Halfway-Through Book Report

I resisted the first half of “Blue Like Jazz.” I felt the dialogue was clunky, and I’m incredibly skeptical of religion (though, I will whole-heartedly own to being a deeply spiritual person). But something was driving me towards this book, and midway through, I found the below passage, and I haven’t moved beyond it. I can’t. I just keep re-reading it.

I considered redacting God or Jesus from the below excerpt, but I can’t. I can’t destroy this beautiful piece of work. I feel obligated to share it with you, that I can’t move on in the book until I take note of how much this moved me. Read it, and let me know what you think.

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I had been working on a play called “Polaroids” that year… In the scene I had written a few nights before, I had the man fighting with his wife. They were experiencing unbearable tension after losing a son in a car accident the year before. I knew in my heart they were not going to make it, that “Polaroids” would include a painful divorce that showed the ugliness of separation. But I changed my mind…I wondered what it would look like to have the couple stick it out…I had the lead character in my play walk into the bedroom where his wife was sleeping. I had him kneel down by her and whisper some lines:

What great gravity is this that drew my soul towards yours? What great force, that though I went falsely, went kicking, went disguising myself to earn your love, also disguised, to earn your keeping, your resting, your staying, your will fleshed into mine, rasped by a slowly revealed truth, the barter of my soul, the soul that I fear, the soul that I loathe, the soul that: if you will love, I will love. I will redeem you, if you will redeem me? Is this our purpose, you and I together to pacify each other, to lead each other toward the lie that we are good, that we are noble, that we are not redemption, save the one that you and I invented of our own clay?

I am not scared of you my love, I am scared of me.

I went looking, I wrote out a list, I drew an image, I bled a poem of you. You were pretty, and my friends believed I was worthy of you. You were clever, but I was smarter, perhaps the only one smarter, the only on able to lead you. You see, love, I did not love you, I loved me. And you were only a tool that I used to fix myself, to fool myself, to redeem myself. And though I have taught you to lay your lily hand in mine, I walk alone, for I cannot talk to you, lest you talk it back to me, lest I believe that I am not worthy, not deserving, not redeemed.

I want desperately for you to be my friend. But you are not my friend; you have slid up warmly to the man I wanted to be, the man I pretend to be, and I was your Jesus and, you were mine. Should I show you who I am, we may crumble. I am not scared of you, my love, I am scared of me.

I want to be known and loved anyway. Can you do this? I trust by your easy breathing that you are human like me, that you are fallen like me, that you are lonely, like me. My love, do I know you? What is this great gravity that pulls us so painfully toward each other? Why do we not connect? Will we be forever in fleshing this out? And how will we with words, narrow words, come to the knowing of each other? Is this God’s way of meriting grace, of teaching us of the labyrinth of His love for us, teaching us, in degrees, that which He is sacrificing to join ourselves to Him? Or better yet, has He formed our being fractional so we might conclude one great hope, plodding and sighing and breathing into one another in such a great push that we might break through into the known and being loved, only to cave into a greater perdition and fall down at His throne still begging for our acceptance? Begging for our completion?

We were fools to believe that we would redeem each other.

Were I some sleeping Adam, to wake and find you resting at my rib, to share these things that God has done, to walk you through the garden, to counsel your timid steps, your bewildered eye, your heart so slow to love, so careful to love, so sheepish that I stepped up my aim and become a man. Is this what God intended? That though He made you from my rib, it is you who is making me, humbling me, destroying me, and in so doing revealing Him.

Will we be in ashes before we are one?

What great gravity is this that drew my heart towards yours? What great force collapsed my orbit, my lonesome state? What is this that wants in me the want in you? Don’t we go at each other with yielded eyes, with cumbered hands, and feet, with clunky tongues? This deed is unattainable! We cannot know each other!

I am quitting this thing, but not what you think. I am not going away.

I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God’s own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chambers where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death, and to the death it may bring me.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.

God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.


3 thoughts on “Halfway-Through Book Report

  1. This is one of my favorite passages from the entire book. I think it speaks volumes. Bound up in it are so many truths about human nature and its constant striving, along with so many spiritual messages of hope, but not in the way that you would think. I recognize that we approach this passage with different mental and spiritual frameworks, but I’m glad that it spoke to you, for it’s been shaping me for years.

    1. Thanks, RO. A) for letting me borrow this book from you and B) for your comment. In truth, I’m still a bit shaken by the passage, and it was certainly a turning point in the book for me. So far, the subsequent chapters have been equally as poignant.

      There’s such beauty in each of us if we let it emerge.

      1. Yes, LK, there is beauty —most certainly. Often it is discovered first when reflected through another who sees it when we cannot. So, yes, it can emerge, or beauty can be drawn out by one who risks its exposure, knows its worth and is willing to do the work to keep it worthy.

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