Lent’s Compass. Day Seven: What’s New?

“Bach is, for me, the Christian artist par excellence, and if I ask myself why, I think it has something to do with his sense of newness. I’ve been working on his C Minor Toccata and Fugue since college, and I find something new in it every day. And perhaps this is because God was new for Bach every day, was never taken for granted. Too often we do take God for granted.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle, Walking On Water, p.55

What’s new? When I’m asked that question I pause and think. I literally try to remember what is new in the last twenty-four hours. I also consider what “new” the person posing the question might want to hear. Should I describe my failed attempt to create a high fiber waffle by adding oatmeal to the batter? The resulting mess that ensued and my flailing attempts to recover my children’s faith in my ability to prepare their breakfast?

On television news, it’s understood that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Does a morning battle with a stinging styptic pencil fall under that category? Will it matter enough?

What’s new? We ask and answer the question reflexively. Most people do not want to hear my anecdote about the razor and the styptic pencil. They’re just being polite and making conversation. The spinning hard drive in their head might have pulled up the questions “How are you?” or “How have things been?” And while a simple “Good morning!” meets expectations of social interaction and tidily wraps with a reply in kind accompanied by a smile, it’s less likely to be on the playlist of people you know.

What’s new? Recently I’ve noticed that news outlets I “like” on Facebook begin the day asking me a variation of this question. “What’s new?” becomes “What news” (am I following)? Whenever I see the phrasing I’m tempted to comment: “You’re asking me? I tune in so you can tell me what news I should follow!” I wonder though, if I do, will that become news?

What’s news? Last week I dropped Sweets at her Junior Girl Scouts meeting. A friend pulled to the curb moments after I did. I waved, got out of my car and walked up to his. He rolled down his window and placed an index finger to his lips. He whispered, “Shh….” He was listening to NPR and having a “driveway moment.” We didn’t speak until the story ended. What struck me, is that I didn’t think the story was that interesting. I realized that what made it interesting to my friend was as much what he brought to it as what the story gave him.

Madeleine L’Engle started working on Bach’s C Minor Toccata and Fugue when she was in college. She attended Smith from 1937 to 1941. Walking On Water was published in 1982. At the time of publication, her driveway moment with the piece had lasted forty years. She found the new in it every day. What new holds your imagination?


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