In the Orthodox Church, from Easter to the Ascension, an ethereal hymn is sung while the faithful partake of Eucharist. The brief lyrics implore all who will, to receive the Body of Christ, drink of the Fountain of Immortality. Assuming this transformation of bread and wine into God-flesh and fluid to be mystically true, one can only wonder why an earthquake doesn’t rupture the flooring or angels crack the rafters wide as we small and salvaged ones string forward like ducks to water to ingest Life itself. I’m reduced to a whisper as I sing, as the beauty, the “high art” of this hymn enmeshed with Eucharist, incrementally saves me.
A friend recently told me of a ninety-three year old woman she met at an art show in Denver. The woman has painted her entire life and never had an exhibition. She is happy with what she has made and doesn’t care that she hasn’t had a show.
I haven’t always been partial to George Orwell. But, curmudgeonly, chauvinistic and often prone to hyperbole as his work can be, he has become somewhat of an earthy voice of exhortation for me. True, certain phrases and images like, “if you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face- forever”from 1984; or, the unjust and deeply troubling shipment of Boxer, the loyal and lovable workhorse, to the glue factory in Animal Farm; or, Gordon Comstock, the nonconformist protagonist from Keep the Aspidistra Flying, who is characterized by sentiments like, “this is the life we live nowadays! It’s not life, it’s stagnation, death-in-life…we’re all corpses. Just rotting upright ”are hardly uplifting. However, to limit our vision of Orwell to Room 101 or vague announcements of “oh, how very Orwellian”is to miss out on something really important.
Richard Linklater made a movie about growing up called Boyhood. He cast a six-year-old boy named Ellar Coltraneto play Mason, an ordinary American boy growing up in ordinary American suburbs. Then he shot the story of Mason’s life over twelve years, ending as he graduates from high school and moves into his first dorm room in college.
As I prepare to host some friends for a 50th anniversary screening of the The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, I’ve been thinking about that period in history when people went so nuts that John Lennon could suggest The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Beatlemania really was something like a religious experience; kids acted as if rock and roll could save them.