tag : bright yellow-green apples: August 2004

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Monday, August 30, 2004

New conclusons

I leave for the rest of the week in Cornwall, inspired as ever by what I've experienced here. You've mostly heard bits of the talks (which I've been giving very brief snapshots of, there was so much to absorb). But most of all it was the community and vitality which is a godsend and a charge for my life back in the real world.

There was tape which marked where we could and couldn't walk, directing our movements as we went on our way. As the weekend progressed, and we experienced and indwelt more and more of the ethos, the unabashed creative tought, the vital encounter, that tape began to fray too. Eventually it came apart in places and we were able to move through more freely, used our initiative more, interacted with our surroundings inspired of our own accord. Maybe that reflects on the loosening of all our faith chords over time.

A thought as I leave to consider, in this game of amateur theology, maybe there is more potential for divinely infused innovaton than we sometimes think. This is PL signing off till next week.

tape

fig. 5.6. loosen those chords?

Greenbelt 6. the rest

We saw an advert for 'Christrian speed dating' so here's my equivilant - Christian speed reviewing.

Rowan Williams shared his wisdom on propehetic and apostolic utterence. He talked of how we should be about creating a space for God to be rather than having concious pretentions to speak for God. A panel inclusing Pete Ward and Jonny Baker talked about mission and how the Church needs to tell the gospel again here and now with unparalleled bravery if we're to get anywhere. An Irish poet started out in Donniw Darko territory with fear bewing overcome by love, but then descended into the grotto of the great mystics and thier insights for intimate dwelling with God. There was a late night discussion on what would Jesus Do, and considered ethics in our times that get behind preformed sloganering.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Greenbelt 5. St Paul the saviour

A great talk by some one very reputatble (see a pattern? I'm rubbish with names) on how in his time and place St Paul was a very subversive figure, speaking out for holistic freedom in such a way as to bring identity and purpose even to those who would never find physical freedom from thier political slavery. His concern was not to lay down rule, though it has been a tempting exegetical bad habit for the church, in approaching his letters...

...we missed communion this morning, ah dear, but should make up for it later by seeing the great Rowan. Now I should be off and be sociable in some way...

Greenbelt 4. it says

Some one, who I can't recall, was talking about the bible an homosexuality. This used to be my pet subject (rather like it's now Ruth Ann's, hehe), and so I appreciated the way he demonstrated how complex and subptle the scriptural record actually is. For example, how many people take the time to notice that 'unnatural'/'not according to nature' was actually used by St Paul in terms of the Jew/Gentile divide and not about any human physiological norms? (Bearing in mind that the metaphor of wild and cultivated olive trees being binded together sees God axcting through Jesus in a way contrary to nature). The divine archetype clearly needs condeming by Anglican Mainstream...

Greenbelt 3. Dawn sheds new light on the bible

Maggi Dawn gave us a great talk on biblical interpretation, including an immensely satisfying and sharp refutation of the modern and slightly off-kilter idea of biblical faith being phrased in terms of propositional truth, how scripture is more about poetic truth, and a faith of approach being more biblical than one of set doctrines. Or something like that (again, this plays on themes that have been in my mind a lot, this time from a fantastic book I read recently which'll get a review in time).

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Greenbelt 2. God by numbers

Just been to a talk by someone from Ikon on apocolypse, icons, and the death of God. Remarkable, a lot of what he said echoed my recent thoughts on killing God to see God and suchlike, though with a lot more pathos. he talked of how we should be instinctive atheists, allways searching for ways to appreciate the divine, then destroying that appreciation. About how the scriptural witness presents an archetype, with a continuous range of overlapping, interacting, and counter-pointing 'God talk'. We should put together our images with an aknowledgement that God is qualitatively other, not quantitatively more. That the edifice shuld be put up and then taken down again on this journey of becoming, as much as being, a Christian on the journey in spaces where people can be themsleves not moulded into the responce to some else's vision of God...

...this means my inability to get images in of what's going on here is possibley somehow appropriate, and not just by me incompitance. Let's see if I can sneak into see Jeffery John (the line to get in was enourmous, infamy seems to boost reputations here

Greenbelt 1:little red riding hood angel

We arrived and found a camp space and feasted on baked beans & bread. A nobel start.

Last night St Luke's hosted a mass, thematically entitled 'spirit mass'. I was worried it would be a very ethereal affair, but in the end was very grounded. We were encouraged to sense the floor and setting, were sprinkled with water by Dave Thomlinson (the former post evangelical was officiating), and took the elements, to various music. Good wine! The alter was a scene in red, with a four armed cross, looking for all the world like a gothic red riding hood spread against the wall, and a cross set in an ice block, flames set on either side as a hybrid between alter candles and an anchient fire cult.

