Poured Out


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Unfired. I'm actually pleased with this one though and am going to go to the effort to get it fired :)

Damn. Must cut fingernails before tomorrow's smoothing out and get rid of that big chunk I've put into the side of his leg :)

The Good News/The Hmmm News


Saturday, 28 November 2009

"Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
~ Arthur Conan Doyle

The Good News:

The good news isn't so much that Glenn McDonald resigned as pastor of the big 2000 seater Zionsville Presbyterian Church in Indiana, USA. (Though that could probably only ever be a good thing from my personal perspective but hey, that's just me). The good news was the transparency he displayed in his leaving. As painful as it may be, it is good to draw attention to the emperor's lack of clothes - especially if it's your bum that's hanging out the back of your non-existent robe.

The truth is that no pastor can perform the job that they are asked to do if the people surrounding them box them into what the system expects of pastors - being Jesus to everybody, and Superman to the rest. This is what happens when the system puts you on your little pedestalled ratwheel - start running. And keep running, it turns out, basically for everybody else except your wife, as ex-pastor Brad Cummings points out in the latest God Journey podcast (see below).

Glenn described the reason for his resignation as idolatry:

McDonald said he had committed the sin of idolatry by allowing the business of running a big church and the desire to please his congregation -- rather than God -- to become the focus of his work. The result, he said, was the mind-set of a workaholic who neglected his wife and his family and his own personal spiritual connection to God for the sake of the day-to-day machinery of the ministry.

... "You can make a church grow. It can meet its budget," he said. "People can be happy and full of ministries, and you can do it all without prayer, without ever checking in with God."

... He took a leave of absence this fall and entered a Seattle-area clinic for people with addictions. "In my case," he said, "it was for somebody who feels he had to keep pedaling the bicycle at all hours of the day and never stops."
From 'Zionsville pastor says he's quitting to refocus,' by Robert King, IndyStar.com

The Hmm News:

The church will soon begin the process of finding a replacement.
I feel hmmm about that statement. My cynicism says that things will continue on as they were, because some will not see there is a problem, because they will be powerless to change what is totally within their power to change because they will not believe they can. And in the process of that people will continue to objectify the ones they are called to love, all in the name of serving the system.

I wonder how many people in that giant 2000 person church would dare to do things differently if they were to listen to and take on board the truth spoken by one of the cogs. I wonder how many would care enough. I pray that maybe they will, because with God all things are possible, right? I pray that they will choose to put their care for each other as church as paramount, over and above the thing they are serving that we call "church".

I just hope that if nothing changes, that the next incumbent is not like the poor dude who could not see any other way out than this.

HT to Brad and Wayne, two ex-cogs in the pastor machine who I greatly respect for their willingness to follow after truth wherever it may go. They spoke about these two pastors above on the lastest God Journey podcast. All of the thoughts shared here I have really just vomited up from listening to them :)

What - Again - Is Wrong With This Picture?


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Police have launched a five-year plan to reduce violence against women and children in Victoria

You can put in place as many programs as you want. But real change only ever comes from within the heart, between people, not externally, handed down from an expert or an institutional authority, no matter how good or well-intentioned it is.

Domestic violence happens because men are at their wits end, because they do not know how to communicate, because the way we live totally fucks us up, because they are big babies, because there is not the right kind of support that comes from people you know instead of some psychologist across the other side of the desk, because 40 million other reasons.

Nothing will ever change unless something changes in us, unless people can see within themselves reasons to change. Programs run by the police are not the answer. Great social ties are the answer. The more programs there are run by the police, the more people believe that the answer must lie "out there" with the "experts" and not "in here" with me and the people I know coming to grips with ourselves.

I've been thinking lately about where I stand politically. I left lean and I vote left, but I am really right wing in my ideas about a limited form of government. But then it struck me the other day - my political ideas are not based in the political system. My political ideas are based in humanity. I don't know what that means entirely but it feels once more like everything that is meant to be in here gets placed out there, where we all have to then take sides. If we vote left or vote right, we are not then allowed to constructively criticise the side we are on because then we are being unfaithful to that side.

And how bloody childish is that?

Tree Woman


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

This is one woman who will endure physical and verbal beating for what she believes. She has gone from living in a dirt floor hut to being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. (Well, okay, sure, it's lost its lustre since you can now be awarded one for simply not being someone else, but hey, Wangari Maathai has sure earned hers).

It never ceases to amaze me how much one person, or a small group can accomplish - way more than the sum of their parts. Wangari is one amazing woman, and she has had one amazing life.

When the Kenyan dictator of her country, Daniel Arap Moi, decided to build over Uhuru Park, the only parkland in Nairobi, she stood up to him. She incurred his wrath and denigration (ye olde standby - when people start speaking up, demonise them. If they are an oppressed part of your culture (ie women), call them mad, denigrate their worth, call them onto the cultural carpet, tell them they're not behaving how women should behave, respecting their men).

Proving that not much has changed since Nebuchadnezar, Moi was wanting to replace Uhuru Park with "a giant skyscraper, some luxury apartments, and a huge golden statue of himself." Maathai's protests earned her a spot in jail, charged with treason. It took her three years of fighting and death threats and violence before Moi backed down on his venture after international protests began snowballing.

