Sparks Will Fly #11 #invisiblity

Behind closed doors, in cupboards, canyons, in tight corners where our thoughts start to form, are places where we can be invisible. The idea of being invisible and knowing it is not permanent begins early in life with peek-a-boo and hide and seek. The more catastrophic versions in adult life appear in the terrorist events like we have had in such bold and brazen horror of 9/11 and this week in New Zealand.

I have been listening to Akiko Busch’s book “ How to Disappear” this past week which could not have been a more perfect companion to lead me into new understanding and to consider the power of being invisible and its worth and power. To be able to hide in full view without recognition in this age of transparency is the art of deception on one hand and a protective filter on the other. Plenty of trolls make up multiple identities on line to maintain their anonymity. Others seek to go under the radar by not participating on an electoral roll. There are those who are foils for each other (Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway springs to mind) enabling the other to be seen and unseen.

The price of privacy has both public and personal power. It can leave a path of destruction and deception. The ability to blend in and be concealed in plain sight requires the capacity to camouflage and to be so much a part of the familiar that we do not detect anything out of place. In her book, Busch, uses images from nature, art and the public realms to demonstrate how fish and plants and social media use various guises to be invisible. Whole communities participate in mythological creatures that hold the invisible world in memory and discourse. The immortality of thin places just a gossamer thread between heaven and earth is part of my heritage and I recognise the banshees howling in the night when ill winds blow. The invisibility of Mercury in retrograde has been the topic of conversation amongst a number of friends this week as an explanation to troubles personal and at scale. The British PM Theresa May was referenced in her Parliament House as being an emperor with no clothes – an embarrassing slur.

How something moves from being invisible to visible has always fascinated me, and I have often reflected and advised about how to do both. There have been times I have advised about making a political announcement on a day when other things are happening so it will just slip by, or where leaving a blank space and not saying something is a way of making something more visible. In theology the principle of the hermeneutic of suspicion, where you read into the narrative with the knowledge of history and aligned facts what is written into the text and not just an act of reading between the lines (e.g two people walking along a road, that is always walked by a man and a woman on market day is a man and a woman walking along a road to market).

My eyes and ears have been re-opened this week to looking at was is actually visible and invisible. Where are the spaces we make between us to hold what can’t be seen when there is no space for them to be seen. I invited a group last night to stretch out their hands either side of them to create space between them, so they intentionally make space for others. These spaces in between are silently held, but no longer invisible. We hold the space so there is room for others. Those of us with the privilege to make the spaces and to then hold them, seems to be more and more vital, else we might all disappear. Not holding these spaces, not caring for them is already seeing the destruction of place, species and diversity.

Each act of terrorism is an invitation to make more space and to hold what is sacred in those spaces. Hate grows in the dark under cloaks of invisibility, eternal vigilance is not enough, being able to see clearly what is actually there – fear of the other – must be countered by the biggest version of what it means to be us as a planet and a species. The young students who striked all over the world on Friday are crying out to be no longer invisible, children, seeking to be seen and heard. They didn’t choose terrorism. They too are calling for a bigger version of what it means to be included.

No longer silent nor invisible, sparks will fly.

Sparks will fly #10 #cooler

Summer is starting to unfold into autumn and while we are still having warm days, the hint of what is ahead is on the evening breeze. Instead of heating up we are being cooled down. How interesting that the temperature rising in the thermometer is reflected in our language of heating and cooling. Paradoxically, energy levels seem to rise with the cooler weather for me I have felt slow, sluggish and at times almost paralysed by the heat and a heavy heart. Then there are moments of lightness on the breeze, promising a season of more joy and peace. Some of these moments this week: 2,500 women and men gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day, the kindness of a friend to say “I can take that”, the music in the park at Womadelaide, the shelter in a place not my own and the hilarity of exhaustion mixed with a few mils of alcohol to aid brainstorming with peers. There are all encouraging signs of cooling down, a soft wind forecasting a future and change in season.

In the breezes are wafts of hope to replace the aches and weight of what holds sadness in place. The burden of holding onto something that weighs you down is easily lifted if you let something go – it sounds so simple. There is nothing elegant in the putting down though, it is a bluddering, tottering, slipping and sliding movement that eventually finds its way to steadiness and then finally after all the stopping and starting, all the discernment, in a complete movement it is put down.  Not all decisions are invested with this ditheriness, some can be made with swift and certain clarity, deeply secure in the values that hold you in place. But then there are these grey areas, where self-care comes into view and where timing is still not right or perhaps when the burden takes on a weight that is so heavy you can no longer lift it. In that scenario you don’t put the burden down, the burden puts you down and writes you out of the equation.

