Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Lilla Watson's quote is going around in my head at the moment as perhaps the best basis for a genuinely nonviolent and just life. Mostly it's my manifesto for why I do what I do now:
If you have come here to help me
you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because
your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.
That's all for now. Feeling tired and overwhelmed and happy and energised and sad and excited and stuff.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thom Yorke on the G8

Found this quote from Thom Yorke of Radiohead in this article in the Age today and thought it was appropriate in light of my post on the G20. He was responding to a question about why he didn't get involved in last year's Live 8 concerts:
"Well, who the hell are they?" he demands. "Do they think they're a de facto world government? No, the G8 meets to protect its own economic self-interest, and that's where the problem lies, I think. The G8 sees the UN as an inconvenience. It seems wrong to engage these people, because when you choose to engage them as if they were a legitimate political force, you are legitimising something that is deeply illegitimate. And the rest of the world outside the little Western bubble can see that it's illegitimate."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

introducing ella rose

Born 11th August, weighing 3.97kg (8.8lbs). Just 1 hour labour.

G20 and the church's response

I've been part of some initial planning for an ecumenical Christian church service around the G20, and as such have been thinking about what might be the best response we can make to this event. Especially around the focus; what kind of topic do we focus on? What message do we want to come across to people?

My sense is that we need to provide people with hope that they can effect positive change. People have seen the G8 come and go with little or no apparent effect, so they are likely to be somewhat jaded, or even despairing. We therefore need to tell a different story.

I would actually like to see the campaign subvert the idea that the G20 has (ultimately) any power at all; rather, affirming that real power lies with God through us, the Body of Christ (physical expression of God's activity in the world). Too idealistic? Too abstract? Too removed? Probably, and almost certainly for the average punter. But here's where I'm coming from.

The MakePovertyHistory and Micah Challenge campaigns focus on getting those in power to effect changes on our behalf. As such, they essentially reinforce the status quo of needing to effect the "real powerbrokers" - governments. Yet Jesus fought relentlessly against this view that coercive power, or power over, as ultimate, and instead called people to servanthood, to being 'last'. This, he maintained, is real power: suffering servanthood.

I wonder if there is a disconnect or even contradiction between our ends (a kingdom that is marked by servanthood, humility, voluntary personal suffering) and our means (celebrity speakers, focus on governments as the powerholders). MakePovertyHistory, in particular focuses on the need for us to beg our local MP or powerbroker to do the work for us. As such, a movement that is intended to be empowering ("you can make a difference...") is ultimately disempowering ("...but only by influencing your MP!")

I just think that as Christians we have little sense of the power of God, and of how we can access that power through sacrificial love. Or maybe it's just a lack of preparedness for the consequences of that...I don't know. But with a vision of that power...well, maybe that's hope through empowerment. And that's the message I'd like to give.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

even more compilation contenders

It's been a while since I've listed these so there's probably some I've forgotten, but here's a bunch anyway:

Catherine Wheels: Crowded House
Off their Together Alone album, I had this little gem in my head the morning I found out Grandad had passed away. So it's now imbued with that sadness and poignancy in my head, and will probably forever remind me of that moment.

Your Love Goes On: Hothouse Flowers
Oh heck, I might as well just put their whole back catalogue on this thing. They're certainly my band of the year, partially because I saw them live, and partially because I've fallen in love with their music all over again. This song is one I actually don't have on an album, but it's awesome. Perhaps the best worship song ever.

Eyes Wide Open: Hothouse Flowers
Told you I might as well put them all on...but this one is a serious contender. It's so darn happy, and never fails to put me in a good mood. "I had the strangest...feeling...helping...of love coming on me."

Ghost of Tom Joad: Bruce Springsteen
My goodness, this is a great song. Many songs about being down and out glorify it, but this one has it in all its raggedness and sadness yet somehow dignifies it in some sense. As first world christians especially I think we overglamorize poverty sometimes ("Blessed are the poor..."), but this hits home to me the reality of it for most people.

"He pulls his prayer book out of his sleepin' bag
The Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
He's waitin' for the time when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
With a one way ticket to the promised land
With a hole in your belly and a gun in your hand
Lookin' for a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city's aquaduct..."

Both Sides Now: Joni Mitchell
She just writes great songs that would sound good without music.

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
Ive looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really dont know clouds at all.

O Yeah: End of Fashion
I tried really hard not to like this...but there it is. A shameless piece of pop brilliance.

Leaving New York: REM
These guys are just amazing - still writing songs that move you with a simple four chord progression. The echo bit at the end won't fail to make your heart soar.

