Saturday, December 09, 2006
I wonder what the homecoming of the human spirit will look like? Will it be like, as Father O’Donohue describes:
‘As stillness in stone to silence is wed
As a river flows in ideal sequence
As the moon absolves the dark of distance
As the breath of light awakens colour
As spring rain softens the earth with surprise
As the ocean dreams to the joy of the dance
As clay anchors a tree in light and wind
As twilight fills night with bright horizons
May beauty await you at home beyond.'
I’ve been trying to get my head round the Almighty, we’ve had a bit of a week together, my conversations (actually rants) have mirrored President Bartlett’s heated interaction with the Divine at Mrs Langenham’s(?!) funeral. And after all our altercations this week the only conclusion my thoughts have given me is that the more I know the less I understand. Life, with all its concurrent struggles and painful beauty, has brought me to the point where all the things I thought I knew I am now having to learn again. In the long run (and the long run is all there is), when everything is said and done, James was right; by their fruit shall we know the truthful ones. Shaped by the practice of church culture it just may be that I (and I don’t think I’m alone) have limited the context of the road to God. What do I mean by that? I mean that we have made God way too small.
Mystery is something sadly lacking in Western Christian spirituality, sure there are pockets of it, but they are pockets at best. Put bluntly the church’s response to Modernity put pay to that. We became the finest example of a culture preoccupied with answers rather than one who would embrace questions and mystery, and I would propose this is one of the major reasons as to why many people in the post-modern, post-Christian West struggle to connect with our Institution, and so consequently God.
For instance, where do we invest our love, passion and energy? Very few of us really go to the margins – the edge – partly due to the fear of what we will find, or because we are so conditioned that these are not the kind of landscapes that good Christian folk should be traversing. So often we are not looking. So often we are taught not to look, and because of that we become convinced that it is wrong to look. Unfortunately this is rather indicative of the lack of any mysterious, creative, imaginative, incarnate and relational connection that may possibly exist with those perceived to be outside the ‘chosen few’.
In reality we fail so often to authentically allow God’s presence in many a marginalised person’s world. Examples of this are littered in the Scriptures. I will vindicate my statement with the example of Peter. His reluctance to partake of specific foods was consistent with the Jewish tradition of holiness. This grew from a separatist approach to piety – that which divided, in church speak, the clean from the unclean. Here was a man who has followed the Christ in a way beyond even my imagination – but who didn’t realise the implications of the message of this same Christ until he met Cornelius.
For what it’s worth the Western church (all denominations included) needs to rediscover the mystery of what it means to be a friend of tax collectors, prostitutes, and drunkards. This will be messy and will not happen without a certain degree of theological tension. True holiness, real passion for humanity should not keep us from the margins of mystery – rather it should drive us into them - saturated in the faith of the one we follow. For within the margins we find God very much alive in places many of us would say (s)he doesn’t belong.
It seems to me that God is more involved in the love of humanity than the maintenance of an institution, and, as my friend Stocki says, ‘some may think this is blasphemy, but I believe it to be true. God lies here beside you in the gutter, while grace, like a mother, holds you.’
Thursday, December 07, 2006
...and i fear i have nothing to give, and i have so much to lose here in this lonely place called 3.30am...
still looking for the sails.....came across this, one of the many reasons my soul cannot find peace tonight...
As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time. You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You'll fight with your best friend. You'll blame a new love for things an old one did. You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back. Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.
the storm, both inside and out, still rages...
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Oh Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie?
I refuse to sing this anymore....The Holy Land is anything but... and the truth is - it wasn't 2000 years ago either!
Graham Greene once said that, 'you cannot conceive of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God' - i may be wrong but i think it will get worse before it gets better...
We are waiting for your rebirth!
We are looking forward to your return...
Come and see...
The Grotto becomes Ghetto!
Despite the thick Walls surrounding your home,
We are shivering from cold…
Winter is bleak…
Summer is beak
Fall is freak
Spring is weak
The animals are no longer allowed to warm up your Grotto
The magii are not coming again..they are forbidden from visiting.
The Magi couldn’t climb up the wall. It is too dangerous and risky.
Herods are controlling the roads from Persia to Palestine.
It is unsafe...
Gifts are stolen…
No one dares to say by whom...!
If you question authorities you might be labeled
“Terrorist” and then
There will be war on terrorism
Baby Jesus come and see...
Your least brothers...
Are without shelters…
They lack every basic thing.
No... Human security...
Rachel is still weeping not only for her children but
also for her neighbors’ kids...
Rachel has died again today after seeing how her grave has
She was upset... she loved to have a humble grave not a military fortress!!!
Rachel refused to violate human security of other kids
Rachel revolts because she doesn’t want
her people to worship a new golden cow called “security ”
Voices are heard in
Beit Hanon, Khan Younes ,
Nablus and Jenin and not only in Rameh …!
Crying and wailing – maiming
Justice is fading
Peace is laming
Reconciliation is wading
Healing is waiting
Baby Jesus ...
The Grinch has stolen Christmas
Children are for your waiting ..
Children are hoping…
They’d like to have a safe haven..
They love to live their life
Peacefully, gracefully ..
No fear! No Trauma! No Paranoia
If we are cold...
Your agape will warm us up
Your freedom and liberation beyond
Thought and imagination
Oh Lord! YOU emancipate
us despite all cuffs of
Enslavement and oppression
Your light will illuminate
Our path of transformation and reconciliation ...
Let us pray with the
Children and their families
Oh child of Cave… please expand the cave ... let it be
Bigger than the wall…
Please create tunnel underneath
To seek refuge at times of danger!
Let it be purified and warm
Our homeland is frigid
Our hearts are frozen
Our tears are pouring down
Christ is our hope
Building peace innerly and outwardly adobe by adobe
Life is again recreated in our veins as they throb
Blessed Christmas is a reminder that injustice is under probe
Benign victory will be yours and ours… we want to cope
(Zoughbi Zoughbi, Founder & Director of The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Centre, "WI'AM", in Bethlehem.)
