Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What Do You Call a Poem That Doesn't Rhyme?

  I like questions. Not all questions, mind you. For example I dislike questions for which the questioner has already decided what the answer should be before hearing it. These are wastes of time and intellect and show no respect for other people. I do like questions that make people think. I like questions with no obvious answers, because we can use them as the springboard to real exploration and dialogue.

I recently ran across a question that I found interesting. Someone in an online community asked, “What do you call a poem that doesn’t rhyme?” The answers were disappointing. The first answer said simply, “bad poetry.” Two other people called it “hique.” I can only assume they meant haiku.

Seems to me that there is more to it that that – or there should be. Just because a person chooses not to construct their creative writing within someone else’s definitions and restrictions doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  Maybe they just think differently – outside the average patterns. It may mean that they are just more creative than others want them to be.

Truly creative people make society uncomfortable. Society likes people who fit neatly into predetermined slots with no uneven edges or unusual shapes. When they don’t fit into those pre-arranged pigeonholes, Society answers with a hammer, forcing people to fit or be broken and bent. Sad. Think of all the wonderful things we could hear, see and experience if the creative people of the world were encouraged to truly create.

Why are we afraid of creativity? Maybe because we’re afraid that we’ll see how we’ve become a society that fails to value people who are different or who express themselves in ways that are too honest. Maybe it’s because creativity often holds up a mirror to the world and forces us to see ourselves as we really are. That’s why we have TV shows like Big Brother and Survivor and all those other so-called “reality shows.” We don’t want reality. We want anything but reality. We want to feel secure and superior. American society will do almost anything to keep from being real. We’ll buy anything, sell anything, swallow outrageous lies and ignore profound truths if it means that we won’t be inconvenienced or, heaven help us, called to actually do something.

Years ago, I found a reality show with an idea that I really loved. It was a show on BBC called Cast Away. Thirty-six men, women and children were moved to an island in the Outer Hebrides, near Scotland. They were to stay there for a year. The task was not to backstab, cheat and get rid of people. The task was to build a community using the gifts, creativity and personalities of the people. Some lasted the whole year and some didn’t, electing to leave. The cameras captured raw human interaction as people built their lives together. Sometimes it was beautiful and sometimes it was harsh.

I’m not foolish enough to believe that the producers of the BBC show were completely honest or that some things weren’t orchestrated. However, I have to applaud the concept of coming together and building a community instead of finding ways to sabotage one another. Working together, sharing gifts and allowing room for creativity– what a concept!

What do you call a poem that doesn’t rhyme? Call it poetry. Call it creativity. Call it truth. Call it humanity. Just don’t ignore it or try to pigeonhole it. That will do violence to someone’s soul and we will all be the poorer for it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

God in a Bar

 It was an unusual weekend. Saturday afternoon, we threw a suitcase into the car and drove down to Tybee Island, Georgia. Tybee is a fascinating place that I’m just getting to know. Most people who know Tybee know it because of the beach. They like to go and soak up some sun, play in the surf and get covered with sand. I’m not one for big crowds, so the beach is not the fascinating part for me.

Before you get to the beach, if you’re observant, you’ll find a different culture. I’m not talking about the tourists and beach-goers. I’m talking about the regulars – residents and people who frequent Tybee more than any other place. There are places on Tybee Island that one can go and experience an atmosphere that is totally unique. Most of it is good. It’s a very informal place. If you show up in a jacket and tie, you’ll probably be pegged as a politician and summarily dismissed. Tybee people have more important things to do than listen to politicians give speeches, make promises and generally clutter up the place.
So the gang that made up the best part of our college experience came together for a short time of remembering and making new memories. Micheal grilled steaks outside; Dee handled things inside the kitchen while the rest of us helped here and there and kept up a running commentary on life. 

As part of our extravaganza, we headed out to church on Sunday morning. That’s nothing new for us. What was new was the location. We headed out to Tybrisa Street to a little place called the Wind Rose Café. The term “café” is used a bit loosely. Basically, the Wind Rose Café is a bar that serves food. The specials are written in dry erase marker on a board near the door as you enter. The rest of the décor consists of various signs and posters for Budweiser and other adult beverages. The brownish ceiling tiles were each decorated and autographed by a different person. There were drawings, designs and slogans depending upon the inclination of the artist. You could spend a long time just perusing the ceiling art.

As I looked around, I could see that the tables had been set up facing the small stage at the end of the room. Ash trays were scattered around the place. Votive candles had been set up at the tables and at each place along the bar. We were stationed near the entrance, standing in the back, due to the practically non-existent ventilation system of the Wind Rose. Some folks looked rougher than others. There was one woman who apparently had taken a fall recently or had some kind of altercation as shown by the marks on her face. A woman with a stroller came in. Pirates and paupers, beach bums and bohemians mingled together. It hit me then that this was the kind of place one would look for Jesus when he walked around down here.

Then the service began. A long-haired man on the small stage began playing a keyboard and singing. He was joined by a young woman providing supporting vocals and a drummer who was hidden at the very back of the stage. Suddenly, the most beautiful harmonica sound I had ever heard caught my ear. Looking around, I saw a man in a black jacket seated at the bar. He was playing harmonica into a microphone and moving in time with the music. “Lead us into worship, Gordo!” called the keyboard player to the harmonica maestro. 

For the next hour, I soaked in this worship of the common folk and I came to this conclusion: When you get rid of the suits and ties, the formal orders of worship, the church-y language, and the expectations of how church “ought to be done,” it makes a lot more room for God. People smiled and laughed out loud. They hugged one another. They were relaxed with one another and with the possibility that God might show up. It was a liberating way to worship. 

I wonder, sometimes, if we’ve gotten so caught up in the form of worship that we’ve lost the essence of worship. Sometimes the only goal of services in the big, formal edifices that many of us attend is to follow the accepted forms as closely as possible and not allow for any surprises. That’s not the stated goal, of course, but it’s there just the same. It’s the only goal that some of them reach. I couldn’t help but wonder about the people I know who are part of the suit-and-tie brigade. Would any of them be comfortable worshipping along with these jeans and t-shirt clad islanders? Would they even consider doing so? I hope so.

If they did, they might see God and the people having a grand time together. In a bar.

Jesus smiled.