Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Soli deo gloria

How is it that one day life is orderly and you are content, a little cynical perhaps but on the whole just so, and then without warning you find the solid floor is a trapdoor and you are now in another place whose geography is uncertain and whose customs are strange?

-- Jeanette Winterson

It's impossible to explain to people what 2009 was like. Life isn't like a book; it can't be neatly summed up in a 5 line blurb at the back with extracts from glowing reviews from various newspapers. There are a hundred thousand blogposts up about what people did for the year, the best movies they watched and their favourite moments. I could list all of the movies I've watched, the books I've read and it still would not come close to describing the shifting of the tectonic plates that undergird my inner landscape.

A bildungsroman would have characterized this as the defining year, a year in which paths, values, worldviews, passions became clearer - the year in which you find yourself. I could have written this as my journey of self discovery and growth - and I nearly did. But it wouldn't fit. It was all wrong.

Yes there were epiphanies, revelations. Moments when truth blinded my eyes to all else, when the unveiled aurora of light and colour drove me to my knees.Yes, this was a year in which there was so much growing up, the pain of it coloured every moment, every scene.

But this isn't a bildungsroman. There was no self discovery, no revelation of who I was and where I was going that I did not already know. This was not the year I found myself; to find yourself is to reinvent - in different colours - the same solipsistic nightmare that we call life. To write about my year as though I engendered the changes, as though I could ever have re-ordered my life in this way on my own would be to create an egregious lie.

No. This was not the year I found myself.

Remember that song? The one you've heard so many times; you don't even hear the words anymore. That one. The one that goes:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.


I was found.

*

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).

*

Gaude!Gaude!
Christus invictus.
Tempus adest gratiæ

冬至

冬至 is the Chinese celebration of the winter solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year. My family used to be fairly traditional in celebrating it, we'd head to my grandad's house for dinner and there would be 汤圆 on the table - the pink and white ones.

Food, language and family are so closely interwoven - the memories of family are often closely tied to the meals shared, the language spoken and the many golden moments laughing about nothing and everything.

What do we have - memories, knowledge, values - that we did not first receive? Our families are the conduits of culture, language, values and history; they help build our hearts. Break the family unit down and we have latchkey children wandering around shiny glassy cities without the strength of heart or depth of mind.

The parents were away this year and I completely forgot about the festival until I saw various dessert stalls in the food centre selling 汤圆 and felt a pang. It's been ten years but once in a while, I still have dreams wherein I speak perfect, lyrical Teochew to him and wander the hallways of his art filled, incense smelling house.

But spending the evening with HF and baby Amelie cheered me up to no end - it's really hard to be wistful around a gurgling little baby who looks at you like you're a tentacled creature from Mars and wonders if fingers can be eaten or not.

*

与冬至有着密切关系的是在北京流传了几百年的《九九歌》。从冬至那天算起,以九天作一单元,连数九个九天,到九九共八十一天,冬天就过去了。

九九歌
一九二九不出手;三九四九冰上走;
五九六九沿河看柳;七九河开八九雁来;
九九加一九,耕牛遍地走。

Friday, December 25, 2009

Let the wind have its way


Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.


Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.


Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.


Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.


Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

-- Louise Erdrich

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yuletide bliss

... is getting a two day MC due to a gum infection - yes, the wisdom teeth are coming out - and staying home to watch the West Wing. It baffles me though why does a lowly gum infection warrant two kinds of antibiotics?

I am rather taken aback by how exhausted I am. Granted, it's been something of a hectic year but still...

Yesterday, lack of brain power and randomness led me back to a blog I used to read - back when I was an inveterate blog trawler - these days, I only read what I call 'special interest' blogs, blogs dedicated to a specific subject matter/purpose. These usually fall into various categories: food, poetry, writing, theology etc.

Anyway, Tym is the writer of the article 'Once Bonded' which drew much much attention earlier this year. I did think when I read the article that the writing style was familiar and I also remember thinking that the writer must have been an eng lit major and it turns out I was right on both counts.

What interested me when randomly clicking through her blog was how her writing style changed through the years. You could literally see, between and betwixt the lines, how she changed and matured over the years. Less gushy, more sharply and concisely worded and also more cynical. It made me wonder - what will my writing be like in 3 years hence?

If I find the time/energy, I might try to do a 2009 roundup of all the books I've read but otherwise, its back to the West Wing and my comfy bed.

*

Blessed Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Observations

Some friends are full of drama and hyperbole - endearments and loving words drip off their tongue and into online chat forms as easily.

But for other, more reticent friends, even one extra word of praise or affection from them is a treasure.

Whatever the style though, I still love and appreciate the thought behind the word(s). But personally,I tend to mirror people - giving back to them what they give me. For the drama queens in my life, I'm lavish with my affection, playful with my words. The quieter friends receive quiet thoughtful attention and fewer, more carefully chosen words.

Words aside though, my favourite forms of communication are non verbal; a hug is still one of the best ways to show compassion, love and empathy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

grant me this day, my daily bread

It's been a year of thousand changes and the changes and challenges have kept coming, even now, in these last days of the dying year.

Too weary to even articulate the most simple thoughts but here's a poem about the here and now, about this moment.

