Friday, February 12, 2016

The Spirit Catcher

Sitting here watching people fly kites on the beach the other day, the question arose, "Why do people like flying kites?" After all, once you get the kite up in the air, there's nothing to do but hold on and watch. Well, at least try to hold on and watch.
Some people even tie a number of kites along the string with the big one at the end going higher with the others floating along behind.

Yes, and we observers become entranced by it also. It is almost hypnotizing to sit on my balcony or even on the beach and watch the kites. I keep trying to get good pictures and even video of them flying. Others stand and watch as well.

It is not just on a beach, either. Sure there may be more breeze or wind there, but find a large enough park area anywhere and you will, on a windy day, often see kites.

A couple things come to mind. First is the desire to harness the power of the wind. There is a sense of accomplishment when that kite is up there with the wind moving it, holding it aloft. We humans want to harness whatever energy, whatever source of power we can find. Letting the kite catch it for us is a good substitute.

Second, to catch the wind is to do the impossible. The 60s song by Donovan laments that he might as well try and catch the wind as have his love fulfilled.
When rain has hung the leaves with tears
I want you near to kill my fears
To help me to leave all my blues behind

For standin' in your heart
Is where I want to be and long to be
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind
So there, in the air at the other end of that string- we have done the impossible. Maybe, just maybe the other impossible things of life could happen, too!

Third, perhaps Dylan captures the paradox, the ambiguity, of the wind in those haunting lyrics of his:
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?

How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind
In typical Dylanesque fashion you can read that in at least two ways. One would be the same as Donovan's words- the answer is not to be found. It is out there in the wind and only time will tell. There can be a fatalistic turn in those words. Why bother? Why even try? We are doomed.

Or, and the one my generation heard in Dylan's prophetic voice was one of hope. There is an answer. It is out there. Listen. Pay attention. The answer is blowing in the wind.

Back in the early 70s I was a counselor at a church summer camp for the first time. One of our leaders had brought kites to use as part of the program. He built on the background in both Hebrew and Greek for the words we translate in the Bible into Spirit. They are the words for breath, and wind. In Genesis the "wind" of the "breath" of God moved across the deep and creation began. The holy "breath," "Spirit" of God came down and landed on Jesus, anointing him as the Messiah.

Ever since then I never see a kite flying without remembering the connection between wind, breath, and spirit. The kite becomes a spirit catcher, picked up by the movement of the air and carried to new heights. It has a tether to the earth, otherwise it is lost and has no possible rhyme or reason.

I continue to choose the hopeful, prophetic words of Bob Dylan. They echo what I read in Scripture. They affirm what I have
personally experienced countless times in my own life. You cannot see the Spirit or the wind. But you can connect with them. You can allow yourself to be captured by the movement that is there, while remaining connected to others, to community and family, and to the presence of the Holy, what we may often call God, in our midst.

The answer is blowing in the wind.


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