Brene Brown writes: You can move on, shame. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect. When you know you are loved and belong, you do have the capacity, to invoke David Whyte, to be half a shade braver.  I have a suscipion this bravery walks with truth, and the freedom walking hand-in-hand with truth. I am not sure there is ever a place for truth causing more harm than good. I was listening this week to Prof. Megan Davis talking about a makarrata (a Yolngu word meaing restoration of peace after a dispute) for Australia. First step in this process is coming to an agreement about the dispute and the costs of that dispute and finding a way for peace to arrive between the disputants. This kind of truth takes up responsiblity, accountability, rights, reform; and spears have been known to be involved. Respect is central, reparation inevitable.  In this season where the breeze is blowing in truth and settling into cooler times, something is brewing in our land where we can move on shame.

What truths are ours to tell and what are the ones we have to graciously sit out and listen to has been in the airwaves this week. In the wake of the Pell prosecution, those continuing to be traumatised both from their own experience and vicariously are the ones to speak and to be heard. The eloquence of Clare Linane against the likes of commentors like Andrew Bolt to bring her ongoing truth as a supporter to survivors of abuse. Clare is a relentless mental health advocate for her community of Ballarat which has a suicide rate for men 65% higher than the national average. She speaks on behalf of the families including her own who live everyday on the front line witnessing and aiding those who are surviving trauma of sexual abuse. Victims must always be believed, the shame of coming forward to state your truth, takes courage and we must be strong alongside of them, to bring our love and solidarity, to walk with them, knowing our imperfections signal our own bravery.

There are so many stains, and in the tradition of Lent which finds itself in autumn in the southern hemisphere, we have an invitation to turn back, to repent. At the macro level, there is a national election in the breeze, with the potential to promise a makarrata; we have more discourse to be had around the mental health of those impacted by abuse. And in our individual experience, as each day gets cooler, we have the reckoning and turning around invitations to come closer to the centre of truths we don’t want to face.

I doubt I am alone in being disturbed by the Angel of Justice and am trusting the Angel of Encouragement is flapping her wings around us all.

May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you
In worth and self-respect,
That you may live with the dignity
That presides in your soul. – John O’Donohue excerpt from A Blessing of Angels

Sparks will fly, and while flames grow wider and eat up all that is combustible, what is not consumed, is left charred and still with the scars of having writhed in pain. Once cooled, relisient and death defying remains … remain.

Dignity and hope at least then have a chance then to arrive in the aftermath as the work of healing begins.

 

Sparks will fly #9 #pell

What is a pell? According to Your Dictionary here are some of the meanings?

Noun

(plural pells)

  1. A fur or hide.
  2. A lined cloak or its lining.
  3. A roll of parchment; a record kept on parchment.
  4. (Sussex) A body of water somewhere between a pondand a lake in size.

Verb

(third-person singular simple present pells, present participle pelling, simple past and past participle pelled)

  1. To pelt; to knock

Origin

From Latin pellis (“animal skin, pelt”), from Ancient Greek πέλμα (pélma, “sole of the foot”).

 

For sometime now the word pell holds another meaning in Australia and in the Vatican. It has been synonymous with power, persuasion and influence. It is now taking on deeper and darker overtones, but the solid foundations of privilege continue to drive the narrative between an institution, an office and a man. For those of us who have been up close and personal to those foundations, this week has brought its own pain and grief, more layers to heal and peel away, definitely knocked about and feeling trodden on. I am a long way removed from the horrors of a victim, but as a first responder and listener to historic events, as part of the church family, and as it has been revealed more recently, as someone who didn’t see what was going on in plain sight – this has been a very tough week.

What holds our beliefs in place to only see or hear what we want to see or hear, and not even realise there is other data coming in? This brain teaser question has been held by me for some time now and takes on a bigger frame in this current context. We trust and trust again, each experience building on what we know, making those neuronal pathways stronger and when something doesn’t quite add up, we dismiss it, ignoring our own intuition and placing our faith in the quality of the relationship. Studies show the relationship between trust, well-being and social connectivity are intertwined and feed off each other. The power of the tribe and trust held collectively is a very powerful phenomena and hard to shift.  For those outliers who don’t trust, or call out the anomalies they see around them, often get ostracized, excluded or leave the places and spaces that hold that trust in place – often gravitating to others – finding other ‘misfits’ who in fact maybe just the ones who have been able to see what others, more trusting were unable to see.