*

This,Now

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you
spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life -

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford

*

I think I've met you before
somewhere in my dreams
but i dare not say
it may evaporate
the way the dew does on
grass.

this is for you, the unknowable
unquantifiable
indefinable you.

in case we ever meet in
the white hot light of day
this is for you. so you know
i'm here
that i missed you and
that i have been
waiting
all this time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses


The brother got married in September, J.Eio from church got married last Saturday and this coming Saturday, the little and cute Miss E will be marrying her one and only true love.

So yes, weddings on the brain. White lace, roses, pastels and cake. Laughter, sunlight, ang pows, tea and lots and lots of chinese double Joy characters etched on the wall.

Yup, in case you're wondering, I AM that kind of girl. The sappy starry eyed kind. I teared during the first 15 minutes of the movie Up, LOVED Wall-E (yes! robots can fall in love!) and get all misty eyed at weddings. There are things people lose along the way but this sense of hope and wonder shouldn't be one of them.

This is a post for the brother, Miss E, J.Eio and my cousins in Hongkong who're getting married, one after another in January. There is nothing more life changing than meeting and marrying the person you can laugh with (and sometimes at...), fight over the last slice of pizza(or cake!) and grow old with.

Oh, I can't help but speak in cliches here - but you've all only just begun and I want roses without thorns for you, laughter without tears and sunshine without shadow. And if all of that isn't possible, then I'd want someone to share the sunshine and shadow, laughter and tears and to fight the thorns with you.

Some indie rock, dante and a madly illogically beautiful poem by ee cummings.

*

in that book which is
my memory...
on the first page
that is the chapter when
i first met you
appear the words...
here begins a new life

-dante alighieri

*

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

*

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The City by the Bay

Grey rainy days call for the musical equivalent of a steaming mug of hot chocolate which has to be Tony Bennett's 'I left my heart in in San Francisco'. Bennett is the goods every time - the way his voice just grasps hold of the melody, firmly wrapping around and around the chords is marvelous.

Now if only I could be in bed with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, a cat curled up nearby and maybe several deliciously thick story books to devour. Comfort food for the soul, the spirit and the body.

*

Randomness:

+the sister sent me a postcard! Isn't she a lovely? Cards in the mail are like surprise hugs - someone coming up behind you and engulfing you with sudden warmth and affection.

+Lil Miss E gets married! Next week! This deserves all the exclamation marks I can muster :)

+Conversations online and off: about courtship v dating, free market capitalism, theology, cats and careers.

+Lunch with Mr Gray then ginger tea at my new favourite coffee/tea stall on Amoy Street - so much fun in discovering new haunts and havens then showing them to people. O you denizens of CBD cubicles! Walk around the city more! The sun isn't all that bad and it beats sitting at your desk all the day long.

*

Tony Bennett with Doris Day and Judy Garland. He sings better in the Judy Garland video, but Day has a cleaner lighter voice than Garland, a better counterpoint to Bennett's richness. Enjoy!



Monday, November 30, 2009

Perhaps love


Z left today - the third to leave Singapore "for good" this year. It's been a year and a half since that Easter phone call that precipitated and catalyzed my move back to SG so it feels as though life has come a full circle.

Have you ever watched Dawson's Creek? About a boy and a girl growing up together? That was us. Minus Pacey and the icky stuff, that is. I was the head in the clouds bookworm, he was the soft voiced musical boy in the seat behind. Together we swapped music, traded comics and books, talked on the phone till dawn, watched sappy tv shows at 11pm while calling each other during the ad breaks and watched each other stumble and flounder around in the rough and tumble of school and adolescence.

Army and university separated us for a time. He left for the northern hemisphere, I, for the south and for years, we rarely met. But when the chips came down, we called each other and wept together.

*

One of the nicest things about being back in the place you grew up, is that your old friends are all within easy reach. There is a shared history of giggling over prata and milo dinosaurs, people know what you mean when you ask for 'teh siu dai' and there is no need to make the effort to be understood.

I've snuggled in the comfort of old friendships this year, people from high school, junior college and university days, people whose every nuance and gesture is as familiar to me as the loops and whorls on my palm. I unfold for these people, slipping into honest laughter and easy chat over cups of milo and kaya toast.

This isn't to put down the new friends I've come to know and love wholeheartedly over the last few years. There are people who - to borrow a phrase from Anne of Green Gables - just belong to the race of joseph. People you know you are emotionally safe with, who will listen with understanding,laugh with camaraderie and who creep in to take up permanent residence in your heart.

Singapore sometimes still doesn't feel like home but my friends and family always do.

*

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ghost City







Via this blog:

"Windshape was an ephemeral structure commissioned by the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) as a venue and gathering space near their Provence campus in Lacoste, France. Built by nARCHITECTS and a team of SCAD students over a period of five weeks, Windshape became the small town’s main public meeting space, and hosted concerts, exhibitions, and ceremonies throughout the summer of 2006.

Windshape was conceived as two eight-meter-high pavilions that dynamically changed with the Provençale wind. A vine-like structural network of white plastic pipes, joined together and stretched apart by aluminum collars, emerged from the limestone walls and terraces of Lacoste’s hillside. Fifty kilometers of white polypropylene string was threaded through the lattice to create swaying enclosures. The string was woven into dense regions and surfaces and pinched to define doorways, windows, and spaces for seating.