Monday, December 04, 2006
'i heard the laughter at the depot
but my tears fell like the rain
when i saw them place that long white casket
in the baggage coach of the evening train
the baby's eyes are red from weeping
its little heart is filled with pain
oh daddy cried they're taking mama
away from us on the evening train
as i turned to walk away from the depot
it seemed i heard her call my name
take care of my baby and tell him darling
that i'm going home on the evening train
i pray that god will give me courage
to carry on 'til we meet again
it's hard to know she's gone forever
they're carrying her home on the evening train'
He wrestled with his demons all his life, thats why so many adored him, and why he was so loved - a broken man just trying to piece his life back together.
i thought the tears would stop,
but they don't.
how do we know where we belong?
the arc of the moon,
the autumn leaves that have fallen,
the ocean that is as blue as my eyes.
it's all so far far away,
the innocence of children playing...
what can we take when we go?
i have nothing to hold, nothing.
when i close my eyes i can picture my grandfather singing old gospels;
what does that mean?
broken down at the side of the road?
clipped wings that can no longer fly?
why when i look at me do i see you?
tonight it's hard to learn to breathe again,
but that's nobody's fault but my own...
...the wind is blowing and i can't get to the sails
that's what i'm feeling at 4am this morning
Monday, November 27, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
To be honest i hadn't intended to write about Remembrance Day.
What do you say, what can anyone say? It all seemed a little too difficult, too hard - but then again that's what makes wirting so precious and meaningful, it was never meant to be easy, taking on sensitive subjects that are emotionally charged.
I have read many blogs, and one of the comments made on Awareness' site has stirred me to put fingers to keyboard. I guess in the end we do not choose art, art in fact chooses us, in the end I have to write...I have no choice. I have reflected much those well known lines from Laurence Binyon's poem 'For the Fallen', and this is what that pondering has evoked:
To be honest I have no interest in the easy options regarding the rights and wrongs of war and remembrance. To me it is clear enough that the foundation of western civiization is tied to Christian conceptions of morality, and western politics have been dramatically shaped by Christian thinking. It is equally clear that Christianity is an historical religion - it is founded upon coming to know God, not as an abstract deity in a remote heaven, but rather as a first century Palestinian artisan. but whilst this may be fascinating, it doesn't help our questions, so back to the beginning.
Central to my thinking is a question common to contemporary historiography: 'What is history?', but my question digs further, 'what is history for?'.
All our talk about abstract entities, like history, must be grounded in some type of human experience. just as talk of love is grounded in our experience of travel, so that our relationships can come to a cross-road or a dead end, they can soar or force us to bail out, they can be on track or come off the rails, they can go full steam ahead or founder. So our talk of history is grounded in our experience of personal identity, of being somebody. The language of history then, is the language of national character, of internal pressures and external affairs, of moral battles and political decisions. The end result is that our understanding of history is as important in forming our individual characters as individual characters are in shaping history.
On Remembrance Day in Britain, the National Day of Mourning in Germany, Armistice Day across the Commonwealth, in the United states, ceremonies, where people gather to remember events mostly outside there own experience.
It is now over 90 years since Binyon's poem was penned - almost 9 million soldiers fell - the entire population of Guernsey 150 times over!
These are the facts the bare figures - they are not history, rather its foundation.. History itself is the search for meaning among the facts, for explanation and understanding, for causes, for motivations, tricky situations, clumsy manipulations, brilliant solutions and skillful orchestrations - the effort to discern the difference between fickle fortune and sensible strategy, feckless folly and wise policy. It is an attempt to gain insight into who we are by looking closely at how we ended up where we are now. History puts the present into perspective. What we opt to recall shapes the decisions we take in future.
Only those who forgot the cry "never again' could have supported the invasion of Iraq, for example. As Ayn Rand so pithily put the point, "Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive." Only those who forgot the true cost of war - to the victors as to the vanquished - could choose war before the exhaustion of other options.
I am beginning to believe more and more that there is a greater cost of war than that which is measured in cash, in body counts and privations at home. It is the dehumanizing damage done to the human soul
Our history is a tale of the influence of ignorance and greed, folly and violence pursued by the politically powerful, but played out in the lives of ordinary people - the one's who get hurt. If we do not learn from it, we are condemned to repeat it (something i found sobering as I explained why the sirens were sounding at 11am on the 11th of November). What value is democracy to an indifferent or ignorant public?
Salvation, the goal of all true religion, demands that we remember - WE remember - both the evils that can infest even a noble political system and the good that can spring forth from even the most hardened heart. Salvation demands that we remember - and repent of the evil; for if we united by our common history and our common humanity can hold the powerful to account and demand the good of all over the greed of the minority, only we can promote the pursuit of peace, can insist on common decency and fair policy.
So, in church yesterday, as I bowed in sorrow and reverence before the dead, I swore to myself once again to pit historical truth against fanatical propaganda: a genuine grief against moral indifference. 'Never again' That is what i said to myself - The violent must be held to account - and I pray to God for the strength to arm the next generation with the moral courage and vision to make it so.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
"Unexpected til we came & saw it
Unbelievable as soon as seen
Hit the mark despite not aiming for it
Isn't that how things have always been ?"
[Bertolt Brecht] - German Poet and Playwright
Dedicated to my dear friend Pip, who sees what most do not...
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Not much in the tank at present. I am praying for wisdom, trying to pause from thinking too much and so empty my mind. I need to stop the noise and listen to the still voice of the heart...praying the mystery
Paidraig (by the way, God was having a very good day when this lovely man was knit together - you will not find a kinder more gentle soul around) sent a beautiful prayer of Michael Leunig when he commented on my last post. It has taken me back into his work...this is all I have this week
Let us prepare for winter.
The sun has turned away from us and the nest of summer hangs broken in a tree.
Life slips through our fingers and,
as darkness gathers,
our hands grow cold.
It is time for reflection and resonance.
It is time for contemplation.
Let us go inside.
