Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Santa Cruz

I'm having a great time here in California. The weather's beautiful, the scenery is a change of pace and the music is fantastic. It's exciting to be a part of this music festival that seems to grow in stature each year. It's becoming a gathering of some of the most important names in the music scene today. The composers want to be here to hear their pieces performed and this weekend we're doing a world premier by one of the most important living composers.

Christopher Rouse is a Pulitzer prize winning composer and the Cabrillo Festival commissioned him to write a new work, his Concerto for Orchestra. It's exhilarating to know that we're the first orchestra to ever hear the sounds of a piece that will eventually be played by every major orchestra in the world. Knowing that one of the greatest living composers is out there, seated at a table in front of the orchestra, hearing the notes he's put on paper for the first time is a privilege that I won't forget. And it happens every year here.

Sitting next to him is another Pulitzer prize winning composer, John Corigliano, who is also having a piece performed here. They are in an exclusive fraternity: individuals whose music will be performed for centuries to come and about whom knew chapters in the history of music will be written. In a hundred years their lives and music will be studied by music students just as I studied the lives and music of Debussy and Brahms when I was a student. It's electric knowing that they are in the same auditorium with our orchestra. It makes me very grateful to be here.

Beyond that, Santa Cruz is a strange town. On the plane change in Minneapolis I saw a t-shirt by a local that said, "Keep St. Paul Weird." That sentiment applies to Santa Cruz as well.

Just a week before we arrived here in Santa Cruz there was a woman walking down the main street, completely naked, and no one seemed to mind. It made the paper not in the crime report sheet but in a commentary written by a local newspaperman about how strange a place Santa Cruz is.

I would say Santa Cruz has misplaced liberality. It's guiding mantra is that freedom means doing whatever you want to do and its streets are lined with hurting souls who are living in chains that they believe are their freedom.

But at the same time I wonder about how my conception of God can be reshaped by the people and this culture around me. When I was a child I remember finding anything to do with Asia bizarre and uncomfortably foreign. I didn't' find anything beautiful or redeeming in a culture so different from mine.

That all changed when I saw The Last Emperor. That movie opened my eyes to the beauty of Asia and I've never looked back. When I traveled to Thailand my love of south east Asia was strengthened and I long to return. There is a beauty and majesty in Asia completely foreign to me but equally beautiful to me as the grandest cathedrals in Europe.

It tells me something about God. I realized that I've made God in my image and the image of my culture and I believe that most cultures do. There must be contained in the person of God all the good and beautiful things that have ever existed in the history of mankind and of every culture. All good comes from God and as we are made in his image, the beauty and majesty of distant cultures must reflect something about God that can help me understand him better. God's image can be found in Asia as much as Rome and Israel. We love and serve a dynamic God who is impossible for us to ever comprehend and I think he delights in challenging our prejudices about Him.

It makes me think of the culture of Santa Cruz--the want to be Rastafarians, the surfer culture, the flip-flop wearing, long haired nouveau hippy culture that exists here.

Can I learn something about the person of God in these strange and bizarre people?

They are strange and bizarre to me, but are they strange and bizarre to God?

They reflect God's image in some way, in all that is good about them. I think that is what we're called to look for in everyone we meet, and especially in those most foreign to us.

1 comment:

alison said...

My friend, I am sorry to have not called you yet. Friday I was on the road from 10 a.m. til Midnight and completely forgot to call, until yesterday morning at 7. I didn't think you would welcome one at that time and then yesterday flew too.

The essays sounded great.

You have GOT to have a winner in the bunch.