By varying the degree of tension in the string, nARCHITECTS built Windshape to respond to the wind in several ways, from rhythmic oscillations to fast ripples across its surfaces. During heavy winds, Windshape moved dramatically, and made a hissing sound akin to dozens of jumpropes. The pavilions took on a multitude of temporary forms over the course of the summer, as they billowed in and out, and momentarily came to rest. In this way, the local winds and the Mistral gave shape to constantly mutating structures."


So thats the technical and real world explanation. But when I saw the structure of it, especially all lit up at night, I thought of ghosts, dreamcatchers and assorted ephemera. A house for the spirit of the wind - or a trap? But no, no one but God could gather the wind in his fists, no matter how we try.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

秋雨叹三首 (一)

雨中百草秋烂死
阶下决明颜色鲜
著叶满枝翠羽盖
开花无数黄金钱
凉风萧萧吹汝急
恐汝后时难独立
堂上书生空白头
临风三嗅馨香泣

*

The monsoons are upon us and I'm enjoying the cool wet air and beating rains. There's something therapeutic, almost cathartic, about listening to the angry thrum of the rain hitting your windows, watching it fail against the glass then slide defeatedly down into a puddle.

*

From Chung King Express:

"Whenever I'm sad, I go jogging. Because when you run, you perspire and then you won't have any water left in your body for tears.."

*

周杰伦 - 晴天 - so need to learn how to play that guitar opening!

刮风这天
我试过握着你手
但偏偏 雨渐渐
大到我看你不见
还要多久 我才能在你身边

Sunday, November 15, 2009

If you know?

Two poems, linked thematically but arriving at such different conclusions. The first speaks of the limit to human understanding, reiterating the Kantian position that we do not know, cannot know the noumenal world,only the phenomenal. Using the extended metaphor of humans as spectators in the before the theatrical grandeur of the universe, it underlines our humanity, our pitiful minds before the vastness of deep space and the glory of the sunrise.

The second poem which I came across this week is from the Proverbs and is one of the finest examples of Hebrew literature and poetry I've ever read. Thematically, it also touches on the limits of human understanding,the mystery of the elements, the beauty of nature. Just like in the in the first poem, we begin with a position of humility- the writer acknowledging his stupidity. He then goes on to ask a series of beautifully phrased rhetorical questions,"Who has gathered the wind in His fists?", designed to show the might and mystery of God and it doesn't end there.

There are answers this time - to his spoken and unspoken questions. He points out that: "He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him." and then goes on to meditate on the world, listing out the mysterious, the wicked, the little things of earth that are wise and the majestic. These are grouped, separated by exclamations in a specific format.

It's interesting, the literary device used to underscore it, (wish I'd time to look it up and study it in more detail). The writer uses numerical order and repetition together, first saying there are "three things" then saying "Yes, four which..." and essentially repeats the characteristics of the things in both lines but in a different manner - all the signs that point to the majesty and design of an omniscient Creator. The effect is to create a flow, so that even though very different things are listed - a barren womb, a spider, lions, ships- the repetition of the "three/four" lines links them together and creates groups for the reader to better comprehend their place in creation.

Underscoring all of that, are the constant themes of contentment, peace and humility. Here, as in Ecclesiastes, binary opposites are used but in a different manner.The poem begins with humility but the wicked are described as being "pure in their own eyes" (i.e pride). The poet asks for just enough so that he can be content, but the wicked as being insatiably discontented - compared, in fact, to leeches.

Both poems begin the same way, but the first ends with an emptiness, facing the vacuum of space and knowing that man cannot know. For him,this is all there is; existentialism is, after all, the logical end point of secular humanism.

The second acknowledges man's finite knowledge and understanding of the world but is peppered throughout, with the writers prayers to God, his advice on a Godly and contented life and sets out the mysterious rationality of the created order and its rightful place before the eternal and infinite Creator. The end point of the believer is not then, a meaningless contemplation of the universe, but a complete understanding of his place in it and the value of his life as a creation of the Almighty.

***

The Day of the Sun

Arriving early at the limit of understanding,
I managed to find a good seat,
and settled in with the others,
who were fanning away the heat

with their programs full of blank pages.
The orchestra was in place,
and soon the show started.
First, deep space

rose high and flooded the stage,
immersing all the spots
where our thoughts could have fixed
if our minds had thoughts.

Which they didn’t. Then
the sun came out and stood.
that was all that happened,
and ever would.

–Vijay Seshadri

***

Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And do not have the understanding of a man.
I neither learned wisdom
Nor have knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know?
Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Do not malign a servant to his master,
Lest he curse you, and you be found guilty.
There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother.
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation whose teeth are like swords,
And whose fangs are like knives,
To devour the poor from off the earth,
And the needy from among men.
The leech has two daughters—
Give and Give!

