tag : bright yellow-green apples: November 2004

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

Sunday, November 28, 2004

sleep walking

figure. 27.1. unconscious urges

The ever-perceptive Sarah has been giving some very stimulating thoughts on the interlinking of rebellion, commerciality, identity, and social justice. All stuff which often plays at the back of my mind (an example here market forces), but rarely with such co-herence. This is one of those times I get dreaming a little, and maybe it’ll impact a little my own life if I’m actually brave enough to let it.

I’m thinking people caring less about what they wear and look like for it‘s own sake, but having way more expression & play with them. I’m thinking people who stop to recognise the sheer impact and pathos of every tragedy, who reflect & consider no matter how small or how all-encompassing. People who stray from their own boundaries by recourse, to live through another‘s eyes. I’m thinking people who live identity with a holistic sense that mocks labels and purchased life off the shelf, but recognises the space between us as the sacred ground of encounter. People who’re open to the new, and seize any chance to be stretched & to stretch. People who try to notice the full extent of effects from any action they take or transaction they make. People who treat their lives as gift, to be held lightly but emoted deeply. People who keep an eye out for chance to bring colour and the unexpected into an everyday moment amongst us, or a more impacting event. People who do this by instinct, live it in every second.

What a nice dream. Can someone tell me when I’m awake?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

there goes my hero

Figure 13.5. a little humble greatness

Singular people abound, there’re as many notably exceptional types as there are views as to what makes someone outstanding. Karen Armstrong gave a particularly good perspective how it concerns us here, in the light of past views, a while ago. As far as I can make out, to me many of the most inspirational people are those who combine the courage to strike out in service, with a humility in relation to others.

Though I won’t name names, maybe it’ll be worth flagging up that slightly controversial figure Mary. I grew up in Church traditions which taught me to be at best indifferent, and at worst suspicious of the veneration shown to her by others. But after passing through an Anglo-Catholic congregation I began to develop a delayed fascination with all the various meanings that surround her. Reflections by Rowan Williams really crystallised her relevance, both in terms of lessons and in the pivotal nature of her story – as the mother of God. Since coming to this appreciation, I’ve often mulled over the tales of saints, their singularity and very messy human nature (which, let's face it, is the only way they can cnnect with us 'ordinary' people). This poem articulates a few strands, trying to step inside a story.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

shots 2

I celebrated a bit of particularly notable new music a while back, now here’s some more that’s caught my ear recently. Having heard parts of Graham Coxon’s Happiness in Magazines, and Ah Ha Shake Heartbreak by the Kings of Leon, I’m reminded again how really creative guitar-led music can produce the best, the most arresting, songs around.

Monday, November 22, 2004

expressions unlocked

Figure 37.0 How does a socially awkward person help make connections?

I got back today from the SCM annual general meeting at Manchester, newly established as my very own authority figure - otherwise know as having a modest place of the group’s general council (aka the national committee). Whatever that will actually mean in practice, at least I seem to be in some position to be able to contribute to helping spread those “good old time” (to wildly misappropriate Billy Graham) inclusive Christian vibes across the country.

I must confess I’m a little ambivalent in one way - my past flirtations with holding voluntary posts as the Reading university Art Soc treasurer and a Woodly Methodist Church stewerd both petered out unhappily with little actually gained on any side. I’m really unsure of my potential to contribute to SCM in the light of them fairly slooshy past experiences. Meetings, the burden of any commitment & responsibility, all in combination with my totally lack of self-confidence in relation to others, are all real problems for me.

But what do I hope to achieve over the next year, apart from having myself a thread of purpose? I think there’s a lot of potential in my position of partial responsibility for the Movement magazine and the Website. And here’s why; I know from experience that there’re a whole lot of people out there who would benefit from the support and inspiration of finding more open expressions of faith, who‘re currently feeling isolated by social pressures or physical loneliness. All it can take is to know comparible people even exist, to help people begin to live their faiths well. The assurance of finding that sympathy, in the context of any kind of affirming community, can be the first step to appreciating your faith in itself. There are many people with great latent potential for contributing a lot to the world, if only they could find their resources unlocked by a comfortable unselfconscious identity. (Rather than seeing it as defective because you don’t fit into norms, are told implicitly or explicitly that your being in any way different to the line of your peers makes you less valuable or able to contribute good). I really hope that these two very public faces of the movement’s collectively inclusive faith might help to connect ever more people, get individuals out of their physical and metaphorical isolation, together unlock talents and gifts of people to the benefit of all.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

