Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reclaiming the Dream We Dreamed

My favorite musical is Les Miserables, based on Victor Hugo's novel of the same title. A story of love, war and redemption set in 18th Century France, I saw the full show on Broadway in the mid-1990s but truly fell in love with the music and message while in grad school several years later.

What troubled soul cannot resonate with the down-trodden character Fantine as she mourns the disappointing outcome of her life in "I Dreamed a Dream"; or feel the adrenaline rush flowing between Cosettee and Marius as they proclaim "A Heart Full of Love" to each other...or long, with Jean Valjean, as he prays for Marius to return from the battle--for God to "Bring Him Home." And who hasn't now and then reflected on loss or days gone by, staring at the spaces and places that were once teeming with life and laughter but are now filled with "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables?"

This morning, my well-used soundtrack CD began to skip right in the heart of "Bring Him Home." Its offers a stanza that always grips me:

"He's like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone."

But instead of hearing each precious word I heard skip, stutter, stammer...argh! I finally had to advance to the next song, the experience somewhat less than complete. Imperfection had broken into perfect art and made the sacred mundane.

I wonder how each of us can more intentionally turn the tide here. How do we make space to let art break into imperfection, and disrupt the default focus on what things are wrong all around us? There is a "survival mode" instinct right now as the economy melts down and wars continue to rage. Beautiful music and its other cousins in the arts are not pragmatic to what must be fixed at this hour.

However, they are essential to what must be fixed inside of us. What is sacred must be reignited in the midst of what is mundane. Otherwise, as with Fantine, life will "kill the dream we dreamed."



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