December 11, 2012

Staying Alive: It Takes 2 Inches of Compression at 100 Beats Per Minute

Had I left this life when I fell out of it, I'd never have heard this variation on Beethoven -- on Moonlight -- played over there on this electric cello and then over here on that piano, played in this way, vamped with that vision and vogued in this variation far out on those vast Salt Flats of Utah.... even though I have walked those very flats in the searing light of midday-- salt and sun sans cello and notes of moonlight spun into a sonnet.

If I'd left this life when I fell out of it, if I had not been buoyed up out of oblivion's waters by electric shocks and hands compressing my chest 2 inches at a time to the beat of the BeeGees "Staying Alive", I would not have been here for the last two new moons waxing full and passing through the vast shadow of the earth above the bridges that span the golden gates.

lunareclispsegoldengate.jpg

If I'd left this life when I fell out of it, kept on going towards unseen horizons, I would have missed my small Thanksgiving with dear friends and not been around to complain, yet again, about the over-commericalization of Christmas on the one hand and the war upon it on the other -- not been around to care and not to care about the preening peacocks of our pathetic politics.

amazinggrace2.jpg

If I'd left this life when I fell out of it, I'd never have had the chance to learn the tempo of the slow road, the pace of the slow down; to learn the inner meaning of the poet's counsel of patience formed from Milton's lines:

"God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

.... "Who only stand and wait."....

I stand and wait a lot more these days than I did before I fell out of this life. Things do not roll by as fast and, because I must be mindful of how I move, how much, and at what pace, I do not roll by things as fast as I once did. I've had to learn to go slow, much slower, to take things at the pace of prayer; to stand and to wait. And slowly, since things come slow, I come to understand what the wait is about. It is a wait that is without a goal. It is not "waiting for" anything. It is waiting in place, waiting in peace. It is waiting in the afterimage of grace -- mindful of mortality; mindful that, even in this Seattle of highly advanced 911 response teams, out of every hundred people whose hearts, like mine, suddenly stop only sixteen are returned to life.

You can assume, as sometimes people I speak with about this strange state assume, that if you are returned to life you are waiting to find out what God has ordained for you to do with His gift regifted. Surely they assume, as -- for a while -- I assumed, that God would not have pulled me back into life after I fell out of it without a plan for me; that God had some need, some master plan that only I can fulfill. Like some many other things in these slow days -- that thin assumption fades fast into falsity.

Repeat after Milton:

.... "God doth not need" ....

I need. You need. They need. We need.

.... "God doth not need" ....

Hard to understand that "not need" --- but how could it be otherwise? Harder even to comprehend than the notion of an interventionist God; a God that has no needs but yet intervenes in the micro level of His Creation. A God who can from His creation and without need form ....say.... a Beethoven. Form such a soul that Beethoven can -- from somewhere inside himself --- create, in a shadowplay of creatio ex nihilo, a Moonlight Sonata. And then later, if 'later' carries any meaning at all to God, God forms another man -- centuries distant | perhaps intended ages before --previous, previous -- who can see and comprehend black marks on a lined sheet of bleached wood pulp and cause the music, varigated, to bloom on a salt flat half way around the angel-girdled globe; where above such sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing.

And if it was not, to my dim understanding, an angel-girdled globe at the beginning of this season, it is so now in the waiting wonder world of second life. The scientists of the continent Cynic would have this globe seen as a "demon-haunted world," but that seems to me to be something they've seen in the fun-house mirrors of their own over-taxed and undernourished intellects. Why would the world need to be haunted by demons when it is populated by men? At the very least it would seem for the sake of symmetry that any haunting must be done by angels. If only to smack down the smuggery. If only to thicken the plot.

If I had left this life when I fell out of it, I wouldn't have heard, at the beginning of my 66th journey around our star, how

"It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold..."

