tag : bright yellow-green apples: September 2004

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

Thursday, September 30, 2004

the word in the world

Example

figure 5.6. markers on our way

Camille’s come out again with some stimulating musings. One part of here exploration brings to mind certain perennial themes which seem to doggedly follow me wherever I go:

“each one of those words brings to mind a different image and yet all make me want to bathe
and in it lies all of our cravings and yearnings to be...”

Themes of words. In my dealings with the great variety of other Christians out there, I've often found myself frustrated to the point of abjection by the apparent obsession with dealing with everything through the medium of words. But it has been the increasing realisation of the plurality of words in conveying meaning which has, recently, meant I’ve found them once again a potential communicator of encounter. And this gave me feelings of 'permission' to dabble in poetry and messy prose. There are some who lead the way, hold our hands as we scribble. Consider this piece by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

It was a hard thing to undo this knot.
The rainbow shines, but only in the thought
Of him that looks. Yet not in that alone,
For who makes rainbows by invention?
And many standing round a waterfall
See one bow each, yet not the same to all,
But each a hand's breadth further than the next.
The sun on falling waters writes the text
Which yet is in the eye or in the thought.
It was a hard thing to undo this knot.

And this discussion, with Tom, has crystallised what’s been floating around in my head. That words, whether to be found in scripture, conversation, newspaper, story, or whatever, have double edged potential in the way people bring them to us. Language is necessary, desirable even, for approaching the reality as it can add layers and meaning and connection, in balance with open contemplation. On the negative side we find some coming to us trying to use ‘common sense’ to kill off any meaning living in a word that doesn’t fit their own, and we see others who are using slippery tricksyness with language in order to allow them to commit terrible abuses, duplicity, and perversions. I’m sure you can think of very pertinent examples to both of those, I’ll be diplomatic and not name names! The point is that they are seeking to abuse langauge to thier own ends, and abuse us in the process. On the positive side there are some who forge personal meaning, who bring us coloured variety of meaning through the delving with words, rather like guides in the new wildernesses we keep stumbling into.

Take care to seek out these guides to the interconnected wilderness, rather than the fossilising collectors who destroy by trying to fix objects in preservative. The trick is, also, to try and develop the awareness needed to be good responsible users of language ourselves.

Friday, September 24, 2004

following the prophet

Example

figure 1.2. better keep moving

Things have taken an interesting turn over on Ruth Ann’s site, discussing faith journeys and coming to find meaning in flux. I decided to take my last reply and broaden it slightly.

When he returned to Mecca upon the town welcoming him back from exile in Medina, the prophet Muhammad approached the Ka’ba. This site had been a centre of pilgrimage for Arabians for as long as anyone could remember, was tied up with their identity in relation to the divine and their meta-history as a family of people - Abraham was said to have built it along with Ishmael. Subsequently, as part of his forging identity for his new faith community (the Ummna), he instituted that people of Islam face the stone when praying, and that they visit it on pilgrimage some time in their life if at all possible. Thus there was an integration of unified community identity, in a fixed structure, in terms of journey. Both the symbolic 'sacramental' one they made to the site, and the life journey they made in reference to it as a physical conduit-locus for facing Al-lah. This was highly important and pivotal for a people who were in a socio-economic transition from nomadic tribes to tribal settlement in physical towns and markets of commerce, with it's associated traumas and potentials for lack of social justice and abuse.

Ruth Ann asks is there’s any chance that we could find identity, as faith community, outside the Church solid structure as people on the move. I’d say as networks we can. But I reckon there's lessons in this for us to be shown by what happened in Arabia those centuries ago – particularly as we seem to be in similarly profound flux and shift, as a society, to that which was going on in Arabia at the time. There is mileage (no pun intended) in trying to find tactile faith of the physical and concrete, in conjunction with the fluid and organic. Neither becoming too ethereal nor imprisoned would be healthy for us as Christians in the 21st century. In the context of life's sacred journey, a fixed sacramental stone of some sort, which enables and inspires ongoing, exodus might be of benefit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

visions of God (a) immanence

Example

figure 15.7. what’s that touching you?

