Thursday 22 February 2018

What is it about that movie?

There are not many movies that pull me back to the cinema for a second viewing. Mostly, I am content to wait for the release of the DVD. But, I must say, after seeing "The Greatest Showman" twice at the cinema, I could easily go a third, perhaps even a fourth. Now, I realise that musicals are not everyone's cup of tea and I may be just a little obsessed, however, there is something about this story and its accompanying songs that has me hooked.

I was listening to the soundtrack, for the umpteenth time, in the car today and it dawned on me. Almost every song recognises the paradox in life. "I am brave, I am bruised" are held together in the same breath, while the song "Tightrope" acknowledges that the path ahead may be right or wrong, an adventure or a fall. The great love scene during "Rewrite the Stars" doesn't just say "All I want is to fly with you" but also, "All I want is to fall with you". The struggles are held closely with the joys, the tears with the laughter. Perhaps more explicitly in the story, the poor and the rich, the acceptable and shunned, the black and the white struggle to exist together.

This reminded me of a discussion I was part of recently, reflecting on the life of the mystic. We spoke about how in a world of duality, the mystic manages to live within the paradox and find a third way. Is there nothing we need more in our world right now? Liberal vs conservative, east vs west, male vs female, good vs evil, right vs wrong; we manage to split into factions over almost any issue. The mystic seems to find a way to hold both in tension while moving through and amongst in a third way. It is certainly not a popular way that gains you any friends.

In fear of appearing to read too much into "The Greatest Showman" and naively accept the portrayal by Hugh Jackman, I wonder if the character of P. T. Barnum (in the movie) was a "third way" man. He bridged the worlds of the acceptable and those hidden away. He moved between the worlds of the rich and the poor. He empowered people who had no voice and encouraged relations with people from different cultures and backgrounds. No, he was not perfect, but had a vision of how life could be and invited others to join him. In doing so, people found their true self and were liberated from whatever held them back. Sound familiar?

And so I wonder if my own fascination, and perhaps that of many others across the world also, with "The Greatest Showman" comes from our deep need. That is, the need to be valued as we are, not as the world would have us. And the need for some sense of peace and hope in a world that would have us all believe in "us and them". Maybe we all have a deep hope that a Hugh Jackman might strut into our lives and help us come alive or a Zac Efron might step into our circus and help us rewrite the stars.

Monday 12 February 2018

Giving Up

I saw someone this morning who I haven't seen in a while. Their greeting to me was, "So, I hear you're giving up." Fortunately, I have become adept at dealing with strange reactions to the changes that lie ahead (a topic for another day) and answered, I hope, without expressing my frustration.

Shortly after, I got in my car and began the three hour journey to Perth. This is always a good space for reflection and, occasionally, for some creative planning. I came around to pondering the Lenten Reflections that I have promised my congregations. At this point, they were still a page full of scribbles and vague ideas. I knew the theme I wanted to take, but nothing had crystallized. I wondered about the assumptions people make about Lent and the traditions that people bring to this season. It is often perceived as a gloomy time of repentance and reflection and I have met people who don't attend church and say they are not religious who see it as a time to go without; giving up chocolate or coffee or alcohol.

I gave up giving up something years ago now. I only ever noticed a change for the worse in myself. Giving up chocolate made me cranky. For a few years, I tried taking up something positive. One year, I committed to a Bible reading plan throughout Lent. Other years, I have taken up a new spiritual practice or recommitted to one that I had let slip aside. For me, Lent should be a time of reconnecting with God, remembering who we are and whose we are. It should be a time to rediscover life in all its fullness and really come alive as we approach Easter when this is exactly what we celebrate. That is what I want my Lenten Reflections to be about.

"So, I hear you're giving up." Well, in some ways, I guess I am. I'm giving up on the false self. I'm giving up on obligation. I'm giving up on fear. I'm giving up on perfection. I'm giving up control. I'm giving up on the distractions I create. I'm giving up, in order to find life in all its fullness. I may see it a little differently from you. It is not in defeat, but in a crazy, irrational leap of faith. But thank you all the same for giving me some tangible headings for my Lenten Reflections. Very much appreciated!