(Michael Leunig - 'A Common Prayer: A cartoonist talks to God' Lion, 1990)
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The seaon is changing, you can feel it, almost smell it in the air
Chapters, verses, times move on, summer gives way to autumn,
the coming of the fall
I knew this week would be hard
Saying goodbye is never easy
I knew people would describe a me I didn't recognise
I knew I would struggle to respond
I knew I would miss the office,
not so much the physical space but the creativity that has been nurtured there
and so given birth to a dreaming we never thought possible
For ten years I have tried to guide a community
together we have pushed our souls to see a bigger picture, a better way
And on tuesday the chapter closed
The last paragraph penned
The last sentence lived,
and as I looked around that room for the last time,
closed the door, the full stop placed
I will miss them all
the kind ones
I will miss them all
We have struggled together, and the struggle will go on,
but not with me
I have a new chapter to write
and I have no clue as to what it will look like
I have spent many happy days here,
but am bound elsewhere now
On Monday I remembered an old friend with tears
The one person I wish was around to be my guide
But he's not, he's gone and has been for 3 years
I love you Mike....always will, please check on me from time to time
When one stands on the edge of the desert,
it’s hard to see beyond the shimmering haze which dances on the horizon.
Whatever’s out there, I will not find it by peering into the difference.
I actually have to leave where I am to strike off into the unknown.
Along the way I will find places and experiences by which to learn to orient myself.
There are no maps.
There is just an invitation to enter the uncharted territory which stretches in front of me.
Monday, October 30, 2006
It's nearly 4.30 in the morning and I can't sleep - am watching hi-fidelity - always liked it, truth is I always thought Mr Cusak was a very underrated actor
But the reason I am writing is because about 17 minutes into the film after his break up with laura he puts on a record - and that record was the one that takes me to my happy place - it takes me home, to a home I've never known. It's the record/album/CD that if i only had time to listen to one record/album/CD this would be it - it defines who I am and who I aspire to be, embodies the struggles of my childhood, the hopes of my adolescence and the out working of an ever developing future
....It was 1981 and my cousin Anne (she was 15 at the time and i thought she was the coolest person on the planet) had just bought The River by Bruce Springsteen....I will never forget how I felt when I first heard it - it left me speechless and still sends shivers down my spine...maybe I was blind, but it made me believe that anything was possible, that I didn't have to do what my daddy done - that I could sculpt my own world - it's an album that still to this day helps me get my shit together. The line, 'is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?' still haunts me but forces me to look beyond my own cynicism to what might be...Springsteen will always be the quintessential romantic who captures the hopes and dreams of the ordinary and makes them believable and tangible - his works continue to express the inexpressible to me
So, you got an hour to live, or you're off to some deserted island and can only take one record, what would it be - what's the one album/CD that takes you home?
Friday, October 27, 2006
May we never forget those who have given what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose
Living for a cause greater than ourselves enables us to face eternity with the strength that comes from faith. There is assurance that even today, in our culture of isolation and death, there is hope.
We need to hear stories of many people who overcame, or are overcoming their greatest obstacles. They don't present a cure-all from life's struggles and problems, but for those ready to go beyond quick-fix rememdies - i hope stories, tragic as it is, like Rachel's offer stepping stones to a more fulfilled life
There is a need, a real need, in a world where the air is fast becoming to angry to breathe for unflinching courage and the willingness to take risks against terrible injusticies - you can't fight fear with fear - only love...
Rachel Corrie 1979-2003
'On a sunday down in Gaza
Rachel Corrie took her stand
As the bulldozer kept coming
Her blood was shed upon the land
But she held high the torch for freedom
She lit a flame without a doubt
For the ones the world's forgotten
It's a flame that won't go out...'
'Many of you will of heard varying accounts of the death of Rachel Corrie, maybe others will have heard nothing of it. Regardless, I was 10 metres away when it happened 2 days ago, and this is the way it went.
We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be threatened with demolition. Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in it's view. They were in Radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. They knew where she was, there is no doubt.
The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed. All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.
I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
You know sometimes i think i have my head way too far up my ass, that's why i removed this post - cognitive dissonance - seems others think differently...thank you, i guess actually we all suffer from self-doubt and worth
I guess you can't help no-one if you can't tell them the right story...
I once heard apologetics described as 'love in practice to the thinking man and woman' - i like that because for many people Christianity is a memory or being able to justify religion as a fact or concept without feeling the stunning magnitude of its ethical demands - it's as if the heart of faith has been hidden from us. And so consequently many people are like frail urchins of a graceless existence whose hope lies not in feudal promises but in the luminescence of the human spirit.
Whether driven by courage or desperation many a persons promised land is reached because of a decision to travel the hard road of free-will and self determination in search of peace/love/god. The omnipotent wishing to stride through the front door of heaven with full credentials is something of a distant past - nowadays i get the feeling that the humble simply wish to avoid hell.
And so off the back of my last post, i kind of feel that the pressing difficulty for the communication of faith in present times is the lack of common ground with others; this has little to do with a lack of interest in the central questions addressed by Christianity, rather everything to do with the perception that the church has little authentic involvement in the vital issues.
The abiding purpose surely is to begin to attempt to make some sense out of the world we find ourselves in, with the hope that we might find ways to speak about the divine within it - to quench the thirst for something 'real' enough to withstand the rigours of existence. My take? When there are tears and laughter alongside ritual and prayer and singing, then we will know that Jesus is once more in the world, and i must remeber that the divine voice is not always expressed in words - it is made known as heart-consciousness - a language i think we all need to learn...
Why? It makes us humble, and humility opens our ears. It enables us to acknowledge the truth of who we are and who God is. Only the humble can understand the deep resonance of God's voice in the whole of creation. humility withstands any arrogant tendancy to reduce scriptures and doctrines to our purposes. When we live in humble presence, God may just reveal things to us whilst we read insights that transcend human experience.
Am pretty sure i have blogged this story before, it does though embody the foundation of faith for me:
There's a scene in Thornton Wilder's play 'The angel that trouble the waters' where a doctor suffering from meloncholy comes to the magic pool with healing powers to be healed of his troubles and his gloom and sadness but the angel guarding the water tells him he cannot enter. The man says, 'but how can I live this way?' the angel again says, 'I'm sorry this moment is not for you, this healing is not for you'. So the doctor again pleads 'but I have to get into the water, I can't live this way' And the angel then says...no this moment is not for you, and he says, but how can i live this way? And the angel says to him, doctor, without your wounds, where would your power be? it is your melancholy that makes your lower voice tremble into the hearts of men and women, the very angels in heaven cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living...in loves service, only wounded soldiers can serve....
