Thursday, January 31, 2008


For those who understand this whole thing, I recently discovered that I'm a type 4 with a strong 5 wing. Ah yes, it all makes sense now.

Not that it can explain me at all of course, because I'm special and unique and can't be understood by anyone...;)

defining irony

I've been doing a lot of clearing lately, making space for a veggie patch. First I needed to cut back the massive hedge which had grown over the top, blocking all sunlight. Then I had to clear the garden.

What resulted was a great piece of land to do some growing in. After having worked hard for weeks creating this space, I was finally able to add the piece de resistance - my pumpkin plant, which had been struggling in a pot.

The day after was 35 degrees in the height of summer.

Needless to say the plant was burnt beyond recognition, prompting me now to set up a temporary shade over it. So having removed all the shade from that area in order for it to grow, I've now had to create shade in order for it to not die completely.

My veggie patch (or, how I learned about the birds and the bees)

As I mentioned here, I was having some problems with my zucchinis.

Since then I transplanted them from the kiddie pool they were in to a garden bed that I've attempted to revitalise. Alas, the zucchinis were growing no larger there - until I discovered what everyone else probably already knows about zucchinis; that there are two types of flowers, males and females, and the female flowers have to be pollinated by the male flowers. The ones I'd picked before hadn't been pollinated, so never grew beyond that size. So obviously, with no bees in my garden, I was going to have to do it myself. So I've been out there at 7am some mornings handpollinating them just to make sure it happens.

Hence, we are finally growing some decent sized zucchinis, now that I know what I'm doing.

Passionfruits have a rather amusing history in my family, but here's the one I planted in just December, and has grown from half a foot to this in late January. It's already flowering, so I may even squeeze out a fruit or two before autumn hits.

We were given this strawberry plant for Christmas. It was tiny then, just a little seedling, so we may just get some strawberries out of it this season.

We needed a climber for the side of the garage that doesn't need too much sunlight. These pepinos are doing nicely there.

Then there's the capsicums. For a while they were too crowded in, so didn't do much, but recently they've gone mad and we're doing quite well out of it.

And the beans are now taking over. They look fantastic up against the bare fence. Particularly since I cleared the fence to actually give them some room to grow.

And finally, my lettuces are doing great - using our old used coffee grounds we've had no problems with snails or slugs.

The saddest thing was that almost the entire worm farm died on a particularly hot day (drowned in their own urine - what a way to go) and the same happened when I transplanted my pumpkin from a pot to the garden (it just got obliterated by the sun). I've since got more worms, so the farm is back up and running, though my pumpkin still needs a lot of healing before it'll even look like fruiting. Of course by then it'll probably be too late.

Still, I'm pretty happy overall. More to come on my gardening adventures.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Whatever doesn't kill you...

...only makes you stronger. In which case, I must be mighty strong after finishing this sucker, 'cos it was a close-run thing.

I just had a thought...

Does Microsoft really recycle the stuff you put into the so-called 'recycle bin', or is the name just greenwash?

All those pixels...what a waste.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Musings on Brueggemann's 19 theses

I sent them to a friend, and replied by saying, amongst other things, that he found them "deliberately and negatively provocative". So what follows is my reply to him.

First, I'm completely fascinated that you found them "deliberately and negatively provocative". It just sounded like reality to me! And hopeful reality at that. There IS a counter-narrative! What could be more hopeful?

Perhaps it's some of the experiences I've had in the last year or two, but it certainly reflected much of my (very hopeful, deeply meaningful!) reality. Like you, I'm particularly interested in the script/counterscript idea. Much of my theological upbringing lacked such an idea. In fact, mostly it went along with the dominant script, diverging only at the point of after death. That is, we are saved now so we can go to heaven when we die; in the meantime we wait around a bit, maybe doing some good deeds here and there but because we can't be perfect we might as well not strive to be, and if we do we're in danger of thinking we're saved by works! So you might as well just wait around to die, and spend your time trying to get as many individual souls 'saved' as possible. There is no challenge to the dominant script there; no politicisation or even socialisation.

