Give it up for Lent

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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey (HT to Mike @ The Mercy Blog)

I was reading over at Onehouse's blog a quote by Cynthia Bourgeault which said that the word 'perfect', in the language of Christ's time, meant "whole, truly and fully alive."

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Makes much more sense reading it this way than the other way, which creates really ugly people sending large portions of themselves out into the wilderness, where they create larger havoc than they would have if their owners were looking. It sounds strange, but I am just loving the comfort I have discovered living with a God who knows me and the darkest parts of myself and honours me anyway.

It was never the whiplash that has changed anything about me for the better.

I love the way scripture has so many seemingly disparate verses, so we trip up on them like giant tree roots, grrr. I must say, life is difficult enough without biblical misinterpretations thrown into the mix. Methinks reading from 2000 year old manuscripts written in totally different cultures, times, and languages is a tiring process. It is good to get that particular verse about "be ye perfect" cleared up in my head.

I've given up the strive, I guess, to a reasonable extent. It comes rushing in like bushfire winds at times, threatening to overwhelm me. But I am beginning to recognise it a bit clearer, a bit faster, and to turn my face away like flint. This is not God's way. I don't want to play that stupid ego game of trying to curry God's favour. It does so more damage than apathy, I would surmise. And then on top of everything it leads to apathy as well. What do you do, a failed human being, but withdraw yourself from the society of others or yourself when you see how deep your darkness goes?

I still think one of the biggest wonders of this life in God for me is knowing that he knows my darknesses even better than I do. Those things I try to look at, to gaze upon, because I must, but the things I would as soon turn my face away from quickly, like seeing a spook out of the corner of my eye and burying myself in the bedclothes. But I don't want to turn away from myself and my fucked up-edness and not look. I don't think that is the way of God either. Somehow, strangely, utterly weirdly, it is the very worst parts of myself that somehow God uses as a foundation for me to stand on, if I will only go deeper. This is a mystery.

This is why these days I am much more comfortable living inside of God, just her and me, than I do out in the world where people so often suck. The true challenge for me to ponder this Lent is how, now (brown cow), having embraced to a goodly extent the lepers and wolves of my own soul, how to turn from ongoing inwardness back to the outwardness of living embracing others. Because I know, I know from experience, how life looks when I do that, when I am forgetful of myself. It parts in some ways like the Red Sea.

So I suppose this Lent, if I am trying to give up anything, it is a desire for prestige, to be thought well of, to have the admiration of others. Because without giving up the necessity for that, without risking rejection, I will stay here inside my safe house and not go anywhere. I know it involves forgetfulness, a blessed release from that horrible mirror of self-consciousness. I think part of the way out of that too is giving up any sort of sense of entitlement. I'm not entitled to beauty or love or God because of my inherent goodness. I am not entitled to being ostracised from beauty or love or God because of my inherent badness, either. The ripping of the veil at least has shown me that. How it's actually done, though? I guess that's where faith comes in, the walking forwards while not being able to see anywhere near as far as you would like to. 'Cause I can't quite see it myself just yet. And I guess that's okay too.

Happy Saturday, bloggers :)


Zen and the Art of the Enjoyable Weekend

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Friday, 27 February 2009

It is the weekend. There are, however, several things threatening your fulsome immersion in said weekend. Thoughts about such things follows thusly in no particular order:

1. You are feeling a little under the weather. You get grumpy and stressed when you're not feeling well. Anti-dizziness medication is a good thing and you thank God for it. But it does, however, make you feel a tad drowsy. Which is probably good in a way because the drowsiness makes you feel sort of nice and groggy and then you stop being grumpy and stressed about not feeling well. And so your weekend is beginning to shape up in a certain way. You are thinking you should take the opportunity of having a geared-down weekend with no bicycleish gearing up by surrounding yourself with paints and pencils and pens and paper and clay and stuff. You are happy your mate John gave you his old digital set-top box so you can watch digital TV channels on a clear picture. Drowsiness will be aided greatly by bouts of television watching and accepting these days for what they are, instead of thinking about what they could be, which is surely a pointless useless enterprise. You are, after all, grateful that even though this weekend is what it is looking like, at least you're not rolling around in great balls of grief wanting to be dead. Which is a good comparison. You think that comparisons are good when they flow in that direction, but not so good when they flow in the opposite direction.

2. This is the opposite direction that you are struggling with. Your ex and his girlfriend are off for a weekend of music festivals and massages to celebrate their first anniversary. You are happy for them. You truly are. You are also really quite jealous in a way. Not of them personally as such - you do believe that things are as they should be. But of them being in lurve and the feeling of mutual attraction and just how lovely that whole thing is (even though you feel cynically jaded enough to tiredly yawn how it doesn't last. Oh, bitter old woman you are). But yes, you are jealous. And of being part of a couple. You miss that. You don't like admitting such things but you do anyway, quickly, quietly (and for all the world to see. O internet, you are a strange beast). You are quite aware that alongside feeling jealous of people being in lurve, and thinking that you really would like to be in lurve yourself, you are also at the very same time not interested in being part of a couple and indeed think there is a possibility you shall not be for a long time. You hold all of these contrasts in your hand and look at them. You find looking at things can go a long way sometimes towards understanding where they came from and sometimes just simply towards letting them go. It's a bit tiring having such contradictory things in your hand so after a while you stop looking at them and look at the TV instead.

3. Some little bastards have stolen the front number plate from your car. It's irritating, requiring a visit to the police station tomorrow and a trip to VicRoads on Thursday to get new licence plates. In the meantime you will skulk around town with one number plate avoiding the stares of people who think you are up to no good, like the woman who glared at you as you drove out of the shopping centre. Let it go, away on the breeze. You are being Zen remember? You decide that instead of calling the people who nicked your plates little bastards in your head that you will be thankful at least that finally on Thursday you will get new plates. This is something you have been meaning to do forever and ever, or at least ever since you ran up the backside of a woman in your car about five years ago (oh,the shame) and had the paint partially scraped off your front plate. Looks like you'll be crossing that one off on your to-do list soon and for that you are thankful. Because anything on a to-do list that sits there for five years is just ... well, it says a lot about your time management skills, doesn't it?

4. You are feeling grateful that most of the time these days you are pretty good at being in the isness of things instead of in fantasyland about what things aren't, above descriptors notwithstanding. You find that the embracement of the "is" greatly expands said "is" much like the Doctor's Tardis. You admit that last week watcing Dr Who you cried when the Doctor and Madame Pompadour could not be together ;) You were premenstrual. It's a large hook, the premenstrual hook, but you hang things on it anyway.

3. You are at the moment immersed in the midst of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. You had the strangest experience when you began reading this book. You started in on it and realised with a start that you had already read it. It came back to you, up through the years of scrambled brains and you wondered that you had ever forgot it. You loved this book. You remember, or you think you do, that you were about 24 when you read this and that it was one of the things that made you think, "Hmmm, maybe I will go to uni after all, and maybe I will study Philosophy while I am there." You understand your penchant for creating a narrative around your life, looking for underlying meanings and threads and stuff, and so you think it's weird that now you are reading this book again you are considering switching your degree back to Deakin so that you can study philosophy again now you have your brain back after CFS. You wonder if anyone else has read that book and what they thought of it. You think it's quite heartbreakingly wonderful and brilliant. It has you laughing on the train about philosophical enquiry and there has to be something said for that.
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Monday, 23 February 2009

There are four kittens after all, I discovered today. God knows there's enough noise going on under my house for there to be four, bangings and thumpings. I don't know what they're doing under there, but it sounds fun. I like how they run in monochrome from black, to darker tabby, to light tabby. They are very pretty pusses, are they not? I am glad to see they are all still here after all, while a bit bewildered at the same time, but you know, what am I gonna do, not feed them?

Well, I did forget to feed them last night. I was feeling ill after an aborted bike ride. I guess eating McDonald's before riding, on top of just getting your period, is a bit of a recipe for dizziness and nausea and riding disaster. Bummer :( Managed to get in 15 minutes in the You Yangs before being sidelined.

I don't handle physical things stopping me from doing what I want very well, even after all those years of practice. Today, I still feel dizzy around the edges. I really need to get my ears checked out. I think the insect-in-the-ear scenario has done something to my balance and made the whole thing worse.

As a result of not feeding the kittens last night, they were hungry today and I've managed to get these shots from out the playroom window. They are getting a bit less wary, I have to say. Might have them purring on the couch come winter yet ;)

Women, Menstrual Cycles and the Moon

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Okay. That's stopped the blokes from reading :)

I have a question for you women who aren't using birth control. Just wondering how many of you have your little friend visiting at the moment :)

My art therapist told me that most women get their periods when the moon is in its waning period, or when it's a new moon. Which is kinda cool, because then it means that when the moon is full and the earth is silvery, we are all ovulating and feeling sexy :)

Discuss?

