An excerpt from an interview with Seth Godin, published in the 10th Birthday edition of Australian magazine Dumbo Feather. For me, his comments (in blue) about carmaker Karl Benz evoked thoughts of Rata trees and mixed economy mission-shaped expressions of church. It also evoked the importance of not waiting for those in leadership who have their own agenda's and plans
“A distillation of over seventy years as a monastic and more than three decades of writing on centering prayer, Reflections on the Unknowable is Fr. Thomas Keating s latest volume on how we might develop our intimacy with God and our experience of the Christian contemplative tradition.
The first part of the book consists of a long interview with Fr. Thomas (1 hour 50mins), in which he examines concepts of the divine including the astonishments, playfulness, and transformation available to the individual willing to open the door to God.
The second section consists of thirty-one brief homilies, which range over topics as diverse as the Trinity and the message of Epiphany, spiritual evolution and cultivating interior silence, and the treasure of spiritual poverty and the beauty of chaos.”
“The Christianity I was originally formed in was not very ritual-minded: it was both intellectually alert and emotionally intense – the best of a style of Welsh Nonconformity now almost extinct – but tended to look down on physical expression of belief (other than singing, which I suspect was regarded as not really physical). Only when the family joined the Anglican Church when I was in my early teens, after we’d moved to another town, did I discover a sense of worship as a physical art, involving gesture, movement and colour. I still have a vivid memory of my first experience of a solemn Mass with procession at Easter, when I was, I suppose, about 12 – the awareness of a deliberate strategy of involving the senses at many levels.
The mild High Church atmosphere of those years was, for me, an environment that made strong imaginative and emotional sense, and indeed is still the kind of setting where I feel most instinctively at home, rather than in more simply word-oriented styles, or in the heated atmosphere of “charismatic” worship, repetitive song and unstructured prayer – although I’ve learned to be nourished by that, too, in many circumstances. But the ritual that is most significant for me apart from the routines of public worship and the daily recitation of the fixed words of morning and evening prayer owes more to non-Anglican sources.
Readers of Salinger’s Franny and Zooey will recall the somewhat unexpected appearance there of an account of the traditional Greek and Russian discipline of meditative repetition of the “Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Practically every Eastern Orthodox writer on prayer will describe this, and many in the tradition also describe some of the physical disciplines that may be used to support it – being aware of your breathing, sitting in a certain way, focusing attention on your chest: “bringing the mind into the heart”, as the books characterise it.
Parker Palmer writes: “Ever been lost in the wilderness — or in the wilds of your own life? Me too! Because I get outwardly and inwardly lost from time to time, this poem by David Wagoner means a great deal to me.
A couple of years ago, I got lost hiking alone on a poorly marked mountain trail at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, where I was on a ten-day silent, solitary retreat. It was starting to get dark; I panicked and began to run. Just the right thing to do when you have no idea where you're going, don't you think!
Then I remembered the wisdom in this poem, stood still, and listened. I could not tell you what I was listening to, except that it was something both in me and around me. After five minutes or so, as my fear subsided, that something told me to turn around and walk slowly back up the mountain, looking to the left as I climbed. That's how I found the trail I'd missed in my fearful run down…”
You’ll find the David Wagoner poem here, along with the rest of Palmer’s short reflection to accompany the poem. The poem is a delight.
We celebrate spring’s returning and the rejuvenation of the natural world. Let us be moved by this vast and gentle insistence that goodness shall return, that warmth and life shall succeed. Help us to understand our place in this miracle. Let us see that as a bird now builds its nest, bravely, with bits and piece, so we must build human faith. It is our simple duty; it is the highest art; it is our natural and vital role within the miracle of spring; the creation of faith.
– Michael Leunig, Common Prayer Collection (Collins Dove: 1993), no page number.
“…My greatest joy is browsing books in seaside towns. There I am lost. The delight of the second-hand bookshop is the delight of surprise. New bookshops are pleasurable but we know what lies within. Yet in the second-hand, who knows what nonagenarian ufologist or furtive philosopher has died and their boxed books have found their way on to the counter.
I am rarely looking for anything in particular. I am looking for everything in particular. Many of my childhood weekends were spent with my father, browsing through bookshops with warped shelves and idiosyncratic cataloguing techniques. Nature and nurture have combined to make me an obsessive.
Desmond Morris once described the finding of a rare book as being the modern equivalent of stalking and killing mighty prey. The tribe rejoices. I am not sure my wife has the same sense of glee when I bring back another satchel of Pelicans and Penguins. Sometimes I find myself taking the back footpath and popping them under the shed until she has gone out. I fear that one day my house will sink into the ground, leaving visible only a chimney pot. Just as John Peel had to reinforce the foundations of his garage to support the weight of vinyl, I may have to call the architects in.
I see myself as an overly self-conscious human being. Hints of paranoia dog me, the sense of being scrutinised, yet that all evaporates in the bookshop. I am mesmerised by the spines – almost unconscious, until I see something with an alluring title or enigmatic cover.
