Thursday, June 02, 2016

Bono and Peterson's Psalms film follow-up

Of course, the recent film of Bono and Eugene Peterson on the psalms  was fantastic.
But one can't help what cutting edge quotes were left on the cutting room floor;
what  takeaways between takes were take away.
(I remember reading about a Disney film where what some saw as the best seven minutes of the film were cut, as they didn't fit the flow).

I knew there would be some leaks (re-leaked below) .
But I didn't know I would get my  2004 question of the first questions in my first post on this blog ("Does Bono read Brueggemann?")..,
                                  and I didn't even have to meet Bono to ask him.

First, from Scot Calhoun's post, "Behind The Scenes: More From Bono & Friends On The Psalms":

David Taylor’s two meetings with Bono left him thinking Bono was “frightfully intelligent when it came to the matter of the Psalms. He is a serious student of them -- their history, their poetry, their themes, their various uses. I was thoroughly impressed.” Knowing Taylor is an associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Seminary, I asked him what impressed him so much.

During our conversation in Montana, he anticipated where I would be going with a certain line of questions. I mentioned the pattern of praise and lament psalms at one point, to which he interjected, with a chuckle: ‘Orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Guess which one I’m good at!’ Those three terms, as you probably already know, come from language that biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann coined in his research on the Psalms. That terminology isn’t exactly common knowledge. I was amazed not only at the fact that he was familiar with the terms, but also at the careful manner in which he handled them.”
When they met again in July, “it was patently evident Bono had more to say,” Taylor remarked.

“Prior to our chat in New York City, I learned that he had spent the early morning re-reading the Psalms alongside various biblical commentaries and notes that he himself has taken on particular Psalms. I also found out that he had spent some time with a friend in a lively exchange about the Psalms, to get ready for our conversation. By the time I got him in the early afternoon, he was buzzing with excitement about certain themes related to the psalms of ascent, that section in the Psalter that runs from Psalm 120 to Psalm 134. Bono felt that there was something significant, not just for the Christian or the pilgrim (per the context of the Psalter) but also for the artist, in the themes that emerged in this collection of 15 psalms. The themes include a concern for peace, protection, cities, mercy, thanks, security, laughter, hubris, rage, tears, humility, searching, unity, blessing and so on. Bono had something to say about each of these themes. It was striking to see how his reading the Psalms involved a scholarly, personal and artistic lens. Aware of the near-constant demands on his time, I was impressed with how seriously he took our conversation, not least because of his longstanding care for Holy Scripture. I sincerely appreciated that kind of preparation and attention.” -LINK
From the filmmaker:

Through the windows behind Bono, I can see Hughes Bay opening out onto Flathead Lake, and beyond it, the snow-tipped Mission Mountains. Bono leans forward at the table, hands gesticulating. What he admires about Eugene, he says, is Eugene’s capacity for stillness. It reminds him of U2’s former chaplain, Jack Heaslip, who, it seems, had perfected the art of laziness. But it wasn’t “lazy to do nothing,” Bono insists.

It was laziness in the sense of an unworried carelessness. For Heaslip, this translated into an ability to be present. This presence had an expansive quality about it. To be present in this way meant that you had “all the time in the world” and the future neither threatened nor demanded that you leave the present moment for the sake of a “better option” or a more “useful employment of time.”

When Bono first walks into the Peterson home, he carries under his arm a copy of Seamus Heaney’s book of poetry, Human Chain. Bono hands the book to Eugene, only to be told by Jan they already own it. Bono laughs when he hears this. And he doesn’t appear embarrassed the redundancy of his gift. Bono tells me that Eugene reads the way he listens to music, so it’s to be expected that he’d already own the book by the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet.

In speaking to Bono’s assistants earlier in the day, I learn that gift-giving is one of Bono’s “love languages.” It is one of the peculiar ways he tries to communicate care to people. One could be excused for thinking that this behavior is a form of showmanship. “It’s simply what famous musicians can afford to do, because they’re wealthy and surrounded by an army of ingratiating assistants.” That’s possible, sure, but it’s a rather cynical way to read a sincere gesture.
At the beginning of our time together, I see Bono greet each member of the small film crew by name. Three hours later, at the end of the visit, Bono thanks them each personally, again by name. The “by name” part does not escape my notice. The larger-than-life personality that I’ve witnessed on television is here, in the Peterson’s home, replaced by a generous, somewhat-awkward, often deferential person.

...As a competitive runner in his early years, Eugene could still be a man “in a hurry” in his latter years. But he isn’t. And his non-hurried way of being, part by nature, part by choice, means that he has time to pay attention—to people, to place, to creation. As he tells me later in the day:
“I guess what I would like to convey through my writings, mostly, and through relationships, is that creation is a huge thing, and that our faith has to reflect the basicness of creation to what we’re doing. The minute you leave the place, the contingency of place, you lose the story. You’re thinking about mystical things, or dogmatic things, or religious things, but this is where it all happens. I think we’ve been pretty deliberate about making sure that we’re staying in touch with the things, with the stuff, with the rocks and the birds, whatever. That doesn’t come just at the end of your life. You have to start pretty early.”

...Halfway through my on-camera conversation with Bono and Eugene, before transitioning to our discussion of the psalms, I ask them if there is anything else they wanted to say about the calling to friendship.

His eyes drifting over to his writing desk, Eugene says, “You know, as you ask this question, I hadn’t thought of this before, but I think my friendships now are carried on mostly in correspondence. I write a lot of letters, and they’re people I liked but I didn’t really know, and then through correspondence, I feel like I know them. And they know me.”

Bono wonders whether Eugene types or writes his letters by hand.
Eugene chuckles to himself. “I used to handwrite my letters,” he says, “because I thought it was more personal, but I got a letter from a guy in South Africa, 10 years ago or so, and he said, ‘If you reply to this letter, please use a typewriter. I spent two weeks deciphering your last letter.’ So I felt that writing letters by hand was just a matter of pride. It didn’t work.”

I turn to Bono to see if he has anything else to add. Not surprisingly, he does. The trick, he tells us, is to hold on to your friendships through difficult times. Especially in America, he thinks, people move around a lot. The U.S. Census Bureau figures that a typical American will move 11 times in their lifetime. Under these circumstances, Bono suspects, it’s very hard to hold onto friendships. But “it’s really important,” he says. “So I don’t take it lightly.”

As I observed Bono and Eugene’s exchanges on that Sunday afternoon in a small town in Montana, I saw the virtue of hospitality at work. In this particular relational context, it meant the habit of paying attention and the habit of generosity of spirit. It is a gift to me to have witnessed this exchange, for many reasons, yes, but not least because it rebuked my own poor relational habits and it inspired me to want, yet again, to be a better friend.

Link: Bono, Eugene Peterson, and the Vocation of Friendship


 See also:

This from Charlie Peacock's ArtHouse blog...on the wives (Peterson's and Taylor's.  Too bad, not Bono's_ behind the film


Meet the Man Behind the Bono and Eugene Peterson Conversation

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