Messages of Togetherness in a Moment of Mutual Isolation: The Neverending Pandemic

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

Galatians 6:2

The purpose of this blogspace was to provide me with opportunity and (hopefully) motivation to dialogue with and capture the stories that inspire me, form me, challenge me, make me laugh, cry, or shout out in anger. These stories come from film, books, music, podcasts, people, experiences, friendships, family. Some of these stories spark deeper and more extensive reflection. Others simply arrive and say something in the moment.

This post captures the latter, inspired first by an episode of a favorite television show (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), a powerful film from my movie diary this past film, and a new song from one of my favorite bands (Needtobreathe).

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 10

I promise, no spoilers in case you are still catching up on the latest episodes. I’m a few episodes behind myself, having recently finish episode 10. A big, big fan of the first season I was very excited when they anounced the renewal of the show for Season 2. And dang it if Season 2 didn’t come out of the gate strong. I was super impressed that they avoided simply narrowing in on and playout out the back and forth relationship drama that easily could have occupied most of its attention, opting instead for an almost stand alone thematic episodic format that emphasized different themes and topics. For as strong as season 1 was, the first quarter of Season 2 I felt was churning out some of its best work yet.

The latter half has been a bit more hit and mess, leaning back into the relationship drama and playing that out in an overly familiar and at times tired fashion. I’m far more interested in seeing where they take the story of this community beyond the back and forth love affair that I feel we got plenty of already in Season 1. That’s not to say there haven’t been solid moments of inspiration in the back half thus far. It has still been enjoyable. But it hasn’t reached the level of that first quarter… until Episode 10.

Ironically Episode 10 is almost a story of two halves. The first half immediately sets up for the familiar relational drama that has been informing the previous episodes. But then it finds its way in the second half to reach those inspired levels it is capable of achieving, particularly in its inspired final 10 minutes.

So what stood out for me personally? The way it works all of these relationships together in a mutual co-dependency struck a chord in the midst of a never ending Covid lockdown. As summer sits beckoning on the horizon, any promise of open Provincial borders here in Canada and opportunity for escape from the confines of our humble abodes still feels like a faint hope. What this episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist spoke loud and clear (for all to hear) is that although it might feel like it, we are not alone, and this truth reminds us that we not only have an opportunity to be that place where others can unpack and unload pent up emotions, but we can also take solace that there are others in whom we can unload our own. In probably its most striking move, the show frames this notion arond the picture of a cross and a Church, framing this as a three way connective relationship- God, ourselves, and others. We all need a place to lay our burdens, and God invites us not only to lay those burdens at the feet of the Cross, but at the feet of one another. We are called to see Christ in one another, and to be Christ to one another and in this find healing and hope.

Needtobreathe: What I’m Here For (Single)

Leading up to the full release of their new album titled Into the Mystery and an upcoming tour by the same name, Needtobreathe has been slowly releasing singles over the past couple months. Their latest, released late last week, is titled What I’m Here For. If the three songs released thus far are any indication, this new album is going to have an intentional and very real relatonal focus, thus far spanning familial themes, love, God and community. As the chorus in What I’m Here sings,

I don’t need silver linings
I don’t need so much more
I just need room to be wrong sometimes
That’s all I’m hoping for
I feel like we could find it
If we knocked on heaven’s door
I’d say God I’m only human
You’d say that’s what I’m here for

It’s unclear precisely who these lyrics are speaking of (and speaking to), but as has been documented regarding the accompanying “making of” documentary,

Over the course of three weeks, they resided under one roof, laughed during meals, explored their surroundings, and recorded together with co-producer and engineer Konrad Snyder and special guests. Out of this de facto creative hub and “extended summer camp,” they handcrafted an album reflective of the moment, yet independent of all expectations – even their own.

Which is to speak of this moment of isolation and this need of togetherness, a place to begin to unload the unspoken burdens that such a time can bring. If the larger arc of the song appears to set it in the context of pursuing dreams and the tension of success and failure that comes with striving to be and become and perhaps mean something in this messy existence, the message readily plays into that universal story of being “only human”, an endeavor we inevitably embark on and journey through together, whether we know it or not. Once again we find that 3 way connective relationship expressed- God, ourselves and one another, and as we bring our burdens to God we also find the room to be wrong with one another in those necessary ways that make us human.

Faces Places (Directed by Agnes Varda, 2017)

A joint endeavor with French potographer, artist JR, this most recent effort by reknown and studied French New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda is an equally striking study of what it means to be human together. Speaking of her pesronal legacy, Film Critic A.O. Scott for the New York Times had this to say about the film in his review.

At 89, Agnès Varda is an artist with nothing to prove and everything to discover. 

He goes on to describe the documentary of their largely unscripted travels across the French countryside and its villages and communities to simply capture these “faces” as the are in the given moment with their struggles, joys, fears intact and unhibited.

Despite its unassuming, conversational ethos — which is also to say by means of Ms. Varda’s staunchly democratic understanding of her job as a filmmaker — “Faces Places” reveals itself as a powerful, complex and radical work. Ms. Varda’s modesty is evidence of her mastery, just as her playful demeanor is the expression of a serious and demanding aesthetic commitment. Almost by stealth, but also with cheerful forthrightness, she communicates a rich and challenging array of feelings and ideas. As we contemplate those faces and places we are invited to reflect on the passage of time and the nature of memory, on the mutability of friendship and the durability of art, on the dignity of labor and the fate of the European working class…

Without pressing a political agenda or bringing up matters of ideology or identity, they evoke a history of proud struggle and bitter defeat, a chronicle etched in the stones of the villages and the lines on the faces…

Beneath the jauntiness and good humor there is an unmistakably elegiac undertone to this film, an implicit acknowledgment of lateness and loss. The places will crumble and the faces will fade, and the commemorative power of the images that JR and Ms. Varda make will provide a small and partial compensation for this gloomy inevitability. The world and its inhabitants are protean and surprising, but also almost unbearably fragile, and you feel the pull of gravity even in the film’s most lighthearted passages.

One of the interesting things about the way Varda esablishes the movement of this journey into and through the lives of others is that she uses it to comment outwardly on her past relationship with fellow French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard, someone whom she shared space with in her dedication to the French New Wave and avante-garde stylings, and further yet on the developing relationship unfolding on screen between her and JR. As we apply this to the relationships we enocunter through their photos of others, Faces Places (or in its French translation, “Visages Villages”, which connects the person intimately to both time and place) becomes undeniably about the need for those unspoken struggles and burdens and those moments of often fleeting happiness and joy to be shared with one another. To be seen by an other.

A powerful and needed sentiment that rings true for me in the midst of never ending lock downs and isolation. It is true that it is easy to feel alone. Sometimes we need that reminder that we are not alone. This is where we can say with the apostle Paul, “we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (5:5), which is the hope that what is wrong will be made right even, as it indicates in Chapter 4, the barrenness of the present moment feels all to real.

Published by davetcourt

I am a 40 something Canadian with a passion for theology, film, reading writing and travel.

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