Trust is sacred and when it is betrayed literally all those well worn neuronal pathways are shaken up. What was familiar is now questioned, actions that appeared to be in good faith are revisited and a conspiratorial lens is put over them, things that seemed out of place, or just a feeling of not being quite right are tested again in the new knowledge.  The cloak of invisibility is lifted and the threads of the stories don’t quite hang together like they used to. Perhaps the person who has betrayed still holds on to their story, backing themselves above all others and the systems designed to uncover breaches of trust, measures of truth.  It is in those moments the tapestry of trust that has been the bedrock on which relationships and systems have been held in place is literally an experience of having the rug pulled out. People topple, neuronal pathways get scrambled, falls happen, accidents and friendly fire arrive uninvited. Martin Luther reminded us that ” each act of betrayal begins in trust”.

The ripples from the pell of pain reverberating around our country with their origins in country Victorian town of Ballarat, go all the way to Rome. Along the way some of us are captured in the ripples and like the boom of the sound barrier being broken – a shock wave in the very real sense.

The real and vicarious trauma of the continuous media about what is going on is exhausting. How we reach out to one another and care for our selves in this time is vital. It is a time when rebuilding of trust may not even be possible, so the little acts of kindness towards yourself and seeing the greater humanity around us and the beauty in nature will always serve to inoculate and heal. I took myself off to see the Green Book yesterday, that was a good decision. I read some of the transcripts and interviews, of accused and those giving evidence, that was not a good decision. There is something though in coming to terms with truth and how trusting yourself again is connected into that re-wiring process. I am beginning to understand why facing facts is linked to the concept of the truth setting you free.

I am pondering on what might you be free from, if you know the truth? Sparks. Will. Fly.

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Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash

 

 

Sparks will fly #8 #drawing in

In Interplay there is a practice which holds the space for you to rest into the moment after the exercise is complete and “take it for yourself”. It is an owning and holding close into your heart and body what you have experienced, a way to integrate and internalise. This practice affirms, enriches and deepens the experience. Just taking a moment to have for yourself, is like cream on the cake, a bonus luxury to be soaking in your own goodness. I have noticed that when things are tough I will hold on to those feelings a little longer, but I don’t do the same for the good, I let them fleet away quickly. This has to stop, it’s time to do some revelling in the good and grand moments too!

Last night was one such moment, where I could hold and take into myself the external bestowing of goodness and affirmation and harvest the external into an interiority to hold for myself. Something just for me. It seems so obvious but really a difficult practice to gather up and envelope an intimacy with the offerings around me.

You can see people glow when they are love, walk a bit taller when they have been praised, relaxed muscles when feeling at home with themselves and their surroundings.  The body tells the world, even if we can’t always tell ourselves what is going on inside. The inner brilliance will shine through where our brain is bursting with new ideas joyfully dancing their way into conversations.

I was reminded last night, by an opera singer and student of philosophy and human behaviour, of the Great Attractor, that gravitational pull at the centre of our galaxy which is driving our little planet forward at 2.2 million kilometres an hour. This mysterious force is drawing us in. The macro version of this movement we find first in ourselves, the gathering up of all the good energy being pulled inside and forward – what a tour de force. Taking some of this for myself, is fuel, to keep propelling. It occurs to me this is a renewable resource, available for the taking to fill me up when I feel like my tank is empty and is driving me forward anyway, even if I don’t realize. Just like us on our little planet don’t notice the intergalactic travelling we are doing in every single moment. We are being sucked in, not to a black hole according to the scientists, and we won’t come in contact with it any time soon, but we are being effected by it and will continue to be effected by it’s pull. I want to harness this pull and ride on those (radio) waves.

The recent public reward and recognition I have received is like a big hug back from the community and I am taking it in and wondering how this gravitational pull at the micro level is going to keep turning up in my life. I had the chance to test it once this week where a rather obnoxious man bullied his way through a community consultation shutting down conversation and asserting his views to the exclusion of all others. He has a few letters after his name, and my name tag was bereft of my new status. Quietly and without ceremony I corrected my name tag and replaced it, pulling rank, holding the moment to myself, relishing the power play and getting the affirmation of the others at my table. A simple act of nonviolence while I was struggling with my emotions to shut him down verbally (although I may have done a little bit of that too). I am going to learn how to use these post nominals for good, in the same way they were gained, and along the way take a little for myself too as I am pulled forward at speed. Sparks. Will. Fly.

hubble gA

Learn more at NASA

 

Sparks will fly #7 #wicks

 

When sparks fly

glimmering specks rise

ashes form below.

