This is how we got here. Karen O’s words ring out like a fierce indictment: ‘tracing the steps’ of the “cowards” that have led humanity to this precarious cliff we are coactively hanging from. The slow, smoldering movement of the synthesizer seems to invite a sense of the grandiose. As the Yeah Yeah Yeahs play on, Karen O shares vocal duties with Perfume Genius. But amidst the foreboding, there is a palpable sense of resiliency bubbling up.
This is where we are. We’re spitting off the edge of the world. It’s all come to this. The chorus washes over the listener in waves, creating a call and response effect with the main and backing vocal takes:
We’re spitting off the edge of the world (out in the night)
Never had no chance (nowhere to hide)
Spitting off the edge of the world (out comes the sun)
Never had no chance (nowhere to run)
This is where we’re going. Everything we thought we ever knew, has radically changed to bring us to what we previously thought was the edge of the world. We’ve arrive at what seems like yet another point of no return. The days at hand won’t be easy. It won’t be easy. Things may not feel normal or comfortable: “Wounded arms must carry the load.” However, hope remains palpable. The final line of this apocalyptic ballad is pregnant with expectation:
Winds from the sky (never had no chance) Will watch us rise
Karen O wears a bit of a prophetic spirit on her sleeve. Explaining the meaning of this song, she said, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” was inspired in at least in part by the devastating impacts of climate change. . “I see the younger generations staring down this threat, and they’re standing on the edge of a precipice, confronting what’s coming with anger and defiance,” she said. “It’s galvanizing, and there’s hope there.”
Karen O wears her prophetic voice on her sleeve. She couldn’t hide it if she tried. This is what a prophet does! They tell us where we are, how we got there and give us a good idea of what the consequences are going to be.
Long before Karen O ever sat down at a piano to compose, there was a guy – perhaps a group or “school” of guys – named Isaiah. The book of the Hebrew Torah that bears his name, conveys a very similar foreboding feeling that the world as we know it – a world of violence and mayhem is about to end. Long before Karen O longed for silence in the absence of bombs, Isiah Looked for a day when the ways of war and violence would be so passé that we can all feel comfortable melting down our tools of violence and fashioning them into tools of gardening: tools that cultivate life not death.
The human disposition of hubris and violence is so prevalent, the prognosis of our situation so unsettling, and the hope for a time of peace and rest so unwavering, that you can just about make out the mournful yet hopeful tune of a prophet regardless of time, place, culture or religion.
Unfortunately in our time, words like prophecy, even simple words like god, truth, good, evil have become so overly used as weapons, we might do better to lay them down for a time with the bombs and swords and just focus on trying to live life now.
We can all be pretty bad at that. We often live with a foot in the past, dreaming about a better future.
Sometimes it is so damn hard to just be here, right now, in the moment. The writer of the “gospel” or letter we today call Matthew was so eager for a time of peace and universal prosperity, that he used a rabbinical approach called midrash to apply a lot of Hebrew concepts to the person and work of a first century Palestinian peasant who inspired a minor uprising and was killed by the government of his time.
Writing around the time of 70 CE (about 40 years after the crucifixion), Rome’s destruction of the temple had many, Jews and Christians alike, certain that the end must be near. Matthew placed words of near certainty about the end of days in directly into Jesus’ mouth. If you go just a little further passed today’s reading, Jesus says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
He was wrong. They were wrong. At least in the sense that Jesus is going to come back and bring us an ice cold coke from the heavenly fridge or open up a can of fiery whoop-ass on the unrighteous
So what? That’s what I said for a very long time. So fucking what? The human predicament is still the same. Still so full of violence and war. Hanging our hat on external projections in the sky doesn’t seem to help at all. In fact, focusing on “the end” whatever the hell that means, has potential to turn us all into a selfish, preoccupied noobs that only cause more pain and violence.
What would happen if we lived in the present? Religious or not? What if we learned from the hard lessons that brought us this far? What if we changed the – just ever so slightly – the orientation (or disorientation) of only focusing on the “advent” or coming of the divine into our lives in the past. Those inexplicable moments that feel, for lack of a better word, “Holy.” We sit, dream about the good old days, and wait for restoration.
But that is no way to live. Regardless of time, place, culture or religion we have often dared to hope not too much, but too little. We need to stop waiting for restoration and start living towards our own emancipation and that of the whole.
Happy first Sunday of Advent. So we are at the beginning of a long journey. If you’re not familiar with some of the words and terms that are saturated in religious sectarianism (Like advent, sin, prophecy, etc) don’t worry, if you’re interested, we should have plenty of time to explore these things together throughout the coming weeks, months., years.
We’ll see how this goes and if anybody else comes along for the ride. My name is Wayne. I’m no longer a Christian. But terms like theist or atheist no longer make sense to me (or a lot of others) in a vast universe we know to be ever expanding.
Get the baby out of the trash can, and warm up some fresh bath water. Lets explore together what to throw away and what to keep.
I’ll start with one post each week offers a reflection on at least one (if not more) of the weekly passages from the common lectionary.
I won’t always save the passages or all of my cards so to speak for last. I’m just your average former pastor and recovering alcoholic with CPTSD, Anxiety Disorder, Chronic Depression and a hope that will not let me go – gentle or forcefully – into that good night.
Instead I will offer some reflection and life stories and try to celebrate the only way the light ever comes, anew, each day and punctuated by long cold nights, and even longer seasons of darkness. Spit in the face of that darkness as we spin together at what feels and has always felt like the end of the world.
For today, you can view the lectionary passages for this first Sunday of Advent here.