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September 2017
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Are you drawn in by this video, taken from the stage, of Gary Numan performing “Cars” in 2009 with Nine Inch Nails?

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I have watched it dozens of times, as if it were the passage to some reality I can only have by undergoing this video again and again until I get it. Recently, I began to get a sense for why.

The video captures quite well the heady and paradoxically “publicly private” atmosphere of being on stage in a rock show. As a musician, I have never come close to playing a venue of that size, but even the most modest bar band understands the force field created among the players that both connects and separates them from the audience. That dynamic of live performance is powerfully shown in “Cars,” as the camera wanders around to feature each musician and finds them intent in their business, each a world of energy unto themselves captured in their own immediately characteristic poses and glances, each immersed in their instrument and listening with intent and feeling to the others.

But theologically, “Cars” also shows something of the experience of what could be called sacred space, a demarcated zone in which liminal or socially unusual behaviors are permitted for the sake of conducting the assembled into another collective consciousness, simultaneously “lower” (abandoned more deeply to emotion, flesh, earth, sound) and “higher” (abandoned more deeply to the beyond in the midst of life).

Here, in “Cars,” is Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, rocking the tambourine. (Yes, the tambourine). That tambourine, in this song, becomes an essential part of the gateway to another experience. And then there is Numan, wiggling his fingers, shaking them out, in anticipation of pressing just one key on the synthesizer. One key on which he will lean with his forward weight, turning his body over that one key, as if that will make a difference to that synthesizer. But in some way, it will: that one key, and Numan’s rehearsal for it, and his total commitment to it, will be a key to the door of ecstasis, catapulting-beyond. Only when I saw Numan hulking over the synth in this video did I for the first time, after seeing