This past weekend, I had the honor of being asked to write and speak for a dance group, Zoe’s Feet, who was holding a show at my college campus. To be entirely honest, I wasn’t expecting too much: I’ve never really seen a show of just dancers and I would never really seek one out. That’s not to say that dance shows aren’t noteworthy or amazing; I just thought it would never really be appealing to me. That aside, I was proven wrong: this show was amazing.
The whole show was about Creation and there were seven dances for each day of Creation outlined in Genesis; I was asked to write and speak on “The Formation of the Sky,”
“In the first beginning was the Word and
The Word was with God and the Word was God.
And He was with God in the beginning.
And by the Word of his Mouth, the Skies, in
Glorious Divinity, were creat’d.
O’ He considered the Man and the Woman,
So finite, so small, and oh, he loved them.
Though he knew that they were to sin, and to
Instigate rebellion against him,
He still sought Mankind, in their deepest sin.
He still sought us, in our deepest sin.
And so the Word created the great Skies,
Weaving the clouds and the air as one sea.
He saw the empty skies and thought it to
Be fitting for it to be filled, and said,
“Let there be…”
He causes the Sun to gleam upon the red Earth
And he causes the Moon to beam upon the Night
And enlivens the canvas skies with the stars that shine and the constellations that speak of stories of old.
In gleaming Light, in Darkness bright
He was. He is. He will be.
There in gleaming Light, there in Darkness bright.
O’ He is robed in the splendor of stars, and the Suns of God bow to him,
Yet, what is Mankind that he should consider us?
To raise us above his angels
And crown us with glory and honor,
O’ what is Mankind?
That he should take on Flesh and make his dwelling among us,
O’ what is Mankind?
That the hands that washed our feet were pierced for our sake,
That he should forgive the hands that crowned upon him thorns,
That he raises still sleepers from secret depths,
That he places hallowed coal upon yearning lips,
That he reconciles sacred Grace and fractured nature,
That he lifts up our weary heads still,
What is Mankind?
He causes the Sun to gleam upon the red Earth, so that we may give thanks for a new day to love, a new day to give grace.
And he causes the Moon to beam upon the Night, so that we may remember that there is still beauty yet in the Darkness.
And enlivens the canvas skies with the stars that shine and the constellations that tell stories of old, so that we might not forget his covenant
And the stories we have forgotten to remember.
He adorns the Skies with pillowed clouds,
And paints its surface with azure and grey and scarlet and purple,
Lest we forget that he is our artist.
He causes both the Skies to be clear or to rage with rain and thunder,
That we might learn to lean,
To be content
Through him who gives us strength.
O’ Through him all things were made;
Without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
In gleaming Light, in Darkness bright,
There in gleaming Light, there in Darkness bright,
He was, He is, He will be,
I loved writing this poem, and I wish to leave room for interpretation, but I’d like to point one symbol that I really liked, using meter. Before the single line, “Let there be…” the two stanzas are written in free pentameter, meaning that each line is comprised of ten syllables, reminiscent of the Ten Commandments, the Law in the Torah. After, “Let there be…” the rest of the poem is completely in free verse. And with that, I was hoping to evoke this sense of… newness, with Creation. The old has gone and the new has come, the Law no longer condemns us, but Grace lifts us. Your old life has gone, your new life has come.
I didn’t get to see the show I was speaking for until Saturday, where I was able to sit down and watch after I spoke, and it was utterly astounding. I got to see my poem come into vibrant being; the voices of the music started to seep into the air, and the dancers who slipped on stage in darkness suddenly burst forth into sweeping motion. Into Life.
I was so fortunate to be reserved a seat so close to the stage, I could see and hear the dancers in glorious, minute detail.
I think I mentioned that I didn’t think dance shows would appeal to me. Maybe it’s because I grew tired of seeing musicals, and seeing dancing from afar, as a spectator. But it was so different, this show, somehow. Somehow.
This is my friend, Grace. She’s a wonderful dancer in Zoe’s Feet, and I find this so curious: she’s probably one of the bubbliest people you’ll ever meet. One might glean an opposite impression of her from her performance. I was shocked to see this different, or perhaps another side of, Grace upon the stage. It was like watching this beautiful, otherwordly creature, gliding so elegantly, moving so strangely, so hypnotically. It felt as though she was so far removed from her bubbly, happy everyday. Every step, every stride, every twirl had its place, its intent, and there was nothing but blissful solemnity on her face.