Maathai's Green Belt Movement began in 1977 in an effort to tackle deforestation, soil erosion and lack of water. What began at the grassroots, a bunch of women planting trees, now has seen 40 million trees planted throughout Africa. Inspiring stuff. Grounding women back into the earth that supports them.

Maathai now speaks internationally about deforestation and global warming. I encourage you to check out the Green Belt Movement site and the article in The Independent which first switched me onto this wonderful woman.

As a scientist, Maathai is warning now that man-made global warming threatens to make the rainforests dry up and die, whatever she does in Kenya. She could save them from Moi – but can she save them from us?
"People don't realise how much they depend for their own survival on this ecosystem and how fragile it is," she says, almost pleading. "The world's forests are its lungs. Thick, healthy strands of indigenous trees absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide and keep them out of the atmosphere. If the Congolese rainforests were entirely destroyed, for example, 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide would be released – equivalent to more than a decade of man-made emissions. So if we lose these forests, we lose the fight against climate change."
The rainforests can be killed from two directions – by the saws of men like Moi, or the warming gases of people like us. That is why she has left the land she loves, armed with the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 2004, and travelled so far: to try to persuade us to let the forests live. "There are moments in history when humans have to raise their consciousness and see the world anew. This is one of those moments. We are being called to assist the earth in healing her wounds, and in the process we can heal our own. We can revive our sense of belonging to a larger community of life. We can see who we really are."
This inspires me even while I feel the futility in a way. (And going deeper, while in spiritual terms I still hold to a tiny naiive childish flicker that the world will be made anew some day, maybe that belief is why we are so languid, who believe such a thing. Why care for the earth when it is going to be made new? Only a people living in our times, as cast adrift as we are from mother earth, would ever be so deluded as to think such things. We are most certainly city kids).

How can things change when it comes down to people who are encouraged within the very fabric of their society, to consume more and more? What happens when climactically the most powerful in the world are ... us?

So often I am overwhelmed by the way everything is set up. Our very cultural fabric, and our riches, our torpor, impede us from getting involved. And so to see people who have broken through that ennui and are willing to stand up is inspiring to me. I was enamoured to see my favourite gardener, Peter Cundall, arrested protesting against Gunn's pulp mill in Tasmania the other day.

It all feels so helpless and pointless because the power is with the governments, and the governments are composed of people who wish to stay in power, who have all sorts of pressures from all sorts of different venues, and who are rich and corrupt despite what they think about themselves, and so what we have is a proposed emissions trading scheme which will see and so what you get when you are hashing out a proposed emissions trading bill is one, the Greens tell us, which will actually will see greater investment in coal in the future. WTF?

But then that's always the way it's been, isn't it. The big people at the top are smothered by their own power, their own position, their own red tape. Even when what's debated is the planet we live on, the air that we breathe, the trees that breathe for us. It is up to people at the bottom to make the real difference. It's always been the way. Power to the people :)

HT to Mike

Humble Pie


Sunday, 22 November 2009

Okay, so maybe I was wrong. I have had enough people asking me otherwise over the past 24 hours that I have needed to ask myself whether what I was just doing was really in the end just going to produce the effect of cutting off my nose to spite my face.

And in all humility - it's been a really crap weekend so far - I must say from my perspective here today after being washed over by a giant tsunami yesterday, that I do think that perhaps it was that. I could have dragged the process out to a week, but the horridness of brutal self honesty is that once I concede something to myself ... well, I can't shove it away and pretend I didn't concede it. I have to act on it.

You must think I am so ridiculously emotional, a crazy woman. I have always prided myself on being stoic, you know. I needed to be. My childhood was not a particularly safe one. It was not safe for me to express everything I felt.

I am beginning to do that. Sometimes the force of it overwhelms me.

It is embarrassing to me to think that people will find me emotional, even worse that they will think I am being manipulative. I hate to think that yesterday may seem an underhanded attempt to get some sympathy, that I never really intended to shut down this blog. I hate underhandedness, and I hate games. I do not have time for them and it is such an issue of ethical concern to me that I would rather not have what I want, than try to get it in a manner which manipulates other people.

I really did think yesterday that it was time to close down this blog. Now ... well, now I think that what I was thinking was not healthy. Or that what I was thinking was being shaped by this massive mound of emotion I was feeling. It's been a long 24 hours, folks.

I am mindful that tsunamis of emotion are things that need dealing with. I do not know exactly where these things are coming from. I know that I have been facing lots of things that have happened to me in the past, along with the lies that go with it. How easy it is to see the lies that others believe. How hard it is to see your own. And even so, even when you do know that you are believing a lie - for instance, this belief that people do not care for me, that I am defective, that there is something totally wrong with me, that my life stretches out ahead of me exactly the same, that I will always be forever destined to never accomplish the things I desire to - well, even when you can see those things, there are greater steps towards healing that need to come.

I remember once meditating on how lonely I felt as a child when at mealtimes we would sit in front of the TV, needing to be quiet because Dad was home and Dad wanted to watch the news and everything revolved around bloody Dad and his ridiculous inability to be anything but an emotional leper with a drinking problem. And I was meditating on that and thinking about how lonely I felt and asking Jesus to be there with me. And so then he was. Then I saw a picture of myself in that lounge room with Jesus saying to me, "Let's dance." And I was scared because I would get in the way of the telly while Dad was trying to watch the news and I would get into trouble. And Jesus said that no, they couldn't see us, we were invisible. And so I got up and waltzed around the lounge room with Jesus while my famiy went on unawares, watching the television.

