When I first started having children, I decided to conduct my own sociological experiment. I wanted to see how my kids would develop according to their unique desires, but also how they would frame difference. So, for instance, when Samantha was a toddler, the Rogers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella had just been released staring the pop singer Brandi. The king was a white man, the queen, an African American woman (Whoopi Goldberg) and the prince (the obvious progeny) an Asian young man.
At any rate, we also owned the 1950 cartoon version. So when Sam would refer to one or the other she would distinguish them by “the peach Cinderella” or “the brown Cinderella.” So, she has an aunt who is S Korean, and Sam referenced her as “brown,” too. But she also distinguished – the one with curly hair or the one who always wears a plaid dress. It was fascinating to observe because she seemed to categorize according to the aspects that would help us know whom she meant – the mean one, the one who laughs all the time, irrespective of ethnicity or even gender.
And then my kids went to school . . . That institution where categorization is the brick and mortar of standardizations and conferring marks of worth.
Bohemian: “A socially unconventional person, especially one who is involved in the arts.”
Rhapsody: “An effusively enthusiastic or ecstatic expression of feeling: an epic poem, or part of it, of a suitable length for recitation at one time.”
“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for the other misfits. They’re the outcasts, right at the back of the room. We’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.”Freddie Mercury
Queen was a group of geniuses, individuals who could have been accomplished academics, but played music – and really well. They fought, they disagreed, but then heard each other – collaborated: one inspired by a guitar rift, one inspired by a beat, and they all started feeding off of each other. And then when they broke apart, Freddie came back and they forgave. He apologizes, knows what led him away – owns it. they trust that. All together. A family. They fight, and keep choosing each other.
How many of us feel like outsiders? And how many of us have reacted senselessly, said something uncaringly to people we love?
Why is it so hard, then, to return and ask for forgiveness?
Stubbornness, for one, right? Isn’t it also that we can’t always trust that we will be forgiven? That those we’ve harmed out of our own unease or frustration or grief or profound loneliness – that people who were there for me and sustained my outburst, might not let it go?
Because how many of us have been in that very situation where, having gone to the offended person with an apology is then met with either cold shoulder or a recounting of all the way they have been hurt by me or you?
What are we called to do? How does God call you? Me?
Freddie met a young woman named Mary. He loves her. With everything. Chooses her. Covenants with her. But it isn’t a sexual relationship. Not really. Intimate, yes. Yet even after he accepts that his attraction is more for men, he does not break his covenant to be intimately related with Mary. And that is what we are made to do. Covenant with one another. And to keep choosing to covenant.
What are you called to do? How does God call you?
For Queen, the audience was their raison d’etre.
“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for the other misfits. They’re the outcasts, right at the back of the room. We’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” Freddie Mercury
When Freddie came back to the group, asking for their forgiveness for having left – to try and do things on his own, his own way, he told the group,
“I went to Munich. I hired a bunch of guys, I told them exactly what to do and the problem was: They did it. No push-back from Roger, none of [Brian’s] re-writes, none of [John’s] funny looks. I need you, and you need me.”Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody
Individuals, with and without families, gifted in disparate ways, nevertheless drawn together by the possibility of music to reach beyond difference, hurt and frustration, and to bring hope to their audience through their brilliant music.
Lysander – unique, misunderstood, fitting in best with other misfits . . . and amazingly creative, genius, tenacious…
“Freud asserted that love and work are the bedrock of our mental health and our very humanity. In the century since, this notion has been taken to a warped extreme — love has been industrialized into the one-note Hollywood model of romance and work has metastasized into aching workaholism.” And it follows us into our activity at the church, and with our children and grandchildren.
“[Bertrand] Russell, one of the deepest and most nuanced thinkers our civilization has produced, was closer to the subtler truth, which we as a culture are still struggling to enact: that, while love and work are central to the good life, romantic love is not the only or even necessarily the most rewarding pinnacle of love . . .”Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
It is in ‘curiosity and purpose,’ versus that machine of wage for labor; “Just as work alone is not enough for a fulfilling life, love alone is not enough for a fulfilling relationship, romantic or otherwise. No partnership of equals — that is, no truly satisfying partnership — can be complete without each partner recognizing and respecting in the other a sense of purpose beyond the relationship, a contribution to the world that reflects and advances that person’s deepest values and most impassioned dreams, in turn adding creative, intellectual, and spiritual fuel to the shared fire of the relationship.” Maria Popova
But we are threatened by our friend or lover who dreams and thinks about things that are different from our own ideas of future trajectories. That somehow if you are equipped to move ahead in one direction and I am pulled in another, it follows we must unequivocally part ways. But what if we create a map to include 4 dimensional space and the roads are essentially parallel, but at a different angle? Then I can still reach out a hand if you trip, and you can encourage me on when I am discouraged.
How many times have we been told, “you can’t do that, you’re just . . .” or “please don’t be that, it would kill your father, or sister, or . . .”
What are we called to do? How does God call you?
To change the world, we must change the story.
There isn’t a most beautiful because there are so many kinds of beauty. There isn’t a best way to go about a thing because there are so many creative ways to do a thing.
Christ died to make all things new, all things right – Jesus is making – in the making, collaborates with us to make – all things new.
You are unique. I am unique. How can we think that it is a good thing to try and do things like they have always been done? Then neither of us are going to be our best selves – our true selves, made in the very image of the God of the universe.
When we follow in the way of a person or an idea because it looks right or it worked for that person or group, we make that way an idol.
An icon is not an idol. An idol is something or someone that captures the gaze, the line of sight, and compels one to worship the thing itself. An icon is a work or being that, however imperfect points the gaze outward, back on the self or even beyond the self. An icon reflects the inspiration, the spirit of the artist. It suggests the character of the one who was moved to create something that speaks about, communicates what is happening in the unique soul of that person. It is meant to move us to interpret and even be motivated by it.
Jean Vanier, who died a couple weeks ago, was a leader and philosopher in Canada, founding the L’Arche community that provided membership, belonging for those with and without intellectual disabilities. Some called him a saint or idol. But he said – everyone casts a shadow in the light, but God is the light. We can only reflect that light.
Carolyn Whitney-Brown explains: “Jean’s central message about transforming structures of privilege to build community across every imaginable kind of difference makes sense without reference to Jesus – but his life doesn’t.”
We can speak of breaking down the structures of privilege, paving roads across any difference you or I may perceive – But without reference to Jesus, without acknowledging the source of the light – the life, the beauty of creative beauty – it will just be an idol: innert. Eventually outdated. Irrelevant. And more often than not, harmful.
Queen – Individuals, with and without families, gifted in disparate ways, drawn together by the light of music, saw beyond difference, hurt and frustration, to bring hope to their audience through their brilliant music.
What do you do when God calls you? How do you know God calls? What does it mean to be sent? Is God calling you now? If so, what are you going to do about it? tell someone, because we are not sent alone – and by your telling someone, God might be using you as God’s mouthpiece. God may be calling someone else through you. Listen.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit paleontologist who worked to understand evolution and faith, wrote about trusting the work of God in and through us – to be patient about the process. Because when we are impatient with ourselves, isn’t it super easy to be impatient with others?:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, excerpted from Hearts on Fire
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Love necessitates action. Love enables us. We are sent by Love.