Hell in Melbourne Town

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Saturday, 31 January 2009

I love summer, I really do. But the monster that invaded Victoria and South Australia in the last week is not summer. It's some extra new season. I think we should call it Beezlebub. Winter, spring, summer, beezlebub, autumn.

I enjoy nice dry 35 degree heat. But bump it up 10 degrees, and repeat the experience for three days in a row, and everything goes haywire, including my head.

I caught the train to work yesterday. Well, a train. My usual train wasn't running, along with the other masses of trains that were cancelled this week. The heat was so intense - three days of 43, 43 and 45 (that's 109, 109 and 113 for you Fahrenheitians) that the steel rails were buckling. My train had to stop for a couple of minutes just before Spencer Street station, and the seat I was sitting happened to be in the sun. I was already battling a bit of heatstroke, I think. Sitting in the sun for those couple of minutes, I really began to wonder if I was going to fall over on my way to the carriage door. And then the 10 minute walk to my office. I have heard of people coming to Australia from the Northern Hemisphere and getting caught out at how quickly it is to be sunburnt here. That damn ozone layer hole. The beating sun is an intense beast for us here these days. Yesterday, I'm surprised the footpath wasn't beginning to melt, the street lamps, the trams, everything. I kept to any shadows I could find and battled nausea for the rest of the day.

The trip home was even better. A signal fault at Flinders Street meant that no trains were running at all by the time I went to catch mine. And so what is usually a 40 minute tops trip for me turned into a trip that took over two hours. No trains meant a bus trip, but after four consecutive buses that sped by me, full to capacity and not taking any more passengers, I started getting desperate (mainly because I was going to wet my pants). I was also desperate to get home because my dog was inside, and there was talk of rolling power outages to start occurring across the state to try to get the grid under control. I was getting really worried that I would get home to a house so hot that my dog would have expired. It was a real worry, even though by the time I had left work the cool change had rolled in (oh, bliss. Bliss bliss bliss).

So finally I got desperate, hailed a cab, and paid 20 bucks for the privilege of getting home. At the shopping centre the power was out, the only light coming from the Coles, brightly humming along on its generator power. The refrigerated shelves, however, were empty, making me feel somewhat like I was in a Russian supermarket in the 1980s. The checkout operator informed me that the power had been out for quite a few hours. Turned out that there was an explosion in one of the electricity thingymybobs-where-explosions-occur and that this was also another reason why entire suburbs were without power. Traffic lights were out, all sorts of mayhem. On the way home in the taxi, I witnessed a car accident that had one car crumpled in on the other side of the road while the other car sat where it had landed, through the plate glass windows of a shop.

Luckily I got home, opened the door to something resembling a furnace, but my dog was okay. His poor tongue. Lester's tongue is so long he's like the Gene Simmons of the dog world. If I ever have to have him operated on, while they are there I will ask them to cut off 5 centimetres and he'll still have one that is fully operational. Lester's tongue was lolling out of his head. The house was uninhabitable, so me and Lester went and sat outside, with a blanket and a candle, and I commiserated with my cousin's husband via text message. He is a linesman for an electricity company, and has gone back to work after holidays to rotating shifts of 12 hours on 12 hours off for the foreseeable future.

My power was off for about another two hours. Whenever there is a blackout, I am always reminded anew of how monumentally reliant we are as a people on things other than ourselves and the earth. As we sat outside in the growing dark, and I admired the stars, which seemed just a little bit brighter for the blackout, I thought about how it would be if all of a sudden electricity was no longer an option for us.

And it sort of scared me a bit, how reliant I am on it. Sometimes I wonder how we as a people must appear to the centuries that have gone on before us. Such a different way of living. It would be a terrifying thing if, say, you came from the 16th century and were given a chance to witness people living now. We must be curiously out of touch in so many ways, like people who have a leprosy sort of relationship to the earth, the thing that sustains us. How fragile our existence must appear to be to them.

Which is ironic when you consider that most of us probably look at people from centuries before and wonder how the hell they managed to get through a life without refrigerators, air conditioning, heating, computers, Internet, television, movies.

I suppose they must wonder at our dearth of storytelling skills, our strange little ways we go about things, our masses and masses of distractions, the humongous amount of bloody plastic everywhere. Sometimes I think the days of living individual, in the way that we have been allowed to in the past few generations, are coming to a close. And by God that scares me, but in another way it excites me. Because it's not meant to be like this. There are so many layers of artificiality concocted around our lives, between us and each other, us and sister earth.

When the power was off, all around me in my suburb, it was so much quieter. There was less of a hum in the air. Our efficiencies and trinkets and toys are indispensable to us, but they silently hum in so many ways just behind our conscious awareness. How much of an effect do they have, all of these things? All of these waves flying through the air, messing in ways we don't even understand with the delicate electrical balance of our bodies. I spoke on my mobile last night for two hours to my cuz. I could feel the effects afterwards. There is some evidence that some instances of certain types of disorders such as autism, ADHD and the like, can be linked to urbanisation gone mad, to the lack of basic nature in children's lives. A Chicago study found such conclusive evidence that more trees and greenery around its high-rise developments lowered crime rates that they plant trees as a matter of course now.

I want this crazy monster that has built up around us dismantled. But I can only pray that it happens slowly. This frog is comfortable in her boiling water, as bizarre and as crazy as that sounds.

Current temperature: a beautiful, balmy 21 degrees (69F). I appreciate it like you wouldn't believe :)
Ouch. But yes. As Wayne said, it takes a lifetime to learn this. I feel like I have begun to tug on one of its toes. Sometimes, even ~ bliss ~ I feel like I've got a firm grip on one of those toes.

I wanna lie in it.

Our ability to be sincere with ourselves, with God, and with other men is really proportionate to our capacity for sincere love. And the sincerity of our love depends in large measure upon our capacity to believe ourselves loved. Most of the moral and mental and even religious complexities of our time go back to our desperate fear that we are not and can never be really loved by anyone.

When we consider that most men want to be loved as if they were gods, it is hardly surprising that they should despair of receiving the love they think they deserve. Even the biggest of fools must be dimly aware that he is not worthy of adoration, and no matter what he may believe about his right to be adored, he will not be long in finding out that he can never fool anyone enough to make her adore him. And yet our idea of ourselves is so fantastically unreal that we rebel against this lack of “love” as though we were the victims of an injustice. Our whole life is then constructed on a basis of duplicity. We assume that others are receiving the kind of appreciation we want for ourselves, and we proceed on the assumption that since we are not lovable as we are, we must become lovable under false pretenses, as if we were something better than we are. The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them. But their despair is, perhaps, more respectable than the insincerity of those who think they can trick God into loving them for something they are not. This kind of duplicity is, after all, fairly common among so-called “believers,” who consciously cling to the hope that God Himself, placated by prayer, will support their egotism and their insincerity, and help them to achieve their own selfish ends.

If we are to love sincerely, and with simplicity, we must first of all overcome the fear of not being loved. And this cannot be done by forcing ourselves to believe in some illusion, saying that we are loved when we are not. We must somehow strip ourselves of our greatest illusions about ourselves, frankly recognize in how many ways we are unlovable, descend into the depths of our being until we come to the basic reality that is in us, and learn to see that we are lovable after all, in spite of everything! This is a difficult job. It can only really be done by a lifetime of genuine humility. We must accept the fact that we are not what we would like to be. We must cast off our false, exterior self like the cheap and showy garment that it is. We must find our real self, in all its elemental poverty but also in its very great and very simple dignity: created to be a child of God, and capable of loving with something of God’s own sincerity and His unselfishness.

The first step in this sincerity is the recognition that although we are worth little or nothing in ourselves, we are potentially worth very much, because we can hope to be loved by God. He does not love us because we are good, but we become good when and because He loves us. If we receive this love in all simplicity, the sincerity of our love for others will more or less take care of itself. Strong in the confidence that we are loved by Him, we will not worry too much about the uncertainty of being loved by other men. I do not mean that we will be indifferent to their love for us: since we wish them to love in us the God Who loves them in us. But we will never have to be anxious about their love, which in any case we do not expect to see too dearly in this life.

The whole question of sincerity, then, is basically a question of love and fear. The man who is selfish, narrow, who loves little and fears much that he will not be loved, can never be deeply sincere, even though he may sometimes have a character that seems to be frank on the surface. In his depths he will always be involved in duplicity. He will deceive himself in his best and most serious intentions. Nothing he says or feels about love, whether human or divine, can safely be believed, until his love be purged at least of its basest and most unreasonable fears.

But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.

Thomas Merton

HT to Wayne

Grace

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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Grace...

whispers of
relentless affection
singing us all
into healing

~ Paul Young

The earth, too. Except maybe we help to sing that one into healing.

