Last night's "Drops like stars" in Perth last night was just stunning. The images, the artistry, the storytelling, the multii-layered dance, the self-deprecating profundity (or was that profound self-deprecation), humour and tenderness merge into the same moments, the balletic delivery, the best use of powerpoint you will ever see (telling that the best use of powerpoint did not actually use Powerpoint; and not a bullet point in sight). What was it: lecture, presentation, performance, sermon, stand-up?
The central thesis is the creative power of suffering - moving away from questions of "Why?" and instead asking "What now?"
There were two pre-stories which I am struggling to fit in - one about hospital corridors (we live between the room of life and the room of death; the room of healing and the room of the last breath); the other about the prodigal son where the elder son has to do something creative in the moment of disruption (actually just managed to fit that one in now).
There are five arts, that can happen in suffering:
1. The art of disruption - the need to create a new tomorrow (fundamentally creative) in a disrupted world - here was the fantasy of the usher handing out squirrels and the NYU candidate Hugh Gallagher's application form. Why is it that a white rich kid listens to rap? Why does Scott Harrison start working on Charity Water - because too much success is death by Rolex, we need that disruption.
2. The art of honesty - the story of the 11 year old screaming at her older cousin who had just attempted suicide "I am so mad at you", the ability to answer the question "How are you?"
3. The art of elimination - the carving into soap blocks, the story of Johnny Cash in the Viper Rooms
4. The art of solidarity - this is where everyone who had been affected by cancer stood up and said "not alone" (someone had once shouted out "I miss her"); where we wrote with our wrong hand "You are not alone" (the link being with having a sprained wrist and having some insight into someone with MS) and swapped the card with those who attended a funeral of someone they love, of those affected by addiction, of those who had faced a mountain of bills, those who had been betrayed. Bell had hoped that this would be a moment of wordless depth, and had been shocked by the laughter - but this was a sign of healing
5. The art of possession - a brilliant like with 2 Corinthians 6:10. Began with a friend who could interpret a piece of art that Bell had, or another friend who can play his guitar (they do no own, but they possess), and the ecstasy of a congregation in Rwanda ("they do this every day at lunch").
Finally, the comment that is true of all suffering "This, too, will shape me" - we can be bitter or better; we can close down, or open up; we can cling or we can grow. Talks about his therapist who has in inscription in Hebrew - "The God who wastes nothing."
And the final story of a nephew transfixed by the rain dropping in Michigan, and with every splash commentating "Stars! Stars! Stars!"