tag : bright yellow-green apples: March 2005

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

the peace of...



figure 8.3. discordent elements

It's possible to think too much, and I do. I find myself digging very deep, musing through every tiny nuance of some things that happen to me, people I know (one in particular), things that I've done with them. It can be helpful, when I uncover a sensitivity that I need in a situation. But it's often debilitating, and can clutter up my mind tangling my ability to get on.

Never was a sharper word spoken than Aaron Williamson, in a pivotal line from one of his books: "I'm no Buddha, I'm a wanker".

So it's great when you come across a writer who manages to create an open and gentle space away from all the mental dross. While searching through what's left of my bookcase, I found a book I'd borrowed from Graeme. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, is a brilliantly pithy collection of meditations spoken by an unknown figure to his people, before journeying on to a new place. He comes out with some very reflective and poetically lively thoughts, and I’ve found they’re very good for settling my churning mind. The tone is good.

Since we’re in a quoting run, here’s a little extract from ‘love’:

“When love beckons to you, follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.”

Monday, March 28, 2005

fare



figure 45.2. the cosmic egg spliced with the tree of life

Easter's just finished, time for a little retrospective. Today I found out how much I've gone off chocolate and sugary foods when I tried some of an egg I'd been given - after a few months of not really bothering with them. I also remembered prayer for the first time in ages, while sat with the ecumenical gathering in communion this morning (it was good wine today). I reckon it's time I did my annual schtick of wheeling this beautiful fragment of liturgy out by the late great St Chrysostom. If ever there was a piece of Christian writing to keep me in and still looking it's going to be this:

"Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He spoiled the power of hell when he descended thereto.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried,
Death has been frustrated in meeting him below!
It is frustrated, for it is destroyed.
It is frustrated, for it is annihilated.
It is frustrated, for now it is made captive.
For it grabbed a body and discovered God.
It took earth and behold! it encountered heaven.
It took what was visible,
and was overcome by what was invisible.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Death, where is your victory?
Christ is risen,
and the demons are cast down.
Christ is risen,
and life is set free.
Christ is risen,
and the tomb is emptied of the dead.
For Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who sleep."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

why still a Methodist?



figure 42.1. that's a nice religion dear, where did you get it?

There's a really fascinating discussion going on here, covering a whole load of issues around identiy and living a faith. While joining in a particular aspect, a few thoughts came to mind that I thought I'd expand and share here. Why do I stick with the Church of my childhood, when a lot of people change at some point?

A number of people go through a change in their religion - either by sect (e.g. denominationally) or group (e.g. becoming Buddhist). This can be seen as part of a faith journey, and many people find it a very positive shift. But if it’s conceived in terms of choosing to change, then maybe I'd think twice. Not just because of any possible whiff of consumerism, I'm fairly ambivalent about notions of our actually having total choice in general - to some extent it might be a bit of a construct.

Of course my path of religion has become increasingly erratic with time, with many adaptations, changes, and incorporations. But essentially I have not left my Methodism since my earliest years in Sunday School. I've toyed with joining the Roman Catholic denomination, and it's been suggested by a few that I join the Unitarian Universalists. I've also considered the option of becoming a singular nomad, as some have done - very tempting. But no, I think I shall be sticking with my Church - and probably will do for the foreseeable future, maybe for as long as my life. Despite the rubs, I sense this is likely.

I think the whole faith thing is a lot more than a series of identity choices, as indicated way back here. There's something deeper, relationally, about who we are and where we are. It goes right underneath the piecing together that we do, with a foundational sense of who we are. So I'll seek to carve out the best I can in my faith, as I have found it to be with time.

"...that journey is not so simple as just making a decision one way or the other."

Which is not to say I don't welcome the many visions of other religions and faiths. As I indicated, I've assimilated a heck of a lot from all over the place - Sufi Islam, Buddhism, modern Paganism, etc. It's just that my Church is flexible and alive enough to incorporate it all. It's there in my genes, the Church that deals most of all in expression and searching for God's love and light in the real world. Why do I stick around? I don't really know, it's about more than articulation can give. Baring any massive cataclysmic event, they will probably continue to be made sense of within the framework of Methodism - with all the imagination I have to muster.

