“Indie filmmaker Patrick Shen has made several award-winning documentaries, including Flight From Death (2003), a look at the human longing for immortality, and La Source (2012), an inspiring tale of an ordinary custodian’s efforts to provide his hometown in Haiti with clean drinking water. But it’s his current project that caught my eye: In Pursuit of Silence, a meditative film about the importance of silence for human beings — and the increasing noise that is drowning out silence in postmodern life…”
~ Carl McColman (from a written interview with the film’s director Patrick Shen, here).
Trailer (you might want to use headphones to listen – or, ironically, turn the volume right up)
You might also enjoy this brief article by Pico Iyer. Also his excellent column, The Joy of Quiet.
From the lads at Nomad, a podcast featuring New Testament scholar / historian / author N.T. Wright:
“…Tom Wright is unquestionably one of the most influential NT scholars of our generation. It’s hard to overestimate the influence he has had on the Church’s understanding of Jesus and Paul.
But what makes this great man tick? We asked you what you’d like to know about the man behind the theology. As a result, we ended up asking him everything from what his favourite childhood book was, to how he manages his work/life balance, through to which three people he’d most like to invite to dinner!”
This conversation was aired June 25th, 2015. Available as a downloadable podcast here (with links the previous Nomad conversations with NT. Wright). For articles, lectures etc by Wright go here.
A friend recently introduced me to the writing of psychologist John Amodeo PhD. Consequently I managed to track down a podcast so that I could have a listen and get a sense of where he’s coming from, and his areas of skill and insight. It was an interesting listen.
Interviewer: Now you say ‘spirituality’ is a hazardous word. What’s your definition or understanding of spirituality?
John Amodeo: The word spirit comes from the word breath. To me spirituality means being alive, being connected to what is, in the aliveness of being connected to life. So it’s not a spirituality where you’re just developing this serene disconnect... this kind of sereneness, this inner quiet that’s disconnected from relating. To me spirituality’s about connection, connecting with something beyond our ego, connecting with something larger than our self…
… People often think suffering is created by attachment which is simply what we’re learning now from neuroscience and how we’re wired is that we’re wired for connection. We don’t do well without loving, caring human connections. Our immune system suffers, our immune system doesn’t do as well, we’re not as happy. So, yeah, we’re wired for connection and a lot of suffering comes because we’re not attached in a healthy way to other people. Maybe the word we need to use here is ‘connected.’ Spiritual people tend to not like the word attached but what it really is, is connected. Suffering is caused by non-connection. It’s not caused by connection; it’s caused by non-connection, or non-attachment if you prefer that word. You know it’s a way to be healthily attached, healthily connected to other people, that’s beautiful and that’s a legitimate human desire. Not to be transcended but to be engaged with, to work with it, or I prefer to say, engage with it…”
You’ll find the downloadable podcast here, and the transcript (PDF) here.
I’ve long loved Palme d'Or winner Jane Campion’s Oscar-winning film The Piano. The film, which is set in New Zealand, is a thoughtful, multi-layered story full of rich and evocative image, symbol, and myth.
Many of the symbols and images have remained with me since I first saw the film, back in 1993. I walked the beach (which features in the opening scenes) last year, and again the story came flooding back to me. Much was evoked much as I walked and reflected on my own life.
I recently enjoyed reading a paper by Donald Williams, a Jungian Analyst from Boulder, Colorado. It’s a fascinating read and adds a lot to my experience of the film and the ways some of the themes and characters play out thematically in my own life.
Accordingly, I thought I’d share it for those interested in the film, and in particular a Jungian engagement with it. Interestingly Campion recently stated that her preferred ending was for Ada to drown after having been pulled over the side of a small boat by her piano. I’m pleased this ending didn’t make the film. I needed the hope that was present in the actual cinematic ending. It would have been too bleak otherwise.
Here’s the opening paragraph of Williams’ paper:
“Jane Campion says of THE PIANO, "I think that the romantic impulse is in all of us and that sometimes we live it for a short time, but it's not part of a sensible way of living. It's a heroic path and it generally ends dangerously." Certainly American culture shares this romantic impulse, and despite the Victorian setting of The Piano, we are no less isolated, constricted, even contorted, than the characters animating Jane Campion's film. We want to hear stories of passion but most of us learned to smooth over conflicts, to mute our excitement, and to express our sexual and loving selves guiltily or immaturely. Our values and impulses are as tangled as any Victorian tale. As a culture we value compassion and "good works" but we reward self-aggrandizing ambition. We value independence but reward the corporate deferential self. We champion individualism but submit to work in cubicles and go home to confining cells of credit card debt. We seek liberation from isolation and emptiness through the acquisition of money and consumer distractions, and when security and purchased pleasures fail to satisfy us, the fear of emptiness prompts a renewed, often more costly pursuit of happiness… The Piano holds a mirror to our constricted lives while at the same time sparking a silent burning will to feel passionately alive and to love fully…”
“Society rewards the assertive, the charismatic and the vocal. Our workspaces and classrooms are geared towards the idea that creativity is a result of group work or what author Susan Cain calls group think. But is it really the extrovert who comes up with all the good ideas.