There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”:
The grave,
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”
The eye that mocks his father,
And scorns obedience to his mother,
The ravens of the valley will pick it out,
And the young eagles will eat it.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the midst of the sea,
And the way of a man with a virgin.
This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth,
And says, “I have done no wickedness.”
For three things the earth is perturbed,
Yes, for four it cannot bear up:
For a servant when he reigns,
A fool when he is filled with food,
A hateful woman when she is married,
And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.
There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;
The rock badgers[b] are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;
The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.
There are three things which are majestic in pace,
Yes, four which are stately in walk:
A lion, which is mighty among beasts
And does not turn away from any;
A greyhound,
A male goat also,
And a king whose troops are with him.
If you have been foolish in exalting yourself,
Or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth.
For as the churning of milk produces butter,
And wringing the nose produces blood,
So the forcing of wrath produces strife.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

a prayer

Found it while trawling the net and thought - oh this could have come from my own heart. My favourite hymn speaks of how the human heart is prone to wander - and it is.

What can I do but ask,and ask again - daily - for grace and mercy to remember Him and drink daily of His Word.


From this blog:-

Heavenly Father, how I long for the Day when I will no longer be tempt-able, deceive-able, or even capable of worshipping any other “god” but you. I so look forward to an eternity of giving you the adoration, affection, attention and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. No one cares like you. No one understands like you. No one redeems like you. No one loves like you. No one restores like you. There is no God but you.

In Jesus, you have already given me a new heart and have placed your Spirit in me. In Jesus, you have already turned my heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27). In Jesus, you have already given me a heart to know and love you (Jeremiah 24:7). In Jesus you have already written your law upon my heart (Jeremiah 31:33). In Jesus, you have already given me a perfectly forgiven heart.

YET, it is not a fully perfected heart. The battle for my heart’s daily worship continues, and will continue until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Thus, the warning to keep myself from idols has never had more meaning, Father. Help me discern which “idols of the heart” (Ezekiel 14:4) I am most susceptible to trusting in, rather than you. When I don’t think you are “enough,” where do I take the worship you deserve—where do I go for life, deliverance and salvation?


***

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

Isa 61:10 - 11

Friday, November 6, 2009

V - Seasons


Recently, I've been doing some thinking about seasons and the various themes of life, death, sorrow, love and beauty that we ascribe to them. A year ago, I had a conversation with M, about seasons and how much we missed the changing seasons in constantly hot and sunny Singapore. Oh how sad, we said, that there are no seasons in Singapore.

We were wrong of course. It's now November, summer in Australia, late fall in North America and Europe. In Singapore, the sun shines but the seasons change.

Seasons mean something – we ascribe to them meanings beyond the mere states of hot and cold, hail, storm and snow. Not for nothing does Shakespeare write “Now is the winter of our discontent” or Eliot begin The Wasteland with “April is the cruellest month”. From Shakespeare to Dickens to and T.S Eliot, weather phenomenon, seasons have symbolized and affected the inner psyche, the spiritual and emotional state of the story characters.

In A Dictionary of Symbols, J.E Cirlot notes that the interplay between climate and character psychology is one of the most frequent in all of literature:

"The relationship between a state of mind and a given climate, as expressed by the interplay between space, situation, the elements and temperature, as well as level-symbolism, is one of the most frequent of all analogies in literature. The universal value of pairs of opposites, such as high/low, dry/wet, clear/dark, is demonstrated in their continued use not only in physical and material but also in psychological, intellectual and spiritual matters."

This is the fifth and last post in the series of posts on the seasons. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter: ascribing to Spring the sense of freshness and new love, imbuing Summer with heat and joy triumphant, loving Autumn's harvest and colours and then falling into quiet contemplation with Winter.

But really, when I started writing, I started with this post. I wrote this because I realized that M and I were both wrong; there are always seasons. Maybe not of the meteorological variety but there are – and will always be - seasons in our life, seasons of the mind and seasons of the spirit. There are seasons in our inner landscapes even when there is no discernible change in the weather.

People come and go. Seasons – physical and psychological – change. We laugh learn fall down pick ourselves up cry make mistakes, live. M left last night, for good, entering into a new season of her life; in her case geographical and metaphysical change are intricately intertwined, braiding in and out of each other like the rich red braids of her hair.

For other people I know, this is the season of job changes, loved ones coming and going, metaphysical and mental shifts that barely show as ripples on the surface but are titanic in their ability to generate the changes to come.

I'm interested in all the myriad seasons of life - a new child, a time of learning, an awakening faith, the plunge into post graduate studies, new jobs. Friends, call me, write me postcards, drop me an email, tell me where you are now, the season of life that you're walking through. I'd love to hear from you.

For the rest of the seasons I posted poetry, music but for this which encompasses them all, I have only words from the wisest of men, words that will stay with us no matter what season it is. From the book written by Solomon, the prayers of St Augustine and finally - from Scripture.

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.

*

Night Prayer of St Augustine

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who slumber.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ,
Rest your weary ones,
Bless your dying ones,
Soothe your suffering ones,
Pity your afflicted ones,
Shield your joyous ones,
And all for your love's sake. Amen.

*


The mercies of the Lord are never exhausted; the mercies of the Lord are never spent: but they are new each morning.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just being there.


Just Thinking

Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Been on probation most of my life. And
the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments
count for a lot – peace, you know.

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.

–William Stafford

***



The Gift

Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.

It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come - maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.

It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours."

