Sunday, July 31, 2011

Of stories and backrubs

Last night I did something rather heathen.  I walked away from an opportunity to lift my voice in songs of praise to my Almighty God using the timeworn hymns of great Christian saints. Instead, I went to my room and shut the door. Worse, I turned on my laptop, put in my headphones (so that I could no longer hear my whirring fan, or anything else for that matter) and pulled up a YouTube movie. The final kicker? It was a dance movie…and dealt with themes of drugs, violence, sex, and high school dropouts.*

Just hit me now.

But, when the final scene closed and the credits began spiraling down the screen, I felt something that hasn’t stirred in my heart for the past nine weeks, if not longer.

I felt a whisper of beauty.

Stories, whether true or fictional, carry much power
Call it what you will—a creative spirit, a muse, a hope of adventure, a desire to look at something more than analysis and fact, a sense of awe or wonder, a hint of heaven, a realization there is something beyond this. C.S. Lewis called it joy. It’s what drives me to paint or play music or write or sing or imagine... and it’s been something that I’ve only received in snatches these past months, all the while decreasing rapidly, as I’m sure you have noticed by my silence on here.

And it took a dance movie to remind me of it. Not that this particular movie was particularly insightful or thought-provoking or had marvelous special effects or Oscar-winning acting. (Nor was it as terrible as you might think.) Really, it was simply a generic movie.

But, it was a story.

Earlier that evening, students and professors, slipper-footed, curled on pillows in a semi-circle and regaled one another with stories from their lives. There was the story about the fire-truck smuggled across a border, the model rocket gone awry, an interview by the Russian KGB, and the woes of international travel. Peanuts, Oreos, and lemonade were passed by eager listeners, as eyes squinted in laughter.

During that time, one of the girls started to give me a backrub. Here, such a thing is a gift akin to Aztec gold—rubbing out the perpetual knots driven into our shoulders from that morpho-syntax paper in Salasaca Quechua or the discourse analysis of a Gumawana folktale. As her fingers began to separate hardened muscles from bone, what I thought was just a few tight muscles exploded in agony.

Numbness does not indicate health.

And so, as I raised my hands in deaf applause to the signed tale of a watermelon fiasco, I gritted my teeth and leaned into the pressure dealt by stories and thumbs. And, on a whim, I made a choice that probably raised a few eyebrows when I sequestered myself in my room to watch my one and only movie of the summer.

But afterwards, my heart stretched, cracked, and finally,

began to sing.  


*In case you feel like following my example, you can look up the movie Take the Lead.