WYSIWYG

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Been thinking a bit this week about how different we all are, how differently we see things, and that ultimately it doesn't matter what you do, people will think what they choose to think about you and there's really not all that much you can do about it. I guess I'm beginning the return to my old self because that concept is one I can sit easier with the last few weeks. It's freaked me out over the last few years, when so much inner subconscious awful stuff has been blowin' free in the wind for everyone to see (or so it feels).

I think I'm sitting easier with that idea because I have felt for so long that the umbrella for my soul, the part of me that is confident and feisty, has sort of gone for a long nap. My old self contains this dualistic ultra-sensitive child who is scared of so much, and her much older and bigger confident persona, who shields her. It's been a difficult ride to start uncovering that shyer child. She is the one who creates. Especially difficult when the other part of my soul had it's umbrella bashed in and ripped up and out of action. How hard it is becoming myself :(

Yesterday, I weighed up the desire to go to the pub by myself to watch my team play its game on cable, versus the discomfort of doing such a thing. I'm happy to say that I went. I sat amongst a couple of groups of men, young and old. This was a little bit uncomfortable but nothing I couldn't ride, I guess. I read my book in between quarters (I figured I already looked like a social weirdo/really independent person/someone there to pick up a quick root/loser with no mates, depending on how you view such things; reading by myself in the pub was the logical next step. And anyway, it's not like I actually wanted to speak with anyone there. Must take these sorts of things slowly. Anyway, it is a misconception that watching football is a social activity for everybody :)

Worldviews. Funny how different we are, as people. I guess some sort of maturity is a willingness to muster understanding and compassion and as much grace for each other in how little we see, and how differently we see what we do. But sheesh, there's room enough in the middle of all those cracks for wars and divorces and hatreds and all sorts of evil.

I was beginning to get annoyed at the dude sitting near me in the pub. He was whingeing and complaining about how crap we were. And we were. But I wasn't all that worried by it, I guess. Maybe we were coming at this game in different ways. My take on it was this: it was a preseason competition game of very little consequence. It's not even the real thing. And even the real thing is of very little consequence in the final analysis, as enjoyable and wonderful as it all is. Winning is a good thing to aim for, obviously, but it's not the only thing or even the most important thing in a preseason game. Half the team that was out there yesterday were young blokes with not very many games under their belt. You could tell. We were at best rather a rabble. Messy, sloppy, fumbly.

The guy near me was drinking beers and droning in his deep monologic voice, complaining about the messes these young blokes were making. I suppose it depends on your standpoint. One man's social embarrassment is another man's necessary under-the-belt experience. If you're conscious of wanting to defend your own premiership honour, if your identity is tied up in the team who is on the television in front of you, then maybe you will be needing to win at all costs, at all times. That's an understandable view when you're a bloke sitting in a pub drinking beers wanting to be entertained. But I'm glad the coaching staff didn't see it quite that way.

As it turned out, we won by three points. I still don't quite know how we managed to do that because we were awful. I was thinking about how the view of the droning man complaining besides me was the sort of view that, had it translated itself to the players who were running around on the field, would have meant certain defeat. They would have been too self-conscious to believe that they could win. They would have been deflated by the criticism coming out of this dude's mouth about young blokes who have played a handful of games and are probably trying to overcome the voices in their heads of other dudes in their lives telling them, in one way or another, that they're shit and they're not good enough and don't try because it's all about being seen to be strong and not weak.

I guess we all have those voices battling, don't we. This dude was just droning his out into the air, that's all. The funny thing, in the jubilation of our win, when I turned to them and we exchanged a few words, he looked nothing like what I had imagined he would look like. I hadn't looked at him up to this point, and I imagined a dirgelike face to match the droning voice, but instead his face was lit up with smiles and he was rather a friendly looking chap, really.

I've been thinking about the saying, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." I like it. It brings me back down to myself again, to thinking about how it is that nobody would do anything if they were overly concerned about the opinions and misunderstandings of others. It's a sad sort of a thought, really. It makes you realise how alone in the world you are, in one sense. But on the other hand it is a freedom to walk into further, knowing that you will always be read wrong, that people will read you so differnetly than how you read yourself, that we see each other through the veil of our own strengths and weaknesses and desires and jealousies, etc. But it's a thought that sort of releases the brakes of inaction for me, thinking it through to its conclusion. Because really, what was brought home to me in the pub yesterday, in a small way, was how difficult it is to act at all in a country so full of the tall poppy syndrome and so willing to drag everybody back down to its own comfort zone. 'Cause I don't think you can get good at anything or really do anything without first looking like a total moron in some way to somebody. And unfortunately there's too many people in this country who see that as some sort of moral failure. It's so boring. I think this is one of the many differences between Australian culture and American culture. It's not one I like very much.

It feels good to be feeling a bit more self-esteem these days, the willingness to go my way and do what I want to do regardless of what other people will say. Because I'm going to be judging myself anyway, unfortunately, and it is hard for women to step out and do what is in their hearts and souls and guts to do. But WTF. I wanna do it anyway. The alternative is to not speak. And I will judge myself more harshly for not doing what is in my head or heart to do because of the opinions of other people, than I will judge myself for doing a crap job and making an idiot out of myself, yet again.

But the first option hurts so much at times, it's no wonder the second is the most oft-travelled.

Battle Lines

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Saturday, 21 February 2009

"What a lovely woman!"**
someone said
when she met me
but real
ly,
"What a lovely man!"
is said about chaps who put
their bits into people they shouldn't.

You see why Bushtopia
was so captivating
a philosophy
the idea that good and evil

delineate themselves across
straightly drawn lines like
a children's game at recess.

But children are born knowing
to ostracise the weakest
link goodbye

it's the food of champions
the way of the flesh
no matter how many laws
Parliament enacts.

The real question is,
what sorts of games
do you play

or could you play
or shouldn't you play
when baby,

the bad guy is you?

** I am, though :)
While the dog is away the owner will play - or try to - with cats :)

The wild kittens cohabiiting between my house and next door have reduced in number to two. Two very pretty little long-haired pusses. Two nights ago, I sat outside with a box of dry food and threw it a few feet away from me and then sat there as the two kittehs came out tentatively from under the house. I rubbed some of the dry food between my hands before I threw it. They were wary indeed. But they ate, looking over their shoulders at any sharp movement from me, ready to run.

Later that night, I sat outside on the step, in the ring cast from the front door light. I had heard one of the kittens mewing, as I can hear it today also. As I sat on the step, the lighter coloured tabby came from around the corner after hearing its brother or sister's call. The other kitten is the same colouring but with a darker face. So cute. As I sat very quietly on the step, both kittens passed me in their travels. The lighter coloured one even stopped directly in front of me, sitting down four feet away and curling it's tail neatly around the bottom of it's feet, in the tidy way of felines. I have visions of the kittens and the cat and the dog and me all sleeping together on my bed :)

That doesn't mean it's gonna be happening :)

Last night I went outside with a tin of food. As I was mushing it out into the bowl, I felt a warm, softness brush past me. And there she was. The mother cat. I haven't seen her for over a month. She was skinny. I think she has been lying low, letting her leg mend. She was so hungry that this petite-sized puss with the grey and white markings ate three quarters of a tin of cat food. She hissed at one of the kittens, who was trying to make an approach. I wondered if perhaps these kittens weren't hers after all. Would a mother hiss that way at her own kittens?

But then, these kittens are probably three or four months old now. Old enough perhaps to make their own way. I don't know. I wouldn't know about the lifestyles of almost-wild cats. And this mother looks young. She is a teenage mother, struggling with twins :) Perhaps her wounds preclude her from feeding her babies in the way she should.

That's where I come in :) The budget shall now stretch further to a can a day. Not just for the babies but also for the mother. I loved the feel of her fur under my hand, the way she purred as she ate. I look forward to assisting her in the bulking-up process.

Letting Go

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Soul knowledge sends you in the opposite direction from consumerism. It’s not addition that makes one holy but subtraction: stripping the illusions, letting go of the pretense, exposing the false self, breaking open the heart and the understanding, not taking my private self too seriously.

In a certain sense we are on the utterly wrong track. We are climbing while Jesus is descending, and I think in that we reflect the pride and the arrogance of Western civilization, always trying to accomplish, perform and achieve. We transferred all that to Christianity and became spiritual consumers. The ego is still in charge. When the self takes itself that seriously, there’s no room left for God.