There’re some interesting theological considerations to be found over on Andy’s blue chicken site. I’d like to pull out one strand for now, and use it for my own ends. Then maybe do a sequel or two afterwards that more fairly redress balances (which is only right, as Andy’s thoughts are superbly balanced):

“In today's day and age, the very mystery of God is what is so vital in our pluralist age. If we think we know God like we know our cat or our next door neighbour, then of course we will vaunt our religion over another. But the less God becomes knowable by mind alone, the more inclined we are to respond well to the visions of God in other religions.”

The immanent human God can be equally latent with potential, I reckon, for helping to heal some of humanity’s difficulties. Personal God can so easily be a projection, and thus a buttress for status quo, or an advocate of injustice. But equally, a transcendent God, wholly mystery, can be just as complicit. If we head towards some form of deism, losing pathos along the way, then divine concern can be lost along the way. It might even become a new expression the benign but useless deism of far off, or the cultic religion that the Hebrew prophets furiously railed against. Personal God can be terrifying, but can also be utterly part of our lives of pain and struggle, love and joy, as well as edgy and challenging of inhumanity. Maybe Jesus Christ is the ultimate vision of the God of time, so far involved as to die like us. This pathos, an archetype and inspiring mover of human love that crosses boundaries like the temple curtain torn in two, is what a push towards transcendence can lose.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

perceptions

I'm having a grand time, of late, exchanging coloured percpetions with some online readers. I suppose our experiences are about perception, rather than things in themselves, how they come to us.

Coy koi, adj bashful, modest; affectedly shy; evasive. - vt to caress (Shakesp); to distain (Shakesp); to affect coyness (with it) (archaic).

Friday, September 17, 2004

we're all walking

Example

figure 8.4. sharing in the Buddha

I’m a little torn in which to take on as a starting point for thinking, from the comments of Brasill66, in the end choosing this one. Maybe the other can wait for me to pick up, the next time I need to spout:

“I think the secret of meditation, not contemplation, is that it removes the diety, any deity , from the spiritual journey. The value of communing with other sinners in a community of sin is? All inward looking philosophies place too much reliance on self for religions to be comfortable with. Just another path...”

I am going to read in my own interpretation here, call this default appropriation. There seems to me to be a certain level of dialogue between the meditation-inclined approach of, for example, Buddhism and the contemplation-inclined approach of, for example, Christianity. And both could well come under an understanding of self.

Both would, it seems to me, see their way as being about finding identity and purpose in relation to other people, rather than inward facing self-contemplation - of individuals or communities. The Buddha didn’t leave once he achieved Nirvana, he returned to be with others and to try and work to their betterment in this life and the possible liberation he wanted to spread. The early followers of Jesus didn’t sit and wait to be raptured, but worked to make the kingdom of God/heaven manifest in their situations. The inspirational figures who brought both into the world each saw the ideal state as an underlying reality, not to be found out somewhere, but in the very stuff of their world - as Jesus put it: “the kingdom of God is in you”. Humans have potential, and we have a common life in working that out. Just another path, but we’re all walking.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

commemorating the possible

In the fine tradition of the Wesleys, I suggest you set this to any great music you've heard of late, in your head. Think unconstrained and boundless, after a fashion, commemorating the possible:

Sound of unjaded

Always let a
influence come from enigmas,
as tantalisingly elusive as ever

chorus-refrain:
Burned into memory,
should we presume reaction;
the invitation for a
small things empathy


