like struck gold

October 7, 2013

“A live experiment in humanising the holy. Come along to partake in this experiment in creating community through humanizing the holy and playing with the sacred.”

AUGH AUGH AUGH AUGH

(THESE ARE EXCITED AUGHS)

(THEY ARE ALSO SOMEWHAT DISTRAUGHT)

WHY DIDN’T THEY DO STUFF LIKE THIS WHEN I WAS STUDYING THEATRE AT UNIVERSITY

two of my favourite things, theatre and faith. and there are so many similarities between the two, in mirror-shades of community, incarnation, presence, immediacy, creation-and-destruction and narrative. the thought of either topic can work me into a fever-pitch of euphoria and frantic delight, and they often do; they are two of my favourite things in this world. and both together? I may as well combust with ecstasy of the most desperate, greedy, covetous kind. if I could drink it down in gulps, if I could drown in it from the inside out, if I could steal it and swallow it up greedy as hell for the living, restless teeth-hurting ecstasy of it, the wondrous exhilarating complexity of it, boundlessness upon boundlessness, knowledge burning like fierce hunger and blasting joy of the mind and the heart and the body, I would, oh I would.  there is nothing gentle about my desire for these things. it is all teeth.

(I’ll eat you up, I love you so.)

sometimes it is joy and sometimes it is fire, and I wonder sometimes about the intersection of two of my favourite things, and where I am on the crossroads, and how even a glimpse of these two things in intersection like the axis of a cross burns me with terror and glee and desire and the feeling of being suddenly alive, suddenly aware of the shape of all possibilities, all things to come. and maybe it’s because my relationship with theatre is furious riot of vicious emotions and huge regrets and raw want, visceral and euphoric, body and soul, and maybe it’s because I left it behind but want it furiously still.

and faith, the tightrope I’ve travelled down, teetering along a line that I think actually spreads like land generously to either side of and beyond me- a different kind of fierceness, a different kind of time, a different kind of thirst. patience and the rich thick saturation of the air with slow colour, and here I work slowly in time, and see myself worked upon, but that fierce glory still gleams out in words like holy and roughsacred and sunkingdom and restoration and light. here it’s less visceral and more mental ferocity and desire, the stunning endless hunger of the mind, but the things that churn in my head permeate my living like a slow trickle-down, and change the shape of the world around me as I move in it.

what do I do with this? I don’t know what I do with this. I know the line I’m on, though, and it unfolds slowly, but I can trust the unfolding.

I’d like to run along this line into that bloody vein of theatre again. one of the theatre papers at my old university is doing some kind of reinvented medieval mystery play, which is yet another intersection of theatre and theology, steeped in good words like liturgy and ritual- although, a secular university broaching a religious topic- oh, that’ll be interesting, and I dearly wish I could attend. More than that- I dearly wish I could approach a play like that from this perspective, here, digging into something so rich with physical potential from the vantage point of theology, in the soil of this strange land I’ve stumbled into. I wish I could make that intersection happen. embodied faith, like a small mirror of incarnation. because.

“A live experiment in humanising the holy”?  “Come along to partake in this experiment in creating community through humanizing the holy and playing with the sacred”? That’s already been done. That’s Jesus. That’s the language of the incarnation, partake, create, human, holy, community, play and all. The Holy becoming human, and inviting humans to partake in a community, a communion in which the sacred Trinity also plays, and where humans are new-created together into holiness. That’s the story of the church. And theatre and church? A whole lot in common. God, the sacredness of theatre and the rough humanity of church. both places of ritual and sacred space, where word is made flesh, and where what is spoken comes into being, and life is imbued with meaning. the edges can blur between theatre and church, if we let them, and I think we should let them.

I’m beginning to think that the way churches are often shaped now, the staleness we’ve let ourselves run into- that’s deadly theatre. In many ways, it’s a continuation of outer forms at the expense of, and despite the loss of, true meaning. Peter Brook writes in his book, The Empty Stage, about four types of theatre- deadly, holy, rough and immediate- and in the section on holy theatre, or “The Theatre of the Invisible-Made-Visible: the notion that the stage is a place where the invisible can appear”, he talks about how “we have lost all sense of ritual and ceremony… after the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep children good”.

Ouch.

He’s talking about theatre, but- think the sacraments. Think communion. Think the rituals and the liturgies. Do people even know, clearly and truly, why they’re doing what they’re doing? Why are they doing it? Because it’s been done before, even if no-one now really knows why? Because that’s just what you do, and it doesn’t do any harm, and we were told to do it, so why not? Why not? I’m not calling for a moratorium on rituals, here, I’m calling for a renewal of meaning in them. These things are rich with truth and living reason, but- as Brook points out- “we do not know how to celebrate because we do not know what to celebrate”. I’ve talked often and often about the incredible lack of knowledge and theological learning outside of places like bible college, the absolute howling wasteland of information that exists, information that is necessary for growth and depth and maturity as a Christian, and this is definitely one area where we’ve handed ourselves the short end of the stick. How can we change this?

That’s the question I’m asking, repeatedly, as I work my way through essays and class and stress and changing the world, one dinner at a time. We are not doing this right. How can we do this right?

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