Monday, March 21, 2005

keep on looking 2

After the slightly blistering crossfire of ideology, here's a couple of 'nice pictures' to settle things down a bit:

sensations
trust & the touch of skin

Sunday, March 20, 2005

this decaying foulness



figure 52.6. here we go

This is a photo of the Degenerate Art exhibition, organised by the Nazi Regime, showcasing all that they wished to destroy and repress. Many of the most formulative and radical creative protaginists of the time were eventually reduced to nothing or fourced to leave for other countries and societies, with the incresing public pressure and repression they faced. They were inconvenient, and worse - they would not follow the recived notions of the time. They spoke from outside, freely and with lively energy that would not fit structures, and were therefore deemed enemies. It was an appaling cultural crime comitted by people against thier own country.

My quote of the month comes in the form of a letter written to the Guardian a couple of days ago:

"It is essential that artists have the right to express themselves freely. Artists have always challenged the status quo. Sometimes in the process they have offended, sometimes uplifted, always questioned. While these roles can sit uncomfortably with one another, an open and tolerant democracy should welcome the grit in the oyster as well as the pearl."

I care little for notions of having 'a right'. But I do think that artists have a mandate, maybe even a calling, to be a questioning voice. At best, they challenge everything, are constantly exploring the relevence of the status quo. With a tangential perspective, the arts can speak to our deepest imagination and colourful perspectives without having to take sides by simple polemical argument. Of course there are many voices and many approaches, that take in intensely personal and confessional expression as well as overtly public telling. But ultimately, much of the best contributes to our societies by helping it to live with some wholeness of life - stimulating senses and offering visions of redeemed life, even as the way through might be challenging.

I should confess that I feel an increasing sense of solidarity with other artists. It's strange how a few acts of attempted censorship and attack - from the religious expression of rightous indiganation & offense to near villification of challenging modern painting in some parts of the media - seem to have engendered a more conscious realisation of how important and serious the act of making art can be. I can easily be accused of hype, and might have come close before. I certainly don't wish to bandy easy comparisons or accusations around. But. Maybe it's only when our voice is actually threatened that such thoughts come, but I sincerely hope that this is not the beginning of a trend...

Friday, March 18, 2005

right back at ya



figure 35.6. do you take me for a mug, Patrick?

I have a feeling we’ll all be sick of politics in a few weeks, if there really is an election in the offing. There already seems to be a lot of action, and only the other day I got a nice little questionnaire from the local conservatives asking me about what I thought. The assumptions and leading nature of the questions was astonishing. One listed a few priorities I could choose from, most of which seemed to be full of stuff like “law and order” and “immigration. Since when is immigration an issue for parochial quaint little Matlock? I was rather awkward in answering, saying that the environment is my biggest concern, that I think crime could be reduced by more opportunities and engagement with the disadvantaged, and that my particular local issue of dissatisfaction is having a Conservative MP.

I’m also troubled by the recently minor ruckus around Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor’s pronouncements. Some people seem to have implied that such ethical considerations as abortion should be made foundational issues on which to decide your vote. I sincerely hope this isn’t that start of a trend, as the example of the USA shows how a relatively minor issue – often involving ‘family matters’ – can be exploited to provide cover for pretty disgraceful policies on social justice, civil society, environmental sensitivity, and economic competence. If they’re going to tread into the political fray, I suggest that Christians do their utmost to promote positive and challenging approaches to these major issues.

If you’re part of the Church, and want to bring your religion to bear…I reckon asking your canvassers about what they will do for the marginalised and the threatened wildlife habitats of your area, rather than what they think about gay marriage and tv.blaspheme, is the way to go. Politics is becoming increasingly banal – I confess that I’m really not inspired by most of what’s been put on offer by the three main parties. But at the very least we might then have some positive impact, on the deadening dehumanising consensus.