***

Been treating myself to snippets of William Stafford poetry here and there - odd contemplative moments of peace in the rush of my day. Busy, so busy but happy too. Life is good, has meaning even in the tiredness that drains strength from my body at the end of the day. The day is good when you collapse into bed and have that delicious instant when your tired muscles and bones just liquefy before the dark reaching fingers of sleep take you into their embrace.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NYT article - When restriction becomes freedom

It could be that sometimes our greatest freedom may be to choose freedom from freedom. I am still surprised by the relief that floods me whenever I bind myself from going online, when I have no option but to ignore the incessant tweets and e-mail messages and videos and news links and even the legitimate research.

I’m not wishing the Internet away. It has become so integral to my work — to my life — that I honestly can’t recall what I did without it. But it has allowed us to reflexively indulge every passing interest, to expect answers to every fleeting question, to believe that if we search long enough, surf a little further, we can hit the dry land of knowing “everything that happens” and that such knowledge is both possible and desirable. In the end, though, there is just more sea, and as alluring as we can find the perpetual pursuit of little thoughts, the net result may only be to prevent us from forming the big ones.

Link to the full article from the NYT here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

today last year

In the next month, two more of my friends will leave Singapore for good and I'm more than a little sad.

Don't quote hoary cliches at me about how other people will come into your life. I don't care. I'm going to miss those guys so much.

Today last year or any day last year,I would probably be out having tea with Z, one of my closest friends in the world. We wound up working for the same company and he and I used to sneak out to have coffee at least 3 times a week. Or he'd come over to my desk to chat and eat chocolate. Or we'd call each other on the office line and giggle together about stuff. He hugged me when I cried because I got scolded. I hugged him when his life was going slightly mad as well.

When I listened to this song earlier in the week,I thought of Z and all those times we had just hanging out and knew that I'd miss those quiet happy times.

***



***

It's nearly November and nearly 12 months since I last set foot in Australia. There have been titanic shifts in my life since and for most of this year, I just felt like I was clutching at rails, handles, straws - anything around me that seem stable in a quaking world.

This blog has gotten ... more biblical in the last months and it's a partial reflection of one of the biggest changes in my life. Sorry folks, but this change in programming is permanent. I'm not some progressive libertarian, I'm not some open minded chick comfortable with the moral and ethical relativism of this world. I'm not and I don't want to act like I am.

Saw this on Tim Challies' blog and thought, well yes - this is pretty much it:

"I am...

* Christian - I affirm that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.
* Protestant - I affirm the five "solas" of the Reformation.
* Reformed - I affirm the doctrines of grace - principles known to some as Calvinism.
* Evangelical - I believe the gospel (which is the original and truest meaning of "evangelical")."


***

"God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. "

Monday, October 19, 2009

IV - Winter


It's a season associated with lack: of life, warmth and light, but living in a land of farmers for so long taught me this - that the winter cold and precipitation is as crucial for the land as the heat of summer.

A winter of the soul need not be a season of discontent - fie on Shakespeare! - but a time of quietude and waiting, essential for healing and growth. One cannot hear it, cannot see it but one has to have faith - in the things unseen - that under the frozen ground, the flowers of Spring lie waiting for warmth and birth.

In our culture of instant gratification, the idea of waiting is now alien. It is therefore humbling for us to be made to wait gently through winter, to know that one cannot hurry Spring, or force the sun and moon out of their courses. More than it teaches us patience, it teaches us our place: that we are not the be all and end all, that Spring will take her own sweet time to show herself and finally, that waiting can build faith, patience, hope and love.


Just the one poem today - oh, easily the best poem I've read all year - the way it's been constructed, every stanza aching into the next is just beautiful. It isn't hopeful and it wasn't written by a hopeful man. But unlike the confessional poets of later years, with Wallace Stevens, one can only guess at what kind of secret misery could drain his world of all hope and meaning.

The Snow Man

By Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

But in the end, we are all waiting - not for spring - but for this:

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Snippets - kill the guy

A: So who do you think is responsible for the rise of anti intellectualism in the church today?

B: I blame Kierkegaard!

C(walking over): Huh? What? Kill the guy? Kill what guy?

A (in between laughter): Yeah they should've killed the guy.


***

A: So what's Kant's basic thesis?

B: That we Kant know .....

***

I love bad jokes. Oh dear.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thoughts from a 25-35 year old

I really needed to laugh today and this helped a little. It's from here via here.

Thoughts from a 25-35 year old

-I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

-I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

-Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

-I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

-Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft. (Didn't play Nintendo)

-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what was going on when I first saw it.

-I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it. (cf How I met your mother, when Ted makes Robin watch Star Wars)

-How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet? (I actually know this one)

-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

-The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.

- A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.

- LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say". (I just type ellipses when I have nothing to say or when something has rendered me speechless)

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- Answering the same letter three times or more in a row on a Scantron test is absolutely petrifying.

- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and I instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

-Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

-Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

- Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year? (probably, but I've been too tired to notice)

-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem.... (I think I got my own name wrong before)

-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day. (Happens all the time)

-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.

-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to. (Try that on a 25 page affidavit....)

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

- I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

-When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.

-I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.

-Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles...

- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is. (Usually when I'm tired ...)

-It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call. (I also save them as "XYZ - do not answer" in case I forget who they are)

-Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it. (I do... heh)

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

-My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

-It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on CNN.com and the link takes me to a video instead of text.