So what I like about the theses is firstly the focus on narrative, or scripting, itself. What we are invited into is not abstract, disembodied concepts but a living story, here and now. We are, in fact, invited to live Jesus' story - as Daniel Berrigan puts it, "To make your life fit into Jesus' life."

Secondly, we're invited to a particular counter-narrative - one that has been building since the creation of the world, and features such luminaries as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, and was ultimately revealed and embodied in Jesus. Describing the dominant script as "technological , therapeutic consumer militarism" gives some shape to our counter-narrative, but also helps us to see what we are socialised into. So, for example, we're socialised into might makes right - redemptive violence (including the use of coercive power over). We're socialised into technology = good. We're socialised into consuming = good.

And so my experience of trying to live the counter-script is precisely as Brueggemann describes - that I frequently find myself profoundly ambiguous about it. I see Jesus clearly saying "this way to true, abundant life" ("blessed are the poor, the meek, the peacemakers", etc) and yet I am so socialised into the dominant script it makes it incredibly difficult to believe. It's only by living the alternative script that I recognise its truth, and the lie of the dominant script. It's only by consuming (profoundly) less, and living the counter-script of abundance that I understand its truth. It's only by trusting in the God of peace in the face of militarism that I understand that peace does not come through war. It's only by singing in a police holding cell that I understand that power has nothing to do with governments, police, or the 'legal system'.

Four of my Christian friends are going to prison soon for their nonviolent citizen's inspection of the Pine Gap military facility. The dominant script says they should be afraid, that this will deter them from acting in such a way again. Yet they live by a different script. They are not afraid: they are rejoicing to be worthy of suffering for acting in the name of Christ. And by doing so they demonstrate that it's possible not to go along with the dominant script. I may well follow them to prison later this year. And my prayer is that I will be able, by the grace of God, to do the same.

But many of my colleagues, no less faithful servants of God, will disagree with such a characterisation of the counterscript (if they agree that there even IS a counterscript). Of which, once again, Brueggemann is aware. The script, he says, is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. To me this is an acknowledgment that it is not always clear; that we do see "through a glass darkly" and can only be faithful to what we know; and that this is based in the mystery that is God. Then, like Vincent Donovan, we can say, "Never accept and be content with unanalyzed assumptions, assumptions about the work, about the people, about the church or Christianity... The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; the day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all."

So the 19 theses (or my posting of them) probably tells you a lot more about me and where I'm at than it tells you about Walter Brueggemann. That's ok. I don't agree with everything he says either. But that's the magic of the counterscript. So long as we "quarrel among ourselves" about the main focus of the script (without detracting from it), hopefully we're just provoking each other on to love and good deeds.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Walter Brueggemann's 19 theses

These have been out for a while now, but I've just come across them and I think it's brilliant. Brueggemann originally talked about them in 2004 at an Emergent gathering. You can find the original here, with the mp3s of his talk. Incidentally, this is a transcription from the tapes, so words like "illusive" could possibly be "elusive".

1. Everybody lives by a script. The script may be implicit or explicit. It may be recognized or unrecognized, but everybody has a script.

2. We get scripted. All of us get scripted through the process of nurture and formation and socialization, and it happens to us without our knowing it.

3. The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.

4. That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

5. That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy. We may be the unhappiest society in the world.

6. Health for our society depends upon disengagement from and relinquishment of that script of military consumerism. This is a disengagement and relinquishment that we mostly resist and about which we are profoundly ambiguous.

7. It is the task of ministry to de-script that script among us. That is, too enable persons to relinquish a world that no longer exists and indeed never did exist.

8. The task of descripting, relinquishment and disengagement is accomplished by a steady, patient, intentional articulation of an alternative script that we say can make us happy and make us safe.

9. The alternative script is rooted in the Bible and is enacted through the tradition of the Church. It is an offer of a counter-narrative, counter to the script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.

10. That alternative script has as its most distinctive feature, its key character – the God of the Bible whom we name as Father, Son, and Spirit.