Saturday, October 21, 2006
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose"
I never thought I would ever become anything resembling a 'thinker', let alone someone who actually gets paid (beer money) to put those thoughts on to paper (well, keyboards and then ping them off through cyber-space to an editor) - I was thrown out of English Literature for asking too many questions about Mrs Macbeth's sexual leanings, I became far too animated in my longing to know what she really wanted when she cried, 'un-sex me!' - and most people just assumed I would make it as a rubgy or football player (injuries meant neither were an option).
In the end I turned to the only thing I was good at - the arts
And so here I am thinking about some things far too much, and some things not nearly enough...
Today I have been thinking about firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me explain that one a little. For me the obvious theological centre is the incarnation, and I wonder if this was a kind of hotmail address that Jesus had during his 30 odd years here? Think about it - he's a long way from home and just maybe he picked up messages using this email? Too far fetched? I'm not so sure...
The Kingdom of God is exactly that - heaven, here now and present. C.S. Lewis alludes to this in his remarkable work, 'The Great Divorce' - that heaven is an intensification of life rather than an abstraction from it. If that is so, finding heaven isn't about waiting until we die for some etheral nirvana, but having our eyes opened to what is already here.
'Thin places' (like Iona and Greenbelt) are spots where heaven becomes easier to experience through some sort of warp in the divine force field. God is present everywhere and anywhere - heaven is all around us - even in and through the mundane and dare I say it, the profane.
Faith therefore does not involve an escape or withdrawal from life, but a radical plunge into it and love for it. Because of creation and the incarnation the earth is sacred. It is the womb and the dreaming of the hopes of God, and so it is that we must honour the earth and respect it by the way we tend it. Not only would I say that heaven is in earth but that after the ascension, earth is in heaven: the risen Christ has nail holes in his hands and a scar in his side from a spear - in truth, humanity is now a very real and visible part of the Godhead
The eucharist is one way of making this visible - the fact that earthly life is suffered with heavenly glory - perhaps we should stop hoping for the end of history when God will call 'a wrap', and start working with God in transforming history, here and now - midwives, if you like.
Just maybe we won't eventually go to live where God is, but rather that God has already moved to where we are and is planning to stick around until earth becomes heaven - email@example.com? Who knows, is that heresy or is it that, maybe, I think too much
Whatever, as we journey we have 3 options
i, to be alive and thirsty
ii, to be dead
iii, to be addicted
There are no other choices. Most of the world lives in addiction; most of the church has chosen to be dead. Followers of the carpenter are called to a life of longing....
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
A young girl was suffering from a rare form of blood disease. Her only hope was to receive a transfusion from someone with exactly the same blood type as hers. After testing various members of the girl's family, it was discovered that her ten year old brother had a precise match.
The doctor talked to him, and gently raised the possibility of his providing a transfusion for his sister. 'Your sister is dying,' he explained, 'but your blood would be able to save her. Are you willing to give your blood?' The boy hesitated for a moment, and the doctor saw that he was anxious at the prospect. But the lad quickly agreed to the process.
After the transfusion, the doctor went to visit the brother to see how he was. 'Tell me ,' implored the boy, 'how long until I die?' Only then did the doctor realise his young patient's misunderstanding, and know that he had been willing to give his life so that his sister might live.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
"...Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you...”
Now did he write or did he draw? And if so, what did he write or draw? What mark came from his fingers to bring about such a remarkable conclusion to this scene?
I think the marks in the sand we more powerful than his words, he was far more subversive, nuanced and cunning than we give him credit....but what the hell were those marks?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
sometimes we run from the hands of kindness and every now and then we run from the eyes of friends, but you know, sometimes an open door is just so so hard to find
for the record, i am not wallowing...just being real, because when we truly know our devils and our deeds, we need to be prepared to bleed
SLOW EMOTION REPLAY
(From the album "DUSK" by The The)
The more I see
The less I know
About all the things I thought were wrong or right
& carved in stone
So, don't ask me about
War, Religion, or God
Love, Sex, or Death
Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world
But I don't even know what's going on in myself.
You've gotta work out your own salvation.
With no explanation to this Earth we fall
On hands & knees we crawl
And we look up to the stars
And we reach out & pray
To a deaf, dumb & blind God who never explains.
Every body knows what's going wrong with the world
But I don't even know what's going on in myself.
Lord, I've been here for so long
I can feel it coming down on me
I'm just a slow emotion replay of somebody I used to be.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Mister Tumnus' blog the other day I have been thinking about our last and best mystery, and I have decided that the eucharist is the real presence where the veil comes down; the mystery where the balance between light and darkness is apparent.
ps, wouldn't it be great if jesus really looked like that - i mean look at those feet - and what is that waist-coat doing?
Monday, September 18, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Cary blogged this a while back now and just sent it to me in an email and it is my humble opinion that it is more than good enough for todays blog...as she said in her mail, very ikon and painfully beautiful
I'm the hunter who's killed by his dog
I'm the statue burnt down into lead
I'm the problem you don't want to solve
I'm the lover who dies in his bed
So rain on the pretty ones
Your useless lives don't speak to us
Rain on the pretty ones
You leave no footprints in the dust
Adventurous you used to be
But now you seem so dead to me
I'm the doctor with a needle in his arm
I'm the cartoon that makes you feel sad
I'm the secret that everyone has
I'm the cancer that never turns black
So rain on the pretty ones
Your useless lives don't speak to us
Rain on the pretty ones
You leave no footprints in the dust
Adventurous you used to be
But now you seem so dead to me
I'm the actor who's scared to perform
I'm the sunshine that hides in the clouds
I'm the father that couldn't be found
I'm the cuckoo that never flew south
I'm the Christian that cannot forgive
I'm the dreamer who jumps off the bridge
I'm the sinner who hates how he lives
I'm the liar who gets what he gives
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
So when a friend sent me this link I nearly pissed my pants. Take a look and listen, it's fantastic!
