Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Wail

Watching in combination clips from "Into the Wild" and "August Rush" this PM and realizing... I think I have for some time thought that beauty must be experienced from some particular perspective... somewhere where you can see the grit and toil of the 'everyman' as well as the chins of those with their heads in the clouds. Christopher McCandless was a silver spoon wielding trust fund baby who gave everything he had to UNICEF, chopped up all his ties to affluence (including ID) and set off for Alaska on foot on a self-imposed rite-of-passage. Even gave himself a new name. He wanted adventure... "a spiritual revolution to kill the false being within." And so chased the beauty of life with two feet on the ground. I watch the clip from August Rush with the little girl singing in the empty church... come to find out the group singing with her comes from Harlem and their music is written by the members... mostly students. The song is powerful... full of pain and hope... in lyric and tone... sagging deeply under the weight of human beauty. It is based on their experience.

And I am tempted, having never had nothing... to feel as if I have nothing to contribute to this collective beauty. I am simultaneously moved and excluded from the human chorus... from that wail that spears towards heaven in accusation and then flutters back down to earth in resigned acceptance of the justice that must come from an unspearable God if it comes at all. And the fluttering resolve to a major lift somehow blankets those who wailed... and they are a little warmer ... but noone knows if hope grew and settled from the release of the wail or simply from the new lack of loneliness the chorus made evident.

I stand puzzling... still in the cold.

They can wail... and it is beautiful. But I, wailing with them, would be an imposter. Wouldn't I corrupt their song in some way? Can a suburbanite High School Choir sing southern Spirituals deeply rooted in the agony of the experience of the slaves... or give poetry readings from the pens of the Holocaust... and it be anything but education? Can it be a wail? Can music flow from the aching depths of the human soul... when replayed by souls whose depths have not been sounded, much less dug, much less filled with water from cuts that deep. Can I wail in that way? I do not think so. But perhaps the trying... is part of the sounding... an education for the digging? I definitely think it worthwhile. The wail itself carries a great deal of story... flavor of the human souls from whose depths it originated. And from that we are strengthened and refreshed... given clearer eyes, and more sober judgment.

But that's not the point... my realization is that... the power of the wail is only partly due to the perspective of the singer, but largely due to the fact that it is given indescriminately. Perhaps the singer's benefit is intrinsic in the creation process... but the benefit to mankind is larger by degree. The perspective of the singer is important... surely, as colors on a palatte are important to a painting. But the responsibility lies on all of us to generate beauty indiscriminately. If you are rich, your resources may be different, but your responsibility is the same.
Here, I feel rich. I am in debt... but I show pictures of where I come from... the farmhouse, the gardens, the relatively manicured land.... and I feel isolated from the music that is made here... but I must not allow myself submission to this fear.

Where we are, whoever we are, there we can make beauty.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Hans. ... I just realized, that you might have gotten what you wrote about :)
Now you get to join the Wail. Its gonna be beautiful.