Susan Cain argues that solitude is a crucial ingredient in the creative process and she laments that we’re under-valuing it. As she points out, as many as one third of us are introverts yet for years this entire section of the population has been told that the very foundation of their personality is a character flaw.”
You can find the 50min podcast (from ABC Big Ideas) here (originally aired in 2012). I featured Susan’s TED talk back in 2013 (here). For a brief explanation of the difference between Introversion and avoidant personalities have a listen here.
Australian Dave Andrews has a new book out. The Jihad of Jesus: The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle for Justice. “Dave, his wife Ange, and their family, have lived and worked in intentional communities with marginalized groups of people in Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India for forty years. Dave is interested in radical spirituality, incarnational community and the dynamics of personal and social transformation…”
“We are caught up in the cycle of so-called "holy wars." In The Jihad of Jesus, Dave Andrews argues that while this inter-communal conflict is endemic, it is not inevitable. Depending on our understanding, our religions can be either a source of escalating conflict or a resource for overcoming inter-communal conflict; and for our religions to be a resource for overcoming conflict, we need to understand the heart of all true religion as open-hearted compassionate spirituality. In the light of an open-hearted compassionate spirituality, we can reclaim the word "jihad" from extremists who have (mis)appropriated it as a call to "holy war," and reframe it, in truly Qur'anic terms, as a "sacred nonviolent struggle for justice"; and we can reconsider Jesus, as he is in the Gospels, not as a poster boy for Christians fighting crusades against Muslims, but as "a strong-but-gentle Messianic figure" who can bring Christians and Muslims together.
As this book shows, many Christians and Muslims have found Isa (Jesus) and the Bismillah (celebrating the mercy, grace, and compassion of God) as common ground upon which they can stand and work for the common good. The Jihad of Jesus is a handbook for reconciliation and action: a do-it-yourself guide for all Christians and Muslims who want to move beyond the "clash of civilizations," join the jihad of Jesus, and struggle for justice and peace nonviolently side by side.”
'Dave Andrews is a man whose life reflects consciousness of God. His personal piety, kindnesses to others and service to the needy are manifestations of Dave's God-consciousness. Dave's reflections demonstrate that Muslims and Christians have much to teach to and learn from each other in respect to navigating a path towards God and living according to God's will.'
~ Dr. Halim Rane - Associate Professor, Griffith University, and Deputy Director, Griffith Islamic Studies Research Unit (GIRU), Brisbane, Australia.
'Dave Andrews speaks and writes as a committed Christian actively engaged in the lives of people of all faith traditions, especially those marginalized by dominant cultures. His book situates Christian-Muslim dialogue not in abstractions or dogma, but in the practical concerns of people seeking dignity, respect and fullness of life. I encourage all who are seeking to follow Jesus beyond the bounds of institutional "Christianity" to read and discuss this important book.'
~ Wes Howard-Brook, Seattle University, Author of "Come Out, My People!" - God's Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond.
'Dave Andrews is already known for his positive work with both (Muslim and Christian) communities. Dave's concern undoubtedly stems from compassion, that which the Qur'ān refers to when it declares: '… After those [messengers] We sent Jesus the son of Mary: We gave him the Gospel and put compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers…' (57:27). There is no doubt in my heart that the best way of building bridges of understanding is through respectful dialogue. Meeting people and allowing for genuine and respectful engagement helps us to grow and nurture our humanness. Dave's approach will surely help us get closer to this noble end.'
~ Dr. Mohamad Abdalla - Associate Professor, Griffith University, Director, Griffith Islamic Research Unit (GIRU) and Director, Queensland node of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (NCEIS), Australia.
Book review here. A short (55sec) YouTube excerpt by Dave Andrews here.
“…Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat. The phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection, but it did make ignoring her easier in that moment, and more likely, by comfortably encouraging me to forget my choice to do so. My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits…
… We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon…”
You can read the remainder of the abridged commencement address here. You can watch and listen to it in full on YouTube, here.
I found it a really thought-provoking commencement address, right up there with David Foster Wallace’s fabulous 2005 commencement address delivered at Kenyon College. Audio here. Published in book form here. Free online (PDF) version of the complete text here.
“The church is living in a time of massive, unprecedented change. Traditional institutions and structures are unraveling in response to rapid social, demographic and economic developments. The existing ways of being the church are no longer meaningful to many. How should the church respond?
Many seek to address this situation by tweaking the established institutions, finding new structures, reorganizing congregations or renewing long-established practices. Some even argue that we need to abandon structures and institutions altogether. We regularly hear proposals for missional churches, organic churches, simple churches, fresh expressions churches and so on.
Alan Roxburgh argues that we need to look deeper. Structures embody the core narratives that shape how people see the world. We cannot simply replace old institutions with new ones. We need to examine the underlying stories, metaphors and cultures that give organizations their meaningfulness. The crisis of the church today is a crisis not of institution but of imagination.
In Structured for Mission, Roxburgh challenges the church to become a place where people are empowered to reimagine their religious life and experiment with new ways of being the church in a local context.
We are living in a brave new world. Will the church be ready?”