As per usual in alt worship type things, the projected liturgy parts they put up for us to join them were very diffcult to see; some parts distorted by the sheet screen which held them up to see, some blocked by other people, and some simply by my poor long range vision. I'm sure there's a metaphor in that for our interacting and sharing faith with each other.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

secular saints

Kant

figure 4.5. Immanuel Kant

I have a really interesting and very challenging anonymous reader it seems, quite a privilege, lets see if I can do you justice. This deserves a bit to its own space:

“So, an obvious observation becomes novelty because it lacks substance? Pretty easy cop. Back to the altar is back to ignorance of Human nature and the authorized condemnation of the natural. Thank WHO for the Saints? Um, the Catholic church springs to mind, hardly god...If I smell something sweet in this world, chances are its not a rotting saint, more likely the caramel in Coke. Bit of critical thinking is hardly a bad thing in this type of discourse but it always seems absent from people who have given over that faculty to Daddy in the sky ( without diamonds).”

“Almost forgot Camille, purity of thought? Seems at odds with any religious, not SPIRITUAL, but religious beliefs. That purity must be self generated, I smell the unclean aroma of ripe dogma here. The antithesis of any independent thought. The progress of evolution is difficult to measure, but the stick used is not a chalice, we don't measure our progress as people by the volume of the tears of christ it contains, metaphor for loss and longing or not. A lame shot at an easy target as an example of the outrages of capitalism, hardly legitimizes the incoherent ramblings of the defenders of the source of society's misery. Any society, pick one.”

I never claim substance, as you might eventually find by the outworking of my woolly mind. But anyway, to the matter in hand. You see to me, the altar represents the subversion of all that you seem to be rightly concerned to avoid. It is where people have encounter, where they find acceptance, where they find themselves, in the face of the power games, the control, the oppressive wilful dangerous unthinking stifling dehumanisation, which can be found both in the Church and wider society. Direct breaking through of the walls that people create for themselves and each other, the self-sustaining systems which bring us to less than life in its fullness.

Bringing critical thinking to encounter with the ground of being and to interaction with others is invaluable, though not only the rational you see. Many of the prophets we find in the biblical stories, many of the saints still in the memory of parts of the Church, used imagination – drama, story, action, picture language – to profoundly challenge the societal status quo. I bet you even Richard Dawkins reads a bit of poetry every now and then. Just because someone might find the numinous touching their lives, it doesn’t have to mean the giving over of their minds to slavery. You cannot really castigate people for unrational (note: this is not the same as irrational) imaginative explorations; given that they present a necessary and very human balance to the equally (not more) important late second millennium AD. enlightenment values. That is part of the challenge of the current shift in society - our modern enlightenment inheritence of rational philosophy is being subverted by a rediscovery of what was lost, meaning in story & myth, imagination & image, This is part of the post modern shift, the delightful challenge to us all of faith or none.

Provision for activity, a morality romance

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

re:turning

Thanks a lot to RobB for sorting me out, thankfully the tchnical hitch is now out the way. Apologies for the interrruption to your viewing pleasure. I just need to get the links back up and we'll be back on schedule.

This weekeend is the annual Greenbelt pilgrimage, for a bit of artsy heretical fun & frolics. There'll be lots of updates from the thick of it posted, in theory, so keep an eye on things here a little more than usual.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I tell you that's all

example
fig.1.7. stereotypical 'Christian music'

Radio 1 is normally quite rubbish to listen to during the day, middle ground tat. But the evening is a different matter entirely – particularly John Peel’s show. He plays such a wonderful mixture of interesting music, new and the odd fragment from another time, that it’s required listening to make up for the dearth of anything half decent before 7pm. I was listening one night a few days ago, when I suddenly noticed that there was a grainy old recording of some guy with a guitar playing this furiously urgent song called denomination blues. I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing and listen to the performer (apparently Washington Phillips), it was so compelling.

I’m rarely stimulated by music which self-consciously uses Christian themes and imagery, this was a rare exception demonstrated by my singular captivation. Why so? Well (1) It tends to be substandard fare trying to ape what's already been done by so-called ‘secular’artists, but are always one step behind and often a little limited in scope, unable to express the fullness of life and it's complexities. Do we need endless variations of praising God when sometimes music might express other sides to life?(2) Christians often seem to be unable to let go of the need to make things 'worthy', it is usually so earnest a sanitised venture. (3) Self-consciously Christian music seems to be about subculture. Yes in marketing a whole range, baptised with Jesus to make it ‘safe’, it is simply aiding a mindset of separatism which creates mutual alienation with wider society. And maybe there is some idolatry by default, implicitly supporting the notion that God is not being praised by music not saying “Jesus”.