Then there's the Simon and Garfunkel section. I like to think maybe I was named after Paul Simon, even though I probably wasn't, but I know that my parents liked S&G, and therefore I probably heard it fairly young. Anyway, I got their Essentials this year, and it's been a great education in spirited folk (continuing from Joni). Favourites include:

Sound of Silence
How can you make a song that literally sounds like silence while making noise? They somehow did it. And included in it some of the best and most profound poetry/prose this side of Shakespeare.

The Boxer:
I've already blogged on this song, but it's an unbelievably well written lyric too.

Counting Crows covered this a while back, and it's so much fun, with a really different beat and possibly the most foolishly optimistic lovesong ever penned. A whole lot of fun.

Making love in the afternoon
With Cecilia, up in my bedroom
I got up to wash my face
When I come back to bed someone's taken my place!
Cecilia, you're breaking my heart, you're shaking my confidence daily....

And then the outro:

Jubilation! She loves me again!
I fall on the floor and I'm laughing...

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy):
I have to admit, this song is forever going to be Anthony's. Just the second time he was here, he randomly picked up my guitar and started playing and singing a slowed down version. Every time I hear it now, I think of him and smile. Feelin' Groovy indeed.

SSS (Saturday Social Soccer) and world peace in the kingdom of God

I reckon Saturday Social Soccer could be the beginning of world peace, and a good example of the Kingdom of God in action. Too big a call? You be the judge.

Around the start of the world cup, Croz and Clarey decided that since soccer was all the rage ("that soccer is so hot right now") we should get a few guys together to have a kick each Saturday. I think the week we started there were 6 or 7 of us (mostly ex-Whitleans).

The week after, we had a few more. The week after that, a few more again. As the weeks went on, and word spread, different people turned up each week, friends of friends or friends of friends of friends. Attendances have fluctuated the whole time: people turn up when they can, and don't when they can't (too hungover, busy, or simply don't want to).

But what quickly emerged too was that this was not an invite-only affair. Within the first week or two, we would join up with others who were already playing, or who wandered past wanting to play. Just random people going past: often they were overseas students with nothing much to do who were wandering around watching the games. They could go from passive observers to active participants with a nod of the head. It was completely and utterly inclusive, no questions asked.

This week, only three of us turned up initially. People came in dribs and drabs, ones and twos mostly, to join in. Soon we had too many for one game, so we split into two. So we were outnumbered, not calling the shots if you will. The sense was that there was no 'we', no Whitleans and 'others', just people enjoying each others' company and skills.

And the inclusive nature of the exercise only improved the sense of joy created in its living out. There was, and is, no fear of the other, of the stranger, even when they "look different". There is a unifying factor in what they call 'the world game' that means that there is enough in common for the rest to fall away. There are no language barriers (which is good, because many who turn up can hardly speak English), no reason for grudges or anything else to separate. There is usually mutual respect, even when there is a gulf of culture.

It also fits in perfectly with Open Space principles: passion bounded by responsibility. Whoever comes are the right people. Whenever it starts is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. When it's over, it's over. And the self-organizing of it all is quite amazing. People just make it happen, even make potentially contentious decisions (like who is on whose team, where the goals are placed and how large they are, when we start and when we finish) on behalf of the group, without demarcating who is the "leader" or "captain" or whatever. Considering this happens completely naturally, yet without disagreement, it's a surprising thing.

And there's grace in there too: we rarely mark the boundaries, so it's a matter of conjecture when the ball goes out of bounds and who brings it in. Or who decides when it's a goal and when it's not. There have been no arguments, no argy-bargy, just a go-with-the-flow attitude that means that even when one side is disadvantaged, no-one argues or gets upset.

By modelling the inclusive, nonviolent love of God, this is getting closer to the living out of the Kingdom of God. It's providing a concrete, positive example of cross-cultural harmony in action, and as such modelling to the rest of the world what things could be like.

Now all we have to do is get Hezbollah and Israel playing soccer on Saturdays at Princes Park. One o'clock. Bring a ball or your Aussie top.

Friday, August 04, 2006

thomas merton

I went to a public lecture last night by Paul Dekar, about Thomas Merton as a public theologian. It was great to get a sense of the many facets of this man I've come to know through his writings on nonviolence. Despite being a reclusive Trappist monk for most of his life, Merton had a rather colourful existence.

His parents were both artists, which led him to draw, paint and write poetry throughout his life. This despite the fact that his mother died when he was six, and his father when he was sixteen. Merton was involved in a debate about Gandhi in 1931, during the famous Roundtable Conference in London, in which he defended Gandhi's methods and aims. This debate (despite his argument being so clearly anti-British - or seemingly so) was partly the factor that won him a scholarship to Cambridge. He left there suddenly after getting a girl pregnant.