My enamour of boiling hot weather has cooled somewhat after about five hours' sleep. Again, today, it is going to be 43 degrees, as is tomorrow. I lay on the couch this morning, once I'd woken up feeling sick and realising that going back to sleep is now something I mourn after for the rest of the day, praying for rain, visualising rain, telling the clouds to form. Because I'm really very nervy about the bushfires that won't be able to help breaking out in such ridiculous weather. It is the nuttiest hot spell in a century.

How unbalanced the earth is, groaning, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed (whatever the hell that means. And I don't think it is as factionalised as we would read it, somehow, but let's see).

I had a conversation last night with a woman called Andrea, who is writing a book about sustainable development within the framework of a biblical reading of God. It is very exciting to be able to enter into something like this with somebody, in an area that makes my mouth water. It is also very exciting to work within "God's economy" as she calls it. She has very little money to get this baby going, but still she asked me about financial recompense. I shrugged it off as being one of the less concerning aspects of the whole situation, considering I don't even know what this whole situation entails. And I guess that is where the freedom comes from, the freedom of people coming together who may not have the slips of paper or the experience to prove it, but who are brought together anyway, and who go on funny little trips together, with no idea of where they shall end. How do you discuss financial recompense in such situations? You don't. You just sit back and see what will come of it in the end. It is a far more exciting way to go about life, as far as I'm concerned. And it has the whiff of God about it. And I think we shall see more and more of it, and it shall be beautiful to watch.

I don't think we have any idea how much we are to enter into the renewing of the earth, in a direct way, sinking our hands into the soil. I can only but dream and hint and ponder about what all of that means, and how healing it will be for us as people, removed as we are from sister earth, slightly insane in the process, to return to the dust from which we came. Not to die (yet), but to help the earth do what it is was made to do ~ give life.

Beer Budget, Champagne Taste

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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

It's going to be a minimum tonight of 29 degrees (84 F) and a top tomorrow of 43 (109 F). Repeat for Friday.

Now, there is no denying it - when it's this hot, it gets in the way of basically everything. It makes 35 degrees look like you should take a cardigan with you just in case you get a bit of a chill. Me, personally I'm a bit partial to 35 degrees. There's something about the dry heat that makes me go all mystical. I feel free in this sort of weather.

Maybe that's why I stood out at North Melbourne station late this afternoon, waiting for a train 30 minutes overdue, listening to Sergei (that's my new/old iRiver) and just feeling wonderful. I kept looking at people and situations and finding them sort of amusing and getting interesting opening lines for stories and blog posts that have long since vanished. I love how expansive I feel sometimes in hot weather.

The only downside is my house is so horrendously hot, with no insulation in its flat roof. And I was concerned about the vegetables I have planted recently, that they would have withered in the furnace. I was concerned that my dog would be dead. I was worried the oldish airconditioner, which I left running all day, had packed it in from the exertion and Lester had expired in the corner of the room into a burnt-up husk for me to cry over upon my return.

He came bounding to the door when I got home, reinforcing for the 89 billionth time the futility of future tripping into what-if scenarios, and exulted in my dousing him in water. He even wanted to play with the ball, in this heat. He is as stupid as I.

I am feeling so much more hopeful these last few days than I have for months and months and months. It's not that anything has really changed except perhaps a small hitch inside of me that thinks that maybe paths are opening up for me that I shall be able to walk down. They have been dark and closed off for so long, I am not quite sure how it feels to have a full sort of a life, a life where things are happening that make you bounce.

The hope and dreaminess comes from the firm and excited conviction of my art therapist a few weeks ago when I told her about my gallery idea. She thinks it's a good enough idea that I shouldn't go blurting it about. It is an idea that is stealable. I feel very chuffed indeed that I have an idea that's stealable :) So Maggie had a bit of a talk to someone who knows about such things, and they are of the belief that funding would be something possible for this endeavour. Maggie's email was full of good advice and there were a few suggestions in there that I am going to begin to take a look at. So yeah, I'm excited. And enjoying the feeling of rolling this idea around in my head, weighing it up in my hands, aware that I don't have a first clue about anything. Maybe it would be to my advantage. "I can so see you there," Maggie said to me, all flushed with pleasure as if she thought it was something that could be done. The gutsy courage of the artist :)

It's not even about the realisation of dreams for me right now, this bubbling excitement (although how amazing to see concretely in front of you something which first appeared as a bubble in your head. There's been rather a dearth of that sort of thing lately, considering my inability to finish a short story. But that's another story). This bubbling excitement is really just all about being reminded of the latent possibilities that sit out there like big bubbles of something, leading who knows where. It's like the possibilities of people transcending space and time in weird ways. It's not the actual doing of that which excites me. It's the possibility that someone could. And the exciting thing for me these days is that I feel like I have developed the capacity to maybe have a bit of an idea of how to hold those bubbles lightly, so that they don't get encrusted with my gigantic ego and pop. And maybe then they would become something concrete in front of me. Who knows? This is a wondrous sort of thing.

Another interesting tidbit. I had an email the other day from Wayne Jacobsen, one of the people involved with The Shack. He'd had an email from someone wanting to get in touch with the Australia Sue in the credits of the book. Way back when, I was one of the people along with a whole stack of others who did several read-throughs of the book, when Paul was considering actually publishing it, and anally pointed out some grammatical inconsistencies (many of which, I was grieved in my anality to see, made it through to at least the printing of the book that I have read. But anyway, I again digress).

So this woman is self-publishing a book and wants to get a team of people on board with her. She is giving me a call tonight and we are going to have a chat and maybe see if there is any way I could give her a hand.

And just this small little thing is a reminder of how these interesting little ideas and people and circumstances just pop out of the blue when you're least expecting it and fill you again with the shy hope that maybe, just maybe, there are things out there for you to do that will fill you up with bubbles, the sorts of things that you see happening to other people sometimes, where the right people and the right circumstances conspire and there is something like a whiff of kingdom and freedom and life and sharing and commonality about it all, the heady excitement of dreams and visions, headier than any sort of champagne.

But the best bit of all is, even if neither of these things come to anything, the main thing still is, and always has been, the knowing that they could. That's what gives the bubbles their fizz :)

Secondhand Stuff

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I have absolutely no qualms at all about buying secondhand clothes. I would stop at undies, but everything else is fair game, for me.

Part of the reason why I like buying second stuff is that it's cheaper. But a main reason is because I have a bit of a moral issue buying new stuff that's made in China etc just because of how cheaply the people who are actually making the clothes get paid. I struggle with it. In a perfect world I suppose I would make my own clothes. But I can't.

And so buying them secondhand feels to me like at least I'm not entering into that whole deal because someone has already bought this item. I'm just giving it another chance at life. And I also don't want to buy into the "keep consuming keep consuming" method of trying to save the economy from nose-diving, because perhaps that is what the economy needs to do so that we will stop bowing down to worship it.

But I don't quite agree with my logic here when it comes to the whole made in China thing because isn't all I'm doing buying one less item from people who need a job anyway? It's like the same qualms I have with imposing sanctions on misbehaving governments. Aren't you just starving the little people in the long run?

I don't know if there are any easy answers to all of this stuff.

So as for being a good little non-consumer, lately I have gone EBay mad. I have purchased a dress and a skirt and some tops and some shoes and some CDs. And a mate is going to give me his old set-top box he doesn't have a use for anymore, and another mate just gave me his old i-River because he is upgrading to an i-Pod.

And I am grateful to my friends who think of me, and I have no hesitation in accepting their secondhand offers because I like having other people's old stuff, and I like not having to buy my own, but gee, I have a whole lot more ... stuff than I did a few weeks ago.

Kairos Space and Kairos Time

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

"In moments of mystical illumination we may experience, in a few chronological seconds, years of transfigured love ... Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored. As the astrophysicists understand time now, it is not like a river, flowing in one direction, but more like a tree, with great branches and smaller limbs and twigs which may make it possible for us to move from one branch to another, as did Jesus and Moses and Elijah, as did St Andrew and St Francis when they talked with each other in that light of love which transcends all restrictions of time."

Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections in Faith and Art


Time as a tree - it's the only way it makes sense :)

Madeleine is waxing lyrical in reference to this painting by El Greco, of Andrew and Francis traversing the times and the spaces to converse with each other. She believed such things were possible. God only knows what she's believing now she's crossed over the river :)

The spaces feel thin today, now, swimming in kairos time. Anything seems possible to me, even though it is 400 million degrees celcius and I could fry eggs on the lounge room floor of my house when I get home on days like this. Tomorrow is going to be 41 celcius, the day after 40, the day after 40. I be sleeping in the lounge room all this week with the aircon on. Apologies to the ozone layer.