new old

figure 7.8. thems fightin' words

Two recent takes on primal mythology have caught my attention of late. The first is The Lyre of Orpheus from the new album by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - thanks for the intro, Martin. It’s wildly brash and fun, ambiguously wry, with a wanton rawness that some of the best tellings have. The second is a story by Ken which intrigues me a lot; it’s a tale of the unknown and the known in inevitable dance, and their dealings with us as embodied onlookers:

And so they came to be at the ford of the Jabbok river. At this point it was growing late at night and they needed somewhere to camp. Belief sent ahead the family, Faith, Practice and Ritual along with some other attendees to make the site.

But Belief waited by the ford. It was a dark night. Down came Unbelief and wrestled with Belief. The holds, the strength of both combatants stretched the boundaries of life in their struggle.

It went on. Thrashing and splashing in the ford, they fought. It became difficult to tell which parts where belonging to whom in the earthy, raw, struggle that raged between the two counterparts in the ford.

Eventually, Unbelief saw that Belief's grip was not going to let go, so he pointed out some irrationality in the structures at the centre of Belief. But Belief, though cheated would not let go easily. Turning to look into the eyes of his adversary, these words came from Belief's mouth: "I will not let go until you have blessed me." Thus Unbelief acceded to this demand and blessed Belief saying: "You were. You know will be known as 'Struggles with God'."

Monday, November 15, 2004

deserved the best

It’s the old rhetorical question today; how do we manage to harm that which we most love and care about? It's a hard lesson, answers on a postcard please.

(a)Truth and victim
(b)Deserved better than this
(c)Must not hijack our self obsession
(d)Anyone else’s business now
(e)Obvious things missed

Friday, November 12, 2004

godly tower of babble

figure 4.3. what's that you say?

“it is most definately important that we learn from and grow in respect with other religious groups...whether that ultimately leads to pantheism, eclecticism or mutual respect remains to be seen.” Ash

It's hard to see how things are going to go, that's true, but we can see certain trends here and now. There can be a tendency in some pluralistically-minded talk, in discussing inter faith relations, to downplay differences in the name of recognising our commonality as people with beliefs in the reality (a catch all term for God, Brahman, Nirvana ect.) This might be seen on Thought for the day, for example, where some guests seem to be trying to forge a verbal ‘neutral space’ for talking about all religions in one stroke without sitting in any one at the time.

This does worry me a little, even as a ardent pluralist and universalist. Not just because it serves to devalue the differences, almost making them something to act apologetically for. As if we should all grovel for our being embodied in a partial view, beautifully finite humans. I need make no apologies for sitting smack in the middle of a Christian paradigm, for my whole view of things being borne out in relation to atheism-theism, any more than a secular humanist or a Sufi mystic. None of us should be apologetic for framing our view of the other in our own language, in my case this would be a God-noGod, the divine light is in everyone, the face of God as Christ all around me, kind of talk. A talk that recognises it‘s limits, loves them nonetheless. But more so, it’s unrealistic. Recognising the common flow of our rivers of faith don't mean we should have pretensions for any kind of 'objective', universal faith talk that sits above the different faiths like an umbrella. It’s through this one prism that I might hope to recognise any common response to the ultimate reality I share with Taoists, Hindus, and Buddhists. Like everyone feeling the elephant.

Through my picture language I need to cultivate a space that recognises the light they carry. That's a mandate more in keeping with our ‘godly tower of babble’ than any supposedly constructed ’academic faith’ for cool relational discourse. It's within our lives as partial, wonderfully limited, people that we might encounter together. Languages provide a good metaphor. I'd say it's better to be sat in a meeting hall with a rabble of different European tongues, with various interpreters and gaining insights through talking our own lingos together, than everyone talking Esperanto.

On a side note, I've decided to try and learn to play the piano/keyboard. So I'm spending a few minutes a day playing ABGDEEFCABD and so on, trying to remember the note placing. Ah fun, I am the next Ray Charles.

Monday, November 08, 2004

visions of God (b) transcendence

figure 34.7. where do forms start and begin?

