Friday, May 30, 2014

Mystics of Wonder, Agents of Change


Before the month is out I want to share at least one of the two posts I have planned that feature images and commentary on this year's In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater's Mayday parade.

And so I share this evening some of the photographs I took as I walked through the parade's staging area on the morning of Sunday, May 4, 2014. A few days later, when reading George A. Maloney, SJ's Mysticism and the New Age: Christic Consciousness in the New Creation, I was struck by how Maloney's description of modern mystics reflects in many ways the energy, creativity, and rich symbolism of the Mayday parade and those who labor to make it the vibrant reality it always is. What's also similar is the emphasis on potential transformation as the result of our relational engagement with the unfolding realities of creation. Here's part of what Maloney says of modern mystics:

Regardless of whatever culturally-conditioned theological and philosophical vehicles were employed in interpreting the Christian message, mystics, universally and throughout the centuries, have moved within the context of a dynamic and developmental process of the unfolding of the God-human-world relationships.

As modern mystics are led progressively into the inner meaning of reality, they are not led away from the created world, but rather are led into reverence and worship of God as present everywhere within the created world. The flowers, the trees, birds, animals, the beauties of each new season, the sun, moon, stars, the mountains, lakes, oceans; the whole world reveals to the contemplatives the loving presence of God, concerned to give Him[/Her]self actively and creatively to us humans beings in His[/Her] many gifts.

. . . Modern mystics breathe and realize in their breath and in the breath infused into every living being that it is the uncreated energies of God which give human beings and our world the capacity to evolve. . . . Creation for the mystic is an ongoing process. Whatever is, can become a point of meeting God the Doer, the almighty and loving force energizing the universe.

To be clear, the Mayday parade is not a "Christian" event. Yet I truly believe that there are many people who through their words and actions, including the ceremonies and events they facilitate and participate in, embody the qualities of the mystic (Christian or otherwise). And they do so without ever using the term "mystic" or indeed any religion-based words to describe themselves or their activities.

Perhaps another way to put what it is I'm trying to express is by saying that both humanity's spiritual heritage and capacity are so much deeper and broader than any one religious framework, narrative, or vocabulary. I mean, think about it: I'm sure we've all met people who profess no religious belief or affiliation, or perhaps a mixture of beliefs, and yet who embody depths of compassion, integrity, and justice-making that inspire and transform far more profoundly than those who rigidly adhere to one particular religious tradition.

The theme of this year's Mayday parade was "Wonder? Wonder!", and the following quote by Sandy Spieler (excerpted from the book Theatre of Wonder and included in the parade program) not only helps explain this year's parade theme but reveals the potential spiritual/mystical capacity of this particular event and of theater and the arts in general.

We enter the world with an exclamation point in one eye and a big question mark in the other. Most of our work boils down to the spiritual dialectic of WONDER?! Here we have the gift of a world filled with astonishing intricacies of beauty and diversity, tumultuous miracles, fomenting power and the patient relentless cycle of birth, death, and birth again. This joyous wonder has us enacting great pageants that revel in the obvious yet mysterious connection of all things. Still, in the midst of this glory, we witness the awful poverty of body and soul perpetuated by the hatred of self, the other, and the earth. This foreboding wonder calls us to untangle the artificial constructs of racism, classism, sexism and inexplicable greed. It asks us to dance down the linear fear of death that manufactures systems of excess and genocide – and ultimate defeat. Our exclamations and questions spiral according to the internal and external pulse of the times, giving rise to the specific content of our work over these years.

Blessed are the weird people – poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, troubadours – for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.

(from “Beatitudes for the Weird”)

For previous Mayday Parade posts, see:
See the World! (2013)
The End of the World as We Know It (2012)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of South Minneapolis: Part 1 (2010)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of South Minneapolis: Part 2 (2010)
Getting Started: Mayday 2009 (Part 1)
Celebrating Our Common Treasury: Mayday 2009 (Part 2)
May Day and a "New Bridge" (2008)
The Time is Now! (2006)

See also the previous posts:
The Potential of Art and the Limits of Rigid Orthodoxy to Connect Us to the Sacred
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
Mystics Full of God
Keeping the Spark Alive: Conversing with Modern Mystic Chuck Lofy
Toby Johnson on the Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
The Sacred Heart: Mystical Symbol of Love
The Winged Heart
A Return to the Spirit
In the Garden of Spirituality – Kabir Helminski

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

1 comment:

Phyllis said...

Great photos, wise words. Thanks for sharing.