If my dog knew he was going to the beach in an hour, such joy would make all his molecules explode.

I think that's why dogs can't see into the future. Occasionally I feel like the veil parts, and I can, just down the road, just for a moment ~ not the actualities, but the possibilities, the infinite possibilities that are truer than boredom and smallness ~ and it throws me into these little mini paroxysms such as you are seeing displayed before you today.

Madeleine L'Engle always sends me into this state. She understood the paroxysms too, I think. She believed crazy things, too.

When we become too rational and logical, and can't believe in crazy flights of fancy that children believe easily and wholeheartedly, in dreams that present themselves to you and ask you to fulfill them, in time travel, in hope, in streams flowing in the desert, then we are quite possibly insane :)

We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies.

The Child World and the Child Within

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Monday, 26 January 2009

Sometimes I think the world is like a child who has been hit by a semi trailer and our parent is holding our hand and unable to explain in a way we will understand why it is that the doctor is digging the scalpel in and twisting and causing us even more pain.

Spiderweb thread is very strong indeed. I read ages ago that if it was magnified 10 times it could hold the weight of a jumbo jet. This is how my above perspective on God in a suffering world feels. My faith hangs on it, and I cannot help but believe that, somehow, along with Julian of Norwich, all shall be all and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. That belief looks so fine, like spiderweb thread. Sometimes it feels like a strong wind could blow it away. It shimmers and threatens to break, but for all of that it has remarkable staying power.

Today is Australia Day. It feels so very, very wrong to be celebrating our country on the anniversary of the day the First Fleet sailed into harbour and displaced the oldest culture in the world. I concur with Mick Dodson, the Australian of the Year, who said yesterday it alienates the indigenous population. Is that what we want to happen, every Australia Day? I agree with Dodson. If we change it to another day, it totally changes everything, gives it a forward-focussing thrust straight away.

Dodson was realistic that any dialogue to change the day would be a long-running one so, despite K-Rudd's emphatic no, hopes that the conversation continues. I do too. It is a worthwhile conversation for us to have, not simply for the leader of a fallible political system to make, but for us, the people, to make. It is an idea whose time has very much come.

From little things big things grow.

(As an aside, I was very pleased to hear that George Schofield, dog chiropractor extraordinaire, was awarded an Order of Australia Medal yesterday for his magical chiropractic skills, for service to the greyhound industry and to the health of dogs in general. Nice one.)

I met up with my mother today for a little musical do in the Treasury Gardens. It was first organised a few years ago by a bunch of Aboriginal artists and musicians. The vast majority of the acts were hip-hop artists, so that is probably the cause of the headache I am nursing right now. But those aside, there was some great stuff too. Archie Roach, the dearly beloved, headlined. There was a reggae band called Soul Nation, and another band whose name escapes me but who began their set playing African drum solos, and who were mighty fine also.

And it was good to be there, where the indigenous people called today Survival Day, and I saw a man wipe a tear away from his eye as Archie sang about the stolen generations.

"It's begun," Archie said, "the change. It began last February with the government's apology to the Stolen Generations. It's continuing with the election of Obama to the White House. Ever so slowly, the change is happening."

The hope and growing confidence and pride of indigenous people is a beautiful thing to watch. One day we will wonder how so many of us ever fell into the blind pit of racism. I reckon too one day we will wonder how so many of us ever had the blindness to not see God in every atom. But that's just my fond, spiderweb hope for a future world that will lose all of its eye-scales. Even the non-trendy ones. 'Cause it's trendy to not be racist anymore, but it's still way, way non-trendy to love the God of the Bible.

Archie's last song was Beautiful Child, about that inner spiritual part of us that sees, that's eternally young, that creates, that loves, and I thought, I don't think I will ever quite, quite be satisfied until the God of the Bible is likened more to that beautiful child than to the God that comes out of Empire religion. Whose outward flow was a generation of well-meaning people who displaced childen from their families and thought they were doing God a favour in the process.

God help us. We always need it, after all.
Remember that dude who did a whole lot of travelling and began recording himself doing his funny little dance in many different countries? And how it just touched something in people, for some reason, so that he became really famous and then ended up totally cashing in like a bastard doing some advertisement for something and just ruining it for everybody because turns out he's just as greedy as everybody else out there fucking the world up with greed (ie. us)?

Remember him? Well, he's redeemed himself a bit in my critical and judgmental eyes with this latest lot :) I don't know what it is about this. It's silly. But despite that, they still kinda move me anyway :)

Bike Pumps and Other Imponderables

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Saturday, 24 January 2009

Going bike riding with a mate tomorrow around the Mount Macedon area (preferably the flat part). It's been a leetle bit long time since I last rode my bike - two years, in fact. Long enough that the tyres are completely utterly totally flat.

Last time I rode my bike, I was staying at Jane's until I found a place of my own. I rode my bike from Footscray to Williamstown, red tomato faced, puffing like Thomas, vowing I was going to ride my bike more often because dammit, it was such good cardio work and I was gonna get fit.

You can't rush these things.

In preparation for my ride tomorrow, I got out the bike pump purchased from the friendly fellows at Rays Bicycles. Should have done it earlier. The goddamn thing requires a pHD to use it. Levers, dual pumps, gauge looking thing. But does it pump air into the tyres? Only if you know the secret password, apparently. Simsalabim.

My head is as sore this evening trying to work out this pump, as my bum is going to be tomorrow after I've ridden. How embarrassing it is to trawl the internet Googling "how to use a bike pump".

This is the fault of free market capitalism, you know. If the good people at WhoeverTheBloodyHellMakesBikePumps (Aust) didn't feel like they had to add bells and whistles to a goddamn bike pump (ergonomically designed, of course, so as to add less than .00003 of a gram to the weight of your bicycle ride) so as to gain market share from the rest of the people who also make bike pumps, and I had have bought a bike pump from the rest of the people who also make bike pumps, I would have already stuck the end onto the valve, pumped my hand backwards and forwards many times, and would be now onto working out how to reattach the detachable wheel to the rest of the bike. I would have already finished wiping of the two years of accumulated dust off the bike and cleared the spiders out of the bike helmet.

Bells and whistles make a silly girl's head spin. I just want to ride my bike, dammit.

++++++++

Redux. Ended up riding for three hours yesterday. I was most concerned about whether, upon awakening this morning, I'd be walking like a cowboy but thankfully, damage is minimal.

Now, that was fun. Being on a bike, instead of on my feet or in a car, the world just looks different, you know? It takes me back to being a kid again. I don't know how far we rode yesterday, but I only felt like I was going to seriously have a heart attack twice. The other 16 times I just got off the bike and lay on the ground and waited :) Cardio exercise is fun like that. There's a danger element to it :)

I seriously lack stamina, dammit. It's a humbling experience to know just how much, and to not try to push myself too hard like a moron :)

O Impermanence!

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Friday, 23 January 2009

by Betty Fritsch, seen over at Barbara's

Standing in my evening vestibule
wrapped in fading light
I push Chronos out the door firmly.
Your time is up, I say
as I usher in my dear friend Kairos,
pulling her into a welcoming embrace.

Goodbye clock time,
tick-as-you-must time,
Hello grace time,
Swirling-spirals-of-sense time.
Set-my-heart-free time is
past due today.

Come in!
I know you cannot stay long
and I so yearn
to spend some moments wisely
in your comforting company.

Advise me,
Hour of wisdom's beginning.
Impart your secrets of forgiveness,
Drench me with your sacred silence.
Remind me of my own steadfast spirit!

Reveal my task for this hour,
And then be on your way,
dear friend!
Move swiftly as I long
to clothe myself in your certainty,
to detain you forever as my faithful guide.

But alas, even you must be surrendered!
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Thursday, 22 January 2009

This blog lasted on For-Susie's-Eyes-Only status for approximately nine hours. That's how long I survived before I began to miss it :)

Ahhh, the land of ambivalence. Its shores expand out for years, it seems. It is very exhausting holding two sometimes-opposing thoughts in your head at the one time. It's frowned upon in society. We are meant to always know where we are going. It seems to scare people, being ambivalent. Look at Thomas and the bad rap he got, and yet I don't think God is anywhere near as upset by our ambivalences as we are ourselves.

'Cause swinging backwards and forwards is especially bad for your ego. And it's painful feeling like a teetering twit, especially when you have been the sort of person who has been able to put on an outward show of strength much of the time. That seems to be the last thing I am these days. I went into the ladies toilets at work today and cried, in the way you do at work when you have makeup on, with toilet paper wadded up and stuck directly under your eyes so that nobody can see the streaks making their way back down your face. Later on, on a different visit to the loo, Jenny walked in and asked was I okay, that I looked upset, as if I might cry. If I hadn't learnt to hide my emotions so well, I probably would have let them fall again. But I didn't. Held on. Stoically. I have not learnt the art of crying in public. Neither have I learnt the art of being weak and broken in public, much as it might seem differently on here :)

Sometimes I wonder if God's plan is to just reduce me down to a pile of rubble. I don't like God much today.