11. That script is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. It is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent. Partly it is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because it has been crafted over time by many committees. But it is also ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because the key character is elusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness, and, I’m embarrassed to say, in violence – [a] huge problem for us.

12. The ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless. [I think the writer of Psalm 119 would probably like too try, to make it seamless]. Because when we do that the script gets flattened and domesticated. [This is my polemic against systematic theology]. The script gets flattened and domesticated and it becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism. Whereas the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism is all about certitude, privilege, and entitlement this counter-script is not about certitude, privilege, and entitlement. Thus care must betaken to let this script be what it is, which entails letting God be God’s irascible self.

13. The ragged, disjunctive character of the counter-script to which we testify invites its adherents to quarrel among themselves – liberals and conservatives – in ways that detract from the main claims of the script and so too debilitate the focus of the script.

14. The entry point into the counter-script is baptism. Whereby we say in the old liturgies, “do you renounce the dominant script?”

15. The nurture, formation, and socialization into the counter-script with this elusive, irascible character is the work of ministry. We do that work of nurture, formation, and socialization by the practices of preaching, liturgy, education, social action, spirituality, and neighboring of all kinds.

16. Most of us are ambiguous about the script; those with whom we minister and I dare say, those of us who minister. Most of us are not at the deepest places wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script. Most of us in the deep places are vacillating and mumbling in ambivalence.

17. This ambivalence between scripts is precisely the primary venue for the Spirit. So that ministry is to name and enhance the ambivalence that liberals and conservatives have in common that puts people in crisis and consequently that invokes resistance and hostility.

18. Ministry is to manage that ambivalence that is crucially present among liberals and conservatives in generative faithful ways in order to permit relinquishment of [the] old script and embrace of the new script.

19. The work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one [see if that’s an overstatement]; there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence and too manage a way through it. I think often; I see the mundane day-to-day stuff ministers have to do and I think, my God, what would happen if you talk all the ministers out. The role of ministry then is as urgent as it is wondrous and difficult.

Christmas 2007

This year my family decided to make Christmas presents instead of buying them. I think maybe it's one of the best ideas we've ever had. It meant that everyone had to think harder, both about what you're going to give and about the person you're giving it to. It meant you also had to put a lot of time and effort in instead of money, and a lot of yourself at the same time.

We did it Kris Kringle style, so each person had one person to make something for. I got my brother, and made him a wine rack. Admittedly I had some technical help from Chelsea (and the dog toy she plays with in the bath), but mostly did it myself.

And Jane got me. She made me this amazing painting, which is now hanging up in pride of place in our kitchen.

Persevering with faith

Just sent this to a friend - an excerpt from a letter Thomas Merton wrote to Dorothy Day. I think it covers well why sometimes our wanting to control our experience of God, or have God meet our expectations, it doesn't work...why the more we struggle to control faith the less we actually get of it. Only Merton puts it much better than that.
Perseverance – yes, more and more one sees that it is the great thing. But there is a thing which must not be overlooked. Perseverance is not hanging on to some course which we have set our minds to, and refusing to let go. It is not even a matter of getting a bulldog grip on the faith and not letting the devil pry us loose from it – though many of the saints made it look that way. Really, there is something lacking in such a hope as that. Hope is a greater scandal than we think. I am coming to think that God (may He be praised in His great mystery) loves and helps best those who are so beat and have so much nothing when they come to die that it is almost as if they had persevered in nothing but had gradually lost everything, piece by piece, until there was nothing left but God. Hence, perseverance is not hanging on, but letting go. That of course is terrible. But as you say so rightly, it is a question of His hanging on to us, by the hair of the head, that is from on top and beyond, where we cannot see or reach. What man can see the top of his own head? If we reach it – this we can do – we stand a good chance of interfering with God’s grip (may He forgive us).
(On a lighter note, why is it that none of my emails to people contain such profound zingers as Merton's letters? 'Hope is a greater scandal than we think'? 'Perseverance is not hanging on, but letting go'? Yeesh. Maybe if I become a hermit my correspondence will improve.)