Sunday, 2 December 2018

On Blessing


When I was young, I thought everything around me already existed, whether built order or social realm. But often it was built from nothing by another generation, even the people around me. Much exists as a blessing, by favour, or at least a decision, by will.
Praise, bless, preach, say the Dominicans.  And this is intimately associated with veritas, the truth. Praise results from gratitude; blessing shares benefits; preaching tells the truth: a trinity. Much thanks to give, much change to require. Preaching doesn’t mean I’m telling you I know it all; you can preach by listening alone. You don’t need a great many words to speak truth.
Each of us is a blessing though we may not know it. It can take a lifetime to find you have something that comes into play by itself, that others notice while you remain unaware. Blessing doesn’t need force, or even direction. You are uniquely gifted with an ability which may be quirky and you may never know what it is. You might not even need to find out.
Blessing makes holy, both giving and receiving. The bread is blessed before it is broken; truth is blessed before it is spoken.

Friday, 9 November 2018

On the Day and the Hour


Terrorism has come to our city. Not to our country: we’ve had the Bali bombings, the Sydney cafĂ© siege, and yesterday we confronted its presence here. It’s not so unusual. East, West, North and South people have left home in the morning expecting to return at night, not prepared for suddenly ending their days, accounting for their time on earth. Eulogies will follow. Never so much are the living praised as the dead. Yet they were just as praiseworthy then.
Attackers of random strangers also often die, even in their deeds. Their account may be somewhat different, depending on who makes it. But terrorism, for all the fear it is meant to inspire, isn’t the only way to unexpectedly depart. Jealousy costs many lives, family conflict more; accidents arrive at work, on roads, in the air. The Litany prays against ‘dying suddenly and unprepared’ as if there were some way to become prepared.
The elder Church insisted on frequent confession. Absolution puts the mind at rest. But change, in this house of fire, is constant, from purification and readiness to unstable human truth. How do you want to be remembered? How loving, how loved? How shall we live in farewell?

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

On Builders


Does anybody else know any unreliable feckless builders? How did the trade get such a bad name? You can build all sorts of things, given time. You can build kitchens, extensions, and decks onto houses. You can build walls, ladders to scale walls, or ladders for angels to descend and ascend from heaven to earth, earth to heaven. We hope the plans for these are correct.
The Romans built roads you can walk on today. We build machines of surprising expressiveness, hotels on wetlands, prison camps for exiles and wounded refugees. We’re exhorted to build ourselves into cathedrals of living stones, a gruesome image in these days of climate change and accelerated devolution. What would you build with a living stone? Where are the jaws, the paws?
When the stone the builders rejected was made the head of the corner, it gave us England’s greatest Queen. What did the builders know, after all? The architect would appear to have exerted authority here. We build towers of words upon laws and scriptures: the architect is always right. We can build houses of cards and cities of gold and can follow the money where it flows, more active than stone.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

On Knowledge


Do we know more and more about less and less? St. Paul knew less and less about more and more; he liked it that way. Disaster equation: all knowledge plus all wisdom minus all love equals tragedy. We live in tragic times.
            I recall Brautigan’s poem on ‘cybernetic ecology’ All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. They’re here, not as foreseen. They know more and more and especially ever more about us. They know the truth and the false and dish out either impartially.
            We need real mothers, not machine mothers. Absent real mothers, we have the Mother of God, the Lady of Grace. To have real mothers, we need real lovers, not machine lovers. I recall Aquinas who knew everything in the 13th century. After a vision at the end of his life, he wrote nothing more: ‘After what has been revealed to me, all I have written seems to me as straw’. Yet Jesus also spoke to Thomas, saying “You have written well of me.’ This is the straw spun into gold by the lady in the tower who escaped by climbing down a rope made of her own golden hair. Seeing, sensing, hearing, knowing.

Friday, 31 August 2018

On Voting


On Voting
St. Paul identified himself, saying “I am … a citizen of no mean city” being Tarsus, of Cilicia (Asia Minor), now in modern Turkey. To be a citizen was, and still is, an honour, while being a stateless person is a complication at best: perhaps more likely a troubled status.
            Some find our Parliament too much like a circus, with acrobats doing flip-flops and hanging by their toes: confronted with politicians too hard to respect, they’re tempted not to vote. If both sides of politics (meaning the affairs of the city — polis in Greek — or matters for the whole body of citizens) lack creditable candidates, what to do?
            Idealists shudder at the thought of the essentially democratic process of compromise, confronted with uncompromising factions, cabals and ideologues. We long for benevolent, charismatic, successful politicians and discover left- and right-wing weaknesses. We are, however, citizens.
            We are citizens of no mean country. We must use thoughts and hearts to find those closest to our principles, even when choosing from the charmless, ignorant, divisive: we have an obligation to the affairs of the citizen body, matters before the nation. There is never perfection. But we can do the honourable thing, and vote.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

On Relationshhips


I sometimes think of Traleg Rinpoche, the incarnated guardian of a Tibetan tradition. I knew him peripherally, met briefly a few times, yet he was generous to a Christian looking in to his world from outside. This good man, highly educated in both Tibetan and Western ways, had a skill of relationship that appears to last beyond death.
I’ve heard it said that the body is the city of illusion, but to us it seems architectural in its solidity. Relationships are cities of illusion also, though to us full of pulsing traffic as in noon sun. What if they are empty, deserted streets of blinded walls? Sometimes we continue holding on to relationships that keep trying to almost not work. These are on the shaded side of life.
The relationships of living to living are not like those of living to dead. Relationships to saints, for example, are intercessory, delimited, mediatory. Relationships to ancestors: protective, intriguing, defining. To the lost and sought: cherishing, appealing, wounding. A thought may be the lightest touch, or an unending stream of emotion — a motion towards another reality — groping toward resolution of outraged love. Seek, then, harmonious, well-tempered relationships: we have only so much time.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

On Taxing Times


The doers of good works are getting desperate. Every day mailbox, email, phones from charity appeals. Tax time: a chance to do more. We ought to pay more tax, of course; it could solve so much. Except that governments shift tax money into false imprisonment and colonial misadventures, such a waste. The truth is suffering, says Buddha. What to do? Who to trust?
Methods. Pressure: when I get dramatic invasive robocalls I block the number. Getting aggressive sales pitches saying I’d give more if I really cared I hang up. When I’m told I’m not caring I tune out. Bribery: when little packets arrive (pens, stationery, plastic logoed shopping bags) I run out of places to send stuff from people I know and those I don’t know. Manipulation: The gift economy implies a return. Then I hear from someone who wants me giving dead as well as alive.
Blame: whatever you’re doing it’s not enough. Taxes rightly directed could heal, educate, house, protect. Whose name and face on this coin? The times are taxing. Pay attention to the hungry, unclothed, imprisoned, mistreated, and sick. Struggling pieces of suffering everywhere. We do what we can, with such grace as we may.