Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"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:
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
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.
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
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?
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
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."
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!
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
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
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
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
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!!
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!
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
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.
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.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Luna Jewellery is a poetic gem of a site selling pretty little handmade pieces of jewellery, all pieces seem to be originally designed and they are so very pretty and girly.
I'm fond of looking at jewellery but I'm don't actually wear very much jewellery myself, I like moving about freely and bracelets and necklaces tend to get in the way. I make an exception for earrings because they generally stay out of my way and I really really love the way sparkly earrings catch the light.
Also, a girl has got to have some vices :) Aren't those starfish earrings gorgeous? I saw them and just went all come to me precioussssss.
Go shopping people - support local design talent!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Rented American Graffti from VideoEzy this weekend and oh, how I adore the music of the 1960s. It's one of those movies that's two parts music, two parts nostalgia and almost no narrative at all - hard to believe George Lucas managed to convince Universal Studios to have it made - having Francis Ford Coppola on the team must have helped.
American Graffiti takes you out on a late summer night in Modesto, California, in a long gone era, the innocent pre-Vietnam war America. The early 1960s America of Kennedy, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, cruising down main street in cadillacs and T-Birds, drive-ins and drive-thrus, doing the twist to Chubby Checker...American Graffiti was about all of that and none of that at the same time. You watch a show like that, and it's like a small slice of that past, that America comes back to life just for 100 minutes.
Some of songs from the movie below - enjoy! They're beautifully harmonized and so slow dance-y and evocative. Good gracious, please please watch the Diamonds - so old and yet their voices are so good and performing with so much enjoyment!
Friday, September 4, 2009
I discovered something on Monday that startled and worried me - didn't talk about it to anyone and let it quietly simmer at the back of my mind. Today, I was given another piece of even worse news - news that unsettled me and scared me all at the same time.
This combined with crazy hormones - yes I AM that much of a girl - served to neatly sever my ability to reason from my (admittedly slightly wild) imagination.
So Imagination drifts off for an excursion, bobbing merrily in the waters while Reason, standing on shore is frantically trying to reel it back.
During this time, my brain makes a leap and connects up several pieces of information into one slightly manic mess of a crazy idea which fastens onto the side of my skull like a burr.
By this time, Reason is standing on the shore, jumping up and down waving red, white and green flags, shooting off flares and trying to the coast guard in to REEL THAT CRAZY IMAGINATION IN.
No avail of course. By the time recalcitrant Imagination chuckles over the waves and back to shore, Reason is slumped in defeat, expecting the worst.
*takes a deep breath*
If I have learned one thing and one thing only in my whole life, it is this:
God is sovereign.
So. A poem, one of the best I have ever read.
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
From Psalm 139
For those who listened today - thank you. You helped. For those I may have unwittingly offended/alarmed, thank you for your patience. You have my deepest sincerest apologies if I alarmed you or caused any misunderstanding. Those chapters were indeed closed - but panic and sheer irrationality made me flip them open again.
Onwards. Tomorrow beckons and ... God is sovereign.
For now, Emily Bronte on courage.
No Coward Soul Is Mine
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life - that in me hast rest,
As I - Undying Life- have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though Earth and moon were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every Existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou - Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
As an aside, Jarrett is sad sometimes, delicately lovely at others time but Bill... now, Bill is just beautiful, wistfully and richly so.
The poor Georgians, derided by the Modernists for the "precious" themes,embellishments and use of traditional verse forms - I don't really mind them so much though. I first started reading poetry when I was 13 and loved the poetry of WWI, both of the Modernist and Georgian varieties. I love how this sounds, read aloud and I love his other poem, The Old Ships - the susurration in the opening stanza is evocatively dreamy - that's been posted up by the Guardian, so go see it here.
"TO A POET A THOUSAND YEARS HENCE"
I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.
I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.
But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?
How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.
O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.
Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.
This poem encapsulates exactly, but exactly, how I felt when I read Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. As though someone had reached across time, space to grasp my hand and speak directly to my soul, my heart.
As for the Bible - words fail me. Human to human, even across the time space divide is one thing. God, from outside time and space, to us- vistas of wheeling stars and universes, passion and purity open up. Read the bible, oh read it read it read it. It will change you over and over again.