It is like a memory within me now. It healed something within me. There is plenty more of that which needs to be healed.

But I guess, doing a complete 180 from the emotional tsunami of yesterday and feeling like a moronic emotional twit in the process, that closing down my blog is really not gonna fix anything at all, is it? It's not going to stop me feeling raw and vulnerable and exposed. But God will. Somehow.

Out of It


Friday, 20 November 2009

After Lucy's confessional this morning about how she's feeling, I thought I'd jump in and add my own. How pathetic this feels to me, writing this stuff on my blog, making myself more vulnerable, telling people who I don't even know about my stuff because there's not someone here next to me to tell it to.

I'm getting old.

You know, I really do believe that God fits people in with each other, you know? I believe it. I see it happen. I'm not even talking here about Christians and non Christians but just in a general sense. I can so easily believe he does that with other people. I am losing hope that he is going to do it with me.

I had a coffee with someone on Tuesday, the person whose group I was going to go to last Wednesday night. It was one of those times where I felt like I tasted God moving. We shared a bit about our journeys, he told me about this group, I shared my contemplative leanings. It felt nice to even consider the possibility that I could move out into something that involves other people and being able to share life with other people. The group sounds great. It also doesn't sound like it's going to be somewhere I will be able to overcome my paranoia to test out, for reasons which I won't even begin to go into here.

It's my birthday in a few weeks. Heading into the great three nine. The year after that I will be 40. My life is nothing like what I thought it would be. I never thought I would ever be as laid bare as I have been. I have been so laid bare that I am starting to despair that I will ever feel anything but that. I struggle to keep believing that I am going to ever be put back together in a way where it doesn't feel at some part of the day like my heart will bleed out of my chest. Maybe that's okay. Maybe that's how it is when you're in the real instead of pretending. I'm not sure.

All I know is that I don't feel I fit anywhere. People always tell me how bubbly and self-possessed I am. And it's true, I am those things. I'm also cast adrift and I don't know how much longer I can stand being so separated from society. I never thought it would be so hard to be sociable. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and believing that there is better life out there for me.

I look at all of my friends, most of who are partnered with kids. I feel so isolated from that life. I compare myself to them, how busy they are. I feel like they must look at me with jealousy and pity, all my free time. And pity because I will never experience what they have. I feel like people look at me, without ties, and think I can do whatever I want. I can go travelling, I can dedicate myself to writing, I can blah blah blah. But it's always easy to think those things when you're disembodied from the head and the body that is living the life trying to do those things.

Choose life. Choose life. Sometimes it is so hard to choose life.

And anyway, I don't feel like I can do whatever I want. I feel hampered. I feel like I have to just keep urging myself on to do the things that I love, and sometimes I am swamped by the dreary monotony of having to make myself be creative all the time, the bits of me that try to stop me from doing what I really want.

I haven't played with clay for weeks.

I want something big to come out of the blue, something exciting, something I can put myself into. I want it to be somewhere else that's not on this fucking continent. I want to live. I am trying to get out there and it's just not happening and why is it so hard? I hate myself, I hate the pathetic little life I have. I hate how people must be looking at me and feeling sorry because I'm such a loser. I hate living in a country that has giant holes in its social fabric. I hate how fucking boring and conservative people are in this country. I hate how our riches polarise us from each other.

Somehow, I feel like a failure for feeling lonely. I feel like somewhere in my own soul, I feel like I have let myself down because at some point in time I told myself that I had to look after me, that I had to be independent, that I had to be strong and be willing to face reality as it appeared itself to me, that I had to be stoical and not get too emotional about things.

Well, making up for lost time now.

This really hasn't helped. All it's done is made me feel more vulnerable that now all of you can look at me and feel sorry for the pathetic old hag who has to blurt all her shit out on her blog to people she doesn't even know :\

What Is Wrong With This Picture?


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Police have shot a man - who has now died in hospital - after a confrontation with him at his home. The reason they showed up in the first place? He was attempting self harm.

That's a sad case if irony if ever I heard.

What happens when Sunday services are structured around the power trips of one person who probably should have Narcissistic Personality Disorder to do his job properly: The Flabby Body of Christ :)

Haha :) Good stuff. But I agree with Wayne, don't call this church. This is just something parts of the church do.

Beyond this, there is life springing up and sprung up everywhere in the Body of Christ. It just doesn't often happen on Sunday mornings if people are committed to doing things the way they've always been done, either as passengers to the Lord's Anointed or alternatively totally burning themselves out, that's all.

God, You Really Piss Me Off


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

It's times like this that you really piss me off, you know that?

Because it's such a small thing you could have done, but you didn't. And I could get upset at the larger things, and I do, but just because there are larger things doesn't negate the small thing you didn't do. It just adds to it.

The sparrow was there when I got to work, in the foyer. Trying to fly out to its mate that sat beyond it through an invisible pane of glass. The door to freedom was right below. It could have flown out if it just flew down a bit, felt the breeze coming in through the door, stopped bashing itself against the glass.

But sparrows don't know anything about glass. Although apparently you know about this sparrow. And hairs on heads. You know everything that is going on. You could have done something. You could always do something but you don't. So often you don't. And I know the theological arguments, and I am at peace within myself with certain philosophical conclusions I have reached about free will and about bad shit happening and about healing and love and growth and etc etc and that's all fine and dandy but it still doesn't stop me from being really angry at you. Because it's different when it comes to animals. They have an innocence and a dependence on us, and we make the world so difficult for them to live in with our insistence on vomiting carbon and on foyers and on glass and such things.

