Ex nihilo is a latin phrase that means to create something out of nothing. Jews and Christians use this idea to describe what God did when creating life in the beginning. The creators of STOMP, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNichols could have used almost the same phrase in describing their phenomenal stage show. They create life out of almost nothing. And it is a blast to see.
In one scene in the middle of the rhythm and dance show three performers sit below several 50 gallon drums with a large trash bag in front of them. They turn it into a contest over who can turn trash into a fun, precise percussion instrument. Soon all three are bopping, thrumming, and crumpling air-filled plastic bags, empty cups–with a lid and a straw, and a ball of wadded-up paper that had us almost dancing with the unique music. In the opening number the cast grabs brooms and sweeps and shuffles their boots across the stage to create the expectation that almost anything can produce a life-giving beat.
And we did come to life. We were held rhythm-bound, laughing, moving, and clapping for an hour and a half uninterrupted while they jumped, thumped, danced, clowned and beat a rhythm on anything: kitchen sinks, tubing, trash cans, themselves, each other, the stage, cigarette lighters–anything. Someone told me later that there was a violent thunder storm outside. We heard nothing.
STOMP didn’t only entertain; it made me wonder.
I watched the cast throwing brooms and rattling trash-can lids–while I unconsciously shufflled my feet, smiling, and remembering my days as a janitor at my high school. Several friends worked with me and we agreed to clean our individual floors quickly and then meet in the auditorium to clean the huge room together. It always ended up, however, that we gathered on the stage performing impromptu music with brooms, harmonicas, voices, anything we could find. Proving music and creativity will flow through any open channel. Even me.
Whence does this human creativity we humans so well express come? It does not and cannot come ex nihilo. It comes from the Being Who created us, ex nihilo. But that is not technically correct. God created us out of himself. C. S. Lewis, in The Magician’s Nephew, imagines Aslan singing Narnia into being. With every note dropping from the lion’s mouth something new and beautiful springs from the earth: trees, flowers, animals, humans. Life!
This is why we can create out of almost nothing. We were created creative. Even you.
You doubt? That’s the other thing I learned at STOMP. Remember the musical trash I mentioned above? How often do we consider ourselves little better than trash? Of little value? Sad but true. Many of us believe such trash. But it is not so. Not only does God not create trash but, just like the creative STOMP performers, God can take anything and squeeze beauty and life out of what many might throw away. Even me. Even you.
I was thoroughly entertained by STOMP. In the old sense of the word. Not only did the show give me pleasure but it made me entertain, open myself to, a new thought. If Cresswell and McNichols can take a love for drumming on dashboards and buckets and create so much life and fun with it, imagine what God can create out of us.