Look at all the stars

Last week I was in Philadephia speaking to a conference sponsored by city’s department of behavioral health and intellectual disabilities which has developed an interfaith collaboration across all sorts of lines which are supposed to be impossible to cross. A number of those involved in the conference would be thought of as 
“consumers” in other places, a term that implies several steps down from “citizen” or “human.” But in this city of brotherly and sisterly affection, the generative swirl sweeps up and transforms everyone.
I wore my Van Gogh tie for the occassion, commenting that he would have been at the conference himself, if he had lived in Philadephia in 2011. The tie include a pretty significant piece of his painting “starry night” which is on the bright and garrish side for a side. But those stars to pop out to be visible even from the back row. The outrageous size and almost pulsating energy of Van Gogh’s stars was part of what got him classified as deranged back then. But the fact is that Van Gogh’s stars look WAY more like what we now understand stars to be like today. Anyone who thinks that stars are teeny weeny little bitty dots of pale light is danerously detatched from reality. They are all–including our little sun– impossibly vast, distant, wild pools of energy throwing light and energy beyond our capacity to measure all across the universe. 
The universe itself is sort of like that, too. Stable, contained, predictable and cold are qualities only appropriate for minds and spirits untuned to the reality of the jumping universe. Anyone who has really paid attention to a neighborhood, much less a city, much less a region, or country knows that is true, too. But little minds like to think of all those things as stable, contained, predictable and cold, too. They are, well, crazy. How much they miss of what is possible!

Bill Mallonee and Muriah Rose (above ) opened our Innovation Studio last Winter with brilliant lyrics and deeply felt voice. They just released a set of songs for the season called Wonderland ( http://billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com/album/wonderland ). This is from their WPA series which are more like a live performance than polished studio work. There is a painfully smart song “the king will see you now.” This the only christmas song I’ve ever heard from Herod’s cynical point of view, which helps retrieves the holiday from religious smaltz. But the song you need to get you through the next couple weeks is, “look at all the stars,” which Bill wrote thinking of his dad, (but I think of Van Gogh).

My father often brought me here; 
I loved to see him smile 
it was hard to tell which one of us 
was the little child 
he would stretch his arms out wide; 
he would hold me to his heart 
he’d say, “Hey, look at all the stars!” 
he’d say, “Hey, look at all the stars!” 
Life is n’er a path that’s straight; 
there’s so much gets in the way 
from here to Kingdom Come 
there’s so much to make you numb 
still I always had that light 
forever etched inside my heart 
I would tell myself at night 
as I stood out in the yard 
“Hey, look at all the stars!” 
I’d say, “Hey, look at all the stars!” 
This has everything to do with what moved the men called wise across the desert to the garage where Mary rested. And everything to do with with the man who did not listen to his friends and renounce her. His friends surely thought he was, well, crazy. 
For the next few days at least, don’t pay attention to anyone who tells you to act like a stable, predictable, contained and cold adult. The world is made for surprise and hope. Don’t miss it.

About garygunderson

Vice President, FaithHealth, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. Secretary Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group). Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
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