Monday, June 11, 2012

Movement, movement, movement...and repose

Jesus said, "If they say to you, 'Where did you come from?' say to them, 'We came from the light, the place where light comes into being on its own accord and established [itself] and became manifest through their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?' say, 'We are its children and we are the elect of the living father.' If they ask you, 'What is the sign of the father in you?' say to them, 'It is movement and repose.'"

-From the Gospel of Thomas, translated by Bart D. Ehrman

Movement and repose. There are songs that haunt you, that get in your head and play out as you try to go about your daily business. When I served as a chaplain this past fall, I had mewithoutYou's cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" (listen here). In my old age, the more mellow sound of mewithoutYou really hit me, but I really felt those lyrics, that I didn't know what "it" means, what anything meant, and I really did feel in bloom. This, of course, did not change between fall and spring semester, but another song began to resonate within me. One
that spoke to me not just about my continued learning but that articulated a liminal space I was in. A space of movement and repose.

I am not someone who is good at repose, which is perhaps why this song, using the Gospel of Thomas passage, catches me off-guard and seeps under my skin. The song is another mewithoutYou song (to get another glimpse of my obsession with this band [blame David Hosey], read this) called "Paper Hanger:"*

I love this music video because as the music builds and Aaron Weiss screams movement, he is flailing his arms about with joyful abandon. That is partially why I am so drawn to this song. I want to exhibit some of that joyful abandon, at least once in a while. This is the first meaning of movement and repose to me: movement and repose is about this ability to be free and whole, to dance.

Many of us are the kinds of people who are constantly moving. Aaron, my partner, always kind of reproaches me for it, telling me I don't know how to relax. This is true. Whenever I try to do nothing, I usually end up falling asleep! This is not what mewithoutYou or the author of the Gospel of Thomas mean by movement and repose. It isn't even about the ability to relax in the midst of working all the time. Instead, Aaron Weiss' dancing is closer to a definition of what movement and repose means: a state of joyful abandon in which we can be moving to the rhythms of the call God has placed on us and still live sabbath.

The reason why this song has pulled me in, even now when I spend most of my days napping, reading, and talking to our bird Teddy, is because my last semester of seminary, even though I needed one class to graduate, I took five classes, worked two jobs, underwent ordination exams, and went to General Conference. I had that movement part down, but I had no idea the meaning of repose. But what we learn from the concept of movement and repose is that you can't do just one. Jesus says that if they ask you for the sign of the father, tell them it is movement and repose. It is the interaction of the two that is wholeness and fullness.

There is nuance to movement and repose I am still mulling over, but I needed to write something for myself about how this little phrase has gotten under my skin, not least because as I become a pastor for the Deer Creek Charge, I want to enact movement and repose as a kind of spiritual discipline. To be a pastor whose life looks like Aaron Weiss' dancing.

Our lives are not our own;
even the wind lays still,
our essence was fire and cold
and movement, movement.
If they ask you for a sign of the Father,
tell them it's movement, movement

and repose.