I went upstairs and I was sad for the little bird and I hoped that somehow when I next went out to the foyer it had flown its invisible creepy coop. And so then an hour went by and Mary came back upstairs after being downstairs, and was visibly upset. Me and Mary are the biggest animal lovers in the office. We look at each other's photos of our dogs and coo. We say cynical things like who needs men when you've got a dog. Mary was visibly upset because the bird was still downstairs beating itself against the window trying to get out.

And so we went down. And there were two other people there as well. And we armed ourselves with brooms and scared the poor little darling who didn't have any idea what was going on, only that these weird smelling humans were coming at it. And we tried to coax it out the door but all it kept doing was flying into the window and then sitting on the ledge and then flying over to sit on the overhead lights, and then back into the window. All it needed to do was to look down, change its trajectory. Stupid thing. Trying to do the same thing over and over again. But yet we do that too, don't we, with our massively larger brains. And anyway, it's not true what they say about birdbrains even though it's a cliche in our lexicon. We think that size determines ability but it's been proven that birds can think and reason, beyond what they rightfully should given their brain size. Magpies grieve when their mates die; cockatoos mate for life; chimps virtually cry when one of their own dies and visibly go into depression.

And so that's why it upset me because this poor little thing was trying to get outside to its mate, and it would have been distressed in some sort of fashion, it's heart would have been beating fast, it would have been in pain bashing itself against the window, and it would be no skin at all off your invisible nose and did you do anything? No, you didn't. And I come out to leave work at 6pm and this poor little thing has been tiring itself out, and now there is a man with a bike in the foyer standing holding the door open, and people have been holding the door open all fucking day for this bird. And I prayed earlier in the day that if you didn't do something directly to the bird, whisper to it in birdish to fly down and out, that you would do something in the people, that you would inspire someone who was standing in a particular spot to move one inch to the right so that it was in the perfect place to create the necessary angle for the animal to shoot out the door. Or that someone would come with a ladder and a towel or whatever. It's SO not a big deal, right? People are dying every day of debilitating illnesses and drug overdoses and heartbreak. Why can't you at least give a bit of an extra helping hand to a stuck bird?

It was SO not a big deal. But we both know it doesn't measure out like that, because what seems small is actually big and vice versa, and you are love and all that stuff I know that in my bones. And I know lots of people will say it's not a big deal worth even worrying about but when it comes to these creatures my heart is fully open and it is a big enough deal that I have cried tears and I know it's some sort of prayer. I always feel this way when I cry to you about the animals, and it is you crying through me to you about the animals because it grieves you.

Even though you've got it all covered even when we can't see that, and that you know when this particular bird will fall to the ground. But even knowing that and knowing you grieve and care and love makes it even worse because you could have done something and you just fucking well didn't.

And I'm really angry at you that you didn't. And that you don't.


Edit: next day. Mary took some bread and water to the bird this morning, after it's day and night of no food. And she led a trail out the door, and it flew out. Yay for a happy ending :)

I know it's silly but ...


Monday, 16 November 2009

... I feel more fond of my mass produced items when they begin playing up and developing their own quirks.

My pedestal fan, cheap and nasty, revs its motor when I turn it on but often it's not enough to really get going. I can see the blades, turning really, really slowly. Sometimes I have to turn it off and turn it on again. Eventually, the blades spin faster and faster, but it's such a slow process it's like a meditation watching the blades travel 5 centimetres in 10 seconds. Last night I sat near it, reading a book, waiting for it to come on. It took a couple of minutes and then it was off and running. Once it starts, it doesn't stop.

It's a really shitty cheap pedestal fan. It's got some major procrastination problems. But I sort of like it better now than I did when I first bought it.

Wheat and Weeds


I was standing pondering at the traffic lights the other day how it is that we are herds of sheep if we are asleep, and how easy it would be for some sheep to get themselves run over. People regularly cross against the lights if there is a break in traffic. Some I see just walk out behind the gaggle already crossing and come perilously close to getting themselves skittled.

I sat with my friend Jane yesterday feeling strangely emotional as she told me about the advances happening in terms of understanding the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. Twenty five years ago it was called the yuppie flu and even when I first contracted it 10 years ago it was still a thing maligned and barely believed amongst the medical profession and therefore amongst the public. Now the snowball is beginning to roll after some evidence has been found linking a retrovirus found in 95% of CFS patients tested. The people at the forefront of the testing are a virologist whose career was basically ruined a couple of decades ago by the powerful who refused to believe what she was saying back then. It wasn't until she was tending bar and came by chance across a millionaire whose daughter had been sick with CFS for a couple of decades, and who funded the set-up of the institute she now is a part of that headway has begun to be made. So now maybe the ones who were far less lucky than me, who have been ill for longer than my scanty six years without seeing health on the other side, will now be enjoying renewed hope.

It's always small groups of individual people who are not blinded and made thick by the system and what power they have to lose, and who have learnt in some measure to refuse to live in their superiority and great ego, who are able to see what is often in plain view.

