-- if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
-- if I am without love, I am nothing.
-- if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
- from 1Corinthians 13:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible
First, an update on the previous post. I went to the US embassy yesterday. It was a very strange experience that left me facing the harsher realities of my own privileges... of race, nationality, gender, religion, language, education, wealth... both Joel and I were very mindful last night that we are being afforded an opportunity others are not. I witnessed two people being turned away. It's not something I've been wanting to dwell on too much today, as yesterday it made for some mixed emotions that were very hard to reconcile. I was so relieved but my heart felt heavy. Yet it's also something I don't want to forget and I have no doubt that we will return to it down the road. Over the weekend Joel and I got chatting about a potential art project I'm thinking I might work on once I'm settled. Right now it's just embryonic ideas bouncing around but it might offer some space and opportunity to process and express what yesterday provoked in me.
Anyhow, the big news is my own application was successful and the embassy now has my passport and I expect it back sometime in the next week, accompanied by a visa permitting me to enter the US and marry Joel. I plan on emigrating to Nashville in mid-November.
I am delighted. Truly. And totally exhausted. I'm collapsed on cloud nine in a heap. So this is a day of rest and no small measure of gratitude for some peace and pause amidst all the excitement and busyness.
And so, with Nashville now so close, and in need of rest, it's seems appropriate and timely that this is something of an update on an even older post...
Back in July, I traced here some events of the past few years... of how the friendship of Pádraig and an old Irish phrase led to a little handmade Christmas card which became a tattoo which became musical collaboration and spoken reflection and then more recently the phrase became a post by Pádraig on Speaking of Faith which became a tweet...
that one simple phrase just keeps slowly and carefully weaving back and forth and being passed on from person to person. It keeps inspiring as it moves and being mixed with other themes along the way, as all the best words are and can be, so that it finds new deep meaning to each person who holds it. And well... that brings us to today.
Charlie and Stephen, who played so tenderly back in Oct '08, are in a band called Jars of Clay. Last Christmas Stephen mentioned to me that he'd been really inspired by that old Irish phrase and he'd been thinking about it a lot. So much so he and his band-mates were developing a new project called The Shelter. A couple of weeks later he burned me a CD with some initial recordings on it including the title track. I was a bit lost for words. August rolls round and I'm hearing it performed live at greenbelt with the audience singing along. I was even more lost for words. The title track is something quite beautiful.
Today the band's new project is launched... to the list of incarnations, this one line of Irish wisdom has now become an album...
As I said back in Oct '08, I believe art, like community, is akin to the hare's corner, a traditional patch of long grass left uncut to shelter the hare at harvest time and also to the small places in Ireland that are keeping the Irish language alive in all its beauty. What we create as artists and who we are as community can both I believe be shelter to one another from the reaper's blade... from the storm.
So, here's a whole new path opening up off that breadcrumb trail... what these four humans offer here in this short video is really tender and beautiful and I have no doubt they are going to inspire many with what they share. I certainly hope so. Who knows where others might take it, how they'll remix it, what other paths will open up in other places...
I wish them well in this. This is an exciting day for them and likely a daunting one - it always is when you're putting out into the world something you've poured yourself into - it's a vulnerable act. But its theme also seems very linked up with their commitment to causes close to their hearts. I'm not sure if I ever got around to mentioning it here but I wrote a piece for
We need each other, and we can each be shelter to another human in any moment where we choose to be truly present to the other. What is presence? It's patience, kindness, it doesn't judge, it listens with humility, compassion... it's Justice.. it's Love - and heaven knows there are days when one has to wonder if any of these has any currency left in this world. Being present, being shelter to others is for me what the currency of being uncool is all about. May I keep trying harder every day to embody it just a little better... which is why it was worth tattooing - because I want to be constantly mindful of what matters most in this messy sacred journey of being human.
Here's to the audacity of truth's persistence and the constancy of what matters most... May these words keep passing from soul to soul and may we hold their message always at the centre of our becoming-community and be their embodiment, so that we may be a 'welcome' for every stranger we meet.
This is a link to the band's site where you'll find more about the album. I look forward to hearing the whole thing. If you scroll down on this page and you'll see some reflections on the theme of The Shelter, including some as-always incredibly beautiful words from Pádraig, without whom this little trail would never have begun...
in these moments, Ireland and Nashville don't seem so far apart.