Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Man Is An Angel

Returned home from Greenbelt to find a CD in my postbox. A collection of songs and poems written by Eolath Magee and kindly sent to me by a friend of his. Thank you so much Heather. It is wonderful.

Being with the baby this year at Greenbelt meant being more selective. So I sought out only those talks that I thought might offer something very important. Because I didn’t have time for anything else.

Ana’s highlights were undoubtedly the (fabulous! Blair and your offsted buddies take note!) creche, the drummers situated near the mainstage and Nizlopi who she absolutely loved. We’d never left her with strangers before and maybe it was high time because she cried to not-be-left at the creche when we had cause to be there just to register or whatever.

So I guess that was also a highlight for me. To see her so happy with other adults and kids and not dependent on me or Ian for that. Even for a couple of hours. To see her rocking out to Nizlopi and joining in with the drummers. She’s a complete person and this is a joy and a relief to behold.

The other thing I will take with me this year was John Bell’s admonition to non-judgementalism during one of (I can’t even recall which) his talks. I had heard some of his stuff about the defeminisation of the church before in other people’s talks but it made me feel glad to hear him saying it in that plain and direct way of his to such a crowd. These things cannot be said enough.
And kudos also to Ikon’s feminist testimony as part of their service. The spectacle of a woman taking the microphone and saying nothing for several seconds was a provocative statement, the worth of which was proven (in my opinion) by the fact that some of the audience thought it was a joke.

So on that theme of non-judgement here’s one of Eolath’s pieces. The website address is

In the Presence of Death

It is tempting, in the presence of death,
To imagine we can know a person;
To summarise their life
Or to make assessments from the
Supposed advantage of surviving them.

But we have no perspective worthy of
The epic of a human life.
Did this man succeed or fail?
By what measure? Love, or fail to love?
Make a so-called contribution?
Go down in history or die forgotten?

Our judgements have no value.
Better that we attempt the impossible task
Of putting ourselves in this man’s shoes
For one minute.

What was his beginning, his legacy in life?
Some seeds begin in stony ground.
Some in rich pasture.
Some young shoots are nourished and tended.
Others survive alone by strength of simple obstinacy.

What were this man’s goals for himself?
Did he meet them or despair of them?
Picture in him, as adult or as child,
One moment of innocent delight;
One smile from a fully open heart,
And know that this is the nearest glimpse we can have
Of this one human struggle to be all that is possible.

Put aside any negative.
Put aside those parts of the curriculum of life
Where we suppose he could have done better.
Before AND after death,
No matter if sometimes hidden in life
We are each whole;
We are each beautiful;
We are each a miracle;
We are each a teacher;
We are each an indispensable part
Of this constantly renewed universe.

From that immortal part of ourselves,
Which is true compassion,
Let us ask for the wisdom to come to know OURSELVES
Through his example, and let us bless this man for his life.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Greenbelt '06

Ok so Ana's past the 4am stage now, and to be honest she sleeps just great in a tent. But there is something about camping with a baby that brings back the first-few-months craziness (you know; everything being so hectic that nothing un-baby-related can happen until well after lunchtime; forgetting to feed her; wondering where that last nappy ended up....).

I hadn't heard of Antonia Rolls before Greenbelt this year. Check out the title link for more.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It makes me happy

Got a text message this morning from a happy student who believes my King Lear revision classes got him the one mark by which he received his grade B in english which will be sending him to university in a few weeks time. It makes everything worth everything when people get happy like that. It is more than the sum of a thousand essays marked in purple (because it motivates; me, not them) and a thousand hours of slogging through some set text no-one wants to read. When their efforts pay off and the balance just tips in their favour that little bit that changes everything. And I get to be happy because it is not me that saved it. It is not even King Lear (although if a text is gonna save someone, it's a good place to begin the search). It is the persistence and the hankering-after and the bothering to show up and the trying again because you didn't bother the first time. Good, good and good for him.

Oh, and I got to see Duke Special (check the title link) last night. And it was lovely. Despite being a very seated place with nervous-looking stewards who might have killed me or had a heart attack if I'd got out of my seat like I wanted to. My home town. It is very conservative and nervous. Always protestant and nervous. I can understand that I guess. Here's hoping that one day the harp of David will lift its spirits so significantly that we can all move around a little more freely. We're not asking for naked dancing (yet). Just a little room to breathe and move. A few more gigs like that and who knows. The quiet revolution might yet be upon us.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Superman Returns

And so do I, to the cinema that is. My first outing to the magical world of movies since Ana was born 19 months ago. But I did have to see this one, having been an enormous fan (take that as you will; both 'enormous' and 'possessing a fanhood of great proportion') of the original movies and slightly nervous (having purchased said originals on DVD when Ana was born for indoctrinative purposes) about the return.

Well, it was really ok. And that's a compliment. I liked Spacey as Lex Luther very much (which is good because I hate him in most roles apart from the American Beauty one). And Superman no longer looks like my dad, but this is no bad thing as truly, my dad no longer looks like my dad (if you asked me to describe him I can see him in my head with black black hair. In reality there ain't that much hair to be going on with, and it ain't so black). And the story was OK apart from a little needless weirdness surrounding Lois' (fairly redundant) husband.

Before I went to see it I watched the first Superman movie with Ana. It was so great. It has been much longer than I realised since I saw it last. I was surprised to find Marlon Brando as Jor-L. That's how long it's been! And another thing I noticed was the likeness of the scene where Clark contemplates leaving home as he stands in the field with his mother to the painting by Millet known as 'The Angelus'. The scene is worth checking out again for this reason if you missed the reference. I could be making it up of course, but even so (who cares?) it is fitting and sort of quietly beautiful in a way that the new film never quite approaches.

Just got to get my kid to like the old ones now....