Lost and Getting Lost

I was three quarters of the way through the book Out of the Ice, when I lost it.

It happened at the Melbourne Airport. I carried it into the airport, took it through the scanners, read it while I sipped on coffee, left it in the bathroom, retrieved it again, and stuffed it in my handbag (against both of their wills) when my pick-up arrived.

That’s the last I saw of it; when I got home, it was no longer in my bag, or my car.

I was enjoying that book, it’s described as ‘a tense, eerie thriller set in the icy reaches of Antarctica‘ and it was living up to its billing. Did Laura really see a boy trapped behind a wall of ice in a cave? Can she really trust that young man (whose name I already forget, but who appears so friendly)?

I googled the local library. They didn’t have it on their shelves, but one of their sister libraries did; I placed a hold. It took over a week to arrive, but finally I got the email to say I could pick it up.

I checked it out on Thursday last week and took it with me to a medical appointment at Melbourne Private Hospital. In the tram on the way in, I found the chapter where I had left off and read the next. The mystery deepened.

I arrived in time to go the bathroom, locate where I was going, announce myself and debate with the receptionist about whether I needed a new referral.

That’s when it hit me: The book! The bathroom!

This time, there was no retrieval.

I’ve cut my losses, marked that book as ‘read’ on Goodreads and laughed over the story with my friends.

‘I can’t believe I’ve lost it twice,’ I say, ‘I guess I’m just not meant to know how it ends.’ (Don’t tell me!)

‘If I had a copy, I wouldn’t lend it to you,’ someone replies.

More laughter.

But deeper down, I know it’s symptomatic.

And I hear the call – again – to be more aware, to practice mindfulness, to pay attention, to slow down.

 

 

Assent

Absence
Being away
Missing in action
Saying, No! too often
Retreating

Presence
Primal, Yes!
Affirming the desire
Assenting to be here
Reemerging

I’ve written the above reflection after a long absence from this space and in response to something I read in Richard Rohr’s book, The Naked Now.

 
This pattern of retreating and reemerging is well established in all areas of my life and perhaps it will be with me all of my life. But, as Rohr says,

you cannot start seeing or understanding anything if you start with “No.” You have to start with a “Yes” of basic acceptance.’

So, here is my ‘yes’ to continuing to reflect, to muse, to ponder and to write in this space.

Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight

Three days ago, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the so-called doomsday clock from three to two and a half minutes to midnight, noting that ‘world leaders have failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change’.

They also cited Donald Trump’s disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as the emergence of strident nationalism worldwide.

The Board has issued a statement stressing how high the risk of global disaster is, but, for me, it’s not the risk but their concluding statement that is the most telling:

Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink.

If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.

Wisdom, it seems, is currently in short supply.  Yesterday, the scriptures listed in the Revised Common Lectionary included Micah 6:1-8 and 1 Corinithians 1:18-31. Both questioned their original readers and these questions continue to resound today:

From the apostle, Paul: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

From the prophet Micah: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here are some questions of my own:

How might the oft-deemed foolish message of the gospel speak to the ‘high risk of global disaster’?

How has this gospel message been reduced to the question of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, especially in the Christian discourse coming out of the USA?

If wisdom is not forthcoming from our public officials, what will the leadership of wise citizens look like?

Surely, it will begin with justice, kindness and humility.

A Call to Liminal Space

 

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Ours is a dog-neighbourhood. We have two, our neighbour has one, as do the people behind him and the ones beside them.

So, I was surprised to see a black cat on our back fence last week. I was sipping coffee and reading a book when its movement caught my attention.

The image of it stalking the length of our fence before dropping into the yard behind us has stayed with me. I can’t help but admire its audacity.

Advent invites us to live in liminal space, in between a future promise and the current reality. Richard Rohr asserts that ‘we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality (because) all transformation takes place here.’

The black cat on our fence was inhabiting liminal space. She knew the dangers, but did not let fear divert her. As she walked, she was paying attention, using her finely attuned senses to guide her. And she kept on-track, navigating her way along our fence towards whatever hope or promise lured her through dog-land.

It isn’t easy to live in liminal space and there is much to divert our intention to do so, especially in these weeks before Christmas, but Advent calls us to ‘allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown’ (Richard Rohr).

This is the space into which God comes.

Living the Questions

live-the-questions

The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet, counselled:

‘Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves … Don’t search for the answers, which cannot be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.’

This piece of advice contains Advent themes: patience, waiting on answers by living the questions and hope for future resolution.

I don’t generally listen to talk-back radio, but yesterday, in only five minutes of a discussion about men and women sharing household labour, I heard a man live into his answer.

He rang in to say that he couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t always react well to his attempts to help her around the house. The guest speaker replied that perhaps he could re-frame his approach: rather than offering to help, he could ask his wife what he could do to share the work.

But, he replied, he was more than willing to help, why did she not understand that. The guest speaker tried again. By offering to help, he was implying that the work was hers and perhaps, she was failing in it. They lived together, the household was theirs, by offering to share the work he would be saying he understood that.

