The Bearable Weightiness of Being

By Amy Peterson
61pASF-GwkL._SL500_I was restless this spring, edging manic. I think my kids noticed. One Thursday I checked them out of school for an impromptu road trip.

“Isn’t this fun?” I asked. If this were a novel I’d say my eyes were glittering, but this is not fiction: I have no idea how wild-eyed I was.

“I just think it’s a little weird to leave school for no reason,” my six-year-old said.

It wasn’t for no reason. The responsibilities of adult life were weighing heavily on me, and I felt stuck with mortgage payments and email responses and writing deadlines and the feeling that every person in our small town was watching me. At the same time, my body was remembering another spring, the spring when I felt most free.

Karis and I took a gently rocking train from Budapest to Prague, clutching paper cups of coffee, steam fogging the green view outside the window. It was May 2002, and I was twenty-years-old, wearing my hair in greasy braids, mostly unaware of my privilege, and taking myself and my freedom very seriously. [Read more...]

Dancing for My Life, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

elegant-barn-decorating-ideas-with-barn-dance-decoration-ideas-10Traditional dance is, by modern standards, inherently misogynistic. The man leads, in most basic arrangements, by stepping forward. The woman must step back to make room for him. In some dances, the couple maintains a squared frame with their arms, so the woman can sense when the man is going to turn her, or shift direction. In others, like swing, they hold hands, and he alternately sends her away and tugs her back again, or pulls her into his embrace to send her twirling outward.

They’re at odds with the mood of the age, but the dances we’re learning are certainly less misogynistic than what passes for dancing these days. Gulya will never instruct Maggie to bend over and twerk while I pretend to spank her.

Still, I suppose we could follow in the steps of feminists trying to strike a blow for equality by having their male ballroom partners learn the traditionally female, back-stepping role. I wish them well, but I’m having a tough enough time learning one set of steps per dance.

And no matter who’s stepping forward, you can’t escape the fact that someone has to lead. You can learn a thing or two about marriage when you’re dancing. Like how frustrating it is for the other person when you don’t signal your intention. How you can walk your partner directly into a curtain, or a chair (I’ve done both) if you’re indecisive about when to pull her into the ninety-degree sidestep that allows you to turn a corner during a waltz. That if you keep not deciding, your partner will start deciding for you. [Read more...]

Dancing for My Life, Part 1

barn-wedding-dance-area“ONE two three, LONG short short—don’t step on her!”

Gulya is my dance instructor. She’s from Azerbaijan, she’s five feet tall, and I’m afraid of her. Gulya, too, is afraid. She fears I will stomp my wife’s toes. I’m wearing boots, because we are a month away from a wedding on a California ranch, where real cowboys will be dancing real cowboy dances. Faced with this prospect, I realized several weeks ago that my choices are:

1) Ask my beautiful wife to sit beside me in a gorgeously decorated barn and watch everyone else dance the night away;

2) Sit by myself in said barn and watch my wife dance the night away with cowboys;

3) Learn how to dance.

In other words, I have no choice. [Read more...]

The Dissonant Note

By Natalie Vestin

This post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

debussyI have a heart arrhythmia that, though benign, is frustrating and feels like death despite its clinical insignificance. It has no cause and no effect; cardiologists call it capricious. It’s meaningless and unreasonable and irregular, and I hate it.

After a night of insomnia and errant heartbeats, I spend a comforting morning on the piano with Claude Debussy’s First Arabesque. Its rhythm is purposefully unpredictable, notes falling all over themselves.

I played the piano all the time when the arrhythmia was first monitored and diagnosed, drifting toward arrhythmic music I hated learning as a child. All those misplaced beats and skittering hands and attempts to hold multiple melodies in my head at the same time. It felt wrong, but my piano teacher knew: This one, she will never befriend the metronome.

The arabesque is a problem that never gets solved, an unanswered question. Playing it is like endlessly falling with nothing to right the body. It is all sky and no ground.

Arrhythmia is distressing in any form. Debussy’s use of arrhythmic structure—bitonality—got his music shunned by the artistic thought leaders of the day. In nineteenth-century Europe, tone was integral to composing music, tone being a steady sound in one key that predicts and guides the composition. Haydn and Bach were the greats, the ones to be emulated: repetition leading to rhythm, a diversionary tactic here to indicate that something is happening, a return to the source soon after. Set the metronome; do not deviate. [Read more...]

Learning to Pray

Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything. —Abba Moses

The way up and the way down are one and the same. —Heraclitus

 

Trinity IconIt is six o’clock in the morning. I am on an overnight business trip to New York, alone in my hotel room. Weak streams of dawn light leak around the edges of the blackout shades on the window of my room in the Club Quarters Midtown. For the moment, I have silenced the frenetic squawking of local traffic and crime updates on New York One, because I am about to pray, and I am trying to figure out which way is East.

Part of me feels completely ridiculous, but I have committed to this, and though I have brought nary an icon with me, I stand in the middle of the hotel room floor and pray in the direction that seems to be towards Jerusalem: I cross myself and touch my fingertips to the floor, then pray the Trisagion prayers—the most rock-bottom-basic prayer in the Eastern Orthodox prayer book, called such, as the Internet notes, for its “triple invocation of God as holy”:

Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee.
O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, the Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come, and abide in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (3 times)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
All-Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (3 times)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Even in prayer, the lay critic in me bubbles up: All those thrice-repeated phrases, how can they not be a subtle Trinitarian dig at the overwhelmingly singular focus of the Shema, the foundational Jewish prayer from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one…” But of course, I remember, we still believe that one too. [Read more...]


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