hebrew classes to study how people use music to form their spiritual lives, and there are only a certain amount of units you can do in one degree. So, if you’re are, that’s nice, feel free to tell me I’ve misunderstood the point. I’m also more than happy to listen to hours of exegesis of Revelation or Micah. But afterwards, at night start I thinking about the fish, and whether our life is a film.

In the PhD part of my life (where I wake up and go to classes, and pretend to use the library) these are the questions I’m asking now – what are the important building blocks to life as we understand it? (my suspicion is that they are community-based, or cultural, which sits me in the Anthropological literature – if I believed it was the individual I would be in Psychology)… so, I ask myself, what is culture? how do we express it? How do we form our identity? I suspect music is a huge part of expressing our identity, or at least one way we could actually research it. As it relates to spirituality, how does the music we sing together make and change us, and how do we make it? How true is the statement that we select music we like as an expression of our identity — in a church environment? … Because I’ve been a worship pastor of a community, and we liked some of the songs we sung most of the time, and some were kind of medicinal. We knew we needed to sing them, but it wasn’t what we’d choose to listen to when we’re at home.

And, in the other part of my life, I have an album of songs coming out very soon. Which is terrifying. And fantastic. It’s like having my feet dangling off a cliff. It’s that moment where you’re not exactly sure if you’re going to fall, and if you do, what happens next. It’s that moment when life goes into slow-motion. It’s exhilarating. I hope that people actually like the music we’ve worked so hard to create, and that they listen to it knowing that I’m just on the journey like them, and that if they listen, it means I can make even better music. I hope that something resonates in them also, and that they see their faces in the music as it tells the tales of the people who I’ve met along the way – in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, people with disability in the suburbs of Melbourne,  in Italy and Fiji and the Czech Republic.

Sometimes I feel like a fish, and sometimes I feel like I’m an actor in a film.

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