Tuesday, May 30, 2006

human spirit...the ghosts of jesus

you know i reckon we are frail urchins of a graceless existence whose hope lies not in feudal promises but in the luminescence of the human spirit. whether we are driven by courage or desperation our promised land is reached because of a decision to travel the hard road of free will and self determination in search of peace.

and i wonder from within our search for peace, do we become the ghosts of Jesus?

today has been a good day...

the human spirit is a remarkable gift, i read 'the grapes of wrath' again last month - described by the guardian as 'a terrible and indignant book; yet the ultimate impression is that of dignity of the human spirit under the stress of the most desperate conditions', and it drew me to the work of bruce springsteen, first to revisit the album, 'ghost of tom joad' and then to the more recent 'seeger sessions'

bruce embodies within these works the struggle of being human and at the same time the sheer joy of living and what sharing our journeys can bring...more and more i am believing bruce springsteen is not so much the voice of 'blue collar' america, but rather a pastoral presence for the spiritual refugees of the west

The writer Eric Alterman asked a few members of various online discussion groups to answer the question, as succinctly as possible, why does Bruce Springsteen matter? Here are the first five answers he received:

• “He makes me feel like I belong in this world.”
• “Bruce Springsteen’s art keeps my conscience alive.”
• “He matters to me because he is like my backup heartbeat.”
• “His music creates an internal dialogue that [helps] us discover who we are.”
• “He has opened places in my mind, provided me with music to live my life, given me solace in my grief, provided me with joy for celebrations, introduced me to lifelong friends, raised my blood pressure, increased my heart rate, and added smile lines to my face.”

These comments were made by adults who have ordinary commitments and lives. To all intents and purposes these people are just like you or I. Yet the discovery of Springsteen’s 'invisible church' has provided these people with a means to perhaps face the most important spiritual void in post-modern Western life: our lack of an authentic language of the heart and of a genuine community with which to share it.

I propose that the ghosts of Jesus and the opportunity to build community can still be found in the apocalyptic messages running through the art of such people like Bruce Springsteen. What do I mean by that? Well, I think we might be misunderstanding the much placated word apocalypse. Writer David Dark suggests that within its root meaning, we find it’s not about destruction or fortune telling, it’s about revealing - an epiphany if you like. I would say that the beauty of apocalyptic language is this: that in the hearing or seeing, truth reveals itself and we realise that it’s not about Bruce Springsteen or anything else for that matter, it’s all about us and our connection to that which is beyond and yet within.

This was the genius of Jesus. How did he communicate to ordinary folk like you and me? Well, something the Bible calls Parables – the small stories with big points. African novelist and poet Ben Okri wrote in his essay ‘The Joy of Story Telling’ that “stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and you change the individuals and nations.” Art (paintings, stories, music etc) is complex and is rarely immediately self revealing, it leaves us somewhat undecided and needing to do further reflection and work. Much like the parables, Okri concludes that “the parables of Jesus are more persuasive than his miracles.”

It’s not that we should completely dispose of expository preaching for it must continue to be part of any church wishing to remain biblical in its ethos. I am merely trying to find practical ways whereby people are given time to live and breathe. Where our communication is organic and creative so finding a rhythm like the seasons, where land is allowed to lie fallow for a period, only to give way to a time where seeds are watered and so germinate and grow. Let’s not indulge ourselves in artistic deafness, but embrace this everyday apocalypse which fills us with wonder and somehow allows us to glimpse eternity.

we are the ghosts of jesus and in a world of abject hostility, shame and destitution, the human spirit found from within art such as springsteen's can and will lead us to our promised lands....

1 comment:

mister tumnus said...


have you got an email address? i would love to talking bruce with you. if you wanna pass it on mine is:


failing that our paths will cross sometime and i have a poem by wb yeats which i've been bothering people with for a while and which i will someday pass on to you. it's springsteentastic.