Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 22, 2011

Let The Mystery Be

Been thinking lately on the role of tension and release – an instrumentalist’s technique – and it’s parallel role in the spiritual life. Fact is that most of us tend to tense up on so many things and then can’t seem to find it’s release… that we ultimately find ourselves seeking that peace we can only find in Christ. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a problem, but it is. Seems so often we become so overwrought, so overworked, we second guess everyone and everything else to an extent that the prospect we’d even recognize our Savior were we to find him… gets slimmer and slimmer. Resting in Thee ain’t gonna happen under these circumstances.

On the other hand, if you let go completely, then why bother? So there’s the other extreme.

What instrumentalists find as they play more and more, is that the level of energy between the two has to come closer and closer together. If your moment of tension is filled with such energy and passion that you literally strangle the guitar neck, it gets a lot harder to let go of that first note, lift the finger and slide over to the next. Most of the guitar teachers in my home town were taught a generation or two ago by an ex-wrestler who literally made playing an ordeal of strength. And yet he managed to communicate a love of music that kept the students coming to such an extent the foremost performance series for classical players in town is named in his honor. Yet the two folks I played with who learned from him will tell you first off, that they had to relearn their techniques for fingerings.

So I wonder whether we’re in constant need of relearning the fingerings for our souls, how to play them, running through our chords, our scales, the rhythms of prayer… the whole bit.

And I stumbled on this video from Iris Dement and she seems to me to hit it about right: Let The Mystery Be. If only I could, what a world it might be… and how different. And yet we can’t, can we? We want to squeeze more out of it than we’re entitled to… almost as if we haven’t learned that the iconostasis – the other wondering I’ve been doing lately – is there for our own protection… not to hide, but to shield us from harm… almost as if it were meant for us to apply just a slight pressure, but not to squeeze so hard we pierce the presence and push the breath of the spirit away. Let the mystery remain. Accept what has been revealed, don’t ask for more, don’t seek to possess more… just let it be. Even if someone offers something out of left field… even that we’re gonna transsubstantiate into garden vegetables… why not let them be? And so what if harm comes to us… so what if we are not saved… perhaps others will be saved by our loss, and perhaps that might even be a higher good. Let the mystery be. Might not like the sound of that, just as Iris might not like the sound of Purgatory… I mean c’mon… it’s Toll House cookies after all… right? But let’s not stop there, just keep on and let it go.

And so Iris seems to me to have it about right. If only I could manage to slide into that space myself, I might be able to let it be, too. Might not be much, but that’s the best I have to offer this a.m.


  1. “And so what if harm comes to us… so what if we are not saved… perhaps others will be saved by our loss, and perhaps that might even be a higher good.”

    Wow. I’d never thought of it like that before.

    • Sounds sort of nihilistic, but it’s not how I mean it. For in a sense, it’s how I read the inverted pyramid of Archimandrite Zacharias, Elder Sophrony and St. Silhouan. Wanting to save ourselves so badly… at any cost, at the cost of another… might really be demonic. Let the other guy go first. Pray that the other be saved in one’s place if need be. Probably some issues with it… above my paygrade… but I think it leads to a lighter touch.

  2. I really like it 🙂 It makes a lot of sense. I don’t like the parts of myself that want to be saved by myself, ‘alone with the Lord’… it doesn’t bring out the best in me. So yes, I think I like this.

  3. The mystery of the iconostasis is doubly mysterious because it not only protects but it is also our access to the mystery. It is full of people who take us where they have been by virtue of their hard won place of intercession: into the very heart of the mystery. Protection and access. We need both.

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