This week I was treated to truth compressed in poems heard and printed on the page.
Story and song inspire, comfort and trouble me – sometimes in equal measure. I can’t imagine an existence without narrative being either backdrop or foreground to my every step. “When truth is told through the imaginative patterns of stories and poems, we have a chance to be caught up and rewoven into truth’s own designs. … stories and poems offer a far more practical thing: self-understanding that can illumine and help transform our lives” (Parker Palmer: The Active Life p.11).
One of the questions of biblical proportions put by Pilate to Jesus – What is truth? Was hurtled at us in quadraphonic sound with light and colour and movement at the production of Superstar I saw during the week. The production was stunning and the modernisation at times spine tingling and no more so than having Pilate gown up during the rendition of his solo piece (Pilate’s Dream) and the shadow boxing fitness routine to send Jesus to mob rule for trial and sentencing by Herod. The mob rule, trial by media and reality TV sentencing is not the precision of poetry.
And what would my answer be to Pilate’s question: What is Truth? I would say to him: “Sir, truth is stripped bare when it appears in a poem – truth is laid on the table for all to see – a wound gapping open with no where to hide. Truth is raw, precise and elemental.”
Hildegard you heard and created poetry all throughout your life allowing your music to support it and bring it to life, allowing your beloved scripture and landscape to hold the words and the sounds together bringing truth to your generation that has continued to echo throughout the ages. The truth of your God being universal – uni – verse – One Word.
The production of Superstar revealed Jesus as an Everyman Activist – another leader on the frontline of a G8 riot or wikileak informant ending up in Guantamano Bay with an online iPhone army of disciples with the hashtag #TheTwelve. The truth of his God being delivered in a haunting melody travelling on the breath of the flautist through the steel of the flute into the air all around us – the sound – a feather on the breath of God – landing into his lungs as he gasped his last breath on earth. Truth, beauty, art and for me, a poem of biblical proportions.
I will never be far away from the Jesus narrative, having signed up for the Jesus project and happily being a life long card carrying project officer ( a metaphor that has sustained me since I learnt of it first hand from the wonderful Brazilian team that visited Adelaide back in the 80s). It is the activist Jesus that inspired me and now the contemplative expressions that sustain me. The activist is drawn to external provocation, however as you go deeper and find truth it is the contemplative life that draws you to activism and says good bye to being a re-activist. The activist Superstar version of Jesus has Jesus reacting to his homeland being occupied by Rome; yet Hildegard your Jesus is co-creating more beauty and the groaning and pain of his prayer to his Abba is from a place of solitude not amidst the noise of the crowd. I will have my moments of being seduced and find myself being a re-activist but now I strive to be the poet who can reveal truth the precision of an arrow hitting a bullseye shot by a gold medallist archer.