-I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Random Hens and other eggs



***

Neil Gaiman had a perfect day and my goodness, how I would love to live in that house! A tower and trees all around - I should so not be living in this place. Girls and boys, I want rivers, empty beaches, trees, green wide heart lifting SPACES.

***

Jack Kerouac's Rules of Spontaneous Prose:

(From here)

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

***

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

- Mary Oliver

Monday, October 5, 2009

Night's candles are burnt out

Dear world,

Today I’m the girl crouching at the cliff edge, wrapped in a coat and watching the waves. The day is grey, the sea is grey and it seems that all colour has leached out of the world. There are questions unanswered and sometimes it seems as though laughter is some a faraway memory, a golden echo from an age long past.

Oh, I’m blue today so hold my hand, world, and tell me things will be better tomorrow. Send me a rainbow, a flower, a sparrow in the midst of grey, send me a little wonder so I’ll remember that life is good and full of joy.

Remind me that peace comes rarely and that – despite the present weariness – this really is a time of peace. Remind me that I have friends who love me, who're there. Most of all remind me of the Shepherd who guards me and guides me still.

Dear World. Remind me that when night's candles are burnt out and the larks sing, I will wake to a new day and there will be time to sit by a roaring fire and rest. There is no fatal journey to Mantua, no poisoned chalice, no dagger awaits. Those stories are past are past and this is a new one, a new chapter.

Mehldau today - he's darkly exultant in this one - but then I'm in a dark place for the moment so here it is.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

III - 秋


中秋 is my one of favourite festival of all chinese festivals.

A long time ago, my family would gather at my Ah gong's house every中秋. So much noise, merriment and childhood fun was had running around his frontyard, lantern in hand, facsinated yet afraid of the candles and nervously writing glow letters with fizzing sparklers while the "grown up people" sat and drank tea.

My grandfather died the year I turned 18 and the celebrations stopped then but every year I look up at the fat smiling moon and take a minute to remember him and indulge in nostalgia for times past.

Autumn is a time for harvest, for gathering the fruit of what we've sown and for watching the world flame with colour - orange, sienna, gold, red, vermilion against grapy sunsets of dusky purple-red clouds. It's a time like no other, to celebrate colour and life, a time to enjoy the fruit of summer's labour.

But also a time for taking stock: looking at the seasons past,weighing to see if it has been time well spent, if the work done in summer was good, was enough.

A good time then,to remind myself of the importance of discipline and work. The fruits of autumn may only be gathered by those diligent in the Spring and Summer and so the musical and dance lessons and practice times must be strictly kept, the studies must must get done and in general, one's nose must be kept to the grindstone.

A poem by Su Shi below, reminding us of the preciousness of this moment where life is good and the moonlight floods the sleeping world.

Then Keats on the ripe summer spilling into a bountiful, rich autumn - autumn in cahoots with the gentle old sun to bring abundance into the world.

Finally, my favourite version of this jazz standard so far - listened to 5 of 'em before posting up this one. Go youtube the Nat King Cole, Eva Cassidy and Keith Jarrett ones too but Stan Getz stole my heart with his melancholic unadorned walk through "Autumn Leaves". Richness without fanfare,simplicity with shaded emotion. Lovely.


***



***

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells."
- John Keats, To Autumn

***


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

II - Summer



"Summer lovin' having a blast...."

Apples, stone fruit, roses in full bloom and the heat haze over lavender fields. Last summer, I took myself off to a farm north of Melbourne and did nothing but sit in the sun and think. Summer's a time for dreamin', spinning fancies, strumming the guitar, eating out of doors and oh, summer is a time like no other, for love.

I wanted to start a post this week like this:

"Dear World,

I love you today.I'm well again and in love with life, with reading, with my books and my friends and my work... and with my new earphones! Listening to Norah, Krall, Jarrett and Evans on the train is finally possible. Thank you for the hymns that rise, circling through the consciousness to wing my heart up up and up. "


I miss writing letters - pressing pen to paper, making loops and swirls and embellishing all my 'g's and 'y's and any letter with joyous little serifs. So friends, if you get a curly little epistle or card from me, don't be surprised; life is good, God is good and so hugs and kisses - epistolary or otherwise - to all are due.

Mary Oliver poem on the mysteries of nature,the turning of the seasons. Who can hear the grass grow, or the clouds gather, thickly bringing rain, snow, hail or scatter to unveil skies azure, indigo, cerulean pure? Only the infinite He, in whom we live and move and have our being - who makes the sap rise and has set all things in their place.


Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything –
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker –
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing –
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet –
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

- Mary Oliver

The classic summer song :) Oh Travolta's hair! and those tight tight unbreathable jeans! Circulation is important, people!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

There were no exceptions

Faith for the long haul, that endures the test of time, of the questioning pluralistic secular world, faith that makes sense of that world. The test, as always, is in the living.

Full article here:

A thoughtful Asian-American student came up to me on Saturday night, wanting to talk further about the Smashing Pumpkins. We had been talking through the evening about my observation that those who continue on in deepening faith are people who have the spiritual skills and theological tools to engage the brokenness of the world — artistically, politically, economically, sociologically and on and on — in the name of Christ.