Of course, on the plus side, ambivalence is indicative of growth and change. Much as we would like it, you can't really go from one state of being and thinking to another without bumbling somewhere in the middle of the two lands. I am trying to be kinder to myself in these instances. It's very difficult in these times when the self-talk voices are especially nasty. I don't like myself much today, either.

Anyway, I have deleted a few posts from here. Things about my family, mainly. Things that are really too out-there to be sharing here, even for me. Some things that are just too raw. I love being open, you know? I think it is one of my strengths. I understand what shame feels like, and I have closet skeletons I will never share with anybody. Nevertheless, I think openness comes from feeling forgiven, I have decided. And as much as I am disliking myself and God, I certainly don't have a trouble with the whole forgiveness bag. It is just not an issue for me anymore. I am more certain of God's love and provision for me than I am of any human's.

It is a strength to be openhearted. But oh, it's a vulnerability too, and once again I find myself feeling like I am going to collapse in a strong breeze. And so I go back, deleting posts that are detrimental to my health. Maybe I'll delete more as I go. I guess it's just one more boundary that needs to be built, huh. The privacy zone. Even I need one of those :)

Free Believers

8 comments

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I do like the term free believers, as much as I like any term that has the potential to get the life drained out of it from overuse. But still, that's any term I suppose, isn't it? I like the thought of a bunch of hens picking their way around, away from the machinery and the life of a battery hen. More dangerous out in the wild though. The term free believers reminds me of The Verve's new song, Love is Noise, which I just loverty love. That is a good song for a free believer, seeing it sounds like the backing vocalists are a bunch of electronic chickens :)

Anyway, I love what Darrin Hufford has to say in his latest post. It's cold and hard but it's true. And I suppose I'd rather these days have a cold and broken hallelujah than anything that is illusion, smoke, and mirrors. The first is pain, but it's real. I think I would rather stand on the cold reality (and really, my reality feels very cold to me sometimes) than on anything that looks shiny and will shift under my weight when reality leans on it.

I believe that Christianity has been marketed to the carnal nature of unbelievers. We successfully got people who would not have otherwise become a Christian to sign on the dotted line and join our religion. We did it by presenting "relationship with God" in a way that would appeal to power-hungry money mongers who want to escape the cold reality of life. We told people that God would financially prosper them. We told them that they would never get sick and if they did, God would make it go away. We've promised them that if anyone hurt them, their God would stick up for them and get revenge on their behalf. We convinced them that God would also give them godlike powers and they could dazzle their friends and family with magic tricks. We promised them that God would make sure they held a position of leadership in life where everyone would respect them and pay them honor. I've even seen different ministries claim that Christians have better sex than non-Christians. The list goes on and on. One by one, people signed up for Christianity. People who would not have otherwise given it a second look, found themselves strangely tempted with a religion that promised to fulfill their every carnal desire. The offer was just too good to be true.

Generations later, people are holding onto the promises the sales agent gave them, in spite of the fact that they've never seen the results manifested in their own life. Others finally leave the "faith," drained and disheartened. They didn't get what they wanted from Christianity so they continue searching for a religion that will give it to them. Then we have the people who would have given their heart to God without any marketing at all. It was already in their heart. They came to Him because they wanted Him and nothing else. They would have come without the fancy marketing and boastful claims.

Sadly, these sincere people go through life thinking they are always one step behind the rest of the crowd. They secretly feel like they're doing something wrong and failing God because they get sick and are short on cash and are stuck in a dead-end job at the bottom of the totem pole. They aren't full of intense joy and happiness 24 hours a day like they were told they would be, so they blame themselves for not getting it like they should. They beat themselves up because they truly love God and yet none of the explosions they were told about are happening.

These are the people who will eventually become Free Believers.

I love the way Darrin is calling it as he sees it. I reckon he can call it as he sees it because he has had a vision of God as good, and beautiful. I am ever more drawn towards the people who are latching onto this vision. It's the only thing that saves me :( I'm so bored with hearing God get dissed, to be honest, even while I love the honesty of people doing the dissing. They drag me down to the depths, though - I'm not strong enough to hear the claims at the moment. I need lifting up, not dragging down. I'm already on the floor enough as it is.

Anyway, blah blah blah. I don't have much to say from my own stuff at the moment. The "you are a bitch" gremlins are out in force the last few days. I am taking myself off to Edgars Mission today. Hopefully being out amongst my fellow animals and a couple of people who I trust will soothe my soul a bit today. God knows I need it.

In and Out

2 comments

Friday, 16 January 2009

I started writing a short story the other day. The usual trick - got to a certain spot and then stopped. I usually start writing from a scenario that paints itself into my head. The scenarios, though, are not joining themselves together with other scenarios, making something bigger than themselves. They just sit there, like scenes, in a small pocket world of their own, five second flickers that don't end up containing life to breathe in and out and make more of themselves.

I have fully formed pictures appear in my head sometimes. Two nights ago it was an image, in oranges and reds and blacks, of two sparsely drawn people walking past me on my right and then out of vision behind me. I do not know what it was. It lasted for a flinching second and it made me physically jolt, there on my bed. I do not know what it was.

There are many steps to go to finish a story. I will, again, one day. It's trusting that there are things I need to learn, or relearn, to unblock the blockage. The best sorts of learnings happen without words. This is one of them, when I'm not even sure that I'm learning anything at all.

When I woke up this morning, the flywire screen had been removed from the window in the middle of the night. I was sure it wasn't like that when I got home last night. Someone must have tried to break in, in the night, while I was asleep. It made me happy seeing that flywire screen sitting there like that because it proved that when people try to break into my house, they can't.

I watched a movie this evening and was struck anew by the special art of the screenwriter. They write bubbles, it seems to me. A special kind of art that writes spaces and nuances for other people to fill. I think that screenwriters must be especially giving and generous sorts of people, loving gods of their domains. The best kinds of bubbles are the ones that stretch away for miles, so that you have to put them aside to take out later to reexamine them again.

Often I say or write things, and I am doing them on the fly. It's not that I'm making it up as I go. I already know everything that I am saying. It is coming from a deep well of knowing and intuition, but I haven't put words to it yet, and so I don't really quite know it in this particular way until ooh, look, there it is before me. I knew all of this, and yet I have also learnt something new. Sometimes, when I am putting my own ego aside and swimming in the stream, the words come flowing out my mouth like water from that stream, and what I really feel like is that art is coming out of my mouth.

+++++++

Which is pretty funny when you consider how potty-mouthed I am. One of life's little quirks, I guess ;)

Blathering

8 comments

As a cultural sort of thing between Australians and Americans, can I just say that whenever I see someone using the word "dang", it really pisses me off? It rankles and grates like a giant vegetable grater. It's so ... nice and inoffensive. I find it really offensive :P

A couple of nights ago I watched a silly English show called Star Stories which parodies celebrities and shows me, to my dismay, how much I know about them even when I couldn't give a toss. Last night's episode was a parody with Tom Cruise in the starring role. The Nicole Kidman character walked in blustering the word "fuck" every 3 seconds and telling people where to go and generally being completely caricaturish and seriously, I don't know where the hell they got that impression of Australian women from???

I am still noticing it's 11 past 11 all the time. Every week. Every day. Sometimes twice a day. I just noticed it before. My eye was drawn to the clock and there it was, 11 past 11. If you type 11:11 into Google, you get a whole lot of whack naffery. It was no help at all. Does anyone else notice 11 past 11, or am I the only unhinged one amongst us? And what the dang godamn hell does it mean? Maybe I just need to watch some Young Ones episodes.

Bear Bones

2 comments

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

To the ancients, the bear symbolized resurrection. The creature goes to sleep for a long time, its heartbeat decreases to almost nothing. The male often impregnates the female right before hibernation, but miraculously, the egg and sperm do not unite right away. They float separately in her uterine broth until much later. Near the end of hibernation, the egg and sperm unite and cell division begins, so that the cubs will be born in the spring when the mother is awakening, just in time to care for and teach her new offspring. Not only by reason of awakening from hibernation as though from death, but much more so because the she-bear awakens with new young, this creature is a profound metaphor for our lives, for return and increase coming from something that seemed deadened.
Women Who Run With the Wolves - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The Young Ones

4 comments

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

People looked sinister to me today. Evil was surely afoot on a day when I had to go back to work ('cause I am, after all, the centre of the entire universe). I felt old on the way to work, my first train trip for 2009, with a bunch of teenagers standing in the other doorway, and I was pretty sure they were all about to break out in a mass orgy on the train and then belt people up.

