Sunday, 10 December 2017

On Fatigue

Christmas is coming, season of goodwill. I know I sleep well, many hours, many times, yet here at year’s end I know I’m deeply tired, a level below. A low or depressed energy or mood is natural at the end of any great enterprise, even when we succeed. We’ve called on all resources, needing replenishment now. Celebration, and fatigue.
            A word of many guises. In the military, a punishment detail. For architecture, the state of materials worn to their last. Of action, to subject to stress, often repeatedly, to the point of exhaustion. Then we add Christmas, formerly Saturnalia, when the slaves took over the shop. Wearing in its own little way. What is called consuming.
            Competition is fatiguing. So is campaigning. Conditional love is exhausting: a lot of this around. Passion (especially passionate about) fatigues by definition: suffering. When intelligence appears, Lao Tzu says, a tiresome hypocrisy accompanies; when disorder is orders, we see loyal ministers with words to wear us out.
            Whatever has come to be has already been named, says Ecclesiastes: the more words, the more vanity. Fulfil your purpose, says Lao Tzu: sometimes push forward, sometimes rest behind. Breathe. Become as a little child. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

On Having It All

Shame is so popular. Ashamed of having hair, or having no hair; of having too much height, or weight; of certain jobs, or no job; of not being straight, or having no kids, or having kids, and how they behave. Of not being fair enough, strong enough, smart enough, cool enough; of living in the wrong district. Of race, disability, style.
            There’s a deficit of enoughness, it seems. We’re not tall, powerful, healthy or magic enough. Not male enough, even when we’re girls. We never have enough money. We need more space, more attention, more love and more fame. We lack enough more.
            If we should happen to be that ideal, sex specific, family blessed, wellness crowned, truly employed, successful bright and beautiful example to the world about us, we still sleep badly knowing that one trip in the dark, one car crash, one mutating cell or rogue gene stands between us and humankind.
            Jesus said, ‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ He noted, ‘They that are whole have no need of the physician’. Then why shame? I wish you this Christmastide enough repentance, healing, and goodwill. There is enough: you can have it all.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

On the Margins

The margin is getting crowded these days. So many are marginalised: poor, disabled, sick, homeless, imprisoned; widows, orphans, singles, divorced; gays, and straights who object to gays; religions victimised for their righteousness; various races in various places; even the rich. Many people do not like the rich, more envy them, and they will never know if they have any true friends. Even Jesus sent away the rich young man: his only recourse was to become less rich.
            The default is thought to be health: a trip to the medical rooms shows young, old, and  in-betweens: the default is actually, as Buddha says, suffering. Myriad names for mental illness depict the default as sane lucidity: there are priests, politicians and media magicians who demonstrate the default as opinionated folly.
            With so many marginalised, often marginalising each other, my question is: where’s the page? Jesus had compassion for all the marginalised (including the rich young man, with all his responsibilities; not so the righteous). His favourites were sex workers and tax collectors: go figure.

            Perhaps the page is the Way. Jesus called himself the Way; the Tao Te Ching says the Way is nameless. The page is blank: what do we write there?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

On Faith

I emerged from five years in a theological school convinced that faith is something other than assent to the doctrines of the church. Other also than the customs of the church, which have included anti-Semitism, misogyny (witchcraft trials), racism (apartheid), homophobia (hangings) and support for the Biblical system of slavery. All these Greek words covering up the righteousness of readers.
            We’re living through one of the great international migrations of history. Xenophobia:  another Greek word expressing the thought that while one or two of you is all right, in great waves you feel unmanageable and beyond our scope. Note that Greek words distance in the English language. ‘Anti-Semitism’, not Jew-hating; ‘misogyny,’ not woman-hating; ‘homophobia’ not gay-hating; ‘xenophobia’ not ‘foreigner hating.’
            What kind of faith hates so many? I find a definition of faith based on ‘persuasion’: to be convinced intellectually, ideologically, by words. Some words coming out of some churches make me want to walk.
            Another meaning of faith is trust. Trust what is dependable, reliable, comfortable. (‘Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith.’) Faith, in the ancient world, meant ‘personal loyalty.’ Give loyalty to someone you trust. Who has faith in you? Who can trust us?

Friday, 20 October 2017

On Good Dogs

Every evening at the end of the day, my dog is told that he has been a good dog no matter what has happened during the day. He gets stroked and patted and assured that he’s always a good dog. That’s how he knows he has a home.
            Alas I don’t have the same conviction about myself. On the contrary, I’m sure I am and have been a sinner, and my daily experience confirms this. A survey recently wanted to know if I looked back on my life as a scene of happiness and success. Not entirely. Most of my trips to the past reveal sometimes grim mistakes and true catastrophes, enhanced by ignorance, arrogance, and greed.
            And there’s no one to tell me each day that I’ve been a good human all day long. This realistic view of my condition doesn’t lead me to feel low and depressed, though, because I have a hidden treasure. My errors comprise a lengthy list, added to by my limitations. But I am a soul for whom Christ died, and so are you, and so are all of us. You cannot be saved alone, but we live in honour nonetheless.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

On Symbols

Sacred days, dates, games; gestures, as standing (for honour), kneeling (for reverence); objects, perhaps flags, (as rainbow, Aboriginal, national); music, (as songs, anthems, carols): these are symbols, inspiration or tragedy. Prayers in schools. Anything that happens in schools. (Teaching as archetype). A wine glass held over the water glass: King over the water.
 One or two persons with a bucket of paint can get through a lot of trouble in one night, rejecting the lives of millions given to lay to rest the meaning of Swastika (‘pure Aryan masculinity’) in the last century. Whether troubled and troubling souls or real-life agitators, they forget its ancient meaning of luck and spirituality. All the examples I’ve given are in the news today, sites of confrontation and conflict (except the Jacobites, whose time has passed).    
Symbols have two parts, bringing together visible and invisible, material and image. The risk is in the hidden world. What’s actually meant here? Whose ideal is manifested? The symbol of wine and water, at its deepest level, is the only one that counts. More divine than a game, a song, even a king, even a prayer.

What are you seeing? Be aware of the invisible values.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

On Charity aka Love

Love, like friendship, seeks the good of a friend. For Aristotle, friends seek the good in one another. Charity, says Aquinas, is the friendship of man towards God, and such love is reciprocal. How did Charity, the supreme virtue, become so poisoned?
            Unlike exclusive loves, divine charity includes our fellows. All persons, neighbours, are subjects of God’s charity. How, then, did we come up with statements like ‘I love my gay friends, but…’ or ‘I love my black friends, but…’ or ‘I love my Muslim friends, but…’? And these friends are always many.
            Conditional love is judgement. I myself have been told, ‘We don’t approve of you; it doesn’t mean we don’t like you.’ Approval and disapproval are judgements. Of course you don’t like me. I feel your coldness.
            Conditional love for a child is disabling. A child who is never good enough. If only a child was different. Such love denies God’s generosity. Think of what you’ve been given in this child, faults and all. The appropriate response is gratitude.

            Think of what you’ve been given in this neighbour. This gay, black, or Muslim, disapproved of neighbour. Seek the good, earthly good, for your friend.