I think there’s this tendency at shows, or concerts, or movies to be voyeurs or to spectators watching dancing monkeys or other people, simply as a form of entertainment. And I feel as though it’s rare to find events like these that don’t create a voyeur-voyeuree or spectator-spectacle relationship, but rather a collaborative, participative relationship, inviting people to partake in what is to be offered. Not to take, but to partake.
John Berger comments on Rembrandt and his portrayal of the Body in his book, The Shape of a Pocket, “…he tried to enter their corporeal space as it existed at that precise moment, he tried to enter their Hotel-Dieu. And so to find an exit from the darkness. Before the small painting of A Woman Bathing (London) we are with her, inside the shift she is holding up. Not as voyeurs. Not lecherously like the Elders spying on Susannah. It is simply that are led, by the tenderness of his love, to inhabit her body’s space. For Rembrandt, the embrace was perhaps synonymous with the act of painting, and both were just this side of prayer.” Human form, as prayer. As worship. I genuinely felt it, drawn into the sweeping waves of the frenzy of arms and legs and poise. I was no longer a spectator, nor a voyeur. I felt as One with the dancers and their expression of Creation, of worship. I saw the subjects they were painting with their bodies. We all inhabited the dancers’ space in one way or another. Human Form. Worship.
There’s something so worshipful about this movement of human form. More than just the music, the beauty and the rawness of the human form, male and female, of all body shapes and sizes and colors, was captivating. My eye was so drawn to the movements made in such unison, yet in diversity. I saw the forms their bodies took. The lines their bodies created. I saw their bodies tremble. I saw their bodies soar. Muscles rippling. Shuddering. Sweat glistening. Foreheads pressed to the ground. Light brushes of touches. Hands gripping another in sacred fellowship. Arms and fingers poised in the air, as if to be frozen in time forever. And oh, the heaving! Breathing deeply, in and out and in and out and in and out and… Ecstasy, as if all the song has built crescendo upon crescendo for just this moment.
No longer voyeurs, but partakers, participants in witnessing human form.
I like to think of it as a re-visitation to the Garden where we were borne, of dust, of simplicity, of nakedness. Can you imagine the sheer awe, the amazement of Adam and of Eve upon beholding each other? Both equally Human, both equally Divine in their own right, yet… different. In the midst of Eden, Adam’s breath completely stolen away when he beheld Eve, only managing to utter a song, “At last! Bone of my Bone! Flesh of my Flesh!” Imagine what it must have been like, to behold a Human form so similar, so different, so beautiful. Looking upon naked human form without its negative connotation, its shame. I think this word, “naked,” makes us uncomfortable. We’re used to clothed human bodies and the bombardment of sexualization of the human form via the culture and propaganda. It becomes easy to objectify other people when you simply see them as bodies and objects for our gain. Why does it make us so uncomfortable, this concept of nakedness? Is it because everything is laid bare, for all to see? Is it because we feel as though we do have flaws to hide? Is it because we have to confront that the person in front of us is indeed a person, in Imago Dei? That is not to say we should go gallivanting around town stark naked; the point isn’t the nakedness, but the discomfort we find in bareness, in flaw. And these dancers lay everything bare, in honesty, in form, in nakedness. Not a physical nakedness, but a spiritual nakedness, a thoughtful nakedness, in their movements, in their motions, they gave their worship and their emotions, and laid it bare before us, the partakers, as if to say, “Here are we.” There is a sort of sacredness when human forms are the medium by which a piece of art is presented, when their bodies are the instruments that are played, the brushes that are stroked. Perhaps it is a reminder that we are part of Divine Creativity. Perhaps it is a reminder that we are not exempt from a worldly Creation.
O’ We pray that we would remember where came from, we would remember that every Human form carries an Image.
That we would be Naked, bare, transparent with one another.
My friend Hannah also spoke; she spoke on the subject before mine, and I absolutely loved her poem. She wrote on the Separation of Light and Darkness; this is her poem named Cosmologia:
There was nothing.