It is unfortunate isn't it that the people still want a king. We do; it seems to be some sort of element of our makeup that many of us are too fearful to question and instead want to be led. And of course Christianism-as-empire-religion-of-the-powerful has perpetuated that down through the centuries. What easier way to put people in fear and subjugation than to dangle them over the eternal hellpit? To teach them that they cannot learn for themselves but must be taught by those with greater authority?

We want someone to tell us what to do, what is good, what is bad if we do not trust that the kingdom is within. We have been taught over and over that the heart is deceitful above all things. But I believe that our hearts have been made good. That we can trust our hearts. That it is where God speaks.

These days the king is seeming more like the great structure itself than a person, but it still stands. We don't want to question the structure of the giant thing grown up around us because it would make us feel unsafe. We do not want to probe into the beginnings of things - for example, the police force, off the top of my head, or the law system - to find that they grow up all higgledy piggledy, created here and created there in response to needs of a particular age and then incarcerated into the system where they are carved in stone.

How squashed down humanity is under these things, the kingdoms of this world.

I understand how and why these structures come up. It's not like they spring up overnight, and it's not like you can really blame any one particular person; they just grow. But to stay safely ensconced in them out of fear is to blind yourself. The only real safety is in the freedom of people relating to people. The system kills in us the knowledge of what a powerful thing that is, but it remains so.

I saw a cool series of artworks a few weeks ago. All were composed of large architectural drawings of cities, in pencil, precise, clean lines. On top of each drawing was imposed something else, in but not of, full of colour and life. I can only remember one of them now because my memory is like unto a fish, but it was rows of buildings, and up on the roofs green grass and gardens, all connected to each other by walkways high above the traffic.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Okay so yesterday's post was rather melodramatic.

But it was how I was feeling. I got swamped by this giant tsunami of fears yesterday morning. It sort of surprised me with its velocity. I read somewhere recently that 95% of our thoughts are unconscious. I don't know how you could scientifically come up with such a figure, but I wouldn't be surprised. The longer I go on, the more I grow, the more deep down I feel, the more honest I am with some of the crap that I think, the more surprised I am at some of the crap that I think (and deep-breathe at some of the beauty I think. Goes both ways).

When I am in a space like I was yesterday morning, it feels like an eternal prison, like it has always been like this and it always will be. It feels like you are destined to be forever in this particular position. There is just no hope there at all. Perspective buggers off.

While I was in that space, someone online was saying some good and wise words about the reality of things. Straightaway I could see that this was my golden thread to follow back to something like a "right mind". How I love the dispassionate part of me that sits observing my thoughts and dismisses the hopelessness that comes when my fears overwhelm me.

How I hate that dispassionate part of me when I am wrapped up in my own prison. I hate it so much that I cannot even acknowledge that it is there and I turn away to the corner like a child, dismissing the messenger as a fool. The way I react inside, when faced with the option of taking myself from out of this horrible, awful space? There is a part of me that just doesn't want to. It would rather sit in that space and wrap its fears and its pride and its giant ego around itself and rot. It doesn't want to hear any of that shit ... even though at the same time I know within myself, if honest, that shit is exactly not what it is. What a big baby I am in these spaces :)

Stuff staying there for a joke. I love the golden threads too much. They take me out to Rumi's field where I can breathe, where I can forget myself, where I can live.

Next Wednesday night maybe. We'll see. I have a newfound respect though for just how fearful I am about meeting up with people again. It is understandable, certainly. But it feels ill-founded. Like all my fears, regardless of how they came about. It's like they grow in the dark and expand beyond what they originally were. I do not want to be dictated to by them. They speak false.



Wednesday, 11 November 2009

This alienation thing is like

the wrong end of a telescope like

slapping away what you want like

a vat full of self-consciousness when what you are after is self-forgetfulness like

1400 different kinds of fucked up

What a wussy little scaredy cat I am these days. How fraught with danger a simple dinner to meet up with people I haven't met before but sort of think I would like to. The monkey mind that resulted could refuel the entire Asian ecosystem.

Never before been so terrified of some things. Never before had a clue how hard it is to get back in the swim once out on the sandbar. Trying too hard comes too easy in a space like this.

Egads, this life, it is a tiresome beast, that's for sure.

And it's too bloody hot.



Tuesday, 10 November 2009

I woke up this morning feeling as I so often do lately like I have been having a conversation with myself or with God or something while I have been asleep. This morning I woke up and felt like I understood a tiny bit more why Francis of Assisi so loved Lady Poverty.

But now, standing empty-handed, I nevertheless covet, dribblingly. I dream of devisings to creep over to England and under cover of darkness sneak into Tess's house and steal her clock.

How totally bloody awesome is that? (The clock, not my desire to pilfer).

Made from a piece of yew wood by the wildly talented Rima Staines.

As Big or as Small as Things Wish To Be


Sunday, 8 November 2009

When I was younger, I went about for years and years stuffing my feet into shoes that were too small for me. I do not remember now how I came to realise that the real size of my feet was one whole size larger than what I had been wearing, but now it baffles my brain and saddens my heart. Four of my toes had developed lumps on the top of each from the friction of cramping and shoving my feet into shoes that were too small for me and yet I wore size eight and a halfs for years and years, somehow blind to what was right in front of my eyes and right at the end of my legs, cramping my comfort.