All we can really do is get ourselves out of the way, and we can’t even do that.

Richard Rohr, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 46, day 49

I have spent the evening sorting and filing my writing-related stuff. This is a pretty big deal. I have not filed my writing stuff properly for, like, five years. I literally had a massive pile containing ripped-out articles from newspapers dating to 2004. The old-paper mustiness has given me a cloggy head.

Despite the clog, it's been fun going through all of these papers. There was a massive pile of printed-out how-to articles from the net, most of which I have ditched. These are from my CFS years, when reading stuff online exhausted me so very quickly that I couldn't stay online for longer than half an hour without needing to get up and have a break. Those were the days. And so I printed stuff out to read later, reams and reams and reams of which is now being incarnated into paper to write morning pages on. I have no need to keep most of these "how-to" articles anymore. So much of it seems almost basic knowledge now in some ways. I don't want the list of rules and regulations. I want to learn by writing.

The most interesting things I filed were the tons and tons of stories I have begun, containing a page, half a page. Most of them were pretty okay. First draft sort of stuff but still - potential. And yet the difference between those stories and the stuff that I came across that I have written while clustering was profound. Such a depth of maturity in the clustered stuff, depth and width and poetry. Some of it was so good I wondered if I had written it myself or if I had maybe copied it off someone else. I definitely want to continue with this sort of form of writing in the future.

Clustering is the practice of writing a write a word or an idea, and circling it. Then it's just a matter of freeflowing thinking, writing down whatever comes to mind about that word. A lot of the time I will be clustering ideas around a word, thinking, "What the hell do these things mean? None of this is related," my logical part of myself disbelieving the rhyme and reason. And then a few minutes later I'll get that coming into focus feeling, that sort of "a-ha" moment and I will realise that many of these pieces are linked, belong, and I wouldn't have been able to see them before. They come together and form a piece of writing that feels complete, and whole, even if it's small. It's really very cool. It's another form of letting go - the logical rational part of the brain standing aside and letting the other chaotic elements speak.

I have folders and folders literally of stuff I've pulled from the newspaper, things that I read in books, that inspire me so much that I copy them out by hand and stuff them away in folders for later on. I also have folders for fiction ideas and oh, some of those made me blush. Here is the one that made me blush the most, an idea for a story:

A family values-based story maybe. A Christian family who have their priorities right who are still finding it hard keeping their family together - outside influences, etc.

Apart from sounding boring as batshit, how didactic does that story sound? No wonder I didn't have the heart to write it. It would have limped itself out onto the page and died within three sentences. Who would want to live next door to that family, let alone read a story about them? You can just tell that that family will be all sweet and have that lovely "I have something I need to share with you, heathen" Amway sort of approach that creeps people right out the soles of their feet. Because you just know that living in that sort of us-and-them, "we need to sell you hyped-up inflatable Jesus" paradigm is just the sort of situation that will breed the delightfully dark carpet to shove daddy's porn addiction under, the daughter's bong-smoking after school.

Hmmm, it's starting to sound interesting, actually. Maybe I'll write it after all ;)

I know when I wrote this idea down. It was in my era of the closest-I-got-to-Pentecostalism years. It was my paranoid season of Christianity where everything was becoming scarily black and white in my worldview, a definite case of us and them. So much has been stripped away since then. Wow. So much.

Thank God. Thank you for stripping away the parts of me that were starting to turn me into a tosspot. Amen :)


PS: I love this blog template. It does irritate me though is its uneven line spacing between different paras. Luckily autumn is coming. Because a change of seasons means a change in clothing, and also a change in blog template. Of course :)

Rhyming Cutlets

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Friday, 20 February 2009

Bleat bleat bleat bleat bleat bleat bleat
Bleat bleat bleat bleat bleat bleat
Heat heat heat heat heat heat heat
Heat heat heat heat heat heat

Meat meat meat meat meat meat meat
Meat meat meat meat meat meat
Eat eat eat eat eat eat eat
Eat eat eat eat eat eat

Turn and repeat

The Shortest Short Story

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

I've come across competitions from time to time for short-short stories. Say, 250 words. A difficult task, but perhaps I shall try my hand at one. For me, poetry is like a short story. My poetry writing mojo returned the other day, while driving on the way home from a friend's place.

It involved scrambling to find some paper to write on (note to self: put notebook back in bag. Alternatively, have empty envelopes floating around in bag to write on). I stopped twice on the way home, on a 15 minute car ride, because when the poem vomits itself out into your head, you have to write it down or it goes.

I think a 250 word short story is more difficult. I can "cheat" with poetry. It flops itself up onto the shore of my mind pretty much fully-formed, and all I have to do is tinker with it. I get ideas for short stories in the same way. A phrase or a thought or a scene will present itself to me. The last year or two, that's about all that happens before it gives a few breaths and dies. Still, I harbour hope that such things will not continue indefinitely :)

I think it would be an easier thing to write a short short short short story. Hemingway demonstrated that even a six-word story can contain poignancy:

"For sale: baby shoes. Never used."

My son-in-law, Alan, says in his book, Journey into Christ, 'Our identity is hidden, even from ourselves ... The doctrine that we are made after the image of God proclaims that the human being is fundamentally a mystery, a free spirit. The creative artist is one who carries within him the wound of transcendence. He is the sign that human beings are more than they are.'

... A real problem for most of us is that this 'more than we think we are' is not necessarily recognized as good. It is difficult for most of us to recognize, accept, and affirm those large areas of ourselves which are not compatible with the image of ourselves we would like to project or which the world has taught us we ought to project. Jesus was very clear about these projections, referring to those who projected them as 'whited sepulchres,' clean and white without, and full of dead bones and decay within.

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

A favourite saying is, "God helps those who help themselves." I think the phrase can be understood correctly, but in most practical situations it is pure heresy. Scripture clearly says God helps those who trust in God, not those who help themselves.

We need to be told that so strongly because of our entire "do it yourself" orientation. As educated people, as Americans, our orientation is to do it. It takes applying the brakes, turning off our own power and allowing Another.

What the lordship of Jesus means is that first we come to him, first we put things into his hands. Our doing must proceed from our being. Our being is "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p.77


I have been pondering this idea all day today, gleaning its comfort. I have become so much more aware in the last year or two how deep I go. How much there is in me that is just patently impossible for me to know. Like Paul, I am frustrated at the depths to which I do that which I do not want to do, and do not do that which I do want to.

Thinking about this today, reading those words from L'Engle this afternoon, I thought for the first time really about how these deep parts must also commune with God. God does not commune simply with my mind and my heart, the conscious elements of me. There are parts of me groaning in prayer. Just as there are animals living their entire existence, only recently discovered, so far down in the ocean that it was commonly believed nothing would or could exist down there. God is speaking to the deep, deep calling to deep, without me even being aware. That is so comforting to me. The depths of my soul scare me just as much as they thrill me with their deep deep knowings and their strange dark beauty.

I mentioned to my friend a few days ago how it felt to me as if the seasons were about to begin transitioning from summer into autumn. The most subtle of feelings, the very beginning, like it feels when I know the very second my period is beginning. Autumn is not even palpable on the air yet, certainly not manifested into a smell. But just evident this evening, as I noticed the sun going down just a little earlier than usual. The sun was a beautiful golden ball of light. I let it seep into my soul. I could feel, for a moment, the urge to hang onto the light. But it is the way of things that the light must die. I must share it with my northern friends too :) (There is also a tinge of melancholy attached to summer now, this one being so full of destruction. This season I am not sorry to see the end of summer).

My friend mentioned to me, in the striking way that female friends have with each other, that I am in the process of transition. I am transitioning, my friend assured me with the conviction of one who can see. It's just that I can't see it yet, she said.

I agree. How weird it is this agreeing, down deep, down where the knowing is and the blood starts. I can't see it at all. I have no real idea what it entails. But it is coming. A turning. In accordance with the seasons, as the leaves will begin to twist and turn their ways off the trees. Just as the leaves become their real, true colour in autumn, I pray also, with fervency, that this autumn I will become just that little bit more like myself. Or putting it another way, I look forward in my turning to becoming just a little bit more like Christ. Whatever that looks like.
6 comments

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

On my way to work today I had to stop in at Victoria Police to be police checked and fingerprinted as part of my job transcribing interviews for the Victoria Police. Does anyone else find this just a tad ... well, paranoid? A bit heavyhanded, maybe? How dull and dreary and insufferably boring it is living in this country. Provincial, bland and sterile. Overly ridiculously safe.

