I remember hearing once that poetry exists to express the inexpressible. There is so much in life that is beyond the meager grasp of imperfect language that the only way we can begin to start to think about communicating the true depth of our experiences is through art.
There is an Australian comedy band called Tripod that put out a dvd ode to Dungeons and Dragons called Tripod vs. The Dragon. It’s fun and quirky and very PG-13. It’s also extremely had to describe. It’s this stage play musical comedy shadow puppet lovesong thing that is absolutely brilliant. There’s one part in particular, though, in which there is only one way to describe moment: things just got real. Full disclosure, I’m an absolute sucker for a woman who can sing as well as she can. The woman, whose real name is Elana Stone, is playing the dragon and trying to express to the boys what she is and that if they continue on their quest she’s going to have to kill them, which she doesn’t want to do. I keep wanting to say that i’m going to put aside that this is art for a minute, but that would be putting aside the exact reason that I’m using it. It’s expressing the thing that would be flaccid if put in any other way. Which is more powerful, “I’m a dragon and I want you to heed my warning on continuing this quest,” or this:
I was made in darkest night,
Of chalky ash and children’s fright,
I do not think you know what you behold.
I was made of aching hurt,
Of fairy tales and bloody dirt,
I hope you do exactly as you’re told.
I get shivers every time I hear her sing that. The reason I do is because it speaks a deep resounding truth in a way that simple statements can not. Now, this is just a fun song about a dorky game but I think it’s a fantastic example and a stepping stone to the the more profound. What about songs and poems that are about real life and specifically about God?
Now, to side step for a second, I know that I’ve been lumping music and poetry together and I’m sure that there are those who are purists out there that would want me to keep them separated because they don’t view them as the same thing, but to me they are. The best songs I’ve heard are poems set to music, and the music itself expresses the point even further than the beautifully crafted words could ever do on their own.
I was listening to a song like that today (I told you I’m a sucker for a woman who can sing). The song haven been written for Chronicles of Narnia and knowing that Imogen Heap is, or at least was at one point, a Christian, I think that it’s a fair assumption that “Can’t Take It In” has christian meaning to it and that we can explore it from that angle.
So, the song comes at the end of the movie when the kids have come back from Narnia, which is an imperfect metaphor for heaven, and when Lucy is looking to go back through the wardrobe to it. The only way I can describe how the song speaks to me is to say that it itself is an expression of how imperfectly we can express heaven, the kingdom of God, and the love of Christ. It is perfect in it’s simplicity:
Can’t close my eyes
I’m wide awake
Every hair on my body
Has got a thing for this place
Oh, empty my heart
I’ve got to make room for this feeling
It’s so much bigger than me
It couldn’t be anymore beautiful
I can’t take it in
Weightless in love…unraveling
For all that’s to come
And all that’s ever been
We’re back to the board
With every shade under the sun
Let’s make it a good one
It’s the thing psalms are made of. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Everything in me, my body, soul, and every fiber of me being cries for the Lord. Even the hairs on my body cry out to be a part of this, because it’s so much bigger than I am.
And the music, oh the music. With the instrumentals and her voice, it’s like a glimpse of what sitting in the presence of God is like. And while I admire Imogen Heap for her talent, I do not mean that in a way to build her up, but to glorify what God does to my soul through her music. The music is ethereal and encompassing, soft and embracing, powerful in it’s gentleness. Have you ever heard a harmony that brought you to your knees?
I’ve come to realize that most of the music I like, and I like a wide variety of kinds, has a few common traits. It resonates. It wraps me up in a blanket of sound. It’s harmonic. It is beautiful in a way that touches me deep within my being. It makes be want to weep with joy that there is something so beautiful in this world that humans have made because how much more beautiful is being in the presence of God with songs that are able to express themselves in the purest of ways?
So, I’ve said all of that to say this: God, life, and the world we live in are all so big and complex and beautiful and inexpressible that we need art. We need music and poetry and paintings and sepia toned Instagram photos and love letters and harmonies and tears of joy that say more than any words ever could to even begin to express the bigness and the complexity of it all and what it all could mean.
May you be floored by the beauty of art in a way that makes your soul cry out that you have just seen a glimpse of the truth and may you relish in the beauty of the flawed expression that it is.