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When Love Meets Dust
You Sowed this Flame Inside of Us
A few years ago, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday coincided like passionate contrary lovers.
Putting one foot on one side of the threshold and one foot on the other, was like simultaneously tasting ash on the tongue, and kissing long, under a flaming archway bedecked with cherubs.
So I wrote a song called When Love Meets Dust.
When I made the music video for it, I wanted to work with the rebel energy in the rocker… who just knows something isn’t right… with what Bill Plotkin calls “obedience training”, and as a result, is quite familiar with the cracks in society, through which you might find many alternative narratives and economies.
I relate to the rocker. She is my raw, wild, me. Her face holds the wine-stained mouth of my twenties, wailing, keening, for a more just world in which we can really live. Johnny Cash-style, she thrusts her middle finger at the establishment, and sniffs out manipulation and hypocrisy wherever it might be found. She wants to piss on it. To stamp on it with the heel of her boot. She wants to rage against the machine.
When I used to tour the world playing music, I would inevitably find myself in a feast or famine situation on any given day. One evening, I would be performing in the chandelier halls of consulates, or given a private tour of the Guggenheim, and another evening, I would be sleeping in my touring vehicle, so I didn’t have to get a hotel room.
I met most of my heroes and sheroes. Got a taste for riches, in the mansions of hit writers. Was invited into back rooms at awards shows, by some of the most elite stars in the world, to do copious amounts of drugs with them (was never into that, so declined).
So, for the second verse, I became a Roman Citizen, approaching what it looks like to survive, to play by the rules, inside of that system.
In 2010, I left the music business, and hid out for a number of months, at a Benedictine Monastery. During that time, I read Belden Lane’s extraordinary book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. It helped me to find language for what was happening… and helped me to surrender… and let go of a long-held identity. I sold or gave away everything I had except two guitars, a few changes of clothes, and my car.
I was approaching rebellion again… this time against another system that I felt was also toxic. The music business.
But something was different this time. One evening, standing alone on a beach, with a full moon rising, I realized that I was ok. That nearly everything I had cared about had been stripped away, but there was something still so present, and full, inside of me. It was a moment that mirrored James Finley’s beautiful words: “for God, there’s nothing missing, in spite of all the missing pieces inside of me.”
This time of surrender set me on a path that is not a surrender of the rebel, so much as an integration of the rebel. She is still very much there, and she matters. She helps me to see through the eyes of many people, and she helps me to love them.
For the third verse of this song, I became Mary Magdalene - not the repentant prostitute she was painted to be - but someone who has found an anointing equilibrium, who can be present to all the many faces this world shows us. She is neither inside the system, like the Roman citizen, nor is she dancing helplessly, fuelled by the very real frustration that can come when a person sees all the many layers of corruption.
She has followed her dearest friend into hell. She has sat with him in the suffering paschal frequency, reconciling all things. She has plunged through the binary surface, and down under into a paradox so difficult and so beautiful, that to taste it would take your breath away.
All time is here with us. They are not far away.
In the video, I hold the alabaster jar and a red egg.
The alabaster jar - this ancient anointing mystery, is the wellspring, the cauldron, the conch shelled baptismal font - an arational tide... the Sea of Galilee-turned-"Lake Tiberius", copiously thrusting her fish into peasant nets.
The red egg is the impossible resurrection, amidst the madness.
She is ternary… beyond the binary. Which at first glance looks like resignation. The Magdalene is medicine, and flows into places deemed unworthy. She too, carries Christic hands, touching frustrations, and misunderstandings, and the great aching multitudes.
And… at the end of the song… I put this fire back on Creator… this fire that can dwindle too cold in fear, or can blaze out of control in rebellion… or like Abba Joseph can “become all flame”.
Creator somehow knows how to incarnate each and every one of our oft-crazed uteral contractions… and wills us to leap into what we know not. In these days, may we plunge more deeply into the paradox than we’ve ever known was possible.
You sowed this flame inside of us
We are what happens when love meets dust