What you're after is this antiphony. This calling back and forth...
- Barry Lopez
The African-American pastor stands before the congregation and says 'I'm not gonna make it unless you help me.' The people nod and sway and begin their 'yes, yes'...the response...antiphony.
Its what we want for Christmas. Its what we want for Easter. Its what we want for our birthdays, anniversaries, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Boxing Day, any day for that matter. The antiphony, the response.
I heard a sermon not long ago, impassioned, loud, on the subject of marriage, about how its never to be a 50/50 deal, give and take, two way street, but rather we should love 100% regardless of the other's behavior or attitude. When I listened to the pauses in that sermon I heard a man's silent cry - 'dear God, I hope what I'm saying isn't true, what a life without parole that would be.' I read a blog post recently where the conversation in that domain proclaimed that comments were not important, that the writing was for the writing's sake, maybe even for the ever popular 'audience of one' - whatever that means, and that whether or not you and I read and respond are, in the final analysis, rather beside the point. When I paid attention to the margins of that blog what I saw was armor, protection, resistance to hurt.
Both of these examples had a strong whiff of spiritual on them, the Bible was stood upon, verses were waved, God's name was invoked, a fleece of devout placed just so. In both of these instances my heart grieved 'dear brother and sisters, this should not be so.' Once that bathroom Polo of holiness dissipates I believe a stench arises, one where the other is not important, one where forth is all that matters and back don't mean a thing, one where response is driven from the camp, antiphony crucified.
Spend fifty years, a rarity these days, of giving 100% in marriage while the other never responds and you might die some Hosea-like-saint, but your bitterness and regret and pain will be as dark as your age spots. Spend a lifetime writing for the writing's sake with no concern for hearing from the other and maybe when you die we'll publish your stacks of journals and you shall be more powerful in death than in life...but then again, maybe your mountains of print will be burned as wood, hay, stubble by relatives who never got the chance to respond and, to be quite honest, are glad to finally be rid of you.
When the call is 'thank you'...the response is 'you're welcome.'
When the forth is 'I love you'...the back is 'I love you too.'
The response is not only what we want, it is what we need. It is courteous - a word akin to courting, that old fashioned dance of manners and nuance...(I'll have to return to drive that post another day).
Antiphony...break that word in half and you have anti-phony, the antidote to a phoniness that all too often passes for some humble-bumble devotion that's shiny at first blush but upon careful inspection is revealed to be the currency of fools.
Antiphony. It is, I believe, how God so loved the world and therefore how we should then love it and one another too. Without it, we're not gonna make it.