Young people. They really are starting to look like another breed now, the little fuckers darlings, even without me calling them young people, in the way that old people do. It must be weird growing up now. I think if I was a teenager now I would go totally off the rails, crystal mething my brains out and putting my porn videos up on the internet. It was bad enough growing up in the eighties but at least redemption felt like it was hanging around in the air as a concept to grab onto if you wanted. I was a bit of a closet mystic even then. These days, I wonder how much harder it is to tap into the ether, even while spending a million hours online in it every day and oh, goodness, how old do I sound?

So I went to work and yea, it was boring. I transcribed an interview with a little 20 year old bastard whose details I am unfortunately not able to divulge, having signed a piece of paper that precludes me from putting him into some sort of electronic stocks (because you can't tell me that that's not one of the top 5 things the media has taken upon itself to be in this culture). Young people are funny because while they seem way less judgmental in some ways, in others many more of them seem way more inclined to rob each other at knifepoint and roam in gangs and root each other purely for fun and put it on the internet. But then hey, with mass generalisations like the ones I'm making, its obvious that I'm so way out of touch that what the hell would I know anyway?

So then at work I had a bit of a weird turn, because I'm still doing that detoxing thing and it's been going really fine, and yet today I had also taken a few other things as well and they all somehow bizarrely combined in a really shitty way that had me dizzy and nauseous, so that when I left work to catch the train I was thinking how irritating it would be falling down in the road and getting run over, or vomiting in the street, and then I got to the station and the 6.20 had been cancelled so I got to sit on the ground of Flagstaff platform 3 for half an hour feeling dizzy and trying to concentrate on my book but i was getting that horrible feeling the way I do when I try and read in a moving car, and gee this sentence is way too long, and the woman next to me had the most bizarre makeup on that made her look like that woman who's had all those masses of plastic surgery but without having had any plastic surgery. Sinister.

And so I came home and lay on the couch and thought how sad it is that I have wasted the whole day feeling sorry for myself and maybe my horrid detox experience was some kind of weird instant karma even though i don't believe in instant karma and i really don't like that song very much either, while we're at it, and oh dear, here's another long sentence, is this annoying to read?

So I've spent most of my evening feeling like I'm getting over that yukky nausea/dizziness thing, and I'm trying to redeem it in some way by doing something vaguely useful and so I have cleaned out the bottom of the fridge, which regularly gets water building up in it, because it's old and due for the scrapheap but i feel sorry for appliances and the way they just get thrust aside like an old Atari 2600 with a Pong cartridge, and so I just keep wiping it out every now and then and having to get a giant knife and smash the giant icicle that builds up along the right-hand side of it, an icicle so big i should transport it to Antarctica and it might help the polar ice caps to slow down their melting. And anyway, I don't mind funny little quirks. It makes things more endearing when they squeak, or leak, or belch (although I must say, now that Lester has gone to Mark's, the house not smelling like a giant fart will be pretty pleasant).

So while I was cleaning out the fridge, I was thinking a bit about the whole Mozambique thing and thinking what a cool thing that would be to do, and thinking about how sad it is that when Krishna, who is one of the guys who lives in the house on my block, came to my door to arrange a time for us to get out and get the garden back into some semblance of order, I felt a sense of pleasure that I could put that on my calendar, oh dear, that's very sad, isn't it, and thinking about how i need to start doing more things with my life and yet how, at the same time, i do so love how small pleasures are good pleasures, and while I might have laughed at myself once, now I really do appreciate the small little things that go into living a contemplative urban existence and I love that and don't care how daggy it is because it makes my heart swell, even though I also would like to balance out gardening afternoons by doing something daring like going to Mozambique and being selfless.

And so then I started thinking about the Touch Taste Smell Gallery and how cool that would be to start up, and thinking about how when I was driving to Jane's the other week down Melbourne Road there was an old building on the right-hand side that was abandoned, an old brick building, and how it was sitting in the middle of a field of crap grass, like an old abandoned Atari 2600, and a part of me (the excitable part that is still 25 and wants to go adventuring now, dammit, boring old bag woman) said, "Hey, that would be a cool building for a Touch Taste Smell Gallery" and then I was daydreaming as I do, with a cast of characters and dialogue and colour as is my wont, and I was thinking about all the pathetic little shithead teenagers that would come and blow their brains out with meth on the grounds of my Touch Taste Smell Gallery and try and rip off the artwork and so then I expanded the gallery to outside as well, with some sort of a garden out there and befriending some of these kids, and see, I'm not all totally crusted over just yet because even though so many more of the young people seem to be little bastards young people with ingrained low water marks, they still somehow managed to insert themselves right into the middle of my reverie and my heart does, underneath the unsettled beating that goes on around these strange people, bleat for them.

'Cause I wonder how many of them feel like they are as meaningful as an old fridge or an old home entertainment system, and how I do feel like that myself sometimes, and about how awesome it is to be aware of how fucked-up and patently ugly we all are and the culture is but oh, my, how I don't want to get sucked into that for too long at any one time because sometimes it just feels more obvious to me that the only thing that is gonna save us all is love, and Love, no matter how ugly we are. 'Cause love reminds us of how purty we are, too, and that's something the culture ain't going too flat stick demonstrating, so I guess it's up to us.

(See, redeemed myself in the end, a little, huh? ;)

Ho Hummity

17 comments

Monday, 12 January 2009

Okay, whinge alert. I'm about to have a bit of a whinge and you, sweet blogger, are therefore about to read it. (But here's a shortcut: I'm about to whinge about going back to work tomorrow, so if you just skip to the comments and say "oh, poor susie, it's okay, who knows what will come up this year for you workwise?" I'll never know you didn't read the whole post :)

There's nothing for it tonight but to comfort eat. A large custard tart, which may possibly be all gone by the time I've finished this post. My holidays are over tonight. Rushing in swirling is a compacted combined feeling of all the Sunday nights of my childhood. O depressing night. The claustrophobia. The frustration at having no option but to get up in the morning and go back to skewel.

I could do comparisons, I suppose. Even though comparisons are oderous to me. They deflect you away from really acknowledging to yourself what you're feeling. But let's try.

I could be working 60 hours a week as a boilermaker, or a chicken sexer, or a prostitute, or a politician. Really, sitting on my bum to clear 30 bucks an hour for 25 hours a week is a pretty good wicket. Right? Well, that still does not deny the fact that cricket bores me.

I could be going back to school tomorrow instead of going back to work. I could be at home, crying, because six weeks of fun at Andrea's has come to an end and now I'm stuck at home, boredom central, feeling like the next holidays may as well never even exist, they're that far away.

Well, it's true, it could be all of those things, which would be worse, but that still doesn't change the fact that tomorrow I go back to the job that bores me. And I can't quite keep the sadness at bay tonight. It feels like the year is stretching away ahead of me, week after week of "Yes, Your Honour" and "Can you tell us what the tablets were doing located in your house, if they don't belong to you?" Sigh. Is there any chance, o great flying spaghetti monster, that this year my life could expand somewhat, maybe even in several different directions, so that I can possibly actually feel like I am a part of the human race? That would be dandy, thank ye.

Breathe Susie, breathe. Okay. Easter's coming up, right? And I am an optimist of sorts. I can say things to myself like, "Who knows what is around the corner? Maybe something else will come up." Well, maybe. Maybe maybe maybe.

My brother came over today, brought the last of the furniture and what-not that's been kept in a self-storage container in Clayton, brought it over to store in my garage. And now off he has gone, to the state forest beyond Bacchus Marsh, with an air mattress and a portable fridge in the back of his car. He is heading off on Friday, after a few days in the bush, wending his way to Geelong, and from there to Warrnambool to follow the coast into South Australia. He plans to stay with my auntie in Murray Bridge for a while, painting her house for her, and then to perhaps see if he can begin afresh, a new life.

I'm a bit jealous. Oh, I know it's easy to be jealous of someone taking off like that from the outside. But as it happens, he hasn't got the foggiest what the hell he is going to do. His work options are much more limited even than mine. And as it is he has been without a house for the past three months, and the gypsy lifestyle is beginning to wear thin. Still, off he drove, in high spirits, optimistic. And despite him not knowing what the hell he is doing, I remain jealous.

I want to be on the road, free, with no boring job to go to tomorrow. Living out of my campervan, driving around Australia, writing and selling articles and short stories that fund my trip. Picking up friends and family from local airports and bus stations to come along and have adventures with me.