Earlier I had told a story about going to one of the Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" concerts with my teenage sons, and wondering about some of what I had seen and heard. From the 15,000 person "YES!!" to the lyrics in the song "Zero" — "God is empty just like me.... I'm in love with my sadness" — to another song with the lyrics "... I'm still just a rat in a cage," we pondered what words like that mean in a culture like ours.

On the one hand, what is being said that we ought to listen to, really trying to understand the dreams and disappointments of the artists and of the culture they represent? On the other, what is foolishness and ought to be called what it is? As we sat in a quiet place he told me that even with all that he believed about life and the world as a Christian, there were times when he found himself singing out, with all his heart, "... I'm still just a rat in a cage." And he wondered what to make of it, viz. what was it about those words that rang true to his experience of life and learning?

Like so many I have met in universities and colleges all over America, he found himself wondering whether the Christian faith can truly speak to all areas and arenas of human life, from personal hopes to public dreams. In words I have heard so often: when push comes to shove, is it really true? Can the Christian worldview truly address the sadness I have experienced and the brokenness I meet as I try to live out what I believe in the world? Or is the fallenness I see and hear all around, in myself and in everyone I encounter, in the end just too much, too complex, too hard?

If we could account for this story by blaming it on the secularizing influences of Yale, or on the theological and psychological deficiencies of one student, then we could all breathe easier. We might imagine ourselves off-the-proverbial-hook. But that is not possible. I have heard this story so many times in so many settings from so many students — in both secular-spirited universities and Christ-centered colleges — that I have come to believe it is the central challenge facing serious Christian students today.

On the question at hand we can listen to those who have made their way through their university years and who still believe that the gospel of the kingdom is real and true and right — decades after their own experience as students. The last half of the book, The Fabric of Faithfulness, is a report on what I found as I listened to men and woman from all over the U.S. and the world who, 25 years later, were still pursuing a coherent faith. Those who, in the language of the Yale student who invited me to speak, had "sustained spiritual depth on into the rest of life." I asked them a host of questions centered upon the relationship between their present commitments and their experiences as students two or three decades earlier.

What did I learn? That those who keep on keeping on, growing in love with God and his world, are people marked by three habits of heart:

* they developed a worldview that could make sense of life, facing the challenge of truth and coherence in an increasingly secular and pluralist society;

* they pursued a relationship with a teacher whose life incarnated the worldview that they were learning to embrace; and

* they committed themselves to others who had chosen to live their lives embedded in that same worldview, journeying together in truth, after the vision of a coherent and meaningful life.

There were no exceptions.

The novelist Walker Percy writes of the person who "gets all As and flunks life." It is a warning lurking around the corner of everyone's life.

For you who are serious about God and the worldview that grows out of the word of God, listen and learn to the saints who have gone before you. And above all, make sure that your every experience as a student — every class you take, every book you read, every friend you make — serves to deepen your love for what God loves. That is what the college years are really all about.

***

"For when there is a question as to whether a man is good, one does not ask what he believes, or what he hopes, but what he loves."

--Saint Augustine

***

Questions: Where have you laid up your treasure? Read this weekend (in a story book, no less!) that preparation for the life spent in eternity must begin in the here and now - sobering thought, pulls one back from heedless frivolity and reckless expenditure of time and resources.

***
The BMG took me to SKS bookstore last week and I went ever so slightly mad. Banning myself from buying any more books for about a month (at least!) so that the book queue can be reduced, somewhat. The last two weeks have been awful for my reading life, constant migraines and sleep disturbances having plagued me day and night. This last weekend was spent quietly - mainly resting, not even reading/listening to sermons - just resting quietly so that my brain chemistry will right itself again. The meds are helping, kicking in at long last and it's so good to feel well and whole again!

***

Book queue:

Saint Augustine's Confessions and The City of God are on the queue. So is Milton's Paradise Lost. Oh dear. Methinks that all book buying shall cease until several of the monstrously large reads are down.

Halfway through Kerouac's On the Road. What a ride! Utter disregard for literary conventions (mostly forgetting the existence of the humble comma and semi colon), bebop, jazz, sex, drugs, hitchhiking, men named Dean who sleep with every woman in sight, crisscrossing the US of A, grapepicking, exhausting just to read it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I - Spring


Spring, as Neruda says, arrives in the flower and the water and if Spring speaks of tender new beginnings, a new love, a fresh start then the magic is that it will always be, can always be Spring.

Wordsworth has daffodils and Yeats, his bee loud glade but I have Spring in Melbourne: the Tesselaar tulips, shy green leaves peeking at me from the trees outside the university gym, skeins of geese flying south away from the cold and snows of the north, carrying the warmth of the northern summer with them south south to the land of Oz.

Hopkins brings one round to contemplate - amidst the beauty - through the glass darkly, the echoes of Eden in the freshness and beauty of the season. The best promise - that we now see in part and shall one day see, the whole.

Jarrett playing Shenandoah after his long illness - how I love this track - first heard it after recovering from the flu and have gone back to it now that I'm recovering (thank God thank God) from the migraines that have plagued me, made lucid lines of thought difficult and reading impossible for nearly two weeks.

To all my friends: here's to new beginnings, as full of promise and joy as the unfurling green leaves, jade green, seafoam green, translucent in the sun.