Paradox in alchemy.

Mediated by wicks

twisted threads woven

drive capillary action.

Squeezing out oxygen

Shedding matter

With every loss

Light appears

Wick disappears

Darkness is forecast.

(c) MWere 2019

 

I light candles regularly for love, for loss, for safe passage, for comfort, for remembrance and for fun. The glow brings a gentle warmth and peace.  There is no romance and sometimes it is in defiance to the dark. I have long been supported by the adages “it only takes a spark to keep the fire going” and ”it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.

It is inevitable that when light is shone, shadows appear, and I find myself sometimes preferring the dark so as not to find the consequence of shadows. A shadow is visible but an incomplete reflection, it has an emptiness and is a shapeshifter, turning and changing with the elements. Long shadows are cast when you are furthest from the light. A lot of candles might have to be lit to mimic the sun and bring a shadow to heel. The dark offers freedom from the shadow equally as the light at its height doesn’t cast much of one either.

I am facing a time where light and shadow, wick and spark are dancing around me. There are invitations to light candles, sit in darkness, box a shadow, hold space for light and dark to co-exist. I am drawn to the wick. Threads with space between them to enables energy to travel and transform bringing light as it goes and forecasting the dark in equal measure. The dance won’t work without the wick, it must be lit and extinguished, sometimes trimmed along the way.

The string, dipped in wax, and the strongest ones are soaked in salt and boric acid as well.  Boric acid is a wonderful pesticide especially for cockroaches and ants in our harsh Australian climate. And we all know the healing and preservative power of salt! Protection and preservation are embedded in the fuel.

I am noticing what lights me up and uses energy and in equal measure drains and descends me into darkness. The wick needs to be dipped into the salt and acid to be stronger. Pilgrimages are in the light and the dark, and to carry a candle ready to be lit and to know when to set it down is a series of discernments that come and go throughout the day and the night. The shadows are often long. The invitation seems to be for more light, not less and yet I can feel my resistance. I don’t want to see clearly all the time, to be brought into the light, sunshine that very best disinfectant. I don’t want to see all the truth, I want to turn away and towards the shadows sometimes. The hard part is to see things as they are.

I am going to spend some time being dipped in salt and acid getting ready for the steps ahead. To see clearly requires a lot of light. The wick is combustible, and inevitably sparks will fly.

art blur bright burn

Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Sparks will fly #6 #ideas

Just a spark, a reminder that some time, a long time, ago there was a spark.  A time when the heart beat a little faster and the mouth got a little drier when that person came into view or perhaps even just the hint of them coming into view, there was a spark.  There is an imprint of that moment on my heart, unlikely to be ever put to the muscle memory test.

I notice lovers all around me, falling, fainting and swooning into each others arms, in an age of gender fluidity to further add to the complexity of emerging relationships. I grew up in a family where there were a range of relationships and complexity down through the generations, which grew in visibility as I got older and could interpret them for myself.  I am sure there were plenty of sparks flying.  I remember my father asking me if I understood the meaning of the song Afternoon Delight as I hummed along to it in the car one afternoon when I was about 16, I really had no idea, yet within a year I would have made a better guess. I think about songs like Tutti Frutti and how scandalous they would have been in their day, probably more so than the banned Skyhooks album I had bought that same year, the direct lyrics more understandable than the saccharine sweet rock of The Starland Vocal Band.  There is something about Australian music that leaves little the imagination – direct, deliberate. I like that Australian quality which is not just in the music.

I fall in love with ideas, words, pictures and sounds. I have been known to fall in love with tastes as well (Maggie Beer’s Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel ice cream springs to mind).  Little sparks of ideas come and go just like the early stages of a romance where you notice a glance, perhaps an adjustment of clothing, a deep breathe. You find yourself bathing in an idea or a perhaps even, drowning in delight of where that idea might take you, taking you off with fantasy to a land of future possibilities. Getting carried away is surely a sign of sparks flying. A sign. Something is beginning to burn, to fuse, to combust. The fuel and heat of the idea, just like hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, create a chain reaction and a new energy is released – made visible in a spark. Before you know it, more and more sparks are formed from one another dying to each other and growing more out of each of the little deaths. Ideas fall away and new ones rise up, fuelled and fed on the ones who have gone before.  Like the lovers around me, intoxicating and generous.

