Sunday, August 19, 2012

Too Intense!

Santa Monica in August - photo by Hope Horner

"Too intense man! Too intense!  Take it to the street!"
The scraggly middle-aged woman yelled at the young man singing and playing guitar on Santa Monica beach. He had straight dark hair and a Bob Dylan vibe.  She had knotted grayish brown hair and a crack house vibe.  He pounded his guitar, blew into his harmonica and belted out choruses about love; at least I think he was singing about love in its various forms, but I couldn't be sure.  I wasn't really listening to his lyrics, just trying to take in his overall sound and the cool air coming off the ocean.
Meanwhile, this dishelved, worn sandal of a woman wasn't having it.  She had just given a hug to a tall, bare chested African American weight-lifter on the hill who was standing around with his buddies admiring the scenery (and by scenery I mean females).  She hugged him for too long.  At first, I thought they were boyfriend and girlfriend reuniting after a long separation, until she turned around and headed my way. I could clearly see by her eyes and her mumble lips that every brain cell in her head was dripping with alcohol or some sort of narcotic.  Once near the singer, she slurred her loud chastisement, her arm flailing at him like it had a mind of its own -
"Too intense, man!  Too intense! Take it to the street!"
He kept right on playing.  Didn't miss a beat.  She stumbled away grumbling and cursing.
You gotta love Santa Monica.  Or not.  This really is a city beach.  It's as though the heart of L.A. got scooped into a can and then dumped out on the sand -- some landed on bikes, some fell into roller blades, others landed with a beer in hand, some with a pack of bummed cigarettes, some with crystal meth.  There are Korean tourists, L.A.P.D. officers, street performers, teenage field trip goers, dog lovers, exercise freaks, snake handlers, ice-cream sellers, senior tour groups and families visiting from Ohio. (You can always tell the out of state families.  They're the ones who are actually IN the ocean water because they don't know that Santa Monica is not one of the cleanest beaches in L.A. County to say the least -- not to mention, dang it, they drove all the way out here in a Mini-van with no air conditioning and, "I don't care if the water's cold Susie - YOU GET IN THAT WATER!!!)
Yup, from tourists to locals - Santa Monica is quite the place for people watching. When I was there yesterday, about every fifth person that walked by caused my head to spin.  1,2,3,4...WHAT was she doing?  1,2,3,4...WHAT was she wearing?  1,2,3,4..WHAT was his problem? 1,2,3,4...Wait, what WAS that?
So seeing this inebriated woman cuss out an aspiring seaside singer really didn't surprise me.  But what she said did.
"Too intense man!  Too intense!  Take it to the street!"
By "street" I think she meant up to the 3rd Street Promenade, which is a commercial street full of shops and eateries, about two blocks away from the beach.  There are street performers there.  In fact, on Friday and Saturday nights, there are LOTS of street performers there -- Dancers, singers, piano players, jugglers - all with boom boxes and donation boxes.  When I was there in the middle of the afternoon, there was a family performing.  Dad was sitting on a stool controlling the music and microphones while his son and two daughters were belting out Adele, Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson songs.  One of the daughters had a pink ribbon flag and she was whirling it about.  They were pretty good, but it felt really exploitative.  The son kept urging on the audience to participate with these stilted, over-practiced, cheerleader lines like, "What we do, we do for you!  Join us, won't you and make our sound complete! Now put your hands together people and let's DANCE!"  His smile was as strained as his pre-pubescent vocals. Dad would turn some volume knobs and shift his weight.  The daughters would turn up their vocal vibrato.  The son would turn up his smile.  I turned away.  I really thought these kids should be at a friends' house eating Doritos and playing way too many video games.

Back the beach...
This "too intense" folk singer was undaunted by his new critic.  Despite her 80 proof advice to take it somewhere else, he kept right on singing.  Intensely.  His hat had a few bucks in it and I added to it.  He had a nice sound, perfect for the beach, I thought and plus, he had been able to smile and play his way through her nastiness.  Good guy.  You'll do well in the bars.  This is good training, actually.