Then it’s the leafing through. Do I need this book? What weight is my rucksack already? Is this purchase worth the extra tingling of sciatica it may bring on? My mind must map the shop. The most labyrinthine are a delightful challenge. When I get to the end of the browsing, I must recall where each possibility is and return for a decision.
Once the books are bought, I retreat to a tea shop, preferably one with an elaborate Victoria sponge in the window, and pore over the new purchases. Inside each book is the hope of a new way of seeing the world; each one is a potential adventure. There can be the additional joy of finding some ephemera left by the previous reader: a pressed flower, a bookmark, an old postcard of Budleigh Salterton sent by “Isobel”, with the story of a beach hut and errant gull…”
I value encouraging stories… stories like that of Moot in Watling Street, in the City of London. Its Priest Missioner, is the Reverend Ian Mobsby, whom I had the delight of meeting a few years back. The monastic and mendicant traditions of Christianity have long nourished my own journey. I’m fascinated by the mix of Anglicanism and these two traditions. Moot is identifies itself as a new-monastic community. I've been really struck by the difference risk-taking, strong, supportive leadership withn the Anglican church can make.
Its been many years now since Alt-worship; Rowan Williams' prioriterising and advocacy for "mixed economy" expressions of church; the release of the CofE report Mission Shaped Church; and all the subsequent activity (including mission-focussed options for clergy selection and training); the recovery of the contemplative and Celtic traditions; creative contemporary liturgies etc. There is much to celebrate with respect to the CofE and mission-shaped church.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
“…Today, the most recent church building, built in 1682, is found offering sanctuary to busy city workers, weary tourists and those who need to discover and express Christianity in a new way. The space is used as a church offering monastic-style morning and evening prayer, Eucharist, with meditation, Taizé yoga, and a space for those who want to explore and deepen their faith. Alongside the practising church is Host, a café that operates in the exquisite interior, so those who are not practising Christians can still grab a directly traded coffee or a cake, and witness Christian worship in action… Its ‘Rhythm of Life’ engages with the question, how should we live while on the pilgrim route, while challenging consumerism, individualism, greed and the cult of celebrity? Living the rhythm, through prayer and worship enables community members to discern right ways of living, and right responses to the challenges that we all face in modern culture and in ourselves…”
“…Perhaps the most difficult forgiveness, the greatest letting go, is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. We need to realize that we are not perfect, and we are not innocent. “One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence” says Robertson Davies. If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, or righteous, I can only do so at the cost of truth. I would have to reject the mysterious side, the shadow side, the broken side, the unconscious side of almost everything. We have for too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed, not necessarily mistakes avoided.
Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of it, you have to admit it. You have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against yourself. Letting go is different than projecting it onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of myself are seen for what they are. You see it and you hand it over to God. You hand it over to history. You refuse to let the negative story line that you’ve wrapped yourself around define your life.
This is a very different way of living. It implies that you see your mistake, your dark side, and you don’t split from it. You don’t pretend it’s not true. You go to the place that has been called “the gift of tears.” Weeping is a word to describe that inner attitude where I can’t fix it, I can’t explain it, I can’t control it, I can’t even understand it. I can only forgive it—weep over it and let go of it. Grieving reality is different than hating it.
Letting go of our cherished images of ourselves is really the way to heaven, because when you fall down to the bottom, you fall on solid ground, the Great Foundation, the bedrock of God. It looks like an abyss, but it’s actually a foundation. On that foundation, you have nothing to prove, nothing to protect: “I am who I am who I am,” and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love. At that point, the one you’re in love with is both God and yourself too, and you find yourself henceforth inside of God (John 14:20)!”
It was a delight last week to listen to an interview with, and poetry reading by Australian poet David Malouf. The focus was his latest collection of poetry – Earth Hour that has some wonderful poems in it.
“…Recorded in front of the audience at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2014, Malouf talks to producer Mike Ladd. David discusses his early influences, his life in Italy, and the ideas behind his new book of poetry Earth Hour. He also reads a selection of poems from the book.”
You will find the podcast here. There’s also a brief news story on Malouf - David Malouf: my life as a reader, here.
I’m adding a really useful little radio interview with Mark Tucker, author of the recently published book, Single Father, Better Dad to my occasional posts on marriage and relationships.
Mark Tucker's marriage ended suddenly – it was full and final – after reading a text on his wife's phone that said 'Goodnight My Love'.
He was not the 'my love' in question.
Mark Tucker is a British management consultant who has lived and worked in Australia for many years, and at the time (seven years ago) his wife left him for another man, their daughters were 14 and 12.
The road ahead was completely uncharted territory, and as he coped with the emotional turmoil and caring for his girls, he looked for self-help books to ease the way forward.
Not finding anything suitable, in time he sat down to write a book about his own experience and dealing with his emotions, bitterness, raising teenage girls in the family home... and then starting a new relationship.