I feel dissatisfied with the last blog post I wrote. Not because of its content, but because I tried to fit so much into one post. Some people write posts and realise that what they are looking at has enough breadth to call it a series and write four posts. I try to stuff everything I am thinking into one and do people's heads in in the process.

I do not want to have to wait. After I have begun writing, and the thoughts keep coming, and I add another paragraph and another paragraph until I have 47 of them, the only thing that stops me from saying, "Right then, this is actually four blog posts then, isn't it" is the desire for the instant gratification when I Pavlovianly press "publish post," and the disinclination to have to put in the effort of writing four posts because suddenly it feels like work and not like fun.

But things are their own shape and size and space and length and breadth. The only time they begin feeling like work and like a chore are when I have expectations other than the size and length that they are showing me that they actually are, and the desire to move onto the next thing instead of staying right here.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is a deep and unconscious belief that what is right here in front of my nose is not worthy enough to breathe and focus on it. This leads to all sorts of creepinesses, like treating the person in front of you like something in your way, like treating yourself as less than you actually are. Sort of like psychological and spiritual leprosy .

I am redrafting the first short story I have managed to finish for several years. It's all over the shop at this early stage. I hardly even know what it's about. I keep reminding myself that it takes time, that it's sitting bubbling away on about four stove backburners and that the work knows its own shape. I must let it be as big or as small as it wishes to be.
I came across a blog post about centering prayer recently where the writer was roundly condemning it as a tool of the devil. Which quite befuddled me for a few seconds while I got my bearings on how he was viewing it. Everybody has their own worldview and everybody is informed by that. I left a comment detailing my experiences, hoping to be able to have some sort of a conversation, but the problem often is that Christians are encouraged not so much to love their enemies but that interacting with them will taint us somehow. "Love your enemies," Jesus said but we prefer to retreat into safe notions of black and white because we are fearful of being deceived. Such a vital element of the human condition, that when someone is in error, we want to send them scapegoated out into the wilderness, keep ourselves pure. And so therefore this man did not respond to my blog comment. This is common enough behaviour in blogland, but it still pisses me off.

I have been thinking so much recently about what prayer is. Even if he did not want to enter into a conversation with a heretical being, the mental dialogues (arguments) I had with him in my own head were quite edifying anyway, to help me identify to myself what I think prayer is. Because the longer I go on doing it, the more mysterious it becomes to me. And I think in some ways too I am still trying to differentiate between meditation and prayer. Meditation feels like preparation for prayer in some ways while it also feels like prayer at the same time (and I am using the words "meditation" and "centreing prayer" interchangeably here, just to muddy the waters further.)

I think it is that severe differentiation between prayer and meditation, Western and Eastern concepts, and the fears that come along with those differentiations that cause many Christians to fear the idea of using a "mantra" as a scary, demonic thing. The man on the blog I commented on said that using a mantra is the same as the "repetitively babbling" we are admonished to not employ as our method of prayer. He also said that this sort of prayer is found nowhere in the Bible, and to that I concur. Not found in a six step methodology. But neither are millions of other things. As far as Bible verses go, the "be still and know that I am God" is the very foundation from where I do these practices, and it is also prayer in its most basic form to me. Jesus said "When you pray, do it like this," but is that where it ends? Is prayer the rote repetition of "Our father in heaven?" Does that not bring us full circle back to the "repetitious babbling" I was just talking about?

And anyway, as far as I am seeing it right now, my use of a mantra is purely as a box to put my monkey mind in. The real effect of using a mantra is actually silence in the end. Those verses that talked about repetitive babbling seem to me to really be talking about not praying in a way where you feel you are not being heard, or in an egotistical sort of a fashion that involves big grand prayers to be heard by God. That is part of what those verses mean to me. Using a mantra is not so much something I am doing to God as it is a way for me to harness my anxious mind so that I am free to enter into being still and knowing that he is God. But I understand why he thinks the way he does about it, I really do. I'm not critical of his observations, but I do think that he perhaps misunderstands the differences. But I could be wrong. I suppose I often am.

How delightful it is to see the Bible in a place where I am still allowed to have my own thoughts and come to my own conclusions. It is something like having the law being begun to be written on your heart instead of it sitting inside a tome I must consult outside myself. More scary, more room for error, sure. And so much more real.

I understand why that man would consider using mantras and repetitive babbling to be much the same as the other, and I also understand from him thinking that that he has no real experience or understanding at all of what he condemns except for what Apprising Ministries has informed him is the evil thing.

What gets me about Christians also is that our thinking is the outrcrop of a childish black and white view of things, our segregating things up into neatly packaged little sections with "Christian" over here and "evil" over there, and "prayer" being the reciting of words in our head (without ceasing? Goodness me, how exhausting then, if that's what it is. I like this version better).

When we have that idea, about being a pure unblemished people set apart from the evil in the world, we are unable and unwilling to see our faith centred in his historical space, nor to see the common heritage it shares with other cultures and other religions. Looking at things in this way, we think that, for example, if we practice yoga asanas that therefore we are practising something "Hindu." We think that meditation is something those Buddhists do, so they've already claimed it and it can't be something that Christians also do, because if we do, then that is just the one world religion. I understand the fear of people who do not want to be led astray and deceived, who want to be faithful to God. To each his own apprising of his conscience, you know? All those verses speaking of not eating meat sacrificed to idols are necessary for us to heed because Western 21st century Christians have the most soft and spongy consciences.

