Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Last night I went to hear Eliyahu McLean and Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bukhari speak about their work with Jerusalem Peacemakers, an organisation whose name should speak for itself if ‘peacemaking’ didn’t sometimes mean ‘killing’ in the strange times we live in. But no, these ones were on the side of peace and you could tell that as much from the way they spoke to one another as from anything they said.
Towards the end of evening someone in the audience asked a question I had heard earlier this year at Greenbelt (that time directed at Jim Wallis); how do we keep hopeful? How can we avoid discouragement? I knew what those questioners meant. Somewhere in that question is another; is this pointless? It seems like this is pointless… When governments don’t listen to their people and good people get bulldozed without thought…. Could there be hope?
Eliyahu’s response was the same as that Jim Wallis gave. Something I had never considered before this year. He said that we have to stop being results-driven in our hope; that he considered himself one who paves the way for peace to come rather than one who brings peace himself. That he sows seeds in faith; faith that the future for generations to come will see the fruit of this labour. When I heard Jim Wallis say the same thing I have to say my heart fell a little. I wanted him to tell me the secret of hope, of how to keep believing, of how to have faith. Instead he told me that faith is all there is. That, as David Gray sang, ‘for all of the talk it’s only true to say that if you have no hope, there is none’.
This time, hearing these men speak with such conviction something clicked. If they, living in their mess can hope and live and act on that hope… maybe….
Driving home from Belfast the other night the Christmas lights on City Hall were flashing, not off and on, but light and dim, and my ipod played this refrain, defiant, over and over;
There is a light and it never goes out
There is a light and it never goes out
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
I have to say this is a bit exciting. I feel like I'm on Deal or No Deal, about to choose the final box... It is random, right? There's no technique, right? Should I pray? Or would that be unfair? But maybe Ian's praying! So I should pray to give us an equal advantage! Or maybe it wouldn't matter since he is undoubtedly the better human and 'the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective'? But maybe 'our righteousness is as filthy rags' so it wouldn't matter if both of us prayed?! I am so grateful for my evangelical roots! Worry wouldn't be half as much fun otherwise! Pity those existentials!
Now. Heads? or Tails?
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I like Remembrance Day. The idea that the past is always present in whatever form we choose to keep it; and what a privilege to have that choice. There was this very beautiful prayer during the service. And for the first time in a very long time I felt somehow reconnected to this vast body of belief and faith. It made me remember.
(see title link for more work by Daniel O'Byrne)
O Christ, in whose body was named all the violence of the world, and in whose memory is contained our profoundest grief, we lay open to you: the violence done to us in time before memory; the unremembered wounds that have misshaped our lives; the injuries we cannot forget and have not forgiven. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.
We lay open to you: the violence done in our name in time before memory; the unremembered wounds we have inflicted; the injuries we cannot forget and for which we have not been forgiven. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.
We lay open to you: those who have pursued a violent knowledge the world cannot forget; those caught up in violence they have refused to name; those who have enacted violence which they have not repented. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.
We lay open to you: the victims of violence whose only memorial is our anger; those whose suffering was sustained on our behalf; those whose continued oppression provides the ground we stand on. The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them is intolerable.
Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to God: Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Monday, November 06, 2006
The Gaping Wound
It is somehow the case that when my body opened itself to give life to the world my soul also opened and would not shut again. As my body healed and the stitches dissolved to reveal new binding tissue, still there was a gaping wound through which began to pour a lifetime of thought, memory and learning. And it would not begin to shut. Long after the period which books and midwives tell you it is not unusual not to recognise yourself, I was still gazing in wonder at the revelation of who I had been and who I was about to become.
God came as a force pinning me to the bed. Like the cloud of Moses enclosing me in its darkness. The only comfort of which was the absolute experience of it. This was fear but of a new sort. The fear was of all things changing. But the comfort was all things being. No cause for working up a faith or answering some internal questions. This thing just was.
The gods I knew had left me but they left in kindness. There was no sneering or cynicism. ‘you knew us,’ they seemed to say, ‘And we were real, but now we do not exist’. They embraced me with such affection and then were gone for good. And with them the fear of them. And with them their judgement. Now all things good were truly good. All things open. All things mysterious and nothing named. I looked at Ana in her cot and lamented that I would never own her again. That her very perfection lay in that fact. That she was free and could not be owned. And I missed her. And the new god told me that neither could I be owned for nothing is owned. God is not owned. This distant creator lay on top of me for days. Every time I tried to come to him I could not but he came to me and enveloped me in that cloud where everything dispersed and came apart and was set free all at once.
An old man, the father of my friend, was having mass said for me regularly and as the days poured into one long day I felt a new belonging, even as I became more alien than ever before. It was a sort of communion of the saints and for a while I could not tell if I was a saint alive or a saint dead. Somewhere in between I believe for in that state of everything-changing the world still breathed human people in and out but I was caught in its breath, drawn to death, drawn back to life. Trapped in that constant wind was nothing like before. But the realisation was that what before had felt like a grounding in reality was only a false floor. It was necessary in its time but now the floor had gone and the world became so much larger and so much smaller. The contradictions would seem to come from everywhere and somehow everything would make much more sense that way. That god could be a physical force and a dark cloud. But god could also be the breathing in and out of the world. And I could be hunted down and held down and at the same time free and swimming in the air.
If this sounds far fetched I had only to hear other accounts of giving birth. The suffering of being in physical anguish and being torn and at the same time the joy of the activity of birthing which you cannot control and yet, since it is your body and you are for a short time becoming your body you are the only one in control. No wonder we cry out. No wonder they tell us to expect to feel unusual for a while afterwards. We have discovered how powerful we are when we are not trying to reason everything. We have discovered that to stop and question the process while it is occurring, if it were possible, would render it useless. We have discovered that giving out life is something that requires giving up life as we know it, if your life has been one where you need to think and reason and control. And the power therein is enormous. People will later ask ‘who delivered your baby?’ and the only answer is, I delivered my baby. Who else could have? Should she have been taken from my body with metal implements or lifted out by the hands of a surgeon, still my womb gave her up. And what choice did I have? None! But it is not a matter of choice, or of mind. It is only a matter of body. This is not to demean the process but rather to exalt what we did not previously know; that the human body possesses something more powerful than the mind. The ability to create life. Those who do not have children also give life to themselves as they unconsciously breathe and move.
And perhaps this is what is meant by ‘he created man in his own image’. That life can come and go and we cannot control it and yet we, our bodies, are the beings that live and die and we should acknowledge that power that our bodies have if we are to begin to acknowledge where the body, soul, spirit and mind began.