Now, for some reason, I can always find a spiritual connection with everything I hear.  Call me crazy.  Call it intense. I call it the "Longview."  There's the opposite view - the "Shortview" -- the world can be just the world, a dog just a dog, a friend just a friend, a beach just a beach, a homeless woman's words, just words, OR they can take you somewhere else in your mind and heart.  They can make you think beyond what is right in front of you and sometimes, well, actually A LOT of the time, that is what happens to me.  What happened when I saw this scene yesterday, when I heard those words, "Too intense man!" and thought about it a little bit more, I considered what she meant in the "Longview."
She did not appreciate his passion.
She thought he should take it somewhere else.  Like somewhere where it would be appreciated...  Somewhere where other people are just as passionate and intense, where it would be appropriate to sing that loud and pound that hard on your guitar.  This was too intense for the beach.  This whole performance, this display of intensity -  was WAY too much for her.
And I thought...that is kind of what it's like for me as a Christian.  I don't have anyone yelling at me to take my passion somewhere else -- "Too intense Hope!  Too intense!  Take your Jesus back to church!" but I do have that voice in my head.  I write a blog (like yesterday's) which is really personal and passionate (and intense) and I think, "Too intense Hope! Too intense!  CHILL OUT! Take it down a notch, wouldya woman?  My gosh!  People are going to think you are a  Jesus freak or something!  Why don't you just run out right now and get yourself one of the "What Would Jesus Do" bracelets for goodness sake?!  And a NOTW sticker for your Nissan! I bet you vote Republican too, right?  And I bet you think you are perfect and sinless and holy and the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket if they don't think like YOU!   Too intense, man! Too intense!  Take it somewhere else!"
None of the above describes me.  But that is the screaming voice I hear.  That is my drunk female critic who wishes I was somewhere else.  She keeps me quiet when I want to reach out to someone and share hope and love and how God had changed my life.  Too intense!  She is what keeps me quiet in various groups when I feel really passionate about something I've read or learned or discovered spiritually and I want to share it, REALLY REALLY want to throw it out there, but am afraid to because I don't want to sound like a Bible-Thumper or a CS Lewis quoter or a Book Nerd.  Too intense! So I just blog it.  Ah, yes, I retreat to the safety and comfort of the written page.
Lately, I have been reading and re-reading John Chapter 17.  It is an entire Chapter of Jesus' prayer before he leaves earth.  I know I use this phrase a lot in my blog and good writer's avoid cliches, but too bad, because I can't think of any other way to describe what this chapter does to me ---
Jesus flat out says HE IS ETERNAL LIFE! 
He says: Knowing him = Eternal life. (John 17:3)
He doesn't say he is the way to eternal life or the door to eternal life, or that he is the prophet that points to eternal life, nope, he says, "KNOW GOD, KNOW ME, KNOW INTERNAL LIFE." 
You want to know what else "blows me away"?  The Amplified Bible.  Why didn't someone point out this translation sooner!!?!  You mean, I grew up with the NIV and the KJV and I missed out on this jewel!?!  Here is the John 17:3 in the Amplified Bible (a version that uses multiple English words to try to capture the original meaning of the text):
"And this is eternal life: (it means) to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with and understand) You, the only true and real God, and (likewise) to know Him, Jesus, as the Christ, the Annointed One, the Messiah, Whom You have sent."
WHOA! Does that verse blow you away like it does me?  There is a powder keg in those words and I feel like I am reading them while holding a match.  They make Jesus a whole lot more than just a nice guy full of platitudes.  He says who he is (eternal life) and he says it plainly and then he offers himself to us so we can have it, too.  Really?  WOW!!  Pound that one out on the guitar!  Sing it loudly!  I can't keep it to myself!
 "Too intense, man!  Too intense!  Take it to the street!"

1 comment:

  1. I am not Religious, but I very much appreciate the way you connect the dots in your Life Experiences and then share by writing about it all so eloquently and authentically. I, too, believe EVERYTHING in our lives happens for a reason, so I totally get how your mind is working.