But some of us are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols. As far as I see it these days, yoga practice is a philosophy of the body that was learnt by a bunch of people in a particular time and place that had stacks of knowledge about how our bodies work. They happened to have as their religion the Hindu one. I'm more interested in the people these days. Whatever religion they happen to be is of secondary importance to me. I do not think that God is centred within all religions. I do however think he is centred within Humanity. I think all people have access to God if they so desire to.

And so this man on this blog could look at the methods of centreing prayer and say that they were wrong because they were "Eastern". And Eastern gets equated with Buddhism and other religions which everyone knows have nothing of value to benefit us poor Christians cut adrift from our heritage in so many ways (which reminds me, I still haven't written about my thoughts on the Passover meal. Such a beautiful thing! The history of the Jews' wilderness wanderings, played out ... in food! God is so embodied! Like playing dress-ups. Makes the modern thimble of grape juice and bit of Salada so uncreative in comparison).

And so we are taught that we can't let the worldviews gleaned from any other religion inform us and teach us because that is indulging in false gods. Well, I say that when you get to a certain point of faith in God you become free to eat the meat that is sacrificed to idols and there is nothing in there that can taint you. And yet there's a wisdom that comes too. I do not know why but several years ago I desired to return to practicing yoga but for me it felt wrong. At that time it did feel like I was doing something that was somehow wrong to me at that particular time. To have indulged in it would have been stupid, even if only for the fact that I would have felt guilty, and guiltily practising asanas brings all sorts of physical problems when you're contorted up on your mat. Just no need to go there.

But no need now not to go there.

Eastern religions have plenty to inform me about the inklings I have, the things that I feel I am learning from living within this Matrix, to learn to see in the ways God is teaching me to learn to see, to move forward within my own faith, because my faith has its roots in Eastern thinking. Because so many people are looking to the affairs of the world and seeing antichrist brewings and one world religions festering (I do not criticise that; I see many of those sorts of things myself) they automatically presume, the same mistake made over again and again, that to keep our religion pure and unblemished, to remain undeceived, is to retreat into our own camp of "Christianity" and to do "Christian" things and see life in from a "Christian" worldview.

To live out of fear. I do not want to live out of fear. I would rather sin boldly in my pursuit of life and the Father rather than to fear with that horrible Pentecostal fear that takes all of the evils of the world - the one world governments and evil politicians and systemic crushings - and makes it the centre of everything.

God is the centre of everything. That shit is happening in the world. I refuse to let "Christianity" teach me to lose my focus. I trust God to help me maintain that. And he does.

Changes Come


Thursday, 5 November 2009

I'm watching The Abbey at the moment. This three part doco is about five women who spend five weeks at an enclosed Benedectine monastery, Jamberoo Abbey in New South Wales.

I kept thinking as I was watching it (I've got one episode to go), "How will these women be able to cope if they go into something like this, such a discipline, without the love behind it to fuel it?" you know? Sort of like an arranged marriage, getting married to someone you don't love. Or like getting out of bed every night for months on end in the middle of the night to feed a Tamagotchi instead of a baby. Or like being a Fundamentalist Christian ;)

And so I admired these women for doing what they were doing. And at the same time I was surprised and gratified anew at the beauty and grace of God. S/he's just everywhere, taking us now, taking us on. Pretty cool.

So much about that sort of life appeals to me, you know? Not that there is any sort of a calling there, even without the 4.30 am vespers (is it vespers? I can't remember). No thanks, very much. But it's funny how things change; where once I may have looked askance at a bunch of Benedictine nuns, these days I see the way they are living their lives as something of quite rare beauty. The ritual, the turning aside to prayer seven times a day, the structure, the silence, the craftwork, the gardening. The mindfulness, a life spent praying without ceasing. The work. The rhythm.

Till the day they die. Wow.

I once used to wonder how that sort of a life would have any kind of value to God. And yet I couldn't help imagining as I was watching it how God must be particularly fond of this bunch of women. So much of their lives resonate with me; I see so much of my own life in theirs, too, though our lives are so very different.

And I think I am beginning to understand a little the topsy turvy nature of things, the first being last, the hidden being of great value, the things that we have been squeezed into thinking are important are actually the things that kill, the spirit that we think is gonna kill us (and who does) bringing life.

All topsy turvy.

Shallows Breathing


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

You feel tonight like a tiny pebble. A tiny pebble on the sand. Surrounding you, ripples of water. Radiating out far beyond your vision. The golden ball has begun its dance underneath your feet into someone else's sunrise; yet in your mind, these ripples all have golden edges though the moon casts silver.

Grounded into this small space you occupy on this earth, feeling your smallness, it makes you vast. Always biggest when you are smallest, always fullest when you are empty handed. You are like one of those rippling waves in the ocean.

So often you feel like a chafing horse, sweating your flanks, chewing your bit. Eager for life, thirsty for it, so thirsty it's aching your bones, yearning for more of what your life is to grow into. Pregnant with the feel of that so that sometimes your back aches and your head droops and you don't believe it even though it's growing in your belly and heaving you down.

But tonight you sit grounded into the sand with the water rippling. No yearning can grip you for long with the gentle pull and push of the tide to bring you back to here. Deep down the very end of your spine, like the tail of a fish, outstretches from your body like red ripple roots, holding you fast to your seat on this chair in front of this computer writing these words spreading you out into the ocean.