It's All About ME ME ME ME ME
and talking of causing a stir, my good brother in alms Rabbi Niles has just written the "world of gonzo," it is 'rife with indignation, agitation, cynicism and a "biting urge to revolt," this book delivers such a soulful commentary that it could just as easily be called "Judaism Unplugged." Like musicians who return to the roots of their profession and play without electronica, Rabbi Goldstein, founding rabbi of the New Shul in Manhattan, reminds readers—whether they are new seekers or lapsed practitioners of Judaism—to confirm their knowledge of the "nuts and bolts" of their tradition before wistfully seeking the mystical. "Judaism, when presented in its best and most authentic light, doesn't coddle—it confronts," he says. Similarly, the rabbi pulls no punches, but manages to do so with the easy style of a coffeehouse conversation. Using a combination of Jewish history and personal anecdotes, he offers a wide range of alternative ways to explore Judaism individually or in small groups, if large congregations are not appealing. The extensive resource list that includes congregations, organizations and recommended reading promises to serve readers of all ages. With this edgy, funny, wise book, Goldstein may just have found a way to ensure the survival of the religion for another 6,000 years, - worth a look and maybe even a double purchase?? Every home should have them!
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was often times filled
with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the
And is not the lute that soothes you spirit, the very wood that was hollowed
When you are joyous,
look deep into your heart and you shall find
it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful
look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth,
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay sorrow
is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at you board, remember
that the other is asleep upon you bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between you sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weight his gold and his silver, needs
must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
(from "The Prophet" By Kahlil Gibran)
In memory of James Dean
he was 21 and murdered in town last saturday night in St. Peter Port
Friday, September 08, 2006
(The lovely Dr Higgins, Father O'Donohue and Me...guernsey? guernsey? tax, tax, guernsey)
The other day someone asked me where I came up with the name 'Harbour of Ourselves'. Well, it found its genesis whilst on retreat (titled 'When you enter into freedom, possibility comes to meet you'), with the good people of Zero28 in Belfast last autumn. There, we were led by the wonderful mystic John O'Donohue, a man whose speech is poetry itself. Never is a word wasted, its as if his heart and mind are so in tune with one another beauty can't help but drip from his lips.
One particular gem stood out. He said, "A way of coming back to the harbour of ourselves is to ask who we are. It takes a whole lifetime to take your place in your own life. Solitude is given to you to receive yourself. Maybe dear friends it's time to illuminate God in the mirror of our souls?"
So often we are on the run from ourselves - yet maybe if we were to sit down and travel to the heart of our own darkness and face our demons, we begin to see that they don't have the power over us we once thought. So just maybe we should harvest time by the appropriate framing of invocation and blessing...and find the harbour of ourselves.
ps, the pic was taken by none other than the good doctor himself - dear god, a man who can multi-task!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
© Mary Oliver.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
...given to me by my buddy Rudi:
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways, truer answers, or more beautiful, promising potentialities
...wise words from one so hung over
Saturday, September 02, 2006
My final thoughts about Greenbelt 06 revolve around Dave Andrews talk concerning the 'Sermon on the Mount. 'We can't change anybody but ourselves' was his soundbite and his seminar explored how we can practise the be-attitudes and be the change we want to see in the world.
I have read these words of Christ every day since I came home - I had forgotten how subversive Jesus was
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
For some reason I haven't been able to get two people out of my head, Mike Yac, who observed that the truth might indeed set you free, but it also makes you 'odd', and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spoke of Christians as 'peculiar people'.
I meet too many people who find church a prisoner of rather than a liberator of culture. Martin Wroe prudently said of Mike Yaconelli, that he was a cultural rather than political radical, which is where he and Bonhoeffer differ. For me Yac offered much more than a cultural/theological soundbite. With Mike Yaconelli theory became practice, and truth took on a life of its own, which is where he and Bonhoeffer dovetail beautifully. Bonhoeffer during the ‘Germanizing’ (something he opposed by establishing the ‘Confessing Community’) of the church in the 1930’s understood that Christianity had to address the centre of life from within the less popular religious margins. I believe its fair to say that the kind of purification Hitler was demanding created somewhat of a discord between that which Bonhoeffer believed was an accurate reflection of the community of faith described by Christ.
Whether we like it or not, the community of Greenbelt are, as a people, very odd indeed. Bonhoeffer described those like us as peculiar. And maybe that has something to do with the fact that so many of us struggle to find a spiritual home, a community that allows us to be real about our messy lives without the worry of dogmatic peers watching and judging our every move.
Maybe it’s because we follow the inner voice rather than run with those voices that seem to make faith trendy or safe and even worse easy? I remember Mike Riddell saying to me once that his experience of life had led him to the conclusion that Christians who are unwilling to look outside the box are, as a rule, the most dysfunctional people around. There’s a very important lesson here. And that is the difference between someone who is dysfunctional and someone who is odd or peculiar. For us to understand this we need to unpack further Bonhoeffer’s peculiar people.
He begins to describe what will mark (what kind of behavior and character we should expect) this odd kind of person in is most famous work, The Cost of Discipleship. A book that, whilst being slightly academic in language and style, is both a thorough account and compelling interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. Funny isn’t it how Jesus chose to share what many feel is the heart of his teaching, not in the Synagogue but on a mountainside – in the wilderness if you like to the outsiders – the peculiar people (Though if you read Luke’s account the Beatitudes they are not on a mountain at all – what’s that all about?). I suggest a twenty-minute recess at this point to pour a glass of wine, put on John Coltrane quietly and reflect on why…
Bonhoeffer's major concern is something he describes as cheap grace. He suggests that grace has become so watered down that it no longer resembles the grace of the New Testament, the costly grace of Jesus. In using the expression costly grace, Bonhoeffer is alluding to the grace that has brought pandemonium into the world by turning it upside down – it’s something Philip Yancey describes as ‘truly our last best word. It contains the essence of the gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun’ , or as U2 suggest:
‘Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain…
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark no longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace finds goodness in everything’
In short, cheap grace is the intellectual consent to a doctrine without a real transformation in the life of the spiritual refugee. Real grace, in Bonhoeffer's assessment, is a grace that will cost a person their life. It is the grace made precious by the life of Christ that was given to acquire humankind’s deliverance and purpose. He suggests that cheap grace arose out of man's desire to be saved, but to do so without becoming a disciple that is willing to offer their life as a sacrifice for others. The doctrinal system of the church with its lists of behavioral codes becomes a substitute for the Living Christ, and this cheapens the meaning of discipleship.
