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Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But he answered and said, It is written Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
(Matthew 4: 1-4, King James Version)
Have we not all fasted these past months, have we not all been left hungred by the ravages of the sacrifices we have made? Would that we could turn the stones of so much of popular culture into the satisfying bread of Heaven. And yet, bread is not enough. True nourishment comes from the word.
What is the word?
Rock, particularly rock sans the roll, is the bread…plain, simple, dull and yet, in the right circumstances, satisfying and enough to, temporarily, sate your hunger. But true sustenance requires more than three chords, more than a tired retreading of a path too well worn. Few of us would be happy to read the same book time and time again, or to see the same film over and over, yet we are happy to hear the same song ad infinitum.
Discussing the phenomenon of the Marvel franchise, Martin Scorsese said, “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
A lot of people got very cross about that. They focused on the “theme park” line and failed to think about the core of his argument, which was that cinema (which is separate from “movies”) is about trying to convey the emotional and psychological experiences of our existence. This is what elevates cinema from blockbuster movie making. One, whether you like it or not, is better than the other…fine, one is more important than the other.
Watching the fifth origin story of Spiderman can be a thrill…special effects, big bangs, quips, it’s great fun. But it is not the same thing as Ozu. One is a distraction, one is art. One shouts loudly, the other has something to say and says it quietly.
“The Machine That Made Eternity” from Human Concept is not the dull thud of a song you have heard a thousand times before. It is not a theme park ride. It does not shout loudly in your face.
It is the word.
It is the gentle beat of a new hymn. It is an emotional and psychological experience. It whispers, softly, in your ear and is heard in your heart.
These are electronic sounds that will satisfy the hunger of those who are yearning for more than bread.
As we have all wandered, often alone, in the wilderness during this era of pandemic, we will have found ourselves, as did Jesus, tempted and afflicted. Voices from the furthest, darkest, reaches of our subconscious telling us that hope has gone. The temptation to give up has been, at least for me, almost impossible to resist and to deny. As the days and weeks have dragged on and on, as each step towards freedom has been followed by two steps back towards something other than freedom, as human contact has been contaminated by the knowledge that it could, in fact, be fatal, I have found myself thinking of the last entry in the diaries of Kenneth Williams; what’s the bloody point?
“Nothing should be beyond hope, life is hope”
Life is hope.
Hope is the confident expectation of, and longing for, something better than…this.
Hope has the power to fill our hearts with happiness (remember that) and its absence can make us sick with misery.
Hope can arrive in unusual forms and from unlikely sources.
Peter Crane, the man behind Human Concept, has found a way to bring hope to the hopeless with this project. Following his journey in the wilderness, Jesus returned to the real world and found people who were in need of hope…I have a feeling that Crane has also been in the wilderness, that he too has been sorely afflicted by temptations and hopelessness. But from the ruins, after the endless drifting he has found reasons to feel, has built a bridge between his emotional self and the physical reality around him and has found himself again through the fog.
That is a universal condition.
A few nights ago I wrote a letter to myself, an attempt to make sense of my own emotional state.
“Before the world started to burn. Before the end of the world as we knew it. Before. I was a very different person. I lived, I experienced, I felt, I was…and now I exist, I am numb, I am not the man I thought I was, not the man I used to, and I don’t know if I ever will be again.”
As I spilled this self-pity onto the page I decided I needed something to fill the silence that was in danger of crushing me. I chose “The Machine That Made Eternity” and slowly, almost unnoticed, something began to change. A lower light began to burn on the shore, guiding me to safety. I felt the coldness inside replaced by something warm. I stopped writing. Stopped crying. I was soothed. Comforted.
Like the balm of Gilead…a spiritual medicine capable of healing all sinners. So too Crane has discovered something to heal the broken hearts and troubled souls.
Amen and amen.
"The Machine That Made Eternity" is available to pre-order this Sunday HERE and is released on December the 17th.