You yearn but it is not - at least tonight - a frantic grasp for more, more more. It does come from a deep, deep thirst. Sometimes you grasp because of the gasp, because of the thirst encircled right in the centre of your bones. And anyway, the grasping is what you have learnt to do. From the fear.

But you go with the tide. You do not want to lurch out on your own onto the waves. You sit here in the shallows. You see the ripple curves on the sand underneath you. You do not need to grasp. The universe is contained in any of these grains of sand.

You mark in the darkness above you the position the sun will take when it arches itself up close to the centre of the sky tomorrow. The moon, recently full, its tidal pull on these waters surrounding you, its tidal pool in you, from within your own womb, drawing you forth by its rhythms. This brother moon, this sister sun. Where is there to go but here?

Where else shall we go? You alone have the words of life.

You have so many thoughts and ideas and feelings in your head and heart about things you would like to do - intentional community ideas, moving to the Dandenongs ideas, the ever-present delight of your writing practice and exploring the boundaries of your creativity, the desire for more friendships, for companionship, opening yourself up to the thought of opening yourself up to the idea of opening yourself up to an other (like a multi-faceted rather complex flower, after being so closed down).

And so you hope. So many of your attempts to move out into the wider ripples have fallen somewhat flat. But right now, tonight, you just are. You're here and you are. You feel it on the night air, a breath, so imperceptible that you wonder if you imagined it up out of your own head or heart. "Wait." The gentle Otherness about it, that ethereal beauty that is so close to you that you cannot always tell whether it is you or he/she. "Watch." You like these times best when it is a merging of the disctinctions between thee and thou. "Expectancy." The words are not necessary, at least now, and you put them down for a time, to be picked up tomorrow to lament or praise, to say "thank you" with, to place into juxtapositions on the paper, to be typed into a pay cheque.

But for now, now, the gentle ripple and really, now, this is all there is. Now is all there is.

There is nowhere to run ahead of things because there is nowhere but now. Not for you. Only for you Today. And you remember tonight what you sometimes forget, that you do not want to run ahead of things, not when you know the small experiences of delicious unfoldings, those little coincidences and promptings whispering approaches to take. You feel that a life lived loved by God begins taking on the quality of a story you are in, your own story, his/story, your story unpetaling. You do not want to make it grander than it is. You do not want to cast aside the lepers in yourself in favour of a Disney version. You do not want to cast aside anything and all you want to hold is what you can fit now, in your hands. Your hands open and flooding through your fingers, grains of sand.

How Many Years?


Monday, 2 November 2009

I sat out on someone's balcony in Upwey in the Dandenong Ranges this evening drinking a glass of wine and thinking, firstly, "I am so unbelievably lucky to be living in this country and looking at this view with a full stomach, a full fridge, a bed waiting for me."

It gets simpler as I go on.

I also thought, "How many years do I spend feeling like I have come home every time I come up here before I throw caution to the wind and give it a whirl for six months or a year?"

Guess I'll wait out the summer and see if there's anything left of the place left after the latest round of fires, and if there is, I s'pose I might just give that idea a bash.

In Defence of Batshit


"It's boring as batshit," I said about something recently. Not sure where that colloquialism first stemmed from but it was my ex who first said it. I took a mental note and tucked it away because there is nothing like nonsensical similes to delight my imagination (or is it metaphors? I always get them mixed up).

MikeF is a Franciscan through and through. Lover of the natural world, an ex-dairy herdsman, Mike has a love both for the strained gnat and the swallowed camel, for the bat and its shit.

And so here is Mike's defence of batshit:

I must speak up for batshit, however. Not boring. Not remotely boring. Full of the most fascinating bits of bugs - you can tell loads about the local ecosystem, not to mention the foraging habits of the bats themselves, from a good pile of batshit. (Of course you might have been referring to your great big Aussie fruit bats' shit - in which case it probably is pretty yawn-inducing.)
We lose so much of the world when we insist on boxing it all in, don't we? As soon as you box something you begin to lose your ability to see things in their isness. And I confess, now I contemplate the concept of shit, I realise not all shit is the same, and that perhaps lumping it all in together as boring really means you don't know shit about shit. After all, just because some shit - for example, that of a meat-eating human - is of the most hideous pungency, requiring quick flushing and the striking of an entire box of matches does not mean that it is boring, necessarily. I'm sure under a microscope it would be way less than boring. Might make you feel ill, but it would not be boring. And indeed, to state that the human meat-eater's shit is bad and evil by dent of its smell is to deny the amazing workings of the human body to get it there in your toilet (if you are one of the people who looks at their poo, but we've already gone over that haven't we, bloggers.)

And truly, all shit does not stink because look at horse shit. How good does horse shit smell? It's a shame my dog isn't a horse I must say (he would have to be of the miniature variety of course to still sleep on the bed), I would have preferred he was a horse on Saturday as I was reminded, when I trod barefoot in a dollop deposited on the concrete out the back, how dog shit is not like horse shit in the smell department.

And so this fine morning, I find my interest is piequed by what batshit looks like with bits of bugs in it. How does one go about finding some? Unfortunately, Google can't help because I cannot see any bugs in this batpoo collected from a cave and sold online for people's gardening pleasure. (I guess "screened" means taking all the bugs out of it - and really, looking at this picture, this really does look boring. So I guess I'll just have to take Mike's word for it :)