The old ideals must go,
be brought back and rehabilitated.
Likely participation incentive

chorus-refrain

Cultural anonymity changes
before you, redeeming words.
prospect can’t stand me still,

chorus-refrain

unless the future glow should
be in search of what they saw;
that incendiary clouded view

chorus-refrain

Collective memory;
them ideas and us views,
the aptly alternative mainstreams

chorus-refrain

Ride they can also transform
the perils of within engaged,
taking your thoughts as read

chorus-refrain

Look both ways as you never know,
were fascinated by good turned energy.
Picked up. Over dissent

chorus-refrain

Come on imagine the
reality again, grounded in the
glories of a new

chorus-refrain

Friday, September 10, 2004

selector

Last night the Mercury Music Prize winners were Franz Ferdinand, which is probably a good choice. This seems to be a pertinent time to reveal, as promised, my own final choice for album of the last year. Clearly they should all be winners, but my gut instinct of Com Lag by Radiohead came out. All I need now is for Thom Yorke to ring and claim his small mounted block of etched glass...

in hope of the communal

Example

Figure 1.2. new connections

Here’s part of a reply I wrote to Ruth Ann in a little exchange we had on our feelings about the Church here and now, as people feeling in the margins or even outside conventional Church as congregations show it, often finding Church more in close networks of people:

If relationships of agape love in the light of the divine are to mean anything, then friendship networks are, as far as I'm concerned, no better than individual private faith. Yes I have my shrine and yes I find my faith through the networks of friends to a great degree, but if divine community life is restricted to them, then God help us as we are only dealing in particulars. Default 'benign' sectarianism, that doesn't seek to do harm yet is limited in good. That's why I see Church in some wider sense as still part of the ongoing passion narrative, I reckon God can use it to demonstrate and live out relationships of love which transcend all boundaries, including those which come out of who we like or share interests with, or happen to mix with happily. And that is always needed, especially in a time of atomisation and individualism, where people desire some form of meaningful full community. Which is not to say some serious reworking is not needed, just that Church is broader in scope than is comfortable for any of us, as with wider society.

Monday, September 06, 2004

clothed adrape

Example

figure 14.8. Jesus then and now

A quick initial proviso. Can you anonymous people use some different names, please? We all wear internet masks, that’s true, but at least if we wear different ones it helps me in considering and dealing with what you say over time. Ta muchly. Now onto the feature, a reply made to me in secular saints:

“JC, if he was really ONE person, WAS a social revolutionary. In his time, in his society. Now, today, the only interp. I see by you and others, is metaphysical. You are no different, at all,to the layman, than the most staunch catholic supporter. The traditions, the liturgy and yes, sorry C. the dogma. You still are dealing in the currency of the church, pick and choose all you like, your buffet is still Grimm.”

I’m not quite sure how being accused of Catholicism is seemingly an insult, but the rhetoric here is very interesting so I’m going to run with it and see what happens.

Who claims and uses Jesus Christ seems to be a strongly fought thing, many people seeking to appropriate him for their cause from the Marxist Pier Paolo Pasolini to the entrenched conservative Southern Baptists. I would hope that this could be flipped round, such that he is able to speak to us in our varying situations equally pertinently. To me, my own encounters with the divine through Christ mean that metaphysics is in some way inevitable – because what I have met in him leads to a theological consideration, he has brought a God vision which affects how I live and view the world. This does not mean that I cannot see the specificity and real humanity, the revolutionary aspect which you talk of; Geza Vermes has shown it admirably with his own analytical writing.

Preemtive caveat. I should not need to be apologetic for having a different voice to yours in itself. The very diversity of humanity shows that difference is intrinsic to us. Maybe that welcoming of variety in the Church and wider society is the “pick and choose” you admonish offhand, but that I will not be apologetic for any more than I would wish you to be apologetic for being different to me.

But, and yes there’s always a but. The charge of language is where I do probably have to hold up my hands. Yes I am a purveyor of dry faded roses, small kitsch fragments. The “currency of the Church” is in many ways a self-indulgent thing, we talk to each other in our ways and then try to foist that upon others, assuming that they will connect. Grimm is putting it mildly, to some people what we do just makes no connection at all, purely apathy inspiring, and my being brought up within the Church subculture means I'm very prone. But be patient with me, I'm learning on this journey from others as much as (if not more than) seeking to give out a message. Looking for divine sparks lodged in the world. So stick around, for my sake, and I might be able to listen as well as spout.