First off, I need to break some very disappointing news. Turns out, I did not win Pepsi’s Superbowl Sweepstakes and therefore will not be walking pop “artist” Beyoncé onto the stage during tomorrow’s half time show. I know. I’m just as heartbroken as you are.
Now related, I didn’t catch it (and I’m really not inclined to seek out a replay) but apparently Beyoncé defended her claim that she did not lip sync the national anthem at the president’s inauguration by performing it live at a Superbowl press conference. This together with a pretty spot on book I just picked up (more below!) and my own adventure into the wonderful world of blogging has sort of put in highlight, bold, and underline how desperately my generation is looking for validation of creativity. Like Beyoncé , we are defensive about our “art” because we believe we have birthed it into creation, that we are the first to set foot here, that we in some way own what we put out into the world and are entitled to all of the respect and credit that comes with that.
Earlier today I was listening to a piece on NPR’s Weekend Morning Edition (I like my Saturday mornings as “middle-class, white girl” as possible…) and I heard that the the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is making available their archive of audio recordings from nature. I know. You’ve been waiting for this day, haven’t you? Sarcasm aside, one of these tracks- I think it was a loon- bears a striking similarity to the sound of R2D2. In fact, story goes that when it was played for the Star Wars’ audio guy he laughed, noting that it took him three months to “create” R2D2’s voice and there it was, sitting right in nature.
Our generation is really good at trying to do things on our own and to be creators rather than creative. Perhaps not by our own fault, we are very me-centered. Yet we’re somehow also irresponsible with our personal finances, immature in relationships, and proficient in both passive and aggressive self-harming behaviors. Isn’t this totally backwards? Are we not witnessing what happens when we try to help ourselves outside of community and communion? We’re literally chasing after the impossible under the belief that if we can come up with something new and original we will discover our worth and then, and only then, be some good to this world. Only if we can contribute with something new. The umpteen bazillion blogs out here point directly towards this trend.
During our thesis writing months, my classmate and great friend Jamie and I would meet almost every week at the Golden West Café in Hamden. We’d pour red ink over our drafts and eat and celebrate another semester of student loans! When class and grad school came to an end, we gave each other a copy of our final drafts. I was so grateful for this because the whole thesis process had been a lot more struggle than satisfaction for me. I hated what mine had become and took so much comfort in Jamie’s writing. Now, years later I can look back and realize that I had the assignment all wrong. I spent chapters and chapters defining and defending a truth I thought I had 100% of the market on. This was the impossible: trying to create something that was nothing new. Jamie on the other hand had used her paper as a celebration of wisdom that could only uphold the truths that have been around since the dawn of time, the same ones I thought I needed to protect and possess.
We’re all lip-syncing, Beyoncé. We’re all working from the same goodness, no matter how we dress it up. We can look at this as a sad reality or as a reason to celebrate. We are not charged with discovering new truths but with celebrating how this truth is manifesting in our world today. More importantly, we’re charged with helping it manifest by pointing to it and participating in it. This is what gratitude is meant to do, to move us into participation and real community with each other, not just make us happy to be here, where the grass is greener.
As Lillian Daniel shares in her book When “Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough”: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church, “…scripture today tells us, “In accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” We can’t sit back and simply feel gratitude, or feel lucky. No, as Christians we expect more, way more, like a new heaven and a new earth, and because we follow Jesus, we better expect to be involved in making it happen, alongside other people.”
In a sermon (posted below), she also makes the point that in living and being “alongside other people” we are meant to “love each other, not eachother’s stuff.” This his includes the intangible things we try to hold onto: our place in the world, our intelligence, our talent. We’re here to love each other in our most undecorated and raw form and to trust that we’re all working with the same materials, light and love, given to us by God.