Okay. So I'm fantasising :) It is an occupational hazard to fantasise about being out and free when tomorrow you are going back to work for the foreseeable future. Oh, fuckity fuck :(

Come on Sue. Focus on something. Okay. How about this: in a couple of weeks I am going to an information session about Kidslink, a small organisation that Heather is involved with, which digs wells in Mozambique and which is constructing a school building in the town of M'Batwe. It is a sort of surreal scary thing to consider doing something like this, but nevertheless I am going to go along and think about whether maybe, in July, it is possible that I could go to Mozambique for a couple of weeks. Do something for other people and maybe expand my small little life. Get it moving again. Maybe.

Speaking of Heather, I got together with her and Louisa last night. It was great to meet another fellow blogger. We chatted, ate Mexican food, drank a Pina Colada, got kicked out the restaurant because it was closing. We went to a pub down the road, drank coffee, chatted, and got kicked out because the pub was closing. We drove to the Espy (much cleaner than when I was last there), sat in the little side part next to the pub, chatted, drank bourbon, bacardi and champagne, got kicked out because it was closing. We went into the pub, in time to see the last song of the last band. We left before we could get kicked out and stood and chatted in the street about how, next time we get together, we're gonna try for a Saturday night next time so that things won't keep closing :) It was fun. But I'm not allowed to tell you about how Louisa walked up the aisle to a Hillsongs song, and Heather walked down the aisle to one. Don't tell anyone I told you.

Holy Doubt, Batman

6 comments

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Most of us think that the word amen means something along the lines of "let it be so," "it is so," or even "we believe it is so." While these are acceptable translations, certain scholars offer a translation that's much more helpful and perhaps even revolutionary. They have discovered that the word amen doesn't just mean "it is so" and also doesn't imply a steadfast belief that something is so. Rather, it actually means "I believe that it is true, even though I struggle to believe that it actually is the truth."

... It is never easy for me to officiate at funerals, no matter how many I have been called to, but one experience in particular has stayed with me. It was the funeral of a woman in her late forties who died after a valiant battle with cancer. Her two children were left parentless at the ages of sixteen and eighteen, as their father had died several years before. It was a terrible situation. The sanctuary overflowed with mourners. Unexpectedly, the woman's father signaled that he wanted to speak. He came to the microphone amid absolute silence. He stood there for many seconds, not saying a word. And then he yelled, as loud as he could, "Why? How dare you do this to me, God? Do you think that I carried my daughter through the Holocaust to die like this and leave two children?" There wasn't a dry eye in the room. He stayed silent for a few seconds, which felt like an eternity. Then one more time he bellowed, "WHY?" Again, silence. And then he said, "Praise be You God. Praise be You God."


Matthew Gewirtz - The Gift of Grief

Contemplative shit

4 comments

It's an interesting sort of a health milestone to see how much easier it is these days to wake at 6am because your dog needs to go outside, to step in dog diarrhea as you go, and then to clean up said dog diarrhea with a plastic spatula into a plastic bag after around five hours' sleep. I scrubbed the rug with bicarb soda and vinegar, and poured bicarb all over to get rid of the smell that had inserted itself as firmly as a child's finger into my nose for the forseeable future. I would have been cactus trying to do anything at 6am on five hours' sleep when I was ill. It seems like one of those mini miracles only I can really appreciate now that I can :)

It was enough that I could do that and then go outside with a cup of tea and joy over the sky with streaky clouds and light interplays before the light grey clouds rolled in. I sat and watched the pair of pigeons scrabbling on the garage roof, the same ones who walk on their stalks over the roof across my head when I'm waking up in the mornings. I love the brown crisscrosses on their necks. If it was possible for pigeons to hold pens, they could play very small games of noughts and crosses on each other.

It was enough to sit outside and rub my (washed) foot over the shiny brown back of my dog. To sit in the peace and smell the relatively fresh air, even though only 10 kilometres away from the centre of a small city.

I joyed over all of those things and thought about how far vision goes. What do things really look like if we could see them at their essence? Would we be inclined to fall down and worship blades of grass, pigeon necks, each other? I suspect we would. I am all for more and more of this kind of seeing, as long as it doesn't lead me down the crazy path of bursting into tears on the train because of the play of light on a woman's neck, or into rapturous delirium about the colour of the trail of branches hanging down over the high brick wall of a fence.

Because then I might get locked up :)

I think, however, those early morning joyings may be about the extent of it for me today. Which is unfortunate, because my holidays are coming roaring to a close and I wanted to take myself off today on some sort of an artist date, the first one in weeks and maybe even months. But it's all I can do to stay upright now, unfortunately, the joy of the early morning having been dispelled somewhat by my return to bed for three hours' sleep which has left me feeling worse than I did before I went back to bed.

Still, feeling crap aside, this is the third time this year I have been up to see the beginnings of the day, its aching newness. I kinda like it ... as far as a night owl can, anyway :)

Embracing the Bedfellows

6 comments

Friday, 9 January 2009

I'm enjoying reading people's 2008 roundup posts. I suppose this is the closest I shall come to doing one of my own. I've definitely been driving in an all-terrain vehicle this last year, forging new territory. I am hopeful, with a shy, tentative, virginal hopefulness of this coming year being one where I can get out of the car and dance in some roadside fields. This feels shyly possible and maybe even shyly probable to me this morning.

Still, I have been humiliated and humbled by much that went on this year. It is tiring exploring new territory, especially when those territories are the twin bedmates bitterness and jealousy. Such difficult things to get grips on. You spy them there in the shadows and large they loom, so you look for a second or two (blessed looking) and then that is enough for now. And so you go and watch television. Those two-second lookings are days of small beginnings, not to be despised.

Until in the end there is nothing to do but to admit these strange bedfellows who have been living in your life hidden away in one of those rooms. Dammit, you knew that opening doors would lead to contents that wouldn't rock your socks, to put it lightly. But conversely, you think that maybe there are secret passages in those rooms, that contain slippery dips, that lead out to places you ... well, you don't know yet, because you haven't been there.

And so then you go for days and weeks and you've opened these doors. And you leave them open, but you go back to the lounge room. It's enough to have the doors open. This too is blessed looking. Because while you're sitting in the lounge room, and the stench wafts down the hallway on occasions, these things are shrinking a little bit further in size by familiarity and humiliation, until one day you walk past one of the rooms and stop and walk in and look around and sit on the bed. And you sigh yes, okay then. I see you live here and you have for some time.

And so you go back to the lounge room, and sometimes the bitterness and the jealousy come to visit you there in your safe place. And the world doesn't rock in its axis when they do, and you realise suddenly that there is another door in front of you, and you open it and walk through, bringing these dragging dogs with you, and you walk on through with these things that you once could not see and were shocked to see so that you were crushed and hated and punished yourself and locked the door to the playroom and swallowed the key.

And now it seems that you have begun to embrace those things and it's like a jolt of honey to realise you can see into them. This close you can see the threads that follow back along wordless roads to beginnings, and sometimes those ibeginnings are impossible to know that you have reached them but something clicks in your soul and you are at peace when you were at war, though more battles will rage. And you realise again how it's a good and holy thing to do this examination of yourself because these kernels of death, that made you flinch and make you flinch, contain down in their husk a nugget and you see that there is always life after death.

And though you know this, it makes you marvel afresh every time you see it in some other place. And there is silence in your heart for half an hour.

Thanks for sharing the road with me this past year, you blogging dudes. I do give you all a hard reading time on this blog, I must say. I don't know how to play it except real. I hope that this next year I get to joy on you and hug you with my words more :) I'm pretty sure I'll be reporting from the trenches of the slough of despond too, but hey, light and dark, right :)

It Made Me Smile - Two Walks

5 comments

Thursday, 8 January 2009

It made me smile to see sister moon baring almost all of her soul in the sky this eve.

It made me smile that the sky was full of cloudy fluffiness and the colour of the clouds was the colour of children.

It made me smile that the woman wore her hot pink dressing gown and slippers to put the rubbish bin out.

It made me smile when the mad Pomeranian and the mad mother cat both rushed out simultaneously and buffeted Lester on either side with malice and he took it all pretty calmly, really.

It made me smile when the plane flew right into the bum of the pink fish-shaped cloud and disappeared from sight.
I understand why doing what's wrong feels so right.
But oh, how disorientating it feels when doing what's right feels so wrong.

Unless of course it's wrong and that's why it feels so wrong. Unless some boundaries are really just walls. How do you tell the difference?

How confusing it all is, this weird little life.

