There are books that you discover by chance, books that are recommended by trusted friends, books that fall like gifts into ones hands and function way beyond the sum total of their chemical make-up--they alter the way you look at things, how you might think about issues and they offer you ways through the mazes. Kester Brewin's works have always been that for me. I am privileged to count him as a friend, but even if he weren't, I would not hesitate to give thanks to the book gods for bringing him to my attention. The Complex Christ and Other, are a couple of my favourite theological works of the past decade. I consider Kester to be a unique voice in the theological realm--he's a provocateur, but more, he delivers much more than provocation--he's got the goods.
He has a new book coming soon, its going to be self-published (for a whole host of reasons that make complete sense), and it is on a favourite topic of both his and mine--Pirates. Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates, And How They Can Save Us, will be available soon, as an e-book and eventually for free--see his site for further details. In fact, Kester's site should be viewed with regularity by anyone with a theological itch, so get over there and join the mutiny.
(and no, I didn't do this because I was asked to, but because I believe in the man behind the book)
I'm a big, big fan of Joseph Arthur, in my mind he is one of the more underrated and overlooked musicians of the past decade or so. I know he has a pretty solid cult following, but his song-writing is so rich and beautiful, he sould be more acknowledged I think--but that's life, luck plays a huge role. Anyway, for some reason I didn't post this at the beginning of the year, but on his tumblr site, bag is hot, he posted a series of resolutions at the beginning of the year. I think I posted something else at the time asnd meant to add these but forgot. But as we move toward the middle of another year, I thought I'd stick these up--what do they mean? I don't know, but there is a beauty to them, that invites something more than functional response. I also have an interest in lists of all kinds, which was only deepened after reading Umberto Eco's Infinity of lists, which is amazing.
1 become more free 2 work with abandon and without the hoax of identity 3 exercise as if its still possible to be a super hero 4 learn to eat like a monk who devotes everything to God 5 learn to play as if the devil wears your boots 6 sing like you found the bottom of your soul and still keep digging 7 make the internet difficult to get too 8 read more than three books 9 try and join the human race 10 try to wake up by noon 11 try and sleep before five am 12 record as if its your love letter to oblivion (it is!) 13 love 14 more love 15 even more love 16 until there is only love 17 and then love 18 do laundry more than once a month 19 travel sometime for no reason or purpose 20 eclipse fear 21 learn how to fit the moon in your pocket 22 learn how to swallow the sun 23 allow dreams to come and be true 24 stay sober 25 be more in the moment than the moment before 26 take risks 27 accept and forgive 28 believe and have faith 29 redeem and prosper 30 ride your bike 31 paint life into a corner until it can only jump down your throat 32 then dance like nobody else 33 and carve from invisible stone your true love 34 and ride (with them) the stars of mercy into mercy 35 and give everything to everyone 36 be generous 37 occupy 38 inspire by being inspired 39 retire without hesitation the things that are no good 40 accept yourself with love
Today's noonday prayer celebrated Joan of Arc. The hagiography around these saint's days is amazing, I sometimes cannot believe what we are listening to, it is obviously nothing but legend and story conjuring up these larger than life figures, who, in these day and age, seem so ridiculous to be honest. Joan's story is very interesting, and of course, certain aspects are historically true, it's the other stuff, the 'god' stuff that gets a bit out there. The story says that around the age of 12-14 she experienced a series of visions, in which, St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin of France to Reims for coronation. Amazingly she winds up leading the French army, but things eventually unravel and she wound up being burned at the stake for heresy at the age of 19! Of course, politics were involved, and being female did nothing help her cause. Her appropriation of male dress was a cause of much debate apparently.
Anyway, I have no problem with the recorded and historical realities, what I find most interesting is this whole medieval relationship with dreams, visions and other apparitions. I realize that it is not just medieval, but that period of time seemed to produce an awful lot of stuff that shaped the church for centuries.