The true believer must resist cheap grace and enter the life of active discipleship, and by that I mean more (and I’d wager my house Bonehoeffer would agree) than quiet times and the monthly prayer meeting. Faith can no longer mean sitting still and waiting for the Christian equivalent of nirvana. Christians must wake up and follow Jesus into the margins (wilderness even) of life. Bonhoeffer puts particular importance on the beatitudes for understanding how we practically live out an incarnate life in this foreign land, because within this teaching of Jesus we find an extraordinary list of qualities that actually do make us seem (to the majority) slightly odd or even, shall we say, peculiar.
Firstly there’s the poor in spirit. What’s so peculiar about them you may ask? Well, the truth is they have accepted the loss of ‘all things bright and beautiful’, you know, attributes like prestige, wealth, status etc. Most importantly though they accept the loss of self, (and we must remember the context of which the original crowd heard this and note the difference between that and our own culture) so allowing a more authentic following of the Carpenter from Nazareth. Those who mourn are those who try to live without the peace and prosperity of this world. Mourning is the conscious rejection of celebrating in what the world celebrates in, and so finding purpose and fulfillment in the life offered by the person of Jesus Christ. And whilst we’re alluding to the landscape of life in all its fullness, I’d like to (just as my grandma used to) put my two penneth in as to what I think it actually means.
Theological band-aids are fast becoming the bane of my life; I loathe them with a passion. What am I ranting about? Well, the kind of nonsense that for too long now I have heard from the archaic halls of Christendom, that if you come to Jesus everything in life will be a bed of roses. Nothing I believe could be further from the truth. Now I know that Jesus brings, and is ‘Good News’, but that to be blunt is only half the story. As John Bell says, ‘those who wish to know the bliss of shouting “Hallelujah” need to know the yearning of those who cry “How long?”’
Somewhere between heaven and hell lies our suffering world. When T.S. Elliot wrote about our inability to bear much reality, he could scarcely have imagined the truth his words would hold for subsequent generations. What do we do when the world hurts too much? How do we live when we become so numb we can’t feel anything anymore, when we feel dead, lost or trapped? Much of what passes for spirituality is from a perspective that is clean and comforting – seven rules for this, twelve steps for that – and in many respects our understanding of a full and successful spiritual life is governed by shadows making way for light, and ambiguity for clarity.
Yet most people would agree that life is difficult. Many people I meet are, in some way, broken on the wheels of living. Many parts of their life (particularly faith) are messy and uncontrolled, and what I want to suggest is that maybe this enables us to see and experience the spiritual – to meet with God where the finite confronts the infinite – with more authenticity. Just maybe God is as present in the darkness as in the light. Freud used to say that people have faith because of a desire for ‘wish-fulfilment’. Marx went as far to say that religious faith ‘is nothing more than narcotic’. What I would propose is that if God is really omnipresent, if God really is to be found everywhere – then surely God is very much present in the muck and mire of this world – and that, I believe, is very good news.
Augustine once said that, ‘everywhere a great joy is preceded by a great suffering’. He understood that by depriving some senses others were heightened, and that our spiritual experience is nourished best in the rough country of life. It is important to remember that isolation from pain may also dull the experience of pleasure. Faith in God offers no insurance against tragedy, and I lament that we don’t hear this enough from our communities of faith. My experience as I use a bar stool as a pulpit and a Guinness as a sacrament, is that most people are of the opinion that what the Church actually communicates is, ‘come to Jesus and all will be well’. Nothing, I believe, could be further from the truth, being a Christian complicates the matter even further.
Ultimately when Jesus is faced with personal suffering, he reacts in much the same way we do: with dread and fear (Luke 22: 39-46). In reality we are slow to embrace the broken of this world, or enter and walk the shattered avenues of those crippled with suffering and heartache – those places of extremes, of solitude, where we enter a mysterious compact with our neighbours. Our response to suffering depends largely on the outcome of our struggle in those frontiers.
I am conscious that our job is not to bring in the kingdom but bear witness to it. We need to rediscover the man of sorrows, where evil, pain and suffering are nourished by tears; that place where compassion becomes a signpost pointing on beyond itself. A deciding factor in my own decision to follow ‘The Carpenter’ was that he is the God who suffers with, and for me. And for those who are imprisoned, shipwrecked, or just broken on the wheels of living, just maybe we need to embrace that brokenness, and understand that some things just can’t be fixed this side of some much better place. Ok, rant over, back to the beatitudes.
Bonhoeffer states that the meek are those who do not speak up for their own rights. They continually give up their rights and themselves to follow the call of Christ first, and in consequence to the service of others. Likewise, those who ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ (though I believe righteousness is better understood as justice), also give up the expectation that they can ever turn this world into paradise by themselves, their hope is in the outworking of this particular teaching from the Mountain made manifest in the ordinary odd people of Christ as he inspires and dwells within.
The merciful have given up their own dignity and become devoted to others, helping the needy, the ill and the outcast. I remember hearing a very moving story a couple of years ago concerning Bono and his now late father Bob Hewson. Whilst on the European leg of the ‘Elevation Tour’ (just prior to 9/11) Bono’s father was close to passing on into the next life. Bono would travel back to Ireland most nights to visit his father – at times falling asleep at his bedside, next to him in the hospital.
When he passed away Bono commented that he’d prayed that his dad would die with dignity, but as he watched his father deteriorated he said that he realized that dignity was a ‘man made thing’ and that when we come into this world and leave it it’s all pretty messy – so he prayed instead that he would die with humility. A wise observation in my book, and one that that probably gave the Hewson family far more peace than any dignity could provide.
The pure in heart are no longer troubled by the call of this world, for they follow the call of the wild untamable spirit of God; they have resigned themselves to the call of Christ and His desires for their lives. The peacemakers can't bear the violence that is so often used to solve problems. This point would be of special significance for Bonhoeffer, who was writing on the eve of World War II. Those who live by the way of shalom maintain friendship where others would find a reason to break off a relationship. These individuals always see another option, a better way. Those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake are willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. Any and every just cause becomes their cause because it is part of the overall work of Christ. Suffering becomes the way to communion with God. To this list is added the final blessing given to those who are victimized for righteousness sake. These will (according to Bonhoeffer) receive a great reward in heaven and be likened to the prophets who also suffered.