After an attempt to enter the Franciscan order failed (he told them honestly of his past at Cambridge), he became a Trappist and, according to his friends, disappeared off the face of the earth for 14 years.

After having written many books during this time (of which he was rather proud, having become a bestselling author), he was suddenly confronted by someone who accused him of "verbology" - essentially, saying he was very articulate at saying precisely nothing. That stung him, and he never forgot it. In 1958, he subsequently experienced an "epiphany" at the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets, and subsequently turned from a world-denying, elitist mysticism to one that connected deeply with the needs of the world.

His life was filled with many battles with his superiors over censorship of his prolific and controversial writings, a constant source of frustration for him, yet he remained absolutely faithful to his callings as a monk.

He died in 1968 (age 53), but the circumstances of his death would be comical if it weren't so serious. This incredibly articulate man of peace and prayer, who stirred up enormous controversy yet who led a reclusive life of contemplation, died when he turned on an electric fan. There he was, giving a talk to some Buddhists, then said, "I'll take some questions after a short break", went back to his room, and was electrocuted accidentally by the fan. It just seems like someone of his stature should have died on the front lines of peace march, or been assassinated like Gandhi or MLK Jr., or even died of old age, but no; he was killed by faulty wiring. Incredible.

Here are a few pearls and remarks of interest from his letters to Jim Forest:
"Technically I am not a pure pacifist in theory, though today in practice I don't see how one can be anything since limited wars (however "just") present an almost certain danger of nuclear war on an all-out scale. It is absolutely clear to me that we are faced with the obligation, both as human beings and as Christians, of striving in every way possible to abolish war. The magnitude of the task cannot be allowed to deter us. Even if it seems impossible, we must still attempt it. This demands of course a spirit of faith. Without the religious dimension, even pacifism and nonviolence are relatively meaningless. One cannot have nonviolence that makes sense if one does not also have faith in God. This of course complicates matters tremendously, because of the scandal that so many who claim to believe in God enlist him in their wars. God is always the first one to be drafted, and this is a universal stumbling block." (November 29, 1961)

(in reaction to the suicide of Roger LaPorte) "I cannot accept the present spirit of the movement as it presents itself to me. It seems that there is something radically wrong somewhere, something that is unChristian, though I am not questioning anybody's sincerity and good will, or even the objective rights and wrongs of the clearest cases. But the whole thing gives off a very different smell from the Gandhian movement, the non-violent movement in France and the nonviolence of Martin Luther King. Jim, there is something wrong here. I think there is something demonic at work in it. The suicide of a Catholic ex-seminarian (I was told) does not make sense in terms of a Christian peace movement." (November 11, 1965)

(In response to Jim's sense of desperation at the perceived failure of the peace movement, and frankly, it's frighteningly relevant for today) "Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself...

The country is SICK, man. It is one of the sickest thing that has happened. People are fed on myths. They CAN'T think straight. They have a modicum of good will, and some of them have a whole lot of it, but with the mental bombardment everybody lives under, it is just not possible to see straight, no matter where you are looking. The average 'Catlick' is probably in worse shape than a lot of others. He has in his head a few principles of faith which lend no coherence whatsoever to his life. No one has ever sought any coherence from him or given him the idea that he needed any. All he has been asked to do has been to measure up to a few simple notions about sexual morality (which he may or may not quite make, but anyway he knows where he stands - or falls on his face) and he has been taught that the cross and sacrifice in his life mean in practice going off to war every twenty years or so. He has done this with exemplary, unquestioning generosity, and has reaped the results: a corresponding brutalization, which is not his fault and which he thinks has something to do with being a real human being. In this whole area of war and peace, no matter what the Council may have said about the average layman and the average priest are all alike conditioned by this mentality. Furthermore, when it is a question of a kind of remote box score of casualties which gives meaning to life each day, they no longer think of these casualties as people, it is just a score. Also they don't want to think of them as people, they want casualties, they want someone to get it, because they have been brutalized and this is a fully legitimate way of indulging the brutality that has been engendered at them. It is not only for country, it is even for God...

So the next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work and your witness. You are using it so to speak to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God's love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it." (Feb 21, 1966)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

young, growing God...

In honour of the impending birth of our second bub, I offer this great little reflection from a blogger I came across recently:
In Orthodoxy...Chesterton writes:

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

In a sense then, when Jesus tells his disciples that they must become like little children to receive the 'Kingdom of Heaven' (such as in Mark), he may not only be talking about dependence and trust, but about more deeply reflecting his image, becoming both more human and more like him.