Monday, March 14, 2005

keep on looking

After seeing Martin putting out lots of his songs, I've decided to be a little brave tonight...and stick up one of the pictures I've been working on for the last few weeks. It's strange how wary I am of showing what I've come up with, with the odd exception I've held back for almost a year now - but hopefully this will be the beggining of a general policy. The scanner and photodump, which I've been wrestling with for the last few days, have mashed it up - but the result is actually very satisfying, if a little removed from the physical picture.

materialistic & sensitive

larger version
smaller version

The interpretation, if any, can be up to you. I shall let slip that the baby cherub is adapted from a photo of me walking over a muddy Scottish beach, and that the slogan was written from my brother's P.S.E. school work. But this probably has little obvious bearing.

Friday, March 11, 2005

dots in eyes



figure 14.7. the fine line of elements

Me and a couple of close friends (who shall be nameless, cos of old fashioned discretion) often discuss and share our dreams. Theirs seem to be often in comparison - I tell of mine when they come, normally in fits and starts interspersed by dry periods of blank sleep.

Dreams? I often catch myself using this word when talking about ideals in life and religion. I wonder what I mean. Do I want to think about the ideals and aspirations that might be revealed in our dreams? Do I want to think about the utter ambiguity and impenetrable oddness that dreams often play out? Do I want to think about the slightly ambiguous realistic mixture of fearful abandon and pleasurable attachment that can come in the very same night? Do I want to think of the exciting possibilities that are more likely in them? Probably all of these.

In Australian aboriginal cultures, there are the divine stories that tell of the dreaming where relationships and creation occurs in the flux of things. Our sleep is certainly an essential space to allow our selves to assimilate and deal with a day's life, sorting and coming to terms with it. Without our sleep, and the processes of dreaming through our deepest things, we can quickly become fraught and detached from our life. I doubt it's just me that cannot cope without a good night - but then I often daydream, since my earliest school years.

In the same way, maybe we need to weave our dreaming into the flux of everyday life - to allow some of the disconcerting unsystematic outlook to inform our waking. Maybe without so much forced control there might be more space for organic relating and serendipitous events to occur.

If any of that made sense, I'll be suprised - it's late and i must be off to sleep now...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

expanded

Armanda's been sharing a few thoughts on poetry, through particular readings and experiences. While going through some by Drew Milne (can't find many online examples, keep an eye on the comments and I'll write out a couple soon), I remembered a little line that Ash issued while we were talking last night:

"There is poetry that one reads, and poetry which one experiences and takes part in"

The best verse, in my experience, is that which captures the imagination by sheer willfully enticing immagery. That draws you into the telling and helps you to make a little more sense of things along the way. That's a little full-colour shard of life, with some sense of personal sympathy. Actually, this sounds a bit like the poetic prose of much of the bible, too, as shared narratives we might join...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

comfort in sound



figure 45.2. the bit between the spaces

While trying to write a grandiose entry, I was drawn into musing after reading this little poemsy discussion between Ruth Ann and Louisa. So it's on the back burner for a little while I have a go at knocking consensus (that goes for all you lovely Quakers out there too, m'ducks!) I'll be the first to acknowledge that I've found a lot in contemplation, silence, and absence. Though I stop short of the current wider vogue for chill out and soft jazz ambience in public spaces (worship and otherwise), which easily descends into blandness. But silence is certainly the zeitgeist at the moment.

In fact it's the sheer pervasiveness of this quiet that's got me thinking. I was trying to compose my thoughts as I was immersing myself in music, courtesy of a nice old second-hand walkman - that skips - which was passed on to me by Sarah. I've been reassessing what the opposite of silence means to me, the place of sound and presence in life and spirituality. This quote from The Complex Christ puts it well:

"Our destiny is not a quiet place with just God and us…As Meister Eckhart advises, "spirituality is not to be learned in flight from the world; rather we must learn to maintain an inner solitude regardless of where we are or who we are with. We must learn to penetrate things, and find God there.""

So often the implicit message around-and-about seems to be that we must descend into the quietness of our selves, our gentle rooms with candles, our silence, if we are to hear God. But I'm beginning to remember what I sometimes lose - that God is there in what we hear, as much as what emptiness we create. The divine is the presence of the voice and tune and beat. The rhythm and pulse of life in our world of clattering stuff. God is to be found there in the world of disorder and elements, we have to continuously learn to find God in our world - a world of quiet space and insistent noise.