There are many exceptions, and there are many Christians out there making fantastic music (usually exploring the faith with a little more vim and creative daring, just unseen by the subculture). But what might sound like just getting principles in the way is actually more that much of the fare you might find in a Church or Evangelical stall is, to me, a bit hooey. And I’m a Methodist; coming from the movement which most of all taught people to use music in faith, and I find so-called 'secular' music much more inspiring. The irony of it all and another reason, as Andy would say, for the Wesleys to be deeply unimpressed by me. Oh well, it's not like most Methos aren't equally rebellious in regarding our general heratige, hehe....

Monday, August 16, 2004

market forces

coke

A quote from Paul Morely in this weekend’s Observer music monthly magazine:

“Coke’s 21st centaury version of teaching the world to lose their senses, their mind and their taste, has the young British soul singer Sharlene Hector handing out bottles of Coke to passers-by as if the liquid is the blood of Christ, or the urine of Buddha, or, my God, the sweat of Elvis. She softly, to the point of insipidly, sings the 1954 protest song “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free” that the fabulous Nina Simone would make her own. A song that was once a powerful, delicate cry for equality and freedom has its guts ripped out and is presented as if it is Coke that can be the ticket to a higher spiritual place. A sip of Coke and you slip into a pure, divine, utopian society where barriers of age, creed, race and sex are deliciously blurred by a mutual love for this coin-dissolving elixir. With a look in her eyes that suggests she has seen the Virgin Mary, or maybe that she is herself the Virgin Mary encouraged back to life by the Coke millions, she gives strangers already opened bottles of Coke.”

It sums up, with great charge, the utter cynicism of markets. And their ongoing drive to try and package life & aspiration, a whole way of being, then sell it back to us. Products are no longer enough for the market, it must advance yet further into the co modification of all. Along with patenting genes & endemic species they now come to us and offer happiness and meaning on the shelf. Hollow shell.

It’s worrying how easily the corporation and religion seem to be intermingling - to the detriment of us all (yes, even those who get very rich using the pith of an ideal, as witness in brazen form by Coke recently, will see a blanching of life in time.) On the other side churches, for example, will have mission statements. And work like companies to plant and advance their range of influence, then sell the successful packaged formula onto ’failing’ (ie. not so financially wealthy, or populous) congregations so that they too can be blessed by a greater market share. Anyone for Alpha, as patented by HTB?

about commerce
or
one dimensional temptations
or
find your own

Hollow words and empty gestures
The power of losing,
Though sublime,
Is allways waiting for a call
You're intimate experiences
Your very soul

The art of living
Is the new black
They'll sell you your loves
You're intimate experiences
Your very soul
Back to you
To make the stocks
We're all on the market now

Saturday, August 14, 2004

God is dead.

dante

Listening to God is probably the toughest thing you can ever attempt to do. But then it might just be the easiest as well (paradoxes again!). I've started meditation recently - easy in the fact that it is simply sitting silently before God in a wordless and thoughtless prayer. But then it is difficult in the fact that it is sitting silently before God in a wordless and thoughtless prayer.

(Andy)

Paradox has been springing up a lot recently. And so I sat on my bed and as if from no-ware I found an expressive attempt to deal with via negativa, the logos incarnate, and theological tension. A drawing together of these threads, after my the recent public thinking here, came to me in a rush. So I quickly wrote this non-vision down, as you would. Make of it what you will, but I’m extremely pleased with this exploration of the visual with the medium of words:

God is dead – the ongoing sequel

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

down and up

Right I'm off for a couple of days to be social and see various people in ways other than through a computer screen. In the possible meantime, consider this as an inspirational counter-witness in a world of ambition and power games, played through the Church and wider society: down and up.

Monday, August 09, 2004

voice of silence

voice

I was having a good little moan about the protestant Church today, with Sarah the tolerant listener. And one of the things that I said really gets me is the sheer wordyness of it all, our reformed traditon is a faith of word. Spot the irony in my efforts here with the web creations; I suppose that's what comes from my being a Methodist. But anyway, I so readily played the archetype for how we often behave as a Church - treating God as if an audience. Yes an easy intimate relationship with God should readily be cultivated, but the sense of mystery and contemplation has been lost in many ways by some of our efforts. A relationship of regard needs dialogue and mutual listening. And thus the (soon to be ex) Archbishop of York's comments, came back to me:

"The truth is that we have become altogether too busy and too noisy, too wordy and too chatty...Does our worship really have to be wall-to-wall words and music? Do our prayer meetings and Bible studies have to be a series of monologues that the Lord will do this, that or the other thing?...We need to redress the imbalance between words and actions on the one hand and the lack of listening on the other."

