Dearest Rachel –
I’m going to start off this letter describing the events of last night, with an admission that may seem completely unrelated to those events; I have never read any of the works of Yukio Mishima. I know that your parents had a copy of The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea in the loom room (and they may have had another book or two of his, for all I know), but it never occurred to me to pull it out and take a look at it. Quite possibly, I may have never had the patience to wade through it in any event, and there were always so many other things going on when we would visit them that the very idea was never more than a momentary passing thought.
I know that, in his day, Mishima was a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, and probably would have won it eventually, had he continued to live (and write) for a few years longer. However, the tragicomic events of his last day tend to overshadow his entire body of work, ironically making it next to impossible to invoke T.S. Eliot’s ideal of ‘the death of the author’ when reading anything by him. You can’t read anything by him without considering his somewhat unconventional life, and in particular, how he ended it.
So what does a Japanese author who attempted to take over what he saw as an impotent and ineffectual military, and committed seppuku when his coup attempt failed, have to do with anything that happened last night? Well, from what little I’ve read about him, most of his writings tended to have themes focusing on “the primacy of action over thought.” Compared to contemporaries such as Camus and Beckett, this makes him sound like the literary equivalent of Jerry Bruckheimer or Michael Bey (although he most likely would have resented the comparison to Western ‘artists,’ or to Western anything, for that matter). Then again, since I’ve not read any of his works, I may have a completely wrongheaded idea about them.
Anyway, the connection; while it’s true that at our church, we’ve always made a point of not ‘checking our brains at the door’ (especially given the depth of the teaching offered), last night was not a night for teaching. The praise team had already done studio recordings of a handful of their own compositions, and this was the night they were doing a live recording of the same songs in front of an enthusiastic, worshipful audience. A lot of thought and planning had already gone into this, between the writing, the composition, the practice (oh my goodness, they’d been at this for hours for most of this past week, in particular; even during Sparks on Monday it was that much harder to get the kids – and ourselves – to focus, with all the rehearsing going on). Now was the time for ‘action!’ – almost literally down to someone calling the word out as the cameras began to roll.
Because the purpose of this performance was primarily to be recorded, it’s a little different in format than a standard worship service, or even a concert. There were to be two identical sets, the first being for reaction shots from the audience, and the second to be focused on the stage and the performers. Each song would begin, and ultimately end, in total silence, to allow those recording to determine in post-production when to fade in and out for the final cut. Most of the songs would end with thunderous applause, to be sure, but Hayden would not yell ‘cut!’ or ‘clear!’ until the clapping completely stopped for each song. Indeed, on one song, the last note seemed to hold on throughout the cheering, and was still fading away as the applause died out, like the final chord from “A Day in the Life.” I’ll tell you, I was hoping that not all the songs would end like that, or it might be a little awkward.
Oh, and one more thing about the first set. As part of explaining this odd format, Brian made it clear to each of us as part of the audience that “this is not your moment.” There was to be no place for overacting and drawing attention to ourselves, to show how ‘into it’ we could get for the sake of the cameras. In fact, we were instructed to ignore the cameras completely; don’t even think about their presence, lest we be tempted to play to them.
At the same time, while we’re not supposed to try to steal the moment, what was not said by Brian (but implied by the entire process) was that we were rather expected to be having a moment; a letting go of a certain level of inhibition, and being caught up in the words of each song. This was the part that might come easy to Daniel, but difficult to me; regardless of Brian’s instructions, I was going to have to stretch my acting chops a little, even as I sang with everyone else as loud as I could. At least raising my eyes heavenward would come perfectly naturally, as the lyrics required those in the ‘mosh pit’ in front to crane their necks in order to read them.
Speaking of the ‘mosh pit,’ I’m fairly certain I was one of the oldest ones there (with the exceptions of Pastor Scott and his wife Linda, and Kerstin), which is kind of strange when I think about it. You would think that the generation that gave us Woodstock and Altamont, the ones who coined the phrases “never trust anyone over thirty” (although, now that they’re in their seventies, have they been unable to trust each other – or themselves – for the entirety of the last four decades?) and “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” (which I invoke upon the praise team in self-deprecation fairly often – although not last night, obviously – yelling at them in rehearsals that “I’m too old” if I think the sound is cranked up too high), would at least represent themselves amongst this crowd. But no, they’re all seated in the chairs, although once the music starts, they’re on their feet with everyone else, blending their voices along with the young people, so I can’t fault them for that.
Not that I’m giving any of this much thought in the moment; when we’re singing, I’m trying my best to keep up with the music, usually joining with the harmony where and when I can hear it. It’s only during the two or three-minute breaks between each song that I’m realizing any of this – including the fact that I was all but surrounded by younger (although that was pretty much everyone in the standing area in front) females. Thank heaven that I wasn’t given too long between songs to think about it; the last thing I needed to be contemplating was the idea that any one of these could be Megumi, if I only had the nerve to speak to them outside of the current circumstances.
I did actually spend some time conversing with one of them, but one who I had met at the Wednesday Bible studies, and who apparently was already married (I’d assumed they were boyfriend and girlfriend, but at my age, it’s hard to tell twenty and thirty-somethings apart, it would seem), so it was safe to do so. Oddly enough, she wondered what oldsters like me did in the downtime when we were bored. If it wasn’t for the fact that I proved I did much the same as any youngster – which is to say, I haul out my phone and check this or that app, just like they do – I might have been slightly offended. As it was, I was just amused, as I’d proven to her that age doesn’t make the difference some people seem to think.
I will, however, admit to the fact that my ears are still ringing from it all, even now. It may well be that I really am too old for all this. I certainly hope not; I want to be as much a part of this as I possibly can. It’s wild to think that people across the country may soon be hearing this music and coming to Christ through it somehow, and I’ll have had a tiny little part in it. I might even meet some of those people someday; you might meet others before I do.
But until then, honey, keep an eye on us all, and wish us luck. We’re going to need it.