Wednesday, December 12, 2012

All Along The Watchtower

Do you believe that life has meaning, more than we can understand as we move from day to day?

Do you believe that we each have a purpose, that our individual actions matter to the world around us, perhaps much more than we realize?

Do you believe that there is a higher power in this world - what many of us call God - and that power shapes and guides all things toward his or her purpose?

Do you believe that during our lives, we are often given clues, hints, or tiny glimpses of this greater plan? Most of the time, we don't understand what we are being shown, but we sometimes feel a thrill of recognition that a certain tiny little something matters much more that we can grasp in the moment.

Do you dare to believe that at the end of our lives, or perhaps at the beginning of our eternal lives, we will look back and understand with new eyes how everything we experienced on earth makes sense?

I do.

On my best days, I believe all of those things. On my lesser days, I want to believe in them.

And when I come across other people, places and things who help me better understand these ideas, who can articulate them and expand upon them, I feel like I've been hit by a bolt of lightning.

The writings of Frederick Buechner have that effect on me.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” 
― Frederick BuechnerNow and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

The vast Pacific Ocean, glorious sunsets, and infinite night skies at Kalaloch Beach do too.

And the 2004-2009 remake of the television series, Battlestar Galactica, absolutely does it for me.

I just finished rewatching the culminating episodes of the series finale for maybe the fourth or fifth time, and the effect is as riveting as ever.

It's pointless to try to explain the plot in a nutshell. Yes, it's science fiction and space battles and Machiavellian twists and turns galore. If you are at all interested in that sort of thing, check it out.

But more than anything else, Battlestar Galactica is a story about destiny. It speaks of the seeking, yearning quality of all of our lives, of our aching need to follow where our instincts and intuitions lead, and of the delicate, infinitely complex pattern of circumstances and events that hold us together in this fragile journey called life.

The story line features several rich images and metaphors to convey these ideas.

One of the characters has been obsessed since childhood with this simple symbol, and eventually realizes that her destiny is to sacrifice her life by entering a cosmic rift that looks just like it.  {source}
Several characters share a recurring vision of chasing a little girl through the deserted hallways and gold-light balconies of an opera house. Eventually, they are astonished to find themselves living out this pursuit in precise detail, in the hallways and corridors of their ship. {source}

Most meaningful to me is a song. Interestingly, it's a well-known song, popular for decades before it was used in this show. I've heard it countless times in other contexts, and never found it particularly compelling.

But used skillfully by the writers to convey destiny, faith, and the power of God's guiding hand, this song sends chills through me. The melody is beautiful, the words ripe with meaning, but it's the electrifying bass line that gives me one of those tiny glimpses, impossible to articulate but achingly real, into the truth that life is more than what it ordinarily seems to be.

I invite you to give it a listen, and see if this song might just move your heart too.

There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief.

Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.

"No reason to get excited,"
The thief, he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke."

"But you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now
The hour is getting late."

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl.

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