Friday, October 10, 2008
Elvis says 'hey'
I was somewhere sitting on a couch. Elvis was sitting next to me -- the late-'60s, pre-Vegas Elvis. He was shirtless. I had my right hand on his left shoulder, patting it, as he leaned forward stretching, and I said, "I wish I'd known you better. I haven't even heard all of your songs."
My reading from Frederick Buechner today:
IF GOD SPEAKS anywhere, it is into our personal lives that he speaks. Someone we love dies, say. Some unforeseen act of kindness or cruelty touches the heart or makes the blood run cold. We fail a friend, or a friend fails us, and we are appalled at the capacity we all of us have for estranging the very people in our lives we need the most. Or maybe nothing extraordinary happens at all—just one day following another, helter-skelter, in the manner of days. We sleep and dream. We wake. We work. We remember and forget. We have fun and are depressed. And into the thick of it, or out of the thick of it, at moments of even the most humdrum of our days, God speaks. But what do I mean by saying that God speaks?
He speaks not just through the sounds we hear, of course, but through events in all their complexity and variety, through the harmonies and disharmonies and counterpoint of all that happens. As to the meaning of what he says, there are times that we are apt to think we know. Adolf Hitler dies a suicide in his bunker with the Third Reich going up in flames all around him, and what God is saying about the wages of sin seems clear enough. Or Albert Schweitzer renounces fame as a theologian and musician for a medical mission in Africa, where he ends up even more famous still as one of the great near-saints of Protestantism; and again we are tempted to see God's meaning as clarity itself. But what is God saying through a good man's suicide? What about the danger of the proclaimed saint's becoming a kind of religious prima donna as proud of his own humility as a peacock of its tail? What about sin itself as a means of grace? What about grace, when misappropriated and misunderstood, becoming an occasion for sin? To try to express in even the most insightful and theologically sophisticated terms the meaning of what God speaks through the events of our lives is as precarious a business as to try to express the meaning of the sound of rain on the roof or the spectacle of the setting sun. But I choose to believe that he speaks nonetheless, and the reason that his words are impossible to capture in human language is of course that they are ultimately always incarnate words. They are words fleshed out in the everydayness no less than in the crises of our own experience.
And I thought of Elvis in my dream, and I laughed and wished it had been Jesus sitting there beside me, shirtless or not, on that dreamed-up couch. And then, I thought, maybe it was.
And then I thought: I wish I knew Him better. I know I haven't heard all of His songs.
I love the whole changing-Elvis-to-Jesus, and your last line. I, too, would love to hear all His songs. I think I might want to never stop hearing them. Music is so important to me, and I think it is to Jesus, too, and God, and I think all music is a dim reflection of the always-singing choir around the Divine throne. You know, if I could hear that, even for a second, I think I would never stop crying and laughing at the same time.
Thanks for the beautiful thought for the start of the day, my friend.
The Jungians would have a field day with that dream, shirtless stars and whatnot. (And we should never take dream analysis too seriously, as you know.) So I'll offer up my own thought. That suggests a wish for an experience of a more innocent time. The King is (sadly?) leaving, perhaps into the future of becoming the ragged, obese, shell of his original self. That's what you are missing, that original, pure sound and image. Perhaps the innocence of a simple, (or untainted) faith straight from the King of Kings is what you are desiring in your analogy?
It' a beautiful sentiment, regardless of the juxtaposed cool dream and the armchair analysis.