Nor would I have felt the touch of such harps on my shoulder when I fell out of this life; felt the tap of gold on my chest, the tap of gold on my shoulder, the tapping that turned me around and guided me back into this

"World dimensional for those untwisted by a love of things irreconcilable..."

They tell me there are no angels in their world of one dimension, in their flatland, in their palaces of no positions, and I suppose if I could hear them clearly I might nod and tell them with Calderon, "Right you are if you think you are."

Out here though, waiting in the world dimensional, I can see the shimmer of angels sliding in and out of human souls like wind riffling within waterfalls. When I fell out of life my angels came at the run with a roar and restored me with two inches of compression at a hundred beats a minute to the tune of "Staying Alive." My angels do 24 hour shifts over at Engine 8 on the top of Queen Anne Hill. On Wednesday I shook their hands.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 11, 2012 1:45 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

If you had left this life when you fell out of it...

I wouldn't have tears rolling down my cheeks at the emotion you evoke as you come to new understandings and bring your wonderful insight to us all.

Thank you.

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at December 10, 2011 8:30 PM

There is a lot of beauty in this world.

Posted by: Michael Gersh at December 10, 2011 8:31 PM

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."
            Luke 17:14-19 (ESV)

I've always wondered what that healed leper might have told people. Thanks.

Posted by: Cris at December 10, 2011 8:54 PM

I needed that. Thank you.

Posted by: Leslie at December 10, 2011 9:38 PM

Thank them again, for all of us, Gerard.

I recently have finally heard a still, small voice that has been whispering, "there is time enough. . ." and was quite startled into mustering the effort to silence the nagging lie of "life is short." Well, it can be if you think so.

And so, I am discovering the lie in so many moments that I hurry through, when I barely finish one task before flying to another; pushed, pushed, deviled into the finite clock of the Lie. I'm done with that lie.

There is time enough. If we slow down, get still. . . perhaps we are moving closer to the speed of Light.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at December 11, 2011 5:26 AM

vThank them again, for all of us, Gerard.

I recently have finally heard a still, small voice that has been whispering, "there is time enough. . ." and was quite startled into mustering the effort to silence the nagging lie of "life is short." Well, it can be if you think so.

And so, I am discovering the lie in so many moments that I hurry through, when I barely finish one task before flying to another; pushed, pushed, deviled into the finite clock of the Lie. I'm done with that lie.

There is time enough. If we slow down, get still. . . perhaps we are moving closer to the speed of Light.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at December 11, 2011 5:28 AM

Sara speaks for me. Joan speaks for me. I read this and couldn't find the words. They just stuck in my craw. Beautiful, Lazarus. Beautiful.

Posted by: Jewel at December 11, 2011 5:41 AM

What a wonderful antidote to the deluge of political effluent that has been poured over the UK for the past 2 days as a result of one Englishman saying "No!" at a gathering of junketing parasites allegedly representing the interests of 'Europeans' (but that's a different story).

Your musical links led to a further link that comprised a compendium of three dancing scenes by Travolta, Michael Jackson and Gene Kelly/Donald O'Connor, stitched together with the same musical backing in a great video that, together with your inspirational essay, really did make me celebrate 'Being Alive!"

As someone else said above, "By Golly! I needed that!" And I speak as someone who, unlike you, was not snatched from life and quickly returned as 'not known at this address', but who has been given notice of eviction of a more measured kind to God only knows where, or when at this stage. That is yet to be determined. But as long as you're around to keep me entertained I shall strive to stick around for as long as I can possibly fight the demons, oncologists' hazy estimates notwithstanding. So keep on truckin' G; I'm rooting for you.

Btw. because the compendium was a link from a link, I omitted to bookmark it and have now lost it. It didn't come up on a re-run. Any ideas? Your other readers would enjoy it also, I'm sure.

Posted by: Frank P at December 11, 2011 6:13 AM

Found it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuIvLl7Twg8&feature=related

Posted by: Frank P at December 11, 2011 6:29 AM

Every day above ground is a great day. Whether your an Atheist or a Deist, the world is filled with wonders, beauty, miracles and magic.