There were lots of people in there getting police checks for their various jobs. I can understand their necessity for some jobs. Probably a good idea to have a police check if you're working with children. But sheesh. The government's tentacles just seem to stretch out a bit further all the time, unless they're lopped off every now and then.

I was going to miss my standard 11 past 11 frequency tuning in this morning as I wouldn't be at home near the computer to see. It is amazing how many times each week I do notice, though, morning and night. But today, it wouldn't happen because I'd be out. I wasn't even thinking about it. Until the train pulled into Southern Cross Station and I saw it up there on the television screen. Arrival time: 11:11.

Something is jiving with me. Seriously :)

Doh

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Monday, 16 February 2009

Friday night you
clean your coffee mug
before you leave.

Doing something nice
for your future self,
your workmate says.

It's taken you 38 years
to understand why
people make their beds.
The person he sees
is not the bloke walking towards him
but the one talking
on the end of his phone.
The bloke walking towards him
is trying not to think how
the sex was better
when she was an online avatar
not someone texting
'Don't forget the milk.'
I have had a leave of absence for the past three semesters from uni. I figured art therapy and uni were too much to do at that point in time - my doing-things threshold was pretty low. Problem is, it will be time to pick my degree up again in July and ... well, I can't say I'm all that enthused about it, to be honest. Which is patently silly and pointless thinking, because I have 1/4 of my degree to go, and I have done 18 subjects over 400,000 years, and to throw it in now would be something I would suspect borders the realms of stupid self-sabotage. It would defy logic.

Well, except for the logic that I really don't like my university - their motives are clear, their love for the bottom line and for equipping their students to go out and earn as much cash as possible blatant and frankly it just makes me feel old and idealistic and stupid to think that universities should be something devoted to higher learning as opposed to churning out cookie-cutter job marketeers. But what place idealism in these times except for around the fringes? I wish I had been around in the heady days of Gough Whitlamia when university education was free and the Arts revered.

I am tempted to let my degree lapse, to apply next year to Deakin, the university at which I began my degree. Deakin offers philosophy subjects; I have in fact already completed two of them. They also offer offline studying options which are also appealing.

Maybe it's good that universities are economically rationalised to within an inch of their lives. Herds the money-focussed elements into one large pen while the people on the outskirts can ply their wares and knowledge and practice with each other in peace. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of people out there who are generous with their time and knowledge when it comes to sharing their passions. I saw it yesterday in the chat I had with the man who designed the sensory garden at the Royal Talbot Hospital. I was there on an artist date of sorts, garnering ideas for this art space that has impaled itself in my head. He was happy to talk, to share his knowledge, for me to take photos. When people are passionate about what they do, what they know, what they have learnt, they pass it on. It is viral.

This man commented on how wonderful gardening is in its communality, the learning and sharing that is passed on from one person to another. My landlord was here the other day and we sat outside and chatted - he is always up for a philosophical discussion, teasing the complexity. Those sorts of people are rather thin on the ground so you take them when you can find them :) He inspected my tomato plant, it's tiny little fruits growing and ripening, and suggested that tomatoes need much more space to grow than my container can afford. I have this knowledge now, in my brain. Such a tiny small thing, but so much better to have gained it from someone who learnt it himself, than from a book, much as I voraciously love those.

I think that small pieces of learning coming virally from the mouths of others, the teaching that happens organically when people hang together, is much more richer and vibrant than the teaching that comes out of the academy. Instead of desks and curriculum and external assessment, there is interaction between human beings, rich, humous, adapted to its environment.

I wonder at how the Greek academy would spin in its grave at the paltry descendant that bleats tiredly these days in the West.

I am developing a slowly growing fondness and appreciation for succulents. The white one above, especially. Cotyledon orbiculata, 'silver waves'. My English blood yearns for green hills and lush foliage, especially when we are on fire, but there is a more subtle charm in the succulents that filled this garden yesterday, such variety of foliage and colour, all surviving in drought conditions.

Word

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

You have become conscious of your preference for second person present tense lately.

You had to look up second person present to see if it was what you meant. You have a good, confident command of the English language. You don't, however, know how to explain its elements. You don't know what conjunctives are, or parsing, or split infinitives, but you know that you perform these actions all the time anyway. In hindsight, your learning of the language seemed to come naturally to you. There must have been dreary lessons in grammar in primary school at least. You don't remember them. Maybe you drifted off dreaming daydreams, like any smart child should. Perhaps it was all of those years of devouring books as a child. You seemed to learn about the English language by reading. An Enid Blyton book in an afternoon. You seeped the language into your bones, from whence you then vomited out Grade 4 "put this word in a sentence" exercises where one word in one sentence stretched out into little mini stories for each word. You imagine you gave your Grade 4 teacher a few laughs reading little mini stories from an Australian child that sounded as if they were writen by a 40 year old Englishwoman.

You don't know what the drawing power is of second person present for you at the moment. Perhaps it is a way of distancing yourself from yourself. The writerly version of sitting down in an empty chair and talking to a part of yourself. Of externalising your inner child. From here, sitting across from yourself, you translate yourself into a wrtten account, and it feels good, somehow. Some days you think it is lying. Other days you think it is grace. You think that maybe this is what God does with us, somehow, writing us out in her own hand, shooting himself through all of our actions and lives and messes so that something good is made out of them at the other end.

You wish, when you get up in the mornings, you could dress yourself in your words, like a veil, or a beautiful dress. Drawing attention and hiding at the same time. Sometimes you feel like a fragile word that has looked itself up in a thesaurus and discovered the other meanings of itself. You feel like a couple of your serifs have been broken off in the reading.

You really must get yourself out amongst other words, where you can form sentences with each other. It has never been good for you to be this solitary; it could drive you mad if you let it. The pre-illness you of 15 years ago would be shocked to see you still sitting here so solitary, self-absorbed, mouldy.

Perhaps you need to sit down with you circa 1994 and have a good chat :)

You are not so sure how much of the sentences you are writing at the moment are authored sustainably. You are not sure of much at all, truth be told. You think this is partially because you have had far too much time to stare at your own serifs, the bit lopped off of the 'e', the wonky way the 'S' leans to one side. You could go mad, looking at the creepy way the 'v' is almost crashing into the preceding 'e'. It is a silly sort of gazing that takes you away from the knowledge that every other word in the world also has lopped serifs. Too much of it puts you away on the shelf, preserved. You are so glad you are going to visit Jane tomorrow.

You like the way you learnt the English language. Somehow you learnt it without being able to name its elements. You think you were thinking too much about boys in high school to do such things, even though you got good marks in English with ease.

You think that a certain freedom and playfulness comes from swimming in life instead of splitting it's eternal infinitives. You can become impaled on iron conjunctive hooks, feeling sorry for yourself, self-absorbedly boring, if you're not too careful.

You tell yourself a lime green thought

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Saturday, 14 February 2009

But firstly, the centre is colourless. Uncolour. A pinprick and a well. You swim in it and push on it until either something must give or you must get rid of all your mirrors so you're not reminded how ugly you feel. This uncolour clouds everything so you feel like it is pointless to get your hair cut, or to look in the eyes of another.

The next layer out is lime green and as you shower in your shame and cleansing you tell yourself a lime green thought of truth. Your words to yourself have so much power that they jolt you. You wonder about that.

You have never been so aware before of the life and death wells at the same time. The stakes feel higher somehow. There is a creative idea, a thing, that is asking you to follow it down. Do you have the courage to follow it down? You remind yourself that you don't much mind if it goes out to a gentle red thread that miscarries itself out into the air. You don't think it's the end result so much as it is the following through and seeing something come out of you that is the thing here. It scares you, this potential to birth something.

You tell yourself a lime green thought about the uncolour. It is a paradox to think that once you step onto the lime green turf that you would do anything but run away from looking back, but it is from here that you can see its truth. Not so much what it is saying to you about yourself but why it is saying it. This is the diving board, and you jump and it is yellow for a second or two.

You tell yourself lime green thoughts that face away from the uncolour and it feels the way it would if you were in a large room of white tiles with the reflections from water bouncing off the walls, creating further colour, further light.

The dope plant has begun budding. It is a symbol to you of the path you could take, the easier path of death. You would have many lime green thoughts here, it is true. But you know you cannot do this right now, not in this time, maybe not ever, but certainly once or twice before never occurs and you give the buds away to some fortunate friend. If you stayed in this place for very long, it would tie one of your toes to the bedpost. What you need is to be on your hands and knees, grunting, sweating, birthing, saying, "I can't do this."

