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We All Dance To The Music Of Time

The Sardana

In Barcelona’s Plaça de Sant Jaume, there is always a group of people dancing the Sardana. According to wikipedia, this dance was banned during the Franco régime as a Catalan nationalist symbol, but in this at least they are wrong, for in 1965  I was among a group of students who went to the square and joined in the dance for a few minutes. It is not as easy as it looks, and we soon dropped out in favour of watching instead. I am tempted to say, looking at the age of the participants in this youtube video, that some of them look as if they have themselves been dancing continuously since 1965 but, generally speaking, the dance goes on while the dancers come and go to the music of time.

The River that is Twitter

This is how I think about social media, twitter in particular. You can decide to while away the afternoon in the twittersphere but you cannot predict what turn the conversation will take. Beyond the rule about 140 characters, every twitter session is different. Sometimes it is like watching one of those complicated opera arias, with perhaps four different people singing their hearts out about completely different topics simultaneously. It is exhilarating -and sometimes surreal- to try and participate in four conversations at once, with subjects ranging from the sublime to the mundane. Sometimes there are a dozen or more taking part in or looking in on the same conversation. But there are also conversations which take place in different time zones. If someone in the USA tells a joke at tea time, you may be asleep and unable to LOL or even ROFL until the following morning, perhaps ten hours later, by which time any repartee you can offer has rather lost its point. My twitter stream may be more homogenous than some people’s, because I choose to follow chiefly those involved in the Church or politics. I like the fact that most of the people I follow are also followed by the people who follow me (still with me?), in other words I enjoy being part of a network, which others in the network also seem to enjoy.


You Cannot Step into the Same River Twice

But, as Heraclitus  almost pointed out, you cannot step into the same twitter session twice. If you have a conversation over breakfast with a group of congenial people, you cannot pick up the conversation over dinner. This is partly because the twittersphere, like the river, has moved on. But it is also because you have moved on. You are a different person at dinner from the one you were at breakfast, albeit infinitesimally so. The cells in your body have changed and the world has changed with you. Wait a week, a month or a year and the differences are more marked.


What Has All This to do with the Christian Life?

In case you are wondering whether I am ever going to get to the point – whether indeed there is a point to this post –  here it is: we have just begun what is for me my 63rd church year. On the face of it, when it is the sixty-third time you have been told a story, you might think it is difficult to pay attention, let alone get excited. BUT I am not the same person – I have been a different person every year for the last sixty-three years. And it is not the same story. The story changes every year because I see different things in it.

Brother Charles, an American Franciscan priest, expresses this better than I possibly can, and will I hope not mind my quoting him:

…we exist in time, but God is eternal. So there is no before or after with God; there is nothing that God is doing tomorrow that he is not doing now. With God there is only a Now, a nunc stans¸ as the scholastic theologians liked to say… This is why the presence of God  always seems new and fresh, and is refreshing for the soul, because God is always Now. This arriving presence in our hearts is the real desire of our souls—a desire we so often squander on things that are less than God and will not satisfy…   Let’s begin again, for the first time, to wait for the God who wants to speak the Word of his own self from within each of us.



This post was written for The Big Bible Project as a Digidisciple on 5 December 2011.

The photograph of a Sardana was taken at La Verema in September 2010 by  Natursports /

The picture is by Nicolas Poussin, A Dance to the Music of Time, which formed the title and  backdrop to the Anthony Powell series of the same name about a group of people over a period of years, and is made available by wikimedia under a creative commons licence.

3 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I agree with the God of now, when we are either looking back or looking forward. It’s not often that we actually think in the Now!

Your examples of twitter could be repeated for any social media stream, whether Google+ or Facebook.

The streams flow on, and we dip in and out, but it’s never the same, each time. I’ve come to be a sampler, rather than a deep dipper, as I just don’t have the time to do more. “So much life and so little time”, someone wrote (I can’t quite remember who), bit it seems as fresh today as when I first took it on board.

Now, back to some writing and preparation for other stuff.

Erika Baker said...

UK Viewer,

“It’s not often that we actually think in the Now!”

Can I ask, as gently as possible, who ‘we’ is?
Is it the ‘we’ we imagine other people to be, or is the ‘we’ that’s really an’I’, or is it the ‘we’ of sermons that so often means “everyone else except me but I can’t really put it that way”?

Lay Anglicana said...

There’s also the parent/nanny ‘we’ as in ‘isn’t it time we went to bed now?’. Everyone involved in this equation knows we=you!

Poor UKViewer – we are not really ganging up on you! I think you are probably right to say ‘we’ here, although some presumably try harder than others to stay centred in the here and now – and even amongst those that try, some will be much better at it than others. So I suppose it is realistic to say that 99% of humanity are in the ‘we’ category. But if not even 1% are managing it, there would be no point in the rest of us even trying!

13 December 2011 11:41
13 December 2011 08:34
12 December 2011 12:01

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