Bonhoeffer's emphasis on our acceptance of suffering being a very real and allowed part of Christian spirituality is directly connected to the suffering of Christ. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann prophetically observed this as the year 2000 drew near, ‘it seemed that the “new” millennium was already old and ruinous.’ - recognising that the sense of life in the post-modern world is no longer shaped by the hubris of belief in progress, but rather in the sadness of shattered hopes. He concluded that, ‘Suffering can assail us with its ferocity, because the darkness from which it comes is so near.’
John O’Donohue describes suffering as the dark valley of broken belonging. Moreover he suggests that darkness is one of our closest companions because we were conceived and shaped in it. It could be said that because of this, something within us knows the darkness more deeply than it knows the light. Should we choose to ignore this, I fear we will only continue to feed the cancer of our malaise, and the church will become even more compartmentalised from society than it already is. As the psychologist Scott Peck suggests, ‘Compartmentalisation is easy. Integrity is painful. But without it there can be no wholeness. Integrity requires that we be fully open to the conflicting forces and ideas and stresses in life.’ Our job is surely about trying to bridge the two worlds we live in, between the ethereality of religion and the mess of everyday life. I believe that faith is more than a challenge. It is pain. For God’s reality is inextricably linked to God’s absence. This just might be, if we recollect the paschal mystery, the proof He exists at all. His absence is part illusory.
Thankfully though, just for a few days every August, God steps out of the shadows and allows a peculiar people a moment of tranfiguration...well, just maybe, and I am very grateful to Dave Andrews for taking me back to the Sermon on the Mount and kicking me out of my complacency
Friday, September 01, 2006
Having a beer with Jim Wallis and Dave Andrews in Pip's late night L5 circle, spending time with the children, introducing ex-street child Sikhumbuzo on main stage during the opening ceremony, being invited to eat tea with those provocative, deep and loving east belfasters, sampling organic beer, crying at the wonderful Martyn Joseph & Stewart Henderson's 'because we can', eating curry with the lovely John Bell or eating burritos with the sweet Steve Lawson and the good Dr are just some of the magical memories of GB '06...
But the pivotal moment arrived as the festival drew to a close. Unnerving without being intimidating he stands over 6ft 5 tall, his presence beguiling and strong, you kind of get the notion you are in the company of someone remarkable, someone who might just cause you to be different after your encounter...
Michael Franti walked on stage and blew us all away to a land of possibility with intoxicating 'songs of redemption'. In a mesmerising set he embodied the spirit of Greenbelt - even remarking that;
"I sing my songs not to change to people's minds but to open them and Greenbelt is a mind-opening event..."
"So many people here from different backgrounds all exploring faith and culture through the arts in harmony and unity – I’ve never been to another festival like it …"
In a recent interview he said, "Right now, people ask me, 'What can one person do to change what's going on with the world?' I don't know what one person can do except to connect with other people. In doing that, each of us play our roles," he says. "My role is as a storyteller and a songwriter. I'm somebody who is trying to keep the spirits of other people up, despite all the chaos and fear around us"
In the summer of 2004, Franti travelled with a group of friends to Iraq, the territories within the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. He took video cameras and a guitar with the intent of exploring the human cost of war. A compelling soundtrack, visual and musical montages, and Franti's intimate voiceovers make the film speak to the MTV, X, Y & Z generations, as well as the baby boomers. With its guerrilla style footage captured in active war zones, the documentary is unlike the many academic and politically driven pieces in the marketplace, instead offering the audience a sense of intimate travel and the opportunity to hear the voices of everyday people living, creating and surviving under the harsh conditions of war and occupation.
One thing I did notice as he played and then talked with anyone who wished to engage him, was that he had nothing on his feet. Evidently since 2000 he has been walking through life barefoot except, occasionally, for going on an airplane or into a restaurant when he wears flip-flops. Franti feels there is a division in the world between the consumer nations who buy shoes and the nations where people make shoes but can't afford them. So he decided to go for three days without shoes, and liked it ever since.
So as another thin place began to give up her fight, I was left with thought; Who could see heaven and not want to stay?
These fantastic pics were taken by the very talented Andy Stonehouse, © F8-infinity 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Coupland may have written it....but i believe it speaks for all those who gather in the midst of the sacred space called Greenbelt:
"Now - here is my secret:
I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love."
(Douglas Coupland, Life After God)
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
There must be few places on earth that are as precious and magical
Few places where the veil between heaven and earth so thin
Few places where stones are not thrown
and the planks in our own eyes are sought
rather than looking for the specks in others
Few places where the fragrance of heaven is so recognized
Few places where grace dances so freely
Few places where vulnerability is shared
and humility expressed,
a place where all the prodigals can come home
A place of being held
being accepted no matter what
where all are appreciated
and held dear
An exquisite home for the refugees, the broken and the marginalised
enchanting asylum for those broken on the wheels of living...
a sacred space
a place of light
it's a place we call greenbelt
...more to follow...
Thursday, August 24, 2006
A wonderful prayer written by a wonderful man for wonderful humans at the most wonderful of festivals...
Help us remember that the idiot who cut us up in traffic
is a single Mother who has worked nine hours that day
and is rushing to Greenbelt to cook a meal and settle the kids down so they can have a good first day at the festival
and spend a few precious moments with her friends
who have saved hard to get to Greenbelt.
Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man
who can't handle his change correctly is a worried YMCA Hostel resident who is behind in his rent and cannot afford the cheapest hotdog on site.
At the same time balancing his apprehension over his fear
of not getting on well with the group he came with.
Remind us Lord, that the scary looking young woman
rolling her eyes and cannot stop moving her body,
is a recovering slave to addictions
that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
Remind us that the scars of the self harming woman,
scarred for life,
is just like me with my scars
that and hinder and equip at the same time.
And remember that we, maybe,
can just hide ours better.