He also has Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time out in July. It’s published by Morehouse Publishing and out July 2015 too: “…Exhausted with trying to “fix” the church? It’s time to turn in a new direction: back to the Holy Spirit. In this insightful book, internationally renowned scholar and leader Alan Roxburgh urges Christians to follow the Spirit into our neighborhoods, re-engage with the mission of God, and re-imagine the whole enterprise of church. Joining God, Remaking Church, and Changing the World can guide any church — large or small, suburban or urban, denomination-level or local parish — to become a vital center for spirituality and mission.”
I’ve been ruminating on the following statements, off and on, over the course of this week. The challenge of opening ourselves up to the possibility of the unknown, to surprises, and to the importance of taking risks for the sake of growth and change.
The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary…
… Noting that his Black Swan theory centers on “our misunderstanding of the likelihood of surprises” because we underestimate the value of what we don’t know and take what we do know “a little to seriously…” (Emphasis, mine)
Today, the always wise and insightful Parker J. Palmer….
“Parker J. Palmer is a writer, speaker, and activist who is world-renowned for his many insightful books, including Let Your Life Speak and Healing the Heart of Democracy. With Sounds True, he has most recently contributed to the anthology Darkness Before Dawn: Redefining the Journey Through Depression. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Parker discuss his own passages through clinical depression and the meaning he derived from them. They also speak on the modern cultural taboo surrounding depression, and how depression is actually an innate part of the life journey. Finally, Parker and Tami talk about how depression can act as “a befriending force pushing you down onto safe ground”—an agent that can help course-correct a life lived “at altitude.” (86 minutes)”
Steve Taylor is a friend, and we’ve interacted face-to-face, a good many times over the years; less so since he’s been in Australia.
We’re different personalities, but we’ve always gotten along well. I’ve followed his blog since it’s inception, and followed along with all the changes of focus and emphasis. I often reflect on those changes, both those in my own life and journey, and in Steve’s.
Neither of our blogs are the same as when we started out at very similar times – over 10-years ago… They’ve been built week-by-week and year-by-year.
My blog has changed as my journey, priorities, focus, and needs have changed. So has Steve’s. And because we’ve both regularly and consistently updated our blogs over that period, it’s always been interesting to me to reflect, longitudinally, on our respective journeys, the overlaps and the differences. Both blogs have consistently recorded facets of our respective journeys. Behind every marker is a story.
As I look back there are many and diverse markers of where we’ve each been; the uncharted terrain we’ve traversed as life has unfolded. I’m grateful for friends, for difference, for diverse journey’s, for emergence, convergence, and divergence.
Leading and facilitating change processes has always been one of Steve’s strengths and now Steve (and his family) face another transition, as they prepare to leave Australia and move back to New Zealand.
I was therefore interested, yesterday, to read his summation of the transition process that will be operating over the next few months at Uniting College. Adelaide.
You’ll find the post here. It’s well worth a read.
A new title out (May 2015) for those with an interest of Trappist Monk Thomas Merton.
“How did Thomas Merton become Thomas Merton? Starting out from any one of his earlier major life moments--wealthy orphan boy, big man on campus, fervent Roman Catholic convert, new and obedient monk--we find ourselves asking how by his life's end he had grown from who he was then into a transcultural and transreligious spiritual teacher read by millions. This book takes another such starting point: his attempt in the mid-1950s to move from his abbey of Gethsemani, in Kentucky--a place that had become, in his view, noisy beyond bearing--to an Italian monastery, Camaldoli, which he idealized as a place of monastic peace. The ultimate irony: Camaldoli at that time, bucolic and peaceful outwardly, was inwardly riven by a pre-Vatican II culture war; whereas Gethsemani, which he tried so hard to leave, became, when he was given his hermitage there in 1965, his place to recover Eden. In walking with Merton on this journey, and reading the letters he wrote and received at the time, we find ourselves asking, as he did, with so much energy and honesty, the deep questions that we may well need to answer in our own lives.”
If that's peaks your interest, check out the book, Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon: The Camaldoli Correspondence by Donald Grayston, who also authored the now out of print Thomas Merton: The Development of a Spiritual Theologian (Toronto Studies in Theology), which was published in 1985. In this latter title Grayston provided a detailed analysis of the five versions of Thomas Merton's classic work in spirituality, "Seeds of Contemplation". His book traced and documented Merton's growth as a Christian contemplative and spiritual theologian between the years 1948 and 1961.
As I’ve worked in a number of different contexts this week, I’ve reflected on my seeing and listening…
“…We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have - for their usefulness…”
~ Thomas Merton
“…To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times…The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace…”
“Pico Iyer is one of our most eloquent explorers of what he calls the "inner world" — in himself and in the 21st century world at large. The journalist and novelist travels the globe from Ethiopia to North Korea and lives in Japan. But he also experiences a remote Benedictine hermitage as his second home, retreating there many times each year. In this intimate conversation, we explore the discoveries he's making and his practice of "the art of stillness.”...”
Previously mentioned here, today a recent On Being conversation with Pico Iyer. You’ll find the podcast here. The episode aired on 4th June 2015. Again too, a reminder that Iyer’s TED talk on stillness has been published as an essay titled: The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (TED Books).