After dealing with immanence, it might be rather good to pick up Ruth Ann’s recent comments on theology. With particular reference to social justice.

“Then again, Jesus did teach us to pray, "Our Father", not "My Father", so perhaps we were never meant to find ourselves wrapped up in God as individuals, perhaps we were never meant to indulge ourselves with introspection and emotionalism.”

What is theology, but the stumbling attempts to understand the inexplicable? People have had visions though the ages, different windows onto the ground of reality that we all call by different names. Trying to paint a picture of the infinite that breaks into our lives, the idea that haunts us and moves us to try and live beyond mediocrity & inhumanity.

If God is to challenge us out of ourselves, if we are to allow the divine to shock us to encounter and radical love for others, then a sense of transcendence is vital. In an age of polarity, where leaders will claim a reckoning and a mandate to shape the world around them on the basis of their personal relationship with the God, and where people will angrily deny religion because of parochial kitsch sentimentalism, this much is becoming ever more urgent. God cannot be claimed like he’s some wall on a street end that can only be painted with one sectarian flag, God lives in the small rooms of all the homes.

Of course this might well be decried as sloppy pantheism, I can almost hear the curses of post modern relativism forming in the air as I write. But if we’re going to have any hope of holding the kernel of radicalism that the prophets of anchient Israel & Judah showed with great mastery, if we can keep the tradition of challenging the status quo, then we need the potential in our faith view to be able to challenge others, and for that to start with challenging ourselves. Complicit self-focused assumptions of completeness will not do.

Here is where some who talk of "re-volution" (marching under red banners, with loudhailers, and so on) might easily fall into an unrealistic understanding of the human condition: it depends on our own selves as people who make up communities in selfless relationship. And that needs constant organic challenge from the boundless reality to develop, rather than picking up a frozen ideology from the shelf to slot down over all the world. And in the case of us theists (I cannot speak for Buddhists or any others so surely), this can only come if we hold our God-views with the lightest touch, as if they were the most delicate butterflies. Giving God the freedom to come to us from the other and shake our foundations, to melt and reorder them dynamically through life. That way the pillars of dehumanising establishment, wherever it can be found, might be jolted with the spirit at work through us who can easily be a part of it.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

the smirk

a small nightmare has beset us, but let us sing along with gusto...

rude awakening/he's back for more/a short history of war warped ethics/the A - Z of stark raving mad/imagine the worst/now imagine worse/remarkable depravity with a global vision/suddenly you can’t think again/it’s as if history never happened/the resurrection of apocalypse/(so good they started it again)/a vacuum of sense filled by scare tactics/fear is the spur to distorted aspirations

the skeletons are dancing to this tune in frenzied abandon, the wolves are circling, the wolves are circling, scary foreigners waiting to pounce

the age of the discontents/all going fuck/the riches held/crazy logic triumphs again in glee/the great protection plan against all enemies will mean dissolving the world/emphasised threats of a constant frontline/counter productive as well as useless as well as bad/back with vengeance/keep quiet/I CAN’T HEAR YOU/sing along and march against the great enemy shadow/forward in in showers of red and blue glitter/forbidden fruit eaten on the road to Abu Ghraib

death chuckles as he blithely counts his dollars, the market looks on approvingly

a lot of violence will ensue but it’s deliciously attractive and there’s no harm done/high on a potent mixture of desire for revenge and stupidity/what’s your freedom got to do with anything in our cause/bastardised fear/safety cannot be guaranteed but we have wishful intentions/polluted regime/like the disease that brings red/the brutal sanctity of complete dehumanisation

bodies piled high, pitched to heaven, with enough bombs Jesus will come back with a flash of light

here come the/grudge spreaders/the passing/the mob/the hex/the vested interests/the deceitful words/the bloodied hands/the malevolent charm/the old ghosts ride again/the smirk

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

a bit more current affairs

figure. 4.5. in who's image?

We may know in a couple of days, we may know in weeks. Either way I feel increasinly on edge about the presidential elections in the USA. Sure John Kerry is a little turgid, and pretty rubbish at actually attacking conservative republican rubbish. But I must admit I fear a second George Bush term would be a disastor for everyone across the world. Those in the USA who say we should "butt out" of thier country miss the point; thier country affects every single one of us to some extent. God help us all.