Help us to remember that the old couple
walking annoyingly slow through the festival site
and blocking our process
are savouring this moment,
knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week,
this will be the last year that they will be at Greenbelt together.
Creator God, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us,
the greatest gift is love.
That it is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear.
But those for who,
on first impressions,
make us shudder, or sigh or grunt with irritability.
Open our soul and press your finger tip right on that part,
the part to raise your love to the surface.
So it touches the practical.
The love department
© Pip Wilson
Monday, August 21, 2006
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Well, seeing as Phil tagged me (I didn't play tag at school - sadly I am old enough to have the scars of british bulldog before it was banned by health and safety!) here are my answers for the meme:
One book that changed your life:
Without question 'The Road Less Travelled' by the late M. Scott Peck. The opening sentence could be part of any gospel narrative...."Life is difficult". A timeless lesson - though I would say that we are the ones who make it so with our choices. It's not really a self help pile of nancy crap but a harsh look at how we fuck up and maybe can re-build our brokennes. The book talks both about resistance to grace and the welcoming of grace. It's not easy, and often comes with responsibilities (the cheap grace Bonhoeffer speaks of). Accepting grace often welcomes more than we bargained for, but also often more than we hoped.
One book that you have read more than once:
Probably my favourite book of them all, 'The Grapes of Wrath' by Steinbeck - an unquenchable tale of human struggle, of the pain we cause one another and the dignity and earthy integrity that some embody - it's a story that speaks to the humanity of everyone.
One book you'd want on a desert island:
God not sure. Phil's answer is a good one - I too have 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' and have still not read it. I would probably say the Bible because there is still some of it I have not read and perhaps should - there's also some of it I have read and need to read again and again and again...
One book that made you laugh:
Down Under by Bill Bryson made me laugh out loud in an airport bar so many times the tender asked me to "keep it down a little could you mate" - just the line from the first paragraph; "FLYING INTO AUSTRALIA, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is..." I laughed so much and hard I thought i would pass out - many around me wished I had!
One book that made me cry:
Easy choice. Just recently I read Night by Elie Wiesel. It tells the story of a teenager wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare world of the death camps present him with an intolerable question: how can the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life's essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel's lifelong project to bear witness for those who died. Here's what I mean:
' Let us try and imagine what passed within him while his eyes watched the coils of black smoke unfurling in the sky, from the oven where his little sister and his mother were going to be thrown with thousands of others: "Never shall i forget that night, the first night in camp, which turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall i forget that smoke. Never shall i forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies i saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall i forget those flames that consumed my Faith forever. Never shall i forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall i forget those moments which muredered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall i forget these things, even if i am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never"
....And i, who believe that God is love, what answer could i give my young questioner, whose dark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which had appeared one day upon the face of the hanged child? What did i say to him? Did i speak of that other Israeli, his brother, who may have resembled him - the Crucified, whose Cross has conquered the world? Did i affirm the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine, and that the conformity between the Cross and the suffering of men was in my eyes the key to the impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished? Zion, however, has risen up again from the crematories and the charnel houses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is through them that it lives again. We do not know the worth of one drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what i should have told this Jewish child. But I could only embrace him, weeping.'
One book that you wish had been written:
'Jesus: The Stand Up Years' - evidently he was pretty good at it - the one about a camel and the eye of a needle is said to be a classic according to the critics.
One book you wish had never been written:
With out doubt 'Ecclesiastes' - I mean, what's that doing in the Bible? One quirky messed up book! (actually come to think of it That's the reason i like it!) - So actually it would have to be anything by Jilly Cooper - do people actually read her shit?!
One book that you're currently reading:
I read a few at a time but the one I am returning to most is John Pilgers 'Freedom Next Time' It's a bloody hard book to read as it chronicles man's inhumanity to man, the appalling lies and silence from the mainstream media, and the amount of innocent deaths around the globe for the betterment of the few, is hard to take. Pilger has never held back with the truth, despite numerous death threats over his career, banned from countries and standing up to those that perpetrate these crimes against humanity. As Chomsky says, Pilger continues to be a prophetic beacon of light in a dark world
One book you've been meaning to read:
'The Fate of Africa' by Martin Meredith. Got this last Christmas and still not really picked it up. I fell in love with this regal country on my first visit and realised I was more than ignorant when it comes to its history...I should really pick this one up and start to educate myself. The synopsis is: 'The value of Meredith's towering history of modern Africa rests not so much in its incisive analysis, or its original insights; it is the sheer readability of the project, combined with a notable lack of pedantry, that makes it one of the decade's most important works on Africa. Spanning the entire continent, and covering the major upheavals more or less chronologically—from the promising era of independence to the most recent spate of infamies (Rwanda, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone)—Meredith (In the Name of Apartheid) brings us on a journey that is as illuminating as it is grueling.'
So, there you have it - Thanks Phil! - and the final responsibility is to tag four more kids in the playground, so I tag The Good Dr Higgins, Jude, Cary, and Mata (wish I could link you but haven't worked out how you do that yet, sorry)
Friday, August 18, 2006
'The night lifted, leaving behind it a grayish light the colour of stagnant water. Soon there was only a tattered fragment of darkness, hanging in midair, the other side of the window. Fear caught my throat. The tattered fragment of darkness had a face. Looking at it, I understood, I understood the reason for my fear. The face was my own.'
(Elie Wiesel, Night)
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Why are ruins so attractive, mysterious, beguiling even?
What seduces our hearts toward them?
Why is it so many find their sadness intoxicating?
What seed is being watered in these feelings?
What are our eyes trying to say with their tears?
Maybe ruins bid us surrender to our strivings and our ideas of perfection and fulfilment. That we cannot defy time or our common humanity and brokenness. They tell stories whose message is one of the folly of giving up peace of mind for unrealistic and unstable rewards. Sometimes, old stones make us aware and allow us to feel and see our anxieties about our achievements (or lack of them) and who we are.
And maybe the real gift of ruins is that they point to a bigger picture, they move us away from the temporal to the eternal - they remind us that some things just can't be fixed this side of a much better place. Maybe even they give us perspective and in their presence we are granted a glimpse of our own insignificance...