The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > Regina’s Journey: seek wisdom

Regina's Journey: seek wisdom

By: KAYA WEAVER

Regina’s Journey is a fairy-tale ballet with vivid imagery that embodies the abstract theme of seeking wisdom. The ballet’s theme and its use of concrete imagery to represent abstract ideas might bring to mind the biblical book of Proverbs, where the objective of obtaining wisdom is described using the metaphor of seeking something of great value.

 

Proverbs 2:3 If you indeed cry out for insight, 

and raise your voice for understanding; 

 

“Insight” and “understanding” are the objects of a vocal search. To bring this metaphor closer to home, I imagine calling after a pet that has ventured out of sight. When my cat disappears, I call out his name and make bird-like noises with my voice in hope that he will hear me, emerge, and come to me. I call out to the cat to let him know where I am and signal that I want to interact, to feed, pet, or play with him. Crying out for “insight” and “understanding” could signify reaching out to wisdom to establish that desire to connect and to make wisdom a part of whatever you’re doing.

This image also brings to mind the narrative of King Solomon asking God for wisdom. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon prays:

 

7 And now, O Lord my God, 

you have made your servant king in place of my father David, 

although I am only a little child; 

I do not know how to go out or come in. 

 

Solomon acknowledges that his vocation to rule Israel as king comes from God, and he confesses that he is as ignorant as a child, lacking the knowledge to govern well. He goes on:

 

9 Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, 

able to discern between good and evil, 

for who can govern this great people of yours?

 

Confessing his own lack of wisdom, Solomon seeks wisdom outside of himself, raising his voice to God to ask for God’s help governing and determining right and wrong. In Solomon’s story, to “raise your voice for understanding” is an act of leaning on God rather than his own insight (see Proverbs 3:5). To “cry out for insight” is to begin a search for wisdom, and in so doing to invite God’s direction for one’s actions.

Proverbs offers a pair of similes to further characterize the search for wisdom:

 

4 if you seek it like silver, 

and search for it as for hidden treasures–

 

In the first image of crying out for understanding, the subject could be standing still and waiting for wisdom to appear. But let’s return to my example of calling for my cat: if I want the cat to come out and play, I might start by standing in the living room calling his name, but if he doesn’t come in answer to my call, I go around the house looking in closets and other potential hiding places, searching until I find him. Likewise, Proverbs says that the effort to obtain wisdom involves actively seeking.

The similes in Proverbs 2:4 compare the wisdom a person seeks to “silver” or “hidden treasure.” Silver is both valuable and beautiful. It can be used as jewelry for bodily adornment, like the bracelets Abraham’s servant gives Rebecca as betrothal gifts (Genesis 24:53), or to create beautiful architecture such as the structures in the tabernacle (Exodus 26, 38) and the temple (1 Chronicles 28). Silver is also used as a medium of economic exchange, like when Ishmaelite traders give Joseph’s brothers silver to purchase Joseph as a slave (Genesis 37:28), or when value is assigned to a plot of land (Genesis 23:15).

Like silver, wisdom is sought after both for its inherent value–adding beauty to the appearance of a person or building–and for its versatility in acquiring other things of value. A person who possesses wisdom might draw the attention of others who wish to admire or learn from their understanding. A person who possesses wisdom can also employ that understanding to make choices that lead to their own and others’ well-being.

Adding another dimension to the image of wisdom as the goal of a search, it is compared to “hidden treasure.” Since the treasure is hidden, it isn’t sitting out in the open, ready for anyone to grab. It takes effort and skill to locate and obtain it. Only someone willing to apply themselves to the task of the search will find the treasure and be able to use it.

Finally, the “if…then…” structure of Proverbs 2:3-5 relates a cause and an effect. The effect, or result of searching for wisdom, is:

 

5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD 

and find the knowledge of God.

 

The content of wisdom isn’t merely a superficial awareness of how things work in the world. It involves a deeper understanding, rightly seeing God with reverence and awe. The real treasure, the valuable fruit of the search, is the knowledge of God to which wisdom points the seeker, because that is wisdom’s source.

When you watch Regina’s Journey, you’ll notice the story of a search for wisdom that echoes these images from Proverbs. Like King Solomon, the main character Regina is about to become the new leader of a people, and she needs wisdom and understanding to fulfill this role well. In the ballet, Regina’s mother Reine sends her on a quest to find a book that will instruct her in how to lead, and the story follows Regina’s search for the treasure of wisdom in the form of this book. Reine tells Regina that while she seeks the book of wisdom she must keep to the right path, much like “the paths of uprightness” that wise and God-fearing people walk through life (Proverbs 2:13).

Proverbs offers other images that add dimension to the picture of a search for wisdom. The “loose woman…who forsakes the partner of her youth and forgets her sacred covenant” represents tempting alternatives to the path of wisdom, paths that lead “down to death” (Proverbs 2:16-18) instead of to “length of days” (Proverbs 3:2).

The ballet employs similar images and brings them to life in a unique way through movement and narrative. The gremlin Alea points to alternative paths and attempts to tempt or trick Regina into departing from the path her mother tells her to take. Alea and the other characters embody characteristics of the different paths described in Proverbs–one crooked, the other upright–through their contrasting movement qualities, which are presented side-by-side in the ballet’s opening scene.

Reine and Regina dance with open postures and confident presence, but when Alea is introduced, her ragged costume and crouched, angular movement quality cue the villagers to move away from her. The story fills in the reasons as it reveals that Alea aims for personal gain at Regina’s and others’ expense. She pulls villagers off balance or tries to block their path. She even mimics Regina’s movement, as if trying to insist that her way is upright. But when she exits the first scene, her contracted shape contrasts with the villagers’ movement, accentuated by accompanying legato music, that shows extended, gently curving lines as they reach out their arms and stretch their legs in leaps. 

Alea is constantly avoided and isolated, whereas the villagers dance in groups, hold hands, and reach out to each other. The villagers physically lift Regina before she departs on her quest, suggesting that they support her journey, in contrast to Alea attempting to thwart Regina at every turn. The characters’ contrasting movement qualities not only represent the “crooked” and “straight” paths that a person can walk through life; they also illustrate how trust rather than conflict is the aim of wisdom. As it says in Proverbs 3:

 

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

    when it is in your power to do it…

29 Do not plan harm against your neighbor

    who lives trustingly beside you.

 

As you watch Regina’s Journey, I invite you to consider how the imagery and the narrative build up your understanding of the search for wisdom. Which of Regina’s obstacles, temptations, and choices call to mind experiences from your life journey? What means has God used to teach you wisdom? What emotions do the characters and events in the ballet evoke in you? How is God inviting you to discern the path of wisdom?

***

Scripture quotations in this post are from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.

Sign up for our mailing list

Receive updates about Glorify Performing Arts, including upcoming events and ways to get involved.

© Glorify Performing Arts is a registered 501(c)(3).
Glorify Performing Arts, Inc. © Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.

css.php