Sustained in All Things may have been the hardest song I've ever recorded. But here's the thing. The reality of this recording is that I was in my 8th month of my 2nd pregnancy, feeling incredibly uncomfortable, and unable to sleep at night for various reasons. And my engineer was also dying of cancer at the time of this recording. A beautiful soul, with such a deep love for music.
James Finley, whose words are the lyrics to this chant, did not come to these words lightly. Suffering trauma as a child, he realized that somehow that trauma happened. And at first glance, to suggest there is benevolence at the heart of this world, amidst such abuse and injustice, is enough cause for us to die of cynicism.
This week, as Notre Dame cathedral burned, I wrestled with my feelings on the matter. At first, I thought, of course there will be rich people coming to the aid of this historic landmark. And then, I thought, how do I feel about that? For instance... I totally loved Gretta Thunberg's response and in many ways agree with her. I just wish we could cut the ugliness in the world first, and realize there's room for music, art, literature and beautiful buildings.
I have been pondering in my heart the life of Jesus over this season of Lent. In particular, looking through the lens of John Dominic Crossan's work, on Jesus' move to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. He moved at the same point when in 20 CE, Herod Antipas built his city Tiberias, and renamed the Sea of Galilee, "Lake Tiberias". In this video, John Dominic Crossan shows the peasant fishing villages along the shores of the lake as being the home towns of most of Jesus disciples, including Mary Magdalene. He suggests that part of Jesus' move there was a food sovereignty movement over and against the commercial fishing power of the new city of Tiberias. This commercial trading power was destroying the peasant's way of life. Now, think of the story of the fishes and the bread and feeding all the people in an act of abundance. Think of the idea of being "fishers of people", in other words, to tell them of their inherent, abundant worth.
Here is where this chant Sustained in All Things gets even trickier. On the one hand, I want to be VERY clear, that we should not go seeking trauma in order to be spiritual. We cannot construct our own descent (but we can sure try). However, amidst the trials that life brings us, sometimes because we choose to stand non-violently in the way of injustice, in that context, what is it to realize that there is an endless source of love at the very root of who we are?
I am still torn about the wealthy coming to the aid of Notre Dame so very quickly. But I can't be either/or about it. I know in many ways, it represents collusion with Empire. But in many other ways, it is an example of something beautiful. When one annual military budget could end the fossil fuel age, empower all people the world over to feed themselves sustainably, and restore all the sacred architecture that has been damaged by fire or violence across the world, it is hard to not step into a deeper dream of abundance and out of this nightmare of scarcity. The nightmare of scarcity is why the sex slavery trade, the arms trade, and anti-aging are what "1st world" people spend most money on. The nightmare of scarcity is why arts funding, good, true, beautiful design, and libraries are always cut first... judged for being extraneous.
The dream of abundance is the dream that Jesus stepped into on this Good Friday. And sharing this dream of abundance is why he was executed. Trusting that what is true, is that there is more life than there is destruction. That love is more powerful than death ever will be. And that death, when placed into the cycle of life and renewal, can be remarkably abundant and generative.
So, it's hard teaching. But something I'll be pondering today.
"God protects us from nothing, but unexplainably sustains us in all things."
- James Finley, trauma survivor, depth psychologist, contemplative teacher, friend
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on an aspiring permaculture farm on the Canadian prairies.