I am quite prepared to say that there is much in life I don't understand about consciousness etc. and I have no doubt that certain phenomenon, which deny rational explanations are more than likely, and should be taken seriously, but they are also contextual in nature, which makes me a little suspicious about their 'divine' origins. There was a cultic following of St. Margaret around the time, so on some levels it has tobe acknowledged that this was 'in the air.' I'm not critiquing it so much as trying to understand it. The mind is a complex organ and what goes on in there is fascinating and compelling and as much as we seem to know, we know so little it seems.
I guess what I want is an expanded understanding and imagination for all this stuff. I am trying not to be dismissive, but a few years of therapy are enough to convince me that lots of this stuff seemed linked to psychological issues and imbalances, as well as...?
Finally, a film that I don't have to make exceptions for. Moonrise Kingdom has been called a return to form for Wes Anderson, I am not entirely sure he actually needed a return to form, but if he did, this film certainly qualifies. I adore Anderson's attention to detail, the quirky little tableaux he creates, the colour co-ordination, the extensive commitment to detail, his visual cues and his story-telling. This tale revolves around two 12 year-olds who run away from their respective worlds, into each others lives--it's beautifully told, wonderfully cast and is just a gem. I'll leave others to dissect it, I just enjoyed it from beginning to end and wanted to sit back down and watch it again.
"It would be a faith that wanders in the darkness, in a "new night of understanding" - to use the language of the mystics - before a God who has not the attributes of "Providence." This God does not protect me but delivers me up to the dangers of a life worthy of being called human. Is not this God the Crucified, the dying God, the God whose weakness alone may help me? The new night of understanding is a night for desire as much as for our fear, a night for our longing for a protective father. Beyond this night, and only beyond it, will be recovered the true meaning of the God of consolation, the God of the Resurrection, the Pantocrator of Byzantine and Romanesque imagery." Paul Ricoeur.
So today is Pentecost, and in my church they go a little nuts. It's all about red---new liturgical colours--but it is also about streamers and festival processions and special hymns and anthems and a whole lot of hoopla. Now before I become my usual Mr. Cranky-pants in all of this--it's not that stuff that really bugs me--it's the general focus of Pentecostal thinking that bugs me most. It tends to wards the celebratory obviously--after all it's about the birth of the church-the gift of the Holy Spirit etc and all that good stuff. But somehow I feel that there isn't enough darkness in Pentecost--I think it is best understood in the dark--this is how I read Peter's use of the prophet Joel in Acts 2. We tend to focus a lot on the dreams and visions section, and people from everywhere being gifted with spirit--but he closes out his little speech, given in defence of the ecstasy, by invoking words about the sun going dark and the moon becoming blood--the spirit comes when there is little light left? Is that too much of a reach? I don't think so. That's why I like this quote from Ricoeur, this idea of a 'new night of understanding'---night being the operative word I think.
I also think there is something to be explored in terms of just what exactly this transition to the Spirit means in terms of the God of Providence--the God perhaps of metaphysics and theism--Zizek speaks of the Holy Spirit as the egalitarian community bound together in love--the idea essentially that 'god' is only found in the actions of the community--there is no God unless the community acts?
There is another Zizekian moment in Pentecost for me this year. At Zucotti Park in the early days of the Occupy movement, Zizek addressed the assembled with these words,
"the success of a revolution should not be measured by the sublime awe of its ecstatic moments but by the changes the Big Event leaves at the level of the everyday, the day after the Insurrection."
He was speaking of the Occupy protest of course, but I think there is resonance with my internal resistance to over-celebrating Pentecost, that the day, the celebration can become the issue and it's what happens after that counts. So much effort goes into the 'special service' but sometimes I worry that is the sum total of what we get-but its the day/s after that count. In the days after Pentecost, the ecstatic moment turned into an egalitarian collective (we've heard that before), now I am not saying that 'we' should do literally the same--but the proof of Pentecost is in the pudding--in the aftermath, in that dangerous world we are delivered up to, where we have the opportunity to live 'lives worthy of being called human.'