And then of course in another entirely different scenario there are the boundaries that are good and wonderful ones to be setting, because your house is not a hostel nor a halfway house, and relatives over 40 are responsible for their own lives. Why then does it carry such a strong, iron pang of abandoning, then? What sort of weird twist is that? Is it a weird twist at all, or is it just compassion, mixed in with the resentment and anger, the recognition of a fellow human being struggling to find their place, struggling to believe that they have the strength to walk forward into unknown places, struggling to understand that you are not the person who can help them right now? What a mix it all is, the chiaroscuro life.

That's all. As you were.

House Meeting

4 comments

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

The cats. Speaking of which, I have not seen the mother and her four kittens that are under my house for a week. Lester has been back here for almost a couple of weeks now, and apart from early New Year's Day not a peep, and no one is eating the food I'm putting out. I hope they're safe and okay. I wonder if they will reappear once Lester goes to Mark's?

Dalmations. How cool are the spotted ones? I would love a dalmation one day. And a boxer. And a couple of those cool rag doll cats. And a monkey. And a carpet snake.

But no insects that crawl into your ears. I don't know if it's a coincidence or what but I now have an ear infection. It is in both ears though, so I don't know if I could blame the earwig, or whatever the hell it was. Still, it's an excuse for my grouchiness this week. Now, to find an excuse for next week ...

Are You Over 17??

17 comments

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

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Thanks to Mork and his easily-lost challenge in my comments (dammit, why didn't I up him for a Mars bar as well as the can of Coke?), I have just been disappointed to learn that my blog is only rated NC17. Which I think is the next level above R, and surely it's terribly childish that I am strangely pleased about such a thing?

Still, I was really hoping to be rated X. I wonder what you need to have for that? The "c" word?

My rating is determined based on the presence of the following words:

dangerous (six times)
hell (five times)
pain (four times)
fuck (three times)
crap (two times)
crappy (one time)

Now, I take umbrage, as you will no doubt be unsurprised, at this rating. This site seems particularly prudish to me (the site giving the ratings, I mean. Not my site. I don't think anyone would be slapping the label of prudish on my site). I mean, how dangerous is the word "dangerous"? What happens if you're a site that reviews Roxette songs? You could be very safe for 10 year olds, and yet you get bitch-slapped with an NC-17. And hell. Goodness, five times? That's David's fault, I think. He has a penchant for hell, and sending people to it. Which is better, I suppose, than having a penchant for sex with animals and seeing how many things you can get inserted up your nostrils, but slightly irritating considering I don't even think that hell exists in the stupid form that Calvin man and many others spew forth. But anyway, i wasn't talking about hell. I was talking about this fun thing Mork got me to do so that I could wax on about animal sex and stuff.

Mork's rating on his blog was even stranger. He got an "R" rating because of the following words:

missionary (five times)
dead (three times)
slap (one time)

Oooh, missionaries. Scary stuff! Of course, you could be talking about the missionary position and that would be awful because we don't want the kiddies to be thinking about such things. We want to stuff it all down behind the couch so they can discover it for themselves when they're 14 and go sick. The same with death. Don't talk about sex and death to people under 17. Probably best to not talk about them with people over 17 either. Just talk about money.

And slap. Well, I mentioned bitch-slapping up there. And now I've just mentioned the word slap again, in the first sentence of this paragraph. And now I've just mentioned slap again, in the third sentence of this paragraph, and also in this one. I wonder if that has got my rating up to X?

I'd need to say the "c" word, wouldn't I? And hey, even I've got some sort of decency limits :)
Never really been all that into soul music, but I've been hankering for a bit of Otis Redding for a while now. Seems like every time I hear another one of his songs for the first time, it hits me in that spot, you know? That man was berwilliant. I watched the beginning of a show the other night about Stax Records. It was good, but my attention wandered when I heard These Arms of Mine for the first time and I drifted off online, onto EBay to do a bit of fast fancy clicking, and before I knew it I was the proud almost-owner of The Definitive Soul Collection, a double CD. Noice :) Meloves secondhand stuff :)

Soul. I done got me some soul. Which segues me nicely into the other album I've done got me lately. This one arrived Monday and I've already spun it three or four times. It's kind of a commitment, a new album, isn't it? You have to get through those first few listens till you start developing a relationship with each song. The thing with the darling Mr Ray LaMontagne is that at least a couple of his songs stand out to me on first listen, and then they all just dig their roots in from there. And speaking of roots, and speaking of soul, he's kinda branched out in this album. The first track, You Are the Best Thing, sounds like something Stax might have released. There's bluegrassy-sounding stuff, there's a tribute to Meg White from the White Stripes :) And, of course, interspersed throughout is the aching bluesy depressive stuff I so love, that he does so well, with that honeyed voice gravelled with bits of chocolate. I would eat Ray LaMontagne if he would let me.

You Are The Best Thing is below, and underneath that I've chosen one of my favourite songs from Trouble, Shelter (although I have a hard time working out which is my favourite from that beautiful, romantic, aching album). Like Cyndi Lauper's friend Mawly says, do yourself a favour.

Speaking of branching out artistically, I was watching No Direction Home, the 300 million hour-long Scorsese directed movie about Bob Dylan and man, I was cheering that kid on as he was surly to the press. The pathetic, stupid questions they asked him. I would be surly as well, if I had to give press conferences. I would also be surly when the people who bought my music, or my words, or my art, or whatever, wanted to package me up into this little box and get me to churn out the same stuff every time to please them. To make you some kind of small thing that has their little niche, so everyone feels safe. No going electric, thanks very much. It upsets us poor consumers (even though, I have to say, I way prefer his acoustic folk stuff. Wonderful, amazing :) But artists are people, they're not just simply here to feed us what we want, medontreckon.

I reckon one of the great things about technological advances is how much freedom people have now to produce their own stuff, to carve their own niche, to not be dictated to by record companies, publishing companies, whatever companies. It's a good thing. I expect we will see more and more of it. The Franciscan way :) Moving to the side and doing it differently, while the beast lurches on, burping and smashing into stuff :)





I think I need to go to bed. It's really late. I'm starting to have flashbacks. I was just listening to a podcast and someone said on it, "It blew my mind" and suddenly I was whizzed back to 2000 or 2001 or so, chatting to my next-door neighbours. Now, they were both lovely, caring people, but unfortunately they were being progressively lobotomised by their insistence on indulging in the dangerous drug Pentecostalism and its horrible associated television viewings, such as Kenneth Copeland et al.

I said to her, "It blew my mind" and I kid you not, her response was something to the effect of, "You know, you really shouldn't say those sorts of things because it gives demons a legal basis upon which to cause you disease, or any manner of things."

Yeah, 'cause I remembered then the many recorded cases in recent history of people whose heads just spontaneously exploded due to a poor unfortunate misuse of a very dangerous phrase. Or the times doctors would sit down with their patients and describe how unexplainably their corpus collossum was hanging on by a couple of threads and had they by any chance been indulging in mindless phrase utterings recently? Indeed, I had to wonder at the adventurousness of people who would get around talking about people who had fucked them over or knocked them for six or who did their head in, and who were strangely undamaged by the experience :)

Blew my mind. Sheesh. Well, at least I had a mind left to be blown. She was in danger of blowing her's out to cuckoo land indulging in such flakery. But anyway ... :)

Western Civilisation

15 comments

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

It was like how you’d feel if
an invisible man loomed close, breathed
Keep your fucking mouth closed
and so for years you just would.

It was like how you felt that time
someone wrote a poem and
you thought it was about you
but turned out it wasn’t.

It was like total disconnect
big people on plasma billboards
that over and over said
you would never measure up.

It was like a woman wailing
I only have six pairs of shoes!
and next-door for tea they
ate the sides of their cheeks .

That’s how it was
living in those times.
Civilisation on ice
shaken not stirred.

Engine Starters

7 comments

Hey you. Yeah, you. What would you do, if you found yourself at the age of 38, cast rather adrift, trying to rebuild your life and taking surprisingly long to get anything ... well, built? What would you do if you were relatively responsibility free?

No, not the daydreams we all have when we know we don't really have any option of exercising them. If we're talking about that stuff I've got dreams to burn (one of them involves the Brad Pitt airbrushed and sitting on a motorbike that I saw in massive size on a movie screen. Noice).

No, I'm talking about something a bit down and dirty. Something that would both get me started back on this thing called life while at the same time getting me out of my very small little world and focussed on someone else for a change. Somewhere that I can feel part of a tribe, if only for a little while.

I was daydreaming before about such things. I was daydreaming about six weeks in a South African orphanage after putting a tip jar on my blog to raise the funds to do it. And then that's about as far as I got because hope deferred has made my heart sick. So then I started making excuses. 'Cause that's what I always do, and then I end up doing nothing.