David Hope hit a nerve here with many people. Maybe the story of Mary and Martha is some help as a pointer, when through my own spin of course. One of them busied around presuming to know what was best for Jesus, the other sat and listened to Emmanuel.

the sound of grey

Right, as promised I'm going to give you my provisional shortlist for my alt. music awards, the final choice to be announced. I was going to give a few comments on what have probably been the best albums of the last year or so for me, that I can remember and have heard all the way through. (There's loads I've heard bits of). But might just give you them straight and unsycophantic for now. There might be changes as yet, I'm fickle.

Boy in da corner - Dizzie Rascal
CD2 - Aviata
Com lag - Radiohead
The grey album - Dangermouse
Stop making sense (live) - Talking Heads
Speakerboxx/The love below - Outkast
Rejoicing in the hands (of the golden empress) - Devendra Banhart

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Jesus: God infinitely reincarnated?

“…the encounter with Christ goes beyond the physical. In my view, this is one reason why we need the Resurrection. It signifies that Christ is alive now, and hence moves our relationship with him out of a dark corner of history and into the present day.”

I’ve found the discussion on historicity and Christology with Andy very useful and stimulating. Have a look for yourself here on the blue chicken.


Example


On a similar note, also relating to via negative below. My mind is somewhat afoot at the moment with ideas of how Jesus’ words “do not hold onto me” relate to the importance of holding provisionally of our images of God. In the sense that maybe the death-resurrection was the dramatically played archetype for how we should put to death every image we have and receive, kill the Christ when we encounter. In order to hold the faces we have lightly, and allow rebirth of theology in every time and place and person around us. To hold on to him would keep him held in as provincial as the Jewish Jesus if he chose sectrian nationalism rather than being light to the world. Maybe the Hindu is straying somewhat...

Friday, August 06, 2004

via negativa

God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of other players*, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

*ie., everybody.

(from Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gainman)

Do not suppose, because I call it darkness or a cloud, that it is a cloud condensed out of vapours that float in the air, or a darkness like that in your house at night when your candle is out. By intellectual ingenuity you can imagine such a darkness or cloud bought before your eyes on the brightest day of summer, just as, conversely, in the darkest night of winter you can imagine a clear shining light. Give up such errors; that is not what I mean. For when I say ’darkness’ I mean the absence of knowing, in the sense that everything you do not know, or have forgotten, is dark to you, because you cannot see it with your mind’s eye. And for this reason it is not called a cloud in the air but a cloud of unknowing that is between you and your God.

(from The Cloud of unknowing, author anonymous)

Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.

(from First letter to the Corinthians, attributed to St Paul)

mist

Counterpoint. God is indeed revealed in the face of humanity; Jesus Christ as Emmanuel (God with us) demonstrated that. Matter communicates the out turned God. But negative theology is an equally vital part of faith. The unknowable essence, the 'ousia', of the ground of being is a radical witness against easy projection onto a wholly personified divine. The transcendent reality is beyond pinning down into being contained by the human mind, picture language is ever provisional, no matter the words of a thousand apologists like Stand To Reason and thier ilk.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

ecce homo

eccehomo


Currently reworking an essay on Jesus Christ and art into a two-parter. The challenge to current visual artists of their responsibility to the rest of us, their mandate to present the transcendent divine made tactile human. A quote that is pivotal in my approach comes from reading Mass Culture (edited by Pete Ward):

“The incarnation was specific to the culture of first-century Palestine, not as a limitation but as a demonstration and guarantee that the gospel of Christ could take specific root within each culture and era.”

It was Rowan Williams’ comments that turned me on to a bit of lateral thinking on images of Christ, have a look for yourself here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

lived example

Many are the lessons
That we’ve learnt together since the dawn which made of us
A conversation; soon, though, we shall be a song


(from Friedensfeier by Friedrich Holderlin)

I’m sold out to ecumenicalism, to a vision of an ideal of community that doesn't recognise sectarianism in any form and which looks with hope to all in unique individuality & harmonious relations. This is really not by abstract thought and high ideals, but because of experience. Through my encounters, with people of many stripes, one of the most important of which is a collective of people I joined back in early 2002.

