I stand in front of the crowd and dance on my fingertips. A toddler with blonde pig-tails and glasses twirls and teeters in front of me. I get distracted and play a flat note. This is my dancing: playing music on my fingertips that others can dance to with their feet. Together the toddler and I create an upside down dance.
Playing on my fingertips is hard. I tend to thump fingers hard against the neck of my violin. This muffles the sound. Playing on the very tippy-tip of my fingers makes a cleaner, purer, and more articulate sound. Each of my fingers has to curl like the neck of a swan in order for the tips to make contact with the string. Each of my fingers looks like a levy bridge moving up and down. Except for my pinky finger. That finger always collapses under pressure. Pinkies were never meant to be muscular, unless you play the violin. Musicians have odd physiologies. They tone muscles which would otherwise go unnoticed.
“In your spare time, like when you’re not taking notes in class, how about you consider stretching your webbing? If anyone asks you what you’re doing, tell them your violin teacher instructed you to stretch the webbing on your fingers.”
Odd as this next phrase will sound, I am someone who deals with an aversion to bodies. To consider stretching the webbing between my fingers sounded vulgar and unpleasant. I have convinced myself that I was born thousands of years too late. I should have been born in the sixties at the latest, but that is because I like beehive hairstyles. The implications that the sixties had on bodies, and consequently would have had on my psyche, would have been a terrible decade for me to be born into.
But I digress.
I would have made an excellent gnostic. I enjoyed music because it seemed disconnected from the body. It produced spiritual experiences for people. It elevated the soul. Music was unrelated to the body until I learned to play the violin and learned how stiff the body can get from five hours of orchestra rehearsals. Music was a language through which God and the soul could be communicated. Sadly, I had to use my body to do this. The gnostics apparently never played in the orchestra pit.
The Gnostics also apparently never attended worship services. The implications of worship mean that I have now to confess the uncomfortable reality of my body.
For the past year I have become visibly emotional during celebrations of the life of Christ—Christmas, Good Friday, the usual suspects. My emotions are not some swell within the heart or butterflies in the stomach. Tears fall from my eyes. My emotions display themselves in ways that are undeniably physical. I attended an Easter service which started with a selection from Handel’s Messiah. Over and over again I hear these words: The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. The introduction does well to set me up for an emotional morning. During the singing, I want to lift my arms. This makes me feel uncomfortable. My eyes get teary and I get a lump in my throat. Gross. I remain adamant that bodies are gross because I do not like the feeling of the lump in my throat. My discomfort increases as my eyes well up more. Crying in church draws the unwanted attention of prayer warriors. I can see the conversation:
“I noticed you were crying. What’s the matter?”
“No, really. What’s the matter? People don’t just cry in church unless there is a reason.”
“I suppose I have a body. It does things that I don’t want it to do.”
I want to cry and I want to dance for no good reason. I have a body, and despite my gnostic tendencies, I am learning to love this body. I am coming to realize that my head, my heart, my thoughts, my emotions, are all lodged within this container, within these borders called a body. I cannot separate my soul from my body.
I want to cry because a couple thousand years ago well-intentioned people killed Christ and buried him because they did not like the way that he presented himself to them. I want to cry because I cannot differentiate myself from these people. Christ presents himself to me on terms that I do not like—physicality—and so I try to make physicality a bad thing. How often I kill Christ because I do not recognize him. How often it happens that the very thing which I fight is Christ revealing himself to me in a way that I don’t like because it makes me feel uncomfortable. Christ had a body. God could be touched, and in fact he encouraged his followers to be physical. He told them to greet each other with a kiss. He told them to wash each other’s feet. He told the proverbial doubting Thomas to place his hand in his side and to feel his wounds. Because of Christ, bodies are made holy.
On Easter Sunday, Christ came alive again, incarnate, fleshy, physical. He bore the battle wounds of his death. I thought that he lost the battle. Death usually punctuates the story in a giant, capitalized “THE END.” I did not know that death could mean winning. Christ won because one of the most natural and certain elements of the human experience—death—was made a laughing stock as death ultimately could not fulfill its purpose on Christ.
All I can do is love Christ and love his story, and I suppose this is why I want to dance and raise my arms and make my eyes look uncomely with tears. This body is broken but shall be raised incorruptible. We shall be changed.