I am looking at my life today from panoramic perspective. Looking at it as if it's 20 years from now and I'm looking back at this period of my life, sympathetic, remembering how difficult it was to come forth out of the sludge. Remembering how lonely it is to live in this culture when you're not in the midst of a gaggle of people. Remembering how truly lonely I do feel, and remembering - hopefully - that it was also the beginning of a whole lot of things that I couldn't quite see at this point of my life. And that's sort of about as far as I've got.

So you, if you had the opportunity, what would you do? Just wondering ... because sometimes, sometimes when I've got too much time to think, I feel like my life could just slip, like crematorium dust, through my fingers and one day I will wake up and I will be dead.

But that's probably a bit dramatic :)
13 comments

Sunday, 4 January 2009

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

I read this familiar verse from Galatians over at Kent's place this morning. It really smacked me between the eyes today. I love Peterson's translation of this. The emphasis on ego in the living as law men or women. The horrid, ugly urge to be seen to appear to have your bag of shit together. The contortions that result. The denial we live in when we insist on life being the way we insist on it being, rather than on what it is. The sad distance that is placed between us and everybody else when we have to contrive a "no go" zone so that others don't see who we really are. So they don't reject us. I think Him who they pierced might have a few edifying approaches to that little dilemma. I am so not there yet. But I'm looking, noting, pondering.

I also love the way Peterson describes this sentence:
The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God ...

The NIV version reads thusly:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me
I lived with a certain sort of unease for many years in my early Christian life. This verse had me confused. I was already a person well-versed in repressing my stuff and living outside of my own body. I stuffed it with alcohol and men as a teenager and with marijuana in my twenties. When I read this verse, what I read was that I needed to continue being abdicated from my own body and my own feelings and my own emotions because this was a good thing. Now that Christ lived in me, I need to put myself aside. This was how I knew to put myself aside in the past. It was the way I devised to cope with things. And so I just automatically translated my way of doing it to what God must mean.

But now, I feel like I see this verse completely 180 degrees around the other way. Because Christ lives in me, I don't need to put myself aside. I am not a shameful thing that I need to live outside of myself. At least, not in the way that I was doing. And yet, in another way, yes, in the way that I was doing. How mixed up and tangled it all is. No wonder it takes years to untangle these giant wool balls, and we scream and rant and rail in the middle of it all.

That part of me that had to appear righteous to everybody else, that big fat shame smear laid on with a 500 centimetre trowel, had to go. But it can't go with nothing else to replace it. It can't go until there is something real for you to hang on to. The God-That-Sends-You-To-Hell God is not safe enough to hang on to. The God-That-Is is. This hanging on to doesn't feel anywhere near as tangible as I would like. And yet. Somehow, over the days and months and years I have come from where I was when I first believed this passage would mean choosing death to the place where I can see that I don't lose anything in this exchange. That takes a bloody long time to come to that place.

I have long ago left behind the idea of a small god who cannot stand to be with us in the midst of our shit and our horridness and our fucked-up mess. How is it we have distorted Christianity so much that this is what people see? Thank God that things are changing. Because a God who despises and demeans and shames is not any kind of a god but some kind of a demon. How could we live with such a god? Maybe if we were a bit more perfect than we are we could handle it better. Maybe if we saw further than we see in our blindness we could deal with such a god. But we - we are far too massively fucked-up to have a god like that. That god is the god of our projections.

The reality of these verses for me now is that I find myself in this safe place where admitting my mishaps (well, to a certain degree, anyway) is not something I need to force out of me. It doesn't ever feel good, obviously, but I can admit my faults (sometimes with a deal of prodding) because I don't have any vested interest anymore in holding onto an illusory projection of myself, even though that is a scary idea, even though I feel far too vulnerable sometimes, even though I close myself up in my house too often. It's a process, right? I keep expecting myself to get from A to F without going through B to E and I'm tired of living with these ridiculous expectations.

I was talking to my dear blog friend Manuela yesterday about some issues, and she said to me, "I will stand behind you whatever decision you make." And the fresh wind just blew in, you know? The freedom to fuck up. The freedom to be a mess. And yet also, the freedom to be safe, too, and to impose limits. The freedom to have defining walls between me and other people and to say no when I need to. The freedom to be only halfway there to being able to do that, and the amazing, wonderful sense of calm in myself to be able to allow myself to be imperfect, messed up, half formed. I have barely been able to do that in the past, in any great way that involves other people. There have been a few people I have been blessed to have in my life that I have been able to be that way with.

That's what the life lived in Christ is like. It's not about being performing seals. It is laughable that we would ever think we could maintain that sort of fucked-up sideshow. This bag is for real. He is in it for real. Right in the middle. Right there in the dark.



I love this song. Sometimes I sing it to myself as a lullaby :) I don't like the "just do your best, do everything you can" thang though. I'm too close to 20th century Christianity to hear that as anything other than negative ;)


The Police - Law Versus Responsibility

3 comments

Saturday, 3 January 2009

No, this isn't a post about Sting, Stewart and Andy. I've already done one of those.

I was just lying on the couch watching TV and an ad for the Transport Accident Commission came on. You'll be surprised to know that these ads are giving me the shits. I might vote to the left, but I'm all for limiting government when required. The TAC is an organisation of the state government, which administers "treatment and benefits for people injured in transport accidents", paid by each motorist as part of our registration. The TAC also promotes road safety and improves our trauma system. Which is all fine and necessary. Since it's inception in 1986, the road toll has had a pretty steep nosedive. Right around the time people started getting fearmongered to within an inch of our lives about bloody everything.

How far should government intervention extend? Where does human responsibility come in? How do you factor into a government worldview that bows down and kisses the bum of the economy and bottom lines and growth and materialism, the fact that bad shit happens in life, that accidents happen, and that red-taping everything has just gone too far? I understand the TAC's necessity, but I wonder at the propensity for systems and governments and organisations to extend their arms of influence unless held in check.

The TV ad warns motorists who misbehave that they will be caught by Victoria Police because, says the voiceover cop, having to go to people's houses to tell them that a beloved relative will not be home for Christmas is one of the worst things to have to do as a policeman. Well, I'm sure it is. But it's your job. I'm sure having to clear people's blocked drains stuffed full of poo and used tampons would be a pain in the bum for plumbers. Should we produce an ad for tens of thousands of dollars for that as well? Maybe we could install CCTV into everyone's toilets so no one is misbehaving. Meanwhile entire countries starve to death, while we waste money on mounds of bureaucracy.

Seriously, when did we become such a big load of babies? Why do we allow ourselves to continue to be dictated to like a bunch of enormous children? Seriously, if you watch footage of anything before the 1980's, you can't help but look at people and think, "My God, look at all the things they're getting up to. Oooh, look at that occupational health and safety rule being broken. Ooh, look at those people getting to do those things without getting fined." Why do we have to be so overgoverned when really, the majority of the population at any one time is pretty well-behaved? Where do people get to let loose? Go get pissed in the city and get into a fight, and you'll have the cops come down on you in their giant hummers before you can yell "capsicum spray". What are we scared of? Is it the simmering underneath our consciences of violence that we can sense? Because surely we are all a violent people. And a cowardly people too. Despite all of our rules and fearmongering, you can see it coming out sideways. Case in point, a 72-year-old man being knocked to the ground and kicked after he went to the aide of a woman being bashed the other day.

Humans are scary. We're not all that far from violence spilling over at any one time. Hence all the rules. Rules are easy to enforce in a people who don't value their freedom very much but would prefer to be peaceful and safe. Better to enforce an extra ton of rules every year so that we can feel safe. Rules never saved no one. Enforcing rules against each other to protect each other from each other does not create a safer society, but a less safe society.

I complain about this advert because on Victorian roads over the past year, 303 people died. Which is crap, you know? But 303 people out of more than 3 million drivers who die in a year when we are driving big fast machines that would scare the shit out of someone plopped down in a time machine from 1730 is really actually pretty good. But you can't have ads encouraging the good, can you? This little baby doesn't run like that.

Because I couldn't envisage the TAC running a positive ad. Imagine. One that encourages the vast majority of people who are driving big fast killing machines but nevertheless manage to get through an entire driving life without karking it. That would be cool, wouldn't it? But no. You just couldn't do that. That would encourage people, wouldn't it? Madge who lives down the road and drives a couple of times a week would get heady from the encouragement and throw caution to the wind, go sick doing 200 in a 60 zone on her way to the shops.

We're just not allowed to be responsible for our own stuff, are we? Because we're too pathetic. We're encouraged to be pathetic little professional victims in a namby pamby society, so we need to be fed our responsibilities like little children. I'm so tired and bored with it all. We are fearmongered from every single direction, made to feel bad about situations that are actually pretty positive overall. What a ridiculous, crazy, crazy, crazy system this is.

Let's start a new one :)

(Goodness, I sound like I should be writing for the Herald Sun :)