(Look at some of the other work from the "Pianoguys" from the first video and you'll see an example of all the above.)

Posted by: pdwalker at December 11, 2011 7:59 AM

Ah, once again you leave me sighing in a gentle agreement.

Last night, a wondrous night, while walking amidst a cloud of glowing hot-air balloons and watching my little boy alternately dance and be entranced by his first ever sight of a live band playing, I lost something small and precious: a ring, my Mother's day gift. It could be any number of places, perhaps even here at home, but I suspect it slipped off somewhere in the gravel lot, the soft chime as it landed being muffled by the sound of flaming jets, loud music and crunching pebbles.

If so, I hope that some of those angel's wings will set it in the path of whoever needs it most, and that the finder will find himself suddenly waiting, touched by the timeless and caught up for a moment by the very beating heart of god.

That's a lot to hope for such a little thing, I know, but this is a season of miracles, and so I hope.

Posted by: J at December 11, 2011 8:21 AM

I am so glad you are still here---so glad. Oh, and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" is my favorite carol. I've been struggling a bit to find the holiday magic and peace and once again, you lift the curtain to show me wonderful things...

Posted by: RigelDog at December 11, 2011 9:04 AM

The "Stayin' Alive" video at the end is most revealing of you in your post. No matter how aged or decrepit the body, we nonetheless maintain a mental image of ourselves as about 25 or 30. This image is quite unconscious in us. That's why we're re-surprised every day at our infirmities in old age.

Posted by: Gloria at December 11, 2011 10:34 AM

Why am I still here? What am I suposed to accomplish with the extra time allotted?

Just asking the questions is enough - though the answers may not be anything you expect. The ways of God are full of mystery, but most of all, LOVE. Knowing your Angels is a start. Writing from the heart about falling out of life and returning is a gift to all who come here.

Staying alive - it's what we all try to do.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at December 12, 2011 9:20 AM

We are so thankful you are here with us. None of us seem surprised you are looking for the meaning of the grim episode. Thank you for your work on this blog and your particular collection of thoughts and images we can enjoy.

You've been given a gift to know how fragile life is and to have time to see your loved ones again. May God bless you and yours even more.

Posted by: Scott M at December 13, 2011 2:29 AM

Beautiful. Add me to the list of those who are very grateful you didn't leave this life when you fell out of it.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at December 13, 2011 8:32 PM

Bravo, by God.

Posted by: Dan Patterson at December 11, 2012 2:17 AM

...!

Thank you.

Posted by: leelu at December 11, 2012 7:01 AM

You say, "You can assume, as sometimes people I speak with about this strange state assume, that if you are returned to life you are waiting to find out what God has ordained for you to do with His gift regifted."

Perhaps, what God has ordained for you to do is to create and share the beautiful writing which you have done in the past and which you have done again today. Thank you.

Posted by: Hangtown Bob at December 11, 2012 7:21 AM

Mr. Vanderleun, At the risk of stating the obvious, it would seem, by the comments, that perhaps your extra moments were intended to be spent enlightening others to the wonders of God's handiwork. I, for one, am exceedingly grateful that you continue to prove yourself so exceptionally well suited to the task. You are like a lighthouse, guiding some of us to the safe harbor. Thank you and please continue.

Posted by: Roger Drew Williams at December 11, 2012 11:30 AM

"Surely they assume, as -- for a while -- I assumed, that God would not have pulled me back into life after I fell out of it without a plan for me; that God had some need, some master plan that only I can fulfill."

Do? I would think that would be most burdensome - especially from God: Isn't Sunday a day of rest and also the day to worship God?

I would think that simply... being... would be sufficient - especially in light of your re-birth.

Besides, the kinds of things you gave BEFORE it happen was quite alot and have enrich my life considerably.

Posted by: cond0011 at December 12, 2012 11:48 AM
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