Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Boys and Girls

In his magnum opus--a twenty-five minute song!--Sufjan Stevens ends his musical apocalypse with a vision of the end: the quest of the impossible soul. After wrestling with the failure of love, the sinfulness of humanity, the prison of loneliness, the sickness of pain, the sorrow of misunderstanding, the last song takes on the problem of evil and suffering. In the end, the only claim Stevens can make is this: we can't do life without each other. With all of its messy, incongruous lines of us/them, evil/good, hope/despair, truth/lies, life affords a realism that defies any silly, utopian ideas of pure beauty. Everything and everyone is marred. Hints of the way things should be lie latent in the most difficult things. We talk about love, about truth, about righteousness, about meaning, about purpose, about direction, about resolution, about being whole. But, then life compels us to look in the mirror and say, "I can't lie to you. I can't tell you everything's going to be all right. You know better."

But wait. Someone's standing right beside me. She's looking in the mirror too. She's saying "it's okay. It's just the way life is. We're not meant to do this all by ourselves. We can do this together." This is no temptress. No serpent whispering in my ear. She is the second Eve, the new woman, the helpmate God intended all along. There is no feigned romanticism in her voice. She admits life is messy. She knows love goes wrong. This is no Eden. The ground yields thorns. Fig leaves must be sewn. Hide and seek will never end. She lives with an impossible soul too.

But that doesn't mean we can't dance. Hear the music? It's inviting us to find rhythm in the midst of chaos, to recover movement in spite of the static, to recover a lyrical life while death reigns, to find rest in the restless night, to believe the impossible.

Whenever I hear Sufjan's apocalyptic vision of the end of the world, I want to get up and dance.

Eve, where are you?

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