www.24-7talkback.com

There have been, and will doubtless be, regular reference to things discussed in the 24-7 discussion forums but now might be a good time to flag it up deliberately. It is, for many of us, a highly sympathetic and progressive online community. This self made self made write still manages to articulate much of what I have found in it, witness to hope for the Church as a whole, and wider society.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I choose you

Amended from a post here, this is a comment on the modern idea of choosing to invite Jesus into your life, as per standard evangelism in much current Christian practice with wider society:

Conscious rational considered philosophical choice doesn't strike me as the most realistic, nor the most humane [1], way to go about drawing people into a life in all its fullness through renewal. For this is the ontological way of being in the orbit of Jesus through being in some way his body to others. There are too many oversights, loopholes, awkward cases that don't fit the requirements given by Alpha and its many ilk. People with some mental condition is the standard example, but in general the vgeries and complexities of emotions & hormones show how people just don’t fit the enlightenment ideal of humanity as the raised pedestal. Thus I doubt [2] the divine comes down heavily on this as the exclusive watertight means of going about interacting with people as some would project.

So I ask, as an alter call to all you concerned with evangelism, this question. Is the mission of God really about getting people to come out and consciously say "yes" or "no" at a single point in time?

[1] and yes I use that word in judgement of theology; if God is less than human in terms of grace and forgiveness and love, then something is very amiss and we have the worst of projection [2] and yes I use that word very posatively, not by loss

Monday, August 02, 2004

it's only the sound

There's a lot of great music around and. I'm torn in what might count as my own album of the year - thus far it's an incongruous choice of the beautiful and entrancing Com Lag by Radiohead or Stop Making Sense by The Talking Heads (I bought a second hand 1984 tape of the live shows the other day; this may be a rediscovery after neglecting them for three years but their rythms and agitated vocals are so exciting I really can't resist) .

Maybe a vague alt music prize is in order here, given that the Mercury is going to be on soonish? I'll get on to the selections from what I've heard over the last year or so, and any suggestions from you would be welcome - no matter the style.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

old time, new time, no time

The theory goes that during the axial age (about 700 - 200 BC) there was a radical shift in religion across the world, and consequently the whole of society. From the Hebrew prophets to The Buddha and Confucius there was a concurring witness to social justice and concrete historical, practical, focus against the mythologies of the times which, though bringing comfort and assurance, did little to confront inequalities and get things done for the better in public life of the communities.

Central to this is paradigms - see below’s foundational entry.

When looking at today, I sometimes wonder if there needs to be a retelling of that witness. After all, many talk of this being a cultural axis comparable to the axial age and the rise of modernity. Post modernity as a new age with necessary rethinking? But I would suggest that, in order to enable a full potential in the name of humane religion here and now, we need both a mythological-transcendent approach and a concrete-this worldly approach. What might be called mythos and logos. Where they are not in living tension, there is often dysfunctional socio-religious life.

Mythos without logos enables the status quo to remain unchallenged. Faith can become a prop for our own prejudices, institutions, structural givens. Of course it’s invaluable for helping us to come to terms with the human condition, life’s complexities, through the unconscious, imagination, story, psychology. But logos is required to ensure that there is an application, social responsibility, surety of action in this world. Private esoteric faith, firmly out of the pub by design or default, is too easy and a subversion of the very golden rule of the world’s major present religions.

Logos without mythos can also lead to that same dangerous status quo. Without any transcendence or reference to the paradigm-bursting ’other’, in terms of ’out of time’ realities which some call God, faith can simply be an exercise in affirmation of prejudices and backing up of what we take as given. The shadow side of myth is that that it buttresses what we project from ourselves by offering only explanation and without challenge.

Holistic social justice and personal health require a valuing of paradigms - own and others - and an openness to their being transcended or extended. Mythos and logos are needed in achieving this. I would recommend the writing of Karen Armstrong on this.

Genesis---------------------Amos

a foundational bit

What are paradigms? As far as I've gathered the term refers to how we all have our way of looking at the world, a conscious and unconscious system, patterns of thought, worldview, a cultural and societal approach to life that varies from place to place, people to people, and group to group. A crude example might be what some call ‘the Islamic world’, or the spectrum of associations and memory layers that come with ’Sunday lunch making it’s full appreciation limited to experience. Dave Thomlinson and Brian Mclaren describe it very well in the context of faith through the simple terms needed for us ordinary people.

They are an expression of our intrinsic distinctiveness. But they can become fossilised and unresponsive to that reality of human variety. Here is where abuses can, and do, occur; through sectarianism in all it’s many masks, or attempts to impose on and control others. Jonathan Sacks has described a lot of this with great subtlety and appreciation with The Dignity of Difference.