Discovering Wonder with Michael Gungor at NYWC
By Youth Specialties on October 26 2012
Part 1: What a wonder-full world
Interview with Michael Gungor By Crystal Kirgiss
First, a pronunciation detail. Gungor rhymes with hun´ ger (a longing, desire, craving, or passion) not Hun´ gore (Attila’s 5th-century legacy). Yes, I asked. It’s good to get these things cleared up right from the get go.
Second, a semantic clarification. It’s not so much a band as it is a liturgical post rock musical collective. Yes, I checked. It says so, right there on Michael’s Twitter profile.
Third, Michael Gungor is a self-proclaimed wonder junkie. “It opens my soul. It keeps me moving. It makes my heart beat in a way that feels like it should be beating.”
This is a man who knows what stirs him, who’s thought carefully, even contemplatively, about the universe around him and the God who set it all in motion.
“I used to think of God as just the object of wonder rather than the source and essence of wonder,” he says. “Now, though, when I experience wonder – in whatever form – I think God is in that somehow and is also the source of that somehow. So I’m always hoping for it, always looking for it, seeking it in the films I see, the music I listen to, the mountains that are all around me at home in Colorado.”
Seeking and reveling in wonder – whatever that may be for each person – should, in Michaels’ view, be “the normal state of things. This universe is a crazy, wild place. It’s not set up in a way that’s merely functional. We don’t eat just one little grain of something and then are satisfied for another year.” Instead, we are invited to really partake, “to enjoy the ecstasy of food and sex and color and music. The world is extravagant. The universe is extravagant. Experiencing that in all its fullness is a big part of what it means to be fully human.”
In his sermon “The Weight of Glory,” which Michael invokes in his recent book The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse, C.S. Lewis argues that nature, music, literature, and art often arouse in each of us a deep stirring and longing for something that “no natural happiness will satisfy.” But Lewis also cautions: “The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them.”
I suspect that Michael would echo a similar sentiment. For though Gungor’s music – with all of its lyrical soul, melodic grace, and rhythmic joy – invites us to experience wonder as the artistic and the divine dance together in breathless elegance, the music itself is neither the divine dance nor the culminating wonder. Rather, their music creates a space in which we briefly taste and faintly see the infinite source from which it rises. And indeed, our impassioned hunger (rhymes with Gungor) for this kind of artistic expression speaks volumes about the very nature of our souls and the wondrous God who created them.