He started to speak again, but then paused, and in that moment of silence the listening audience heard the penny drop. His next words told us that he could see the distinction.

It was an Advent moment, for both of us. Clearly, his question troubled him, he had been living it and yesterday, on public radio, he lived into the answer. And the answer surprised him, not something he could do, but a different way to think about it. A way to re-frame the question.

As for me, I witnessed the coming of light into darkness. I heard the birth of understanding and insight, made all the more wondrous because I did hear it rather than see it.

Have patience … love the questions … live everything.

An Advent call.

A Time to De-Clutter

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Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

Advent is a time of preparation and way-clearing. It is a time to de-clutter. This is a tough call when everything around us calls us to come, to buy, to add more.

I suffer from piles: I let things and stuff pile up around me. The desk where I write is frequently covered with books and papers, lists and notes. My sewing cabinet is always open and littered with patterns and fabrics, pins and threads. The coffee table beside my chair in the living room is piled high with books and journals and things to which I need/should/must pay attention.

I know that this external clutter has a flow-on effect internally. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the higher the piles, the more likely I am to miss the exit off the freeway (which I did twice last week).

So, in preparation for Advent, I’ve cleared out my study. As I type this, the window in front of me is clean, I can see the desktop, only my sewing machine sits on the sewing cabinet, and a candle is burning. I still have a busy week ahead, but this external order calms me.

It helps to prepare the way.

Advent Dawns

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Advent: noun, a coming into place, view, or being; arrival
Macquarie Dictionary

Advent
When God comes
comes again:
maybe an Indian this time
or a Bantu (what do I know?)

When God comes
comes again:
maybe a woman this time
or even a woman-and-man
a couple.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe in the many
the new society
where justice dwells.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe the city of God
the land of the goddess of
reconciliation between
people and nature.

When God comes
comes again:
from one end of the earth
to the other.

This Kurt Marti poem in Flowing Streams: an Anthology of Anthologies seems a good place to start as another Advent season dawns.

It invites us to notice God in the unexpected and the unlikely, in the spaces between what we long for and what is.

Advent calls us to wake up, to be present and to clear a pathway for the coming of God.

Twice this week, I drove past the freeway exit that takes me home. Yes, I hear the call to pay attention!

Advent calls us to mindfulness.

When God comes
comes again:
maybe …

Sing and Make a Joyful Noise

 

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O sing to the Lord a new song


Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

From Psalm 98, this one of the Scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday. Inspired by it, I looked to see what I might find on TedTalks under the topic ‘sing’. I’ve got to say the choices are not overwhelming, but these three claim my attention for different reasons:

Bobby McFerrin plays the audience as an instrument is a short clip in which he demonstrates that the Pentatonic Scale is hardwired into our brains. He makes the connection between notes and neurons in what is a fun watch.

Claron McFadden: singing the primal mystery goes further. She claims that music is a primal instinct and connects it to meditation. It makes me want to connect it to prayer. A beautiful and fascinating watch.

But, my favourite is Will Hewitt, Singing yourself alive. this seven minutes contains some profound ideas and quotable quotes including this one:

Time bows to authentic commitment and it stretches to accommodate it

Will Hewitt committed himself to sing for fifteen minutes every day for a year and did it. He discovered, among other things, that the world was already alive with singing and once he entered the practice, singing, making a noise, connected him to himself, the world around him and the world beyond. Watch it with others and allow some time to reflect on his findings.

And then, in the words of the psalmist, Sing and make a joyful noise.

The Field Beyond

 

out-beyond-ideas_rumi_quote

In a week in which conflict has been an underlying theme, I find myself longing for Rumi’s mystical field.

But …

Where is that field?
What does it cost to go there?
Will the Other(s) meet me there?

Imagine what the world would look like if even some of us make the journey …

The 2016 AFL Grand Final Win

How are we to explain the 2016 AFL grand final win? The seventh-placed Western Bulldogs have defeated the minor premiers, Sydney, by 22 points.

bemorebulldog

Shall we put it down to:

Belief
Tenacity
The Coach

or …

The Boys
The Bont
The Bye

All of these, and more, will be under the microscope and certainly, all have played their part, but even the commentators recognise there’s also something more mystical at play in this ‘miraculous, fairy-tale’ win, the ‘dream-come-true’.

Let us then include:

Timeliness
Momentum
Longing
Fidelity

The Western Bulldogs have a strong band of loyal, faithful supporters who have wished and willed and sighed and prayed for this win. This year, and especially during this last month of finals games, those supporters have been joined by countless others: well-wishers, dreamers, sympathetic second-team supporters (like me), and onlookers. Together, we have held our collective breath, crossed our fingers, whispered and shouted our desire and imagined this win.

And all of the above have prevailed; truly a quantum entanglement.

Western Bulldogs fans watching on a big screen outside the Sun Theatre in Yarraville celebrate their team's win over Sydney Swans in the AFL Grand Final. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Western Bulldogs fans watching on a big screen outside the Sun Theatre in Yarraville celebrate their team’s win over Sydney Swans in the AFL Grand Final. Picture: Andrew Henshaw