You think that you will follow the lime green thoughts for no other reason than that they bubble whiteness into you and you are bored flatlining with grey matte finishes.
At the end of my working day, late yesterday afternoon, I chatted with Sonia and Agnes. We were all feeling a bit collectively depressed about being part of the human race. I had just transcribed a police interview with someone possessing child pornography. The smoke fumes from the fires - some deliberately lit - wafted into our nostrils even up on the sealed fourth floor. The smoke set an eerie strange glow to the sun's rays. Last night, I watched the moon rising and it was blood red.

Agnes suggested we press the reset button and get rid of everybody, pathetic as we are. She lamented that transcribing police interviews meant that she looked at every grandfather with his grandchildren and wondered if he was diddling his grandkiddies. I must say, cynicism loves company :)

Still, I said after a while that if there was a God, which I believed there was, then she must still love us even in our mess. We all three agreed on that. That was really nice to me. Three disparate people who all agreed that a God who existed must least be the sort of god who loves his humanity in their horrible, horrible evilness. I think that's a good start.

To cheer myself up on a day such as yesterday, which also happened to be the occasion of my erstwhile wedding anniversary, I resorted to the particularly girlie route of some retail therapy after work. But oh, an hour of shopping is the top limit for me. The unreality of the environment, the snobby sales assistants, the galleries of nubile 20 year olds. The overwhelming, overwhelming choice. I really hate shopping. I do, however, love my new skirt (it's orange). And shoes. And dress. I'm just a bit skint now, that's all :)

This week is a shared sort of lamentation for many of us Victorians. It's been hard to switch off the emotions that slide through from other people. I think there is a touch of navel gazing that goes on when entire towns have disappeared from existence. It has been a bit overwhelming, a very strange week. A week where it felt like the days were flying past but when I look back, I think, was Black Saturday only a week ago? Did I go bike-riding last Sunday, or the Sunday before? Time has stretched and compressed all at once, and I need to slip into kairos to balance it all out. An artist date. That's the ticket. And shared conversations with fellow workers, where we talk just a little about the things that matter? Those things really hearten me.

Happy Saturday, bloggers :)

Sometimes ...

12 comments

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Sometimes you wonder how you don't just go flying off to spaces of ungravity on cords of anxiety. These cords seem to be a companion of yours in these days of entering into yourself more while increasingly not knowing who the fuck you actually are.

Is there any end to the complexity and the paradox?

This day is different to the other day. This day is shards, and you wonder if time hasn't suddenly sped up once again without telling the scientists. The days go by so fast that it's a wonder that you can actually walk on the ground without flying off, that you can do anything more than eat one meal and go to work for 30 minutes and get two hours' sleep.

Such a shame, the amount of time you must spend tuning the world out so you don't get overwhelmed. Would you trade off certain creativities and nuances and intuitions and perceptions in place of being just a tad less sensitive? Yes, on days like this you would, in a heartbeat. For a place in the world where you feel like you belong? Certainly.

You take comfort that one of the people you love the most understands entirely and experiences the same. You think that if you hadn't had her in your life you just don't know what you would have done.

It would have been your tenth wedding anniversary on Friday if you weren't such a fucked-up unit.

Still, grace extends in every direction, even in yours. God doesn't despise you anything like the way you despise yourself sometimes. This is a comfort and a golden thread to follow if you sit on the God end rather than in your own, scraping shards of pottery over yourself. Self-punishment is a luxury you tired of many moons ago.

This is another version of these days. You don't like this one quite as much as some of the others.

Arson

9 comments

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Prime Minister Mr Rudd has likened the arsonists who lit fires in the past few days to mass murderers. When I was thinking about that, and about how angry it makes me when I think of morons deliberately lighting fires in those conditions, I got this image in my head of a suspension bridge. You know the type that have that scary sort of "give" in them so that when you walk across them it feels alarmingly unsafe? And yet it is the very give and the bounce in the bridge that makes them safe.

Maybe the "give" in a society for the bad, evil elements of it is something we don't feel as comfortable with. It feels too permissive. It feels like we should be punishing those elements. No free lunches, right? It will only encourage people if things are lax and they think they can get away with it. I agree with that to an extent, in a way. There's always freeloaders who try to get away with stuff, even if they're not going around lighting fires. But then I think, so what? Let them. It may feel lax, but it also creates a certain sort of breathing space in a society that isn't overburdened with laws and rules and signs, signs everywhere signs. It also gives people the breathing space to be able to see better the results of their misdeeds as they affect their experience, rather than because they have broken some law against some institution out there.

Let the fields have enough left over after gleaning so that the desperate can go in the dark of night and get themselves something to eat. I would argue that any societal punishment dished out needs to have some sort of justice associated with it. Justice, not vengeance. I'm particularly enamoured with perpetrators being made to face their victims. Just as long as the victims are not in turn allowed to funnel their anger wells out into convenient vengeance. 'Cause once you start kicking into someone and the black inferno descends - well, I imagine it would be hard to stop. The only way to put an end to violence imposed is to keep kicking them until you kill them, or forgive them and take your foot off their neck.

I see Catch the Fire Ministries has come out claiming that the bushfires are God's judgment for the lax abortion laws in Victoria. Abortion - it's God's favourite pet hate, isn't it, along with homosexuality. God doesn't seem to get upset with those who are destroying the earth (even though there are verses to that effect in the Old Testament somewhere). And it's never judgment that gets played out in sin being its own punishment - it's Zeus judgment that comes whirling out of nowhere to incinerate people in their cars. Danny Nalliah says this:

In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God.

That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.

We at CTFM have spent the last few days in prayer and weeping, watching the news and learning that more than 170 people have perished and more than 750 houses have gone up in flames with much property and personal belongings of people all wiped out within hours.

Australia is based on Judeo-Christian values. How far have we as a nation moved from these principles instilled in our nation’s inception. How much does it take for a nation to return to God? The Bible is very clear, if you walk out of God’s protection and turn your back on Him, you are an open target for the devil to destroy.

You know, I understand the rationale, I understand how they came to those conclusions, I understand how they see it this way. (I can't understand how they see Australia as a nation of Judeo-Christian values, and I argue about its "inception" but I digress). I completely and utterly see it differently these days, however, and it scares me, the way they see it. I understand how they believe that they are standing on the walls for God. Perhaps they are. I am starting to understand the extent of it not being my ability to get or agree with or even like the disparate elements of Christianity that makes them valid in God's eyes. Validity in God's eyes seems to have an awful lot of suspension bridge "give" in it. He seems to be quite happy to be present in and through people who have stupid dumb ideas about him and who do horrible things. People like me! :) And while I disagree with the way Catch the Fire sees things, I admire their ability to stand for what they do believe, and they are getting really involved in helping out the people who have been affected by the bushfires.

But I reserve the right to heartily disagree and feel really saddened that this ministry would think it was a good time for such a media release as this one at this time. Christians are so good at pouring salt into fresh wounds, at ramming it home like a sledgehammer how much we've stuffed it all up. As if we don't already know that. Sheesh, everybody knows that if we're looking at ourselves honestly. We carry it around in our guts and drink it away and hold guns to each others' heads. We visit our sins on the children we do bring to birth. Do we really honestly need God to incinerate half the state for us to realise how horrible it is to treat humanity with such disregard? I would think at this time it would be the kindness of God that leads people to repentance when they're wandering around while their world is reeling.

Of Droughts and Flooding Rains

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Monday, 9 February 2009

I feel a bit numb this evening. I began writing this post unsure that it was going to be anything more than a few sentences. What can you say about such things as natural disasters? I've gone about my business of the past two days, with crying spells interspersed in-between long bike rides and art therapy sessions. It's terribly sobering living in Australia when it's flooded at one end, and has just experienced it's worst fires ever at the other end, in my state, with 150 people burned to death and 800 houses burnt to the ground.

Here in Melbourne I am shielded from it all, really. I don't know anyone directly who has died or lost their house. I know people who know people, but that's it. I drove to Mount Dandenong today, and the only hint of anything different were some of the things Maggie had packed in preparation for evacuation, being in a fire-prone area and only 50km and an hours' drive away from the now-almost-extinct Kinglake. But by today, there wasn't even a hint of smoke in the air.

But still, you can feel the numbness in the air. It's heartening to see the rallying of support of people who feels so useless and want to help. There has already been 6 million bucks donated to the appeal, and one of the relief centres near Kinglake had to actually ask people to stop bringing certain things in because they were being overwhelmed with stuff. Which is a good problem to have. They were actually asking for specific items I last heard - items like children's underwear and dog leads. I saw footage of some of the pets who had made it on the television and I have to stop my mind from thinking of the animals who didn't.

