playwright and poet

words, words, words.

The Tree of Life

I saw “The Tree of Life” and was speechless.  I have since regained my ability to speak. So that is what Sanford Meisner was talking about when he proclaimed to his acting students that acting was the reality of doing!  There was not much dialogue, but the film was so articulated with whispers that I felt the director was communicating exclusively to me.  The opening revealed a scripture passage from Job 38: 4,7.  The words were incredibly familiar to me because I had long been aware of them and marveled at their poetry.  God speaks to Job (and dare I say, the reader).

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth...when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy?”

I used those words for a musical piece called, “Glorious in Holiness,” that Buryl Red set to music and the CenturyMen, a one hundred voice men’s choir made up of ministers of music, recorded.  It was a part of a work called “Beginnings” that we wrote decades ago, but is very much applicable to singing today especially in light of this wonderful film which I am digesting.

At another early moment in the film, someone asks that the great unknown reveal himself (pronouns fail us here), and for the next hour and a half the director proceeds to try and do that very thing – show us God!  As I sat in that darkened theatre, I realized I was having a unique experience in a spiritual sense.  Light, music, moving pictures revealing more than words can say all kept giving me glimpses of God who was not different from what scriptures had already told me.  He is light, love and grace.  And . . . and bigger that we can get our minds around.  I began to think of the word
holy in an entirely new way.  This film was not a Christian film, or even a religious film; yet it was touching me on a deep level.

Once or twice my mind went to my early teachings of a triune God, and in rustling leaves and rippling water, I summoned from my faith background thoughts of the Holy Spirit moving.  The lovely actress personifying grace in the film did remind me of the qualities I love in Jesus, but this was brought about from my understanding as a Christian and childhood catechisms in country Baptist churches.  Was the father in the film representative of our primitive concepts of an angry, stern, wrathful deity? Film-goers without my unique schooling would have different ideas about the film I daresay; but no one can deny that it was stirring and profoundly moving as a theatre full of us –folk from a hard life, work, stress, loss, grief, plenty and poverty, etc. gathered and sat hushed for one hour and thirty-eight minutes.

There was a point in my spiritual journey when I realized that I would never be able to grasp what I wanted to know of God.  God was too mysterious and I had difficulty in dealing with -- much less accepting -- mystery.  My questions were nearly automatic and like Moses I would repeatedly ask, “Whom shall I say sent me?”  The response of, “Tell them that I AM has sent you.  I AM that I AM.”  Great! Now please explain what you mean.  Perhaps it was explained in an obvious way; but my puny brain was not able to grasp the mystery.  Prophets, preachers, scholars and teachers did try to explain things about God to me; but I still had questions.

When I began to read and learn what I could about Jesus – even the stunning proclamation that he was God incarnate – I began getting a concept that I could almost get my mind around.  If God is too big for me to understand, then look to Jesus, my faith’s belief that he is God incarnate – God with skin on -- and see what he said and did in his absolute obedience to the Creator.  Jesus told us that if we wanted to get to God, follow him (Jesus) and love God, our neighbors, our enemies, turn the other cheek, return good for evil, help the least of these and love human beings the way that he loved them! 

And so I ramble on and on dazzled by the question and the concept.  I celebrate and try to dialogue with the ones who speak in metaphor trying to grasp the cosmic questions.