***

NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins

***



***

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Illustrator - Myke Amend


So I meant to post up some pretty light filled pictures - the brother's wedding is this weekend after all - but got utterly blown away by this site. I think it's been much too long since I sat down and consumed my fill of graphic novels.

Myke Amend is an illustrator and painter and is very very good at putting a surreal otherworldly spin on art. Link is here and pictures below. I like the fantasy and flying ship ones but I'm not such a fan of the goth illustrations; I've never been all that fond of gothic literature and by extension, gothic art. Surprising for someone who's a devout fan of Sandman but I think Sandman is really as far as I'll go. I would really rather read about spaceships than about vampires or any other overdone gothic novel.

Plus I think one reason I like the spin-off Death series is precisely because it makes fun of the goth culture.

Totally unsurprising that he lists Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft,Mary Shelley and Neil Gaiman as influences - I blurted out "So Jules Verne!" the second I clapped eyes on his illustrations.





Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rhinocerous

W: Yeah I still can't tell the difference between a rhino and a hippo!

A: Huh?! But they're totally different!

W: yeah I know but and when I see a photo of one, I get it. But then I'll see the other and completely forget which one already!! How?

A: Uh, don't you teach primary school? What if you have to tell the kids about rhinos and hippos?

W: I think as long as I can teach rhino in one class and hippo in the other... plus there are pictures with labels!!

A: ....

***

The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he's not a feast.
But you and I will never know
Why nature chose to make him so.
Farewell, farewell, you old rhinocerous,
I'll stare at something less prepoceros!

Ogden Nash

***

W is a darling and one of the strongest persons I know. She teaches school and still does not know the difference between a rhino and a hippo. But really, in a world where crazier things happen - it's not that preposterous or important :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Let us.

I was more tired than usual on Sunday and when today dawned, I knew why.

In a word? Migraine. This girl's head was all pinch-y, giddy and choky so I toddled obediently off to the doctor's and spent the rest of the day resting and avoiding bright light. But it's all good, I finally had time for the Mark Driscoll sermon the BMG's been bugging me to listen to - the rebel's guide to joy . It was interesting; I liked how he dealt with the cultural norms surrounding happiness before turning to deal with what scripture says. Oh and bonus! He ended with a history of the writer of one of my absolute favourite hymn.

It's good to demolish all the crazy ideas the world gives us and replace them with the most counter-cultural of all worldviews - faith in Christ. I'm reading, listening, allowing God to re-draw the paradigms and buttresses of my inner world and mind with those set down by scripture. Rubbishing all the things that no longer belong - so so hard to even identify them sometimes; the lines are not clear to me just yet.

To that end, I find myself increasingly starting to mug up on philosophy and theology - not something I ever thought I'd do, despite the arts student background - but it's important to me - to know what I believe in, to figure out where all these ideas are coming from and why we - denizens of the 21st C, have fastened in our minds all these beliefs and superstitions.

We live in a soup of ideas from the Romantics, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Existentialists, post modernists and with eastern mysticism thrown in just to salt the brew, without knowing or understanding what they are, where they're from and how it has permeated every single aspect of our lives. Every thing is suspect - the movies, the tv shows, music, books (self help and otherwise), education, advertisements - one is forced to question their premises and presuppositions.

***

Article in the NYT (via Yv's blog) about - surprise surprise - the idea that your social network has an impact on how you behave, your health and decisions.

"Over the next year, the sociologist and the political scientist continued to analyze the Framingham data, finding more and more examples of contagious behavior. Smoking, they discovered, also appeared to spread socially — in fact, a friend taking up smoking increased your chance of lighting up by 36 percent, and if you had a three-degrees-removed friend who started smoking, you were 11 percent more likely to do the same. Drinking spread socially, as did happiness and even loneliness. And in each case one’s individual influence stretched out three degrees before it faded out. They termed this the “three degrees of influence” rule about human behavior: We are tied not just to those around us, but to others in a web that stretches farther than we know."

Three degrees, six degrees. Who do you talk to daily? Who are the people who affect the air you breathe? I'm glad for so many in my life right now - people who weren't afraid to tell me the truth, even people in church I don't talk to that often but who spur me on just by the way they live and carry themselves. You affect even people 3 degrees away from you so even if you think you've hardly talked to someone before, don't underestimate the effect you have.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God,

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold fast the confession of
our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as
is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Heb 24:19-24

Let us. Let us. Let us. That pronoun is repeated three times - the whole paragraph is built on it.

So sleepy from the migraine meds but just wanted to end off and say that this is kinda my love letter to all you people (from church and otherwise) who've encouraged me, scolded me, sent me books, music, sermon recommendations, notes, provoked my mind and most importantly, inspired me just by living the way you do.

MFE, Eilonwy, H & M, Miss Shell, the Dude, AF and family, Ade, Ed, M and Vi, the eios, Messrs I, BY and Y, YM, Mo, D and S from dance, the BMG, Mr F, Miss Su, Ps Thomas and MJ,K the evangelion, A, JM, MG, little Miss E.

We're all running this race together so let's keep going and stay the course together 'cause I can't do this alone and am so thankful for all of you. If I missed anyone out - I love you, I do! But I'm on migraine meds and they've kicked in.

'Night peeps. This girl is going off for her dreamtime now.