Kinsley Koons is a grad student in English in Chicago, and a kindred spirit. She's young to be writing about second simplicity, but I love what she has to say here - and today of all days, I needed a reminder that there are moments of light and beauty in the world.
God, Ryan Adams, and Moments of Being: Searching For a Second Simplicity
I was working as a waitress at a summer camp, and on this particular night I found myself sitting right outside of our staff housing building on a picnic table that was barely covered by the porch roof. It was storming, and I was watching the lightning and ignoring the raindrops that were bouncing off the ground and hitting my shins. I was accompanied by one of the older boy staffers, who I undoubtedly had a crush on, and we were talking about music. I was trying to impress him by asking if he listened to The Strokes or if he had ever heard of Rilo Kiley. And I am pretty sure he was trying to impress me with indie bands that just so happened to include Swedish exchange students from his college.
But then the conversation shifted into this fairly earnest desire to share our favorite songs with one another and in the middle of trying to explain to him why the song “Lua” by The Bright Eyes changed my life in the 8th grade, he interrupted me and said, “Wait- have you heard of Ryan Adams?” With a quick shake of my head, he ran inside to grab his (second generation) iPod and said, “You have to listen to this. Now.” He turned on the song “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and for the next 4 minutes and 57 seconds, I was filled with on overwhelming sense of peace. A realization that I was tapping into what was most beautiful in the world. That in this moment I was granted the ability to tell the difference.
I didn’t care where I was, I didn’t care about the boy sitting next to me, and I didn’t care that I was, most likely, late for curfew. Before I realized exactly what was happening, I started to cry.
I started to cry out of some sort of reverence. Some sort of recognition that sometimes things are just so beautiful and moments contain each and every one of the desirable elements that make a moment perfect— that there are moments ushered in by beauty that make us feel like we are beautiful and loved.
A moment of true being.
I think there is part of being asked to write a spiritual “coming of age” story that feels silly to me presently, simply because I still feel like I’m in the middle of it. But if I don’t tell the stories, I so easily unlearn them. Beautiful moments of clarity made cloudy by time, distance, or sometimes a poor use of space, a lack of storytelling. I truly think that one of the best ways we can experience God, and keep those experiences clear and accessible is by telling the stories that surround them— give them new life. There is a beauty in reconciling our pasts with our presents so we can make them new.
My relationship with Christianity has been a strange one filled with lots of “oh no” moments, lots of confusion, and lots of reasons and people that have pushed me to the very edge. There are and have been moments where I have truly asked myself why on earth I am still subscribing to this religion. And it is those stories that I feel like I have too many of. Stories that can still make me boil with anger or cry with sorrow at the drop of a hat. I grew up confused about the messages that were being presented to me by an Evangelical culture that seemed to be void of beauty, void of sincerity, and also void of intellect.
But, I don’t want to write about those moments, because they are the ones that I think about and talk about on a daily basis. Those are the moments that make me feel like I am in constant defense of the people in my own religion. Those are the moments that make it sometimes impossible to see the bright ones.
Instead, I want to tell a story of a rare and bright moment. A moment of being. A moment when maybe words fell short, but so did confusion. A moment where there was nothing to be seen but the beauty and newness of God and love love love.
There are many moments of darkness that I have experienced and so many glow bugs of light that I have seen scattered throughout my earthly existence, all of which play a role in my present. My heart has been permanently softened to hold these moments, to record them, and to allow them to come into a space beyond that in which they originally existed. These moments are resurrected again and again as I grant them existence within the context of new stories, as I look at them in the context of grace, of love, and of beauty. As we allow space for the old to inspire the new, we live with a constant reverence for life. With soft hearts we experience beauty over and over again, each time allowing it to be new. Because that is why we are all here- right? We are agents by which He is making all things new.
Now isn’t that incredible?
Kinsley Koons writes occasionally at Conveniently Disconnected Paragraphs and tweets @kinsleykoons.