I was listening to Radio National today. They were discussing the death of a philosopher attributed to founding the deep ecology movement. I don't know anything about him so I won't go into it here, but the narrator was discussing how deep ecologists tend to believe that anthropocentrism - the idea that humans are at the centre of creation - is to blame for the way the earth is being murdered. I can understand why people think that, certainly. They say that it breeds a certain sort of arrogance, a disconnection from the earth that sustains us. I wonder how different that idea would be if Empire Christianity hadn't been there to fuel it. As much as you can blame anything in particular - after all, if humans didn't have such a propensity in their hearts to take and rape and pillage what they believe to have very little value, then there wouldn't be a susceptibility to it, would there? So we can try to blame certain ideologies and beliefs for the state of the world with some certain and sure point, but really, ultimately, it's human nature that has got us here.

But still, I wonder how much extra fuel Empire Christianity threw on that particular fire. The state religion of the West, the rich, rich west. A God at the head of that beast who is a rather petulant creature, who is going to throw most of his creation into hell at the end of the story. A God that is very demanding, quite the tyrant really when you think about it, who you never can quite tell if he's pleased enough with you to have bestowed upon you your heaven pass. What kind of effect would that way of thinking have on your conceptions of yourself and the earth you live in and on, over and under? Someone mentioned to me on a blog the other day that it is an urban legend that one of Ronald Reagan's advisers gave some sort of speech back in the eighties where he basically said that if it was all gonna burn anyway, what was the point of trying to save the earth's resources? I don't know how true that is, but it is but a logical conclusion, to me.

It all comes down to your view of what God is, I suppose. Whatever view you have of God, it's backed up in the bible. That's the creepy magic about that book. It is such a great mirror of what we believe about God. I wonder what Christianity would have looked like if it had retained its eastern worldview instead of going western and dominatrix. Of course, those couple of verses at the beginning of Genesis fuelled that Western idea along too, didn't they? Rule over the earth, subdue it, have dominion over it? Pretty heady sort of language for hell-bound Westerners with a taste for domination, wouldn't you say? Of course, those words contain within them the conception of stewardship also. And taking a couple of verses out of their proper places is always fraught with danger. God was talking to sinless people in that scenario. Connected people. Connected intimately to her and to the earth. Further along in Genesis 2 the ideas are expanded upon more, about tending the garden and caring for it (what lies outside the garden? That's what I want to know. We imagine a paradise but I'm not so sure about that, especially if the earth became formless and void rather than was, but that's another story for another excessively long blog post).

To consider that those verses have anything to do with the granting of a licence to rape and pillage the earth is probably one of the more insane ideas that could ever pop into people's heads. It smacks of disconnection, to me. Sometimes I think that the more we surround ourselves with our own technology and our own stuff to reflect our own reality, the crazier we are becoming, and the more of a bastard we think God is. Funny, about that, huh.

But then, Empire religion threw out a whole massive ball of wool from which to take that thread and run with it. It has taught a beastly God that I wouldn't want to introduce to anybody because he is a dysfunctional tyrant.

Still, even if you do happen to think that God is a good god, it's still hard to resist having some negative thoughts about her when things like inferno bushfires occur. Even if we can't blame God for the fact that we have so completely stuffed up our environment all because we need stuff, you still can't help wondering in these times. Where is God when this sort of thing happens?

The narrator on Radio National was talking, as I drove through the subdued greenness of the Dandenong Ranges today, about the rather more eastern conception of the earth and God as one. As I listened and nodded in agreement to that idea, rushing back to me came all the rich white male voices of the books of my early Christian years, denouncing such views as heretical and pagan and unbiblical and hellfire bound. I understand the thinking and the fear. But pantheism - the belief that God is some cosmic impersonal force that IS nature itself is not the same as panentheism, that God is in all things. In the weft and the weave of all creation. In the majesty of an everyday human body. In the lumin in our molecules. I can feel him, I can see her personality within the world and what she has made. I don't mistake God for a tree. But I also don't think God is some impersonal force sitting way up there, outside of it all. The cross does not allow me ever to think that, even if I could have possibly thought it before.

Still, for all of that, my belief that God is in all of this, in the middle of all of these fires, in the midst of the people, separate from them only by their belief that he is separate, or that he is not there at all - it still doesn't dispel the questions of this loving God who would allow something like that? Is that not the question that is always asked most of all, the leads most to agnosticism and anger? Where is God in all of this?

And it remains a mystery. Like my faith also, remains a mystery. I understand its illogicality to some on the outside. I can't apologise for it, however. It is as real to me now as something I can see in front of me. I pray for God to be with all of those people who have lost everything even while thinking such a prayer is pointless. How can he not be with them? He is in them, whether they know it or not, whether they have burnt to death in their cars or not. And the mystery of the tension between those things is not ever going to be solved, I don't think. The tension of faith. The tears that flow from the tension. The horror at how hellish this life on earth can be. The understanding that the only way I can cope with the hell is because I believe that one day she is going to set it all right, and wipe every tear from every eye, make all things new. As childishly fairytale as that sounds, I believe that's how the story ends.

Image: smoke from the fires. Taken from the NASA satellite on Saturday
through their
Earth Observatory page


These Days

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Saturday, 7 February 2009

You don't like anymore to declare, "I am now this way" or "I am now that way", trying to tie things down underfoot. Of course you understand why you do try to tie these things down. You have been as changeable as Melbourne weather for the last several years; of course you wanted to have happiness and contentment that rolls away in front of you like a red carpet for days and days. But all year long you have said, "I am now this way" and then you find yourself the other way in an hour or a day. Only to be this way again in another hour or day. Best to say you are everything or nothing. And anyway, you know, as soon as you try to tie down happiness and contentment and make them your own, that in the process of control you will turn them into something they never were before you caged them like a butterfly.

You know that now is enough for you to handle if you are going to be more than halfway in it. You're not entirely happy with that, but you know it. You're joyful about it when you manage to do it. You know that sadness and depression and despondency and despair and grief are in your future, as they are in anybody's. And just the saying and naming of those things puffs out the future, allows it to be what it is going to be without your teeth marks jagging its edges.

You can say today at least that you are content. There is a gentle flow, like water over stones. A flummox of thoughts every moment through your mind, a choice of which hallway to walk down, which door to open. You stall throughout the day, dwelling, wanting what you do not have, not liking what you do, and yet also finding that you have come to a certain place of command in your mind. Perhaps it is knowing God that has brought you along to a here, a mind that can draw itself now from one room down into the cool pool, or towards the beautiful hearthfire, or the fluffy pillow of rest. And you love how it is that thinking about God, about the God of all comfort, gives health to your heart and your mind. And when you remember you stop, and you say selah. Because the days are evil otherwise.

And even further, you can say today that you are happy. You have swum to the other side of the vat of grief. You sit dripping out the other side on the bank wondering how you got here. The grief does not hang off you any more, and you realise with a shock, a start, even as you have been realising, slowly, that the life you are liviing in feels no more like a life you have borrowed off someone else, ill-fitting, like the shoes you bought off EBay the other day, labelled 10 but a half size too big. You realise, suddenly, that this life that you are in fits you snugly, tailor-made, perfectly imperfect, and you don't know how that happened but it did.

And you think, it doesn't take much for you to be content any more. A few small plans for the future, a few friends, a God who you would be proud to introduce to people, a few ideas, a few daydreams. A small salad made this evening, from the lettuce you plucked from your own garden and the one small tomato that has ripened on the bush so far. More the size of a cherry tomato than a standard tomato, it looked almost incongruous as you cut it up and put it on the plate. But it tasted the sweetest, this small tomato, that you grew yourself.

And you wish you could share this peace with everyone, bottle it up and give it away for free on street corners to homeless rapists and methed-out kids and lonely people constricted and restricted by their thoughts and words and deeds. You wish you could share how your peace comes not from yourself but from the vision, the vision, the vision that the entire world is saved, but it just doesn't know it yet. But you know when you waffle on like this that you sound like a pain in the arse, and you know that it is best instead to distil this down into small gifts like a glass of cold water or a wrestling in prayer. And you know that that sounds a bit tossy too, a bit trite, and you wonder how irirtating it is that it is always easier to wax dramatic and depressing than to wax happy without sounding like a bit of a pillock. And you think the new heavens and the new earth would surely be the sort of place where you can wax expansive without sounding as if you need to take your meds.

These days turned out nothing like you'd planned. And finally, for all that, at least today, the world spins at its regular pace and you feel like, in some small way, life is pretty alright, thanks.