The lessons of constraint, fences to hold the ideas in, are gifts, in much the same way as the limits lovers might set for each other. The gift of a constraint builds curiosity, innovation, potential. Over the years in my working life I have held the view there are really only three constraints, time, money and imagination. I have often settled on the view that lack of imagination is actually the only real constraint and the other two are there to help you stretch your imagination. Too often, too many resources, produces ineffective and completely unoriginal thinking. In my experience, when you don’t have much to play with, you are more likely to be clever and creative, more likely to come up with great ideas.

So it is inevitable, this is a season of creativity supported by constraint and ideas are being courted.

Before love there are sparks, so I am enjoying this dalliance with new ideas and there is muscle memory to draw on and synaptic pathways already made for ideas to travel.  This is a practice for a pilgrim to walk a path trod by others and to make it your own, as it is after all your path too. And only you can walk your own path.

Sparks.will.fly and maybe even be able to carry you home to that place where ideas can flirt with you to fall in love with them and make them visible, direct and deliberate, and not sugar-coated.

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Photo by Samuel-Elias on Unsplash

Sparks will fly #5 #breathing

Just had some news, the kind of news that could have come anytime and at any hour, the kind of news that moves the axis of the earth a little bit, not a big bit, in my world, but in someone else’s the earth’s tilt won’t ever be the same again. For them their day started in an ordinary way, and ended richer and emptier. For thirty odd years we acknowledged each other every now and again with a greeting ritual: Me – hello how are you? And he said – Well I’m still breathing. We then had a giggle and proceeded into conversation. It was as familiar as doing a nod to start some kind of colonial two-step dance. These everyday moments are like an ember in a fire being carried in sticks from place to pace and when the spark is ignited with the breath of the greeting, off we can go to build the fire, a safe place to chat with the space between us held once suspended, re-constituted for conversation. We all have people in our lives where we can pick up where we left off, with ease and little ceremony. He was one such person. He lived on his own terms and under his own conditions and I will miss our every now and again conversations.

A spark is quite fragile really, sometimes needing a little coaxing to come into its fullest self to reveal both fire and air. The elemental energies glow and invite promise. The candle starts with the spark of a match and begins to burn joining it’s fragility to another carrier. Leaving one host and moving onto another, passing on and then extinguished in a puff. February is a month of birthdays in our family and I am reflecting on the spark of life begun in the womb, passed on and transpiring into candles and as they are blown out the years gone are extinguished, relegated to history, to behind and there in a clean sweep is the year ahead. Another trip around the sun waiting to be explored. Passing on and through the flames of the year just gone. The adage of what is past is past, rings so true at birthdays. We can’t go back and the impermanence of life, becomes real with the blowing out of the candles, the reminder and truth, that every breath in and out is a living and dying and to value each breath for that reminder to ignite and extinguish. To celebrate all that has happenned in a year and to also give thanks for the one who passed on the spark, to receive affirmation and acclamation from your family and friends, to be celebrated and then to steady yourself to take a breath, to blow out candles and in-spire – breath in – again – ready to bring your spark to the next year.

The divine spark of a person never goes out while there is breath in the body, and maybe for some of us in this species it doesn’t even leave the rest of us, somehow making a leap into the unknown, or becomes attached to another or fused into memories. I am not sure how this all works! I do know that in these moments when I hear news of a death, a memory is sparked off and I have a connection to the past, built on the foundations of everyday encounters. There is an unfolding of memories that are not chronological, they just float up, arriving as fuel to the spark.

Celebrating birthdays is a way of making memories to draw on for the future, to float up when the time comes and to join with other memories to notice the passing of the flame. None of us are getting any younger and here’s to more breathing in and out and fully appreciating the practice of still breathing, being lit up with joy at being alive and being celebrated for the unique, one-of-a-kind person you are in the world.

PS: Happy Birthday to all the February babies in my family.

For Your Birthday – by John O’Donohue

The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth

Praised be your father and mother
Who loved you before you were;
And trusted to call you here
With no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be,
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school your mind
In the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the grey wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world’s waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generousity of silence
To hear your hidden heart,
Know the serenity of stillness
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.

from To Bless the Space Between Us

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Photo by Aileni Tee on Unsplash