Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"What is the expression the age demands?" Leonard Cohen

Whatever my "job" or job description/calling/role/gift is in the Kingdomchurchculture shift,
it has something/everything to do with discerning, in the words of Leonard Cohen:

"What is the expression the age demands?"

The moment I saw that title, I intuitively knew it was a version of my life purpose/mission statement. I couldn't wait to hear how the wise Cohen was going to answer that million dollar question. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that his answer would be unique, unexpected, prophetic and worth weighing.

I didn't know that it would momentarily hijack me into disequilibrium and anger...soon shapeshifting into a wonderful and ecstatic despair.

I'm exaggerating,
I think.

More on that later...

Anyway: "What is the expression the age demands?"
I want to be; I was born to be found answering, or at least asking that question.

Praying it. Pouring it over. Teaching and preaching it, even as I am reaching it.

Sure, it's partly about theologically "neutral" (?) aspects (How to arrange the seating in a gathering, what songs to sing and how/if to project them, what to wear as a pastor-type). It's partly about being postmodern-sensitive and missional (without "trying to be relevant.")
But it's largely about asking the ultimately (Or penultimately) pressing question of "this weird moment in history"; this
current sociological shift (that) is historic, surpassing the transition from agricultural to industrial and industrial to technological. It will blow the doors off everything we have known....I know that God is moving in the marketplace and will use anyone who is thirsty or available. May the church be wise enough to see the handwriting on the wall.... a Reformation is taking place, or the one Martin Luther started is moving to another dimension"
(article by Steve Witt: "Thyspace" in Spread The Fire, Aug 2007 issue, p.4-7)

Mark the Artist mentioned this morning, in a meeting at his "office", in the context of a discipline completely unrelated (yeah, right!) to church and culture and next reformations: interior design:

"Sometimes styles change, but no one announces it."

I want to be an such an announcer.

But after reading Cohen, I (Like the Ramones famously sung),
"I want to be sedated."

Maybe a sedated anouncer is exactly what is needed right now in the Body (The case has been made for the vital role of "drugged poets" here...though Steve meant it srcastically).

Ah, speaking of poets (and in light of Chesterton's "poets don't go mad..."), here is Cohen's answer...in a book entitled "How to Speak Poetry."
A book in which I had been told to my delight would address the/my question of the age.

Of course the first sentence in the answer...as accurate and encouraging as it is...was the most devastating. But the last sentence made my day.

I will be chewing on it awhile. Enjoy! And aggregate it with all the other wisdom from St Leonard (see for example,
"God is Alive: Good Wine and a Tuna Sandwich") you can find:

How to Speak Poetry" by Leonard Cohen. pp 287-88

What is the expression which the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. We have seen photographs of bereaved Asian mothers. We are not interested in the agony of your fumbled organs. There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt

things deeply. We have seen newsreels of humans in the extremities of pain and dislocation. Everyone knows you are eating well and are even being paid to stand up there. You are playing to people who have experienced a catastrophe. This should make you very quiet.
Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Everyone knows you are in pain. You cannot tell the audience everything you know about love in every line of love you speak. Step aside and they will know what you know because you know it already. You have nothing to teach them. You are not more beautiful than they are. You are not wiser. Do not shout at them....

The poem is nothing but information. It is the Consitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers' Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Tell them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it. Do not work the audience for gasps ans sighs. If you are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but from theirs. It will be in the statistics and not the trembling of the voice or the cutting of the air with your hands. It will be in the data and the quiet organization of your presence.

Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you're tired.
"How to Speak Poetry" by Leonard Cohen. pp 287-88

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