Bushfire Season

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Lester and I walked by the river last night, after the greater warmth of the day had passed. It was one of those days where the clouds were going crazy, multilayering themselves into shapes of dinosaurs and evil creepy things, of giants, and fairy lands. There were fluffy clouds, swirly clouds, streaked line clouds, and big clouds with a bit of water in them judging by their greyness, interspersed with smaller white fluffy ones which the sun was flirting around the edges with. It was a fine evening for cloud picture making, that's for sure.

I smoothed the bark of a ghost gum, in my hippy prayerdom, praying about today, another day of extreme temperatures (44C/111F) and wind gusts that foretell bushfires before the day is out. And I prayed, smoothing the multi-coloured bark, that as many of this tree's brethren as possible would still be standing by afternoon's end, when the cool change rolls in.

There is a certain level of anxiety on days like this, when everything is tinder dry. It is not something to get used to, even while living all my life in such conditions. I am reminded of Ash Wednesday 1983. I remember exactly where I was at the time when the ash from the worst bushies since 1939 came rolling into Melbourne. Mum and I were out in the waves at Mentone beach, enjoying the bounce. Dad was on the shore, waving. That was strange. Not given to bouts of expression, my father was standing on the shore waving at us.

To come in, that is. By the time we got home, the windows which had been left partially open had brought in with them a fine layer of ash from the fires that killed 71 people that day. The ash covered everything.

Me, I'm inside, insulated against the hot winds that will make me sick if I go out into them. I have barricaded myself inside the lounge room, with paper, pencils, paint and brushes. I have it easy today. I think of those fighting fires (the one that's broken its containment lines near the Bunyip State Forest) . I can't help thinking of the animals and the habitations that might be lost.

I am still not used to the way of this continent.

++++

Update: at midnight, 14 people are dead and over 100 have lost their homes. I can't even think about the pets and livestock that have been lost.

Update: at midnight, 24 hours hence, and these bushfires are the worst in Australian history and there will be more than 100 people who have died. Not only that, but entire towns have gone or almost gone - Marysville, Narbethong, Kinglake. People died trying to escape from fires that rushed in within minutes, and that can be the only saving grace out of all of this, that their ends would have been swift. It's pretty devastating.

Melbourne trains being cancelled is disruption. This, however, is certainly chaos.
If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have a better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is no god for me, for I have had too close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know that it has no moral limits. It has emptied the country of the independent and the proud, and has crowded the cities with the dependent and the abject. It has always sacrificed the small to the large, the personal to the impersonal, the good to the cheap. It has ridden questionable triumphs over the bodies of small farmers and tradesmen and craftsmen. I see it, still, driving my neighbors off their farms into the factories. I see it teaching my students to give themselves a price before they can give themselves a value. Its principle is to waste and destroy the living substance of the world and the birthright of posterity for a monetary profit that is the most flimsy and useless of human artifacts.
~ Wendell Berry

I take heart from people like Wendell Berry. For every made-stupid person who can't see out of the matrix, or doesn't want to, the brave ones fill me with hope 100 times more. For every person who calls the emperor out on the fact that his bum cheeks are hanging out, I have hope, and I feel safer.

Meanwhile, Western governments continue to bail water out of the economic boat by ... spending more money. Which is the shape of the pool they're in, and they can't do much else. The Rudd government plans on giving me 900 bucks in a few weeks' time. It's to stimulate the economy. What will happen is that most people will go and buy something made in Taiwan or, like me (hopefully, in theory), they will use the money to pay bills, like I will to pay my car rego.

(In theory. In practice, I might dip in here and dip in there and spend it on pointless shit until it's all gone. Which is really bad economic management ... but really good paradigmatic, governmental economic management.)

Lurch left. Lurch right. Bail out more water. Fuck the earth. Good plan.

The Wet Weak and the Cast of Thousands

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Friday, 6 February 2009

Sometimes I get little glimpses and remembrances of how life felt to me as a child, how I perceived it from inside myself. I was thinking the other day about my silly childish propensity to name inanimate objects and wondering, is this the consumerist, gooberly, boring adult version of what went on in my head as a child when, my mother saying in exasperation, "You're as slow as a wet week" would lead me to envisage the wet weak as being like ... oh, I don't know, a giant slug or something? The wet weak was a character in my head, something I created. I like to imagine s/he shared a house with dirty deeds and the dunder cheep.

There are many ways to live in whimsy and wonderment, even though I know the words and can't be flabbergasted too often anymore by phraseal misconceptions (although I still enjoy fluffing especially delectable phrases around inside my mouth, tasting them). Naming my mass-produced items is one of them, but I think I need entire human characters, that's what I need. But they won't come. They fart themselves out in my head into a scenario and then stop. I get these scenarios in my head often. Hey, that would be an interesting story. A person who works overnight in a bakery as a delivery person. Hey, that's an interesting trajectory, a person going from this point to this point. But then they just all fly away on the wind. I have not been to my writers' group for months and months. For several months it was because I felt w-a-y too fragile to do such a thing. Plus I didn't have anything I'd written to share. Now, I feel only a tiny bit too fragile, the garden variety fragility that is required if you are to be vulnerable and let things in, but I still don't have anything to share.

Perhaps I need to write a story about the dunder cheep and the wet weak.

How frustrating this creative life is when it's not happening for you. I have a slab of clay sitting in the playroom, dried out once and probably dried out again by now, a sculpture in progress, a good idea, one that got me excited. But it's been three months and there it sits. And the days are flying by too fast, because they are too evil. I need the paradox of losing myself in clay so that when I surface again, I am surprised that two hours have passed. I don't have enough of that going on in my days lately, and therefore, paradoxically, the minutes fly by way too fast because I'm not forgetting enough of them.

Still, the difference now creatively is that I know I shall return to that place again. It is right there and has not gone anywhere. I have evidence that I have been there. I look at these evidences in some kind of wonderment, thinking, I did those. Sometimes it seems patently impossible. Still, this is the strangeness of living in your own body and soul. Many parts of it seem strange to you, familiar though they are. The multi-layerdness of my soul seems so beautiful to me now. I get these images when I think of it, of floaty material in layers, one on top of the other.

I miss writing poetry. I am considering tackling a few well-chosen essay topics, perhaps, for publication possibly maybe possibly maybe. The usual phrases are occurring to me still as I go about my business, that quick jolt that comes bubbling up and says, "Write this down." Yesterday on the train I observed a young man in his early twenties and thought, "He was the kind of man for whom fatness made him look stupid." Which is a clunky sort of a sentence but it opened up all sorts of possibilities for me. And he was. I inspected him and thought, there was something about his face which, when the extra layers of fat were stuck on, did something to his chin and changed the entire geography of his face, made him look duller than he would if the man who I could see underneath was in existence. I think reading about Michelangelo carving marble has had an effect on how I am looking at the world :)

The courage of faith is to keep plodding on despite all the possibilities that present themselves but then fall flat on their bum and fade away into nothing. Because then, in other moments, suddenly I will find myself flung into somewhere and doing something, making something, no matter how flimsy or pointless it may seem to people outside, and I realise that clock-time does not apply to this life in so many ways. Progress occurs in leaps and bounds and twists and turns and starts and stops, and even the stops can be beneficial. And it is comforting to remind myself that that five year old child still exists inside me, and she always will.

Offspring of Satan

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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

I was accused, along with the heretical Kent, of being an offspring of Satan on a forum a few days ago :)

So beware, any who read here. I will try to lure you away to the dark side, from where God shall have no option or creative licence but to send you all to hell, forever and ever.

What seems funny to me these days is how irritated and upset I used to get at such comments previously. Maybe because I wasn't sure if they weren't right? Because whenever people would flame-throw me, in God-related areas, it would so easily throw me into the giant vat of shame that lived inside me. If someone made accusations about my character and using God to proof-text that, I would crumble and fall because hey, they were right, right?

Well, I suppose they were in one way. But they can't touch me that way anymore. That's the miracle.

I guess the problem is that most often the sort of person who flame throws in this way has hundreds of scriptures to back themselves up, and their righteous, wall-watching anger, their holy desire to purge from the ranks of Christianity the defiling agents to fuel them along. And while I can understand how they can see that in scripture, I just don't identify that way of looking at things any more with God I have come to experience in my own mind and heart and body. There are many other ditches for me to fall in, but the "turn yourself into a hate-filled hypocritical moron in the process of upholding God's integrity" is not one that lures me in any more.