But in the nothing, there was everything
Because though the universe as we cannot know it was void
It was not devoid of movement
The spirit of God was on the waters
Before that word even had an application for definition
Not the kind you fear, the kind you hear
In the hush that settles around your ears
As sleep fades in
The kind that’s full of velvet and silk
Darkness like the most beautiful thing you ever felt
A dim soft pull at the gut
A tug, whispering “this is what you came from”
The largest, widest, and deepest
Unfathomable and full
A silence unlike silence,
A silence so thick and dim it is a sound
The gentlest push
And pulse like a thousand currents
All moving slow and fast
Past itself and among itself and around itself
Glowing and glittering
Not blinding; radiating, engulfing
Filling every crack and cranny
Spreading across the expanse of existence
Like a child opening its arms wide to encompass
The whole of its vision and view
A thousand melodies arcing and spinning
Unstoppable, unexplainable, unimaginable
Light without physical source, symphony of sight
Every hue shooting across the unnamable gap
Strands and strings wrapping and spiraling
An announcement! A proclamation!
The infinite banishment of anything other than itself
So fully is it there, so imminent its presence
Light so enveloping
Even the memory of darkness
Cannot be called to mind
Darkness and light.
L’obscurité et la lumiére.
La oscuridad y la luz.
Il buio e la luce.
Dunkelheit und Licht.
темнота и свет
闇 そして 光
黑暗 和 光
암흑 그리고 조명
Darkness and light.
Milk into coffee, but cosmic
A dance designed to exist in eternality
One constantly taking over the other
Up dawn to dusk, desperate
Light yearning to bring joy to darkness
Darkness aching to bring rest to light
The distinction and the union of the universe
From God emanates the darkness
And from Him radiates the light
His division, precision unmatched
Precise and exact, free and abstract
Vision, for the first time
Sight has license to exist
He is in the separation
This pure distinction, no name
No night or day, only the exactitude
The multitude of senses expressed
Light and darkness
From chaos, order
No more warring, no need for sound or sight
In the light there is the first music
In the darkness the first impressions and visions dance
God the composer
God the conductor
God the choreographer
Orchestrator of brilliance
Deliverer of sweet sleep
I love Hannah and I love what she said, “From God emanates the darkness/And from Him radiates the light.” There is a Universality of Creation that’s so accurately depicted in her reconciliation of the Darkness and the Light, in her use of multiple languages. Now, that is not to say that God inhabits what is inherently not good; I think there is a clear divide between this concept of Darkness and what we perceive as evil. Darkness as concealment, mysterious, hidden, complementary. And Darkness gives form to the Light.
God is the Firstborn, the prototokos, over all of Creation, all humans.
There is a book called, “The Theology of Change” by a theologian named, Jung Young Lee. I find one of his statements so intriguing, “If we believe not only that Christ as Word or wisdom is “the first-born of all creation” but that “all things are created through him,” he must be the basis for every creative process, including light and darkness, life and death… Christ as light cannot be excluded from the darkness, because light cannot exist without darkness nor darkness without light. To exclude Christ from the darkness is in fact to exclude him from light also.” He is not saying that Christ’s light is tainted by darkness, or imperfect, but rather, Christ has dominion over both the light and the darkness. He is the firstborn of all Creation, including both the light and the darkness. I think people tend to limit Christ’s dominion to simply the things within the Church or things that “seem Christian,” but Christ has dominion over the secular and the non-Christian as well. Has Christ not reached within our very darkness as his light? To say he has no part with the darkness is to make light of his association with the sinners, the least of these. I think it’s beautifully inclusive of the whole Creation as well as aptly describing the Sovereignty and the Supremacy of Christ.
And I really love that Hannah included multiple languages (and Korean too!), as if to say that all Humans exist in this cycle of Creation, of Life. Is it not appropriate that the Human form does not simply include one skin color, one body type? I find it odd that we have this image in our heads of an ideal, whether it’s an ideal of beauty, or of intellect, or of whatever human trait, when there’s such diversity in the sum of seven billion human beings; that is not to make the claim that we shouldn’t strive for excellence, but there is a problem when we hold a certain kind of excellence for every single person to reach. People look different. People think differently. And that’s perfect in its imperfection; is God not diverse himself? A Trinitarian being that is Three, yet One. A human population that is seven billion, yet one race. The beauty of the Human form is that it’s ever-changing, and unique to each person.
I remember seeing the dance for the Heavenly Bodies and images rising from my mind of sprays of stars bursting forth into glorious existence; as we are. We are sprays of paint spread across a temporal canvas; minute, yet significant. We are as breath that fades in the dawn’s air. So now, we awaken from our slumber in the Earth, from still sleep, encircled by those who still lay in secret depths. We gaze at one another and enter each other’s light, each other’s nakedness, or perhaps it’s the Sun’s?
And so we exit the Darkness, at least, for a time.