I still get irritated at people in those situations. 'Cause really, some of the ugliest people in the world are Christians who are convinced they are right, who are convinced that they are God's elect, on God's holy road, being the mouthpiece of God's righteous requirements, the grace-filled beauties through which he shall impart to wayward believers the way back onto the narrow path.

That sort of person still irritates me, sure. But somehow, along the way, this big wall of anger and defensiveness is being dismantled brick by brick. It's a scary sort of dismantling, the walls you've built up. Each brick that comes down, you begin seeing in yourself horrendities that you really would prefer weren't there but which you have known have been there, simmering away inside. And you also recognise (somehow, at some point, without disintegrating under the slamming ball of shame) that inside of you is the very same propensity towards self-righteousness. So where do you end up standing in your irritation at that person? Looking at yourself in the mirror :) There is nowhere left to stand. The cross takes away that option for you. Another irritation :)

"It burns, it burns!" scream the wicked witches of your soul, melting into the ground :)

Cindi wrote yesterday about the protein molecules found in our bodies which are literally what is holding them together. This molecule basically glues our bodies together. Like Christ, who is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Most interesting is the shape of this lamin substance. Cool, huh? :)


Doors of Perception

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Monday, 2 February 2009

Where I live is a particularly multicultural suburb. Many people from many different countries live around here and as I walk past them in the streets, with my dog, probably 75% of those people who are identifiably Asian or African give the dog a wide, wide berth.

Occasionally, it annoys me. Occasionally I take it personally, wondering just how stupid they think I am that I would walk a rabid, mangy psycho that's going to bite them as I pass.

But much of life is not rational. And much of it is seemingly irrational on the surface until you pay it some mind. Yesterday I listened to the owner of Kidslink talk about the Mozambique trip they are taking once again in July this year*. He cautioned against touching any of the animals there because they are so often diseased that it is really not worth the risk of patting a dog and contracting something life-threatening in the process.

When I was walking my dog today two young African women walked past me. One was chatting on her phone, oblivious, speaking French. The other walked such a wide berth around Lester that she walked on the road to get past. Further behind, an Asian man gave a rather less wide berth while an African man walked past, looked at me for a fleeting second and then his eyes dropped to the ground.

And I thought, I am privileged enough that I can get irritated at people that they think my dog is going to bite them. I am privileged to own a dog as a pet, companionship. My dog is immunised every year. The changes of him contracting anything to pass on to anyone is entirely minimal.

I am so privileged that I can entertain the notion of irritation towards people, presuming that their reactions are based on irrational fears rather than on very sound berths, ingrained in many of them from birth, because to go near an animal where they grew up could be the difference between life and great illness, or even life and death.

I am so privileged that I am in a position of irritation.

+++++++++++

* I am not so sure that this will be a trip I will take this year. Apart from the 5 grand cost, there is an unsettled sense I get when I think about it. Irritatingly, those senses are often startlingly good indicators of whether to go ahead with a situation or wait. Unfortunately, they are often indistinguishable from garden variety nervousness, gastroenteritis, or a reaction to last night's meal. I suppose that is what gives life its dangerous flavour :)

Nevertheless, there is a certain sense that perhaps this is something that I should think to do next year, because this year I will have other things to do. We shall see, I suppose
I suppose it's not surprising that most newspapers are heading to tabloid status. Not that I read them any more, unless I'm at my parents and I can pick up the Herald Sun for a bit of easy potshot criticism. At best I probably read a story or two online every day.

The weather was taking my interest last week and so I was doing a lot of online newspaper reading then. In my readings I noted a lot of use of overblown words like "chaos" to describe what went on last week. Really? Was it really chaos that people were stranded places and took hours to get home, etc? I would say it was extreme disruption and a very uncomfortable week indeed. It would have been chaos if an earthquake was going on, or if a crazed gunman had rampaged the city at the same time. To describe last week as "chaos" is just patently stupid when everywhere, I saw calm and in control people who were hot and irritated and a bit bothered by public transport "meltdowns". It was sad to note that quite a few people died. That was sad, and honestly, it was a yukky week, but it wasn't anything near chaotic. Chaotic would be if we were beginning to starve to death.

(Edit/aside: okay, so the title of my last post was Hell in Melbourne Town. So I'm a hypocrite. Tell me something I don't already know :)

Another overblown story was the one about Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medallist in something or other, who I see has been caught with his mouth impaled on a bong. Here is how the Times Online described it:
A mixture of shock and disbelief swept the United States yesterday as the nation woke up to an abject apology from the man it had hailed as its greatest Olympic athlete. Michael Phelps was a hero and role model for millions but now his career will be stained forever by claims that he smoked drugs.
Really? Shock and disbelief? On what sort of a scale? A chaotic sort of a scale, as represented here, in another overblown article about the fall of a vaunted sports superstar? Were people taken to hospital because their illusions were dissed that someone who is rich and famous (the only economy we all worship) has done something unshiny? I hate the media. You suck, media. With plummeting sales, you could take a nobler route and aim for top-notch journalism to win readers back. God knows, there is a market for that. But naw, instead you just go for the descriptor equivalents of Samantha Fox's tits hanging out, not just on a page 3 article but on every page, every article. What are you gonna do when real chaos hits, huh? How do you cope with it then?

You call it a "global financial crisis" and you report on it ad nauseum but none of it is about possibilities, avenues, forward thrusts. All of it is reported on the back-end of your reportings about the plummetting economy and what we need to do to shore it up, interspersed with stories about the climate falling apart. All it seems to be about trying to sustain an unsustainable status quo because you, dear media, are an intrinsic part of that whole card toppling deal. You couldn't report something new that is a possibility to break free out of that system if it came up to you and bit you on the arse and screamed "amazing news story". 'Cause they're everywhere. It's just that you can't see them.

While we all drown in a sea of bottom line mediocrity, meanwhile, there are people out there doing stuff for free, or for not a whole stack of money, and doing wonderful things. People out there who can see beyond the stupidity of this failing system.

And it doesn't seem ever to be the Goliaths of the world that can see beyond. The Goliaths have too much of a stake in it to be able to see how it is dying and simultaneously strangling everything as it does. The bigger you grow, the more committees and boards and directors and partners and laws and rules and regulations you have to smother any sort of life and vision out of anything. It's the Church way of doing things. Take a stack of people full of life, and filter and file them through turnstiles of the mind, and then sit back and watch them deflate like giant Goodyear blimps.

It amazes me how many smoke and mirrors I see about me these days. Virtually everything in the system. Once you start seeing it, you can't stop. It's like the Michael Phelps story. What it comes down to is being seen to do the right thing, image, projections. Probably part of the reason why Michael Phelps sticks his head inside a bong is because he is drowning in the sad sea of being the same fucked-up dude he was before he got famous and desperate people started pedestalling him.

The financial system - nobody can dispute that smoke and mirrors sideshow anymore, if they were ignorant before this. A financial system built on expectations and "feelings" of consumer confidence. A system which, when doing the death walk last year, was subsequently bolstered up by governments who are unable to do more than reward the massive greed and stupidity of corporations than in helping the little people at the other end. What a stinking, sinking fucking ship this whole bag is.

My dear cuz and I were chatting last night about how becoming a Christian once seemed to us so horribly stifling, a giving up of your freedom. I remember how I used to view God, and living a life in him. Part of that abhorrence was fueled by the distasteful stench of late twentieth century Christianity. Part of it was fuelled by the stench of my own flesh that wouldn't know freedom if it bit it on the bum. And now we marvelled at how different everything looks on the other side of the door, where freedom is something that is growing up before us, and in us, miracles of miracles, that is planted in us and takes root and grows leaves that give us shade while opening our eyes. Terrifically beautiful.

I suppose that's why I can say that while nothing in the system could understand why any of its citizens rejoice at the dismantling that we suspect is going on, despite the pain and turmoil it causes people (because some people losing their jobs is a proper definition of chaos, in their own lives at least, if they are unable to find another and have a family to support, for example), many of us are rejoicing. Maybe even it's in deep ways we can't quite finger. Whispers more than anything. But something is resonating in my soul, almost as if the wiser parts of me recognise that this mess we live in, that has captured me so profoundly, is beginning its slow descent. And how do you rejoice that the world as you have always known it is changing? But I do, nevertheless. It feels like a close relative of the freedom that's begun taking root in my soul, expressed outwardly, taking root in the soil. But the system, the lurching fleshy stupidly spiritually dull-witted thing that it is, can't know about such things, and it never will. It feels wonderful to my soul, even while I quiver, that we are being set free. Even while sometimes I wonder if I would go mad of it, even while I think I will go sane of it. Or at least, such are the things that my soul speaks of today.