Monthly Archives: March 2019

Sparks will Fly #12 #highestgood

There is a river in this heart of mine

With a knowingness of my highest good

The lyrics don’t appear until verse three, and it is only in verse three, that all the voices are heard. It is a favourite of the choir I sing in and the lines are followed by a Hallejuah as that is the name of the song, the Hebrew hallĕlūyāh ‘praise ye the Lord.  Praise is both noun and verb and when I experience the sound we make together, the sound itself is noun and verb, a declaration and an invitation. I can’t get the song out of my head this week, amidst the fallout from Christchurch, each day I am drawn into the leadership of a woman that is an expression of her country’s culture yearning to wholeness, and my own that created the product who executed the terrorism. I am taken back by the time Prime Minister Ardern is taking, to be in the grief, and not be in a hurry to move on, and encouraged by the world media who astonished by her behaviour continue to reflect on her. She is leaving no stone unturned, methodically she is going from place to place, school, hospital, family, mosque, park and playground. She is open, vulnerable, sad. She is a mother and a leader, a tigress protecting her nation with hope and humility, courage and strength. This is a new expression of leadership. She is redefining what it means to tap into the highest good of a nation. I am reminded of the best speech Kim Beazley ever gave – when he lost what I call the Tampa election in 2001. He recalled this in a conversation with Geraldine Doogue some years later

Like any nation there are bleak angels in our nature, but there are also good angels as well. And the task and challenge for those of us in politics is to bring out the generosity that resides in the soul of the ordinary Australia, that generosity of heart, so that we as a nation turn to each other and not against each other in the circumstances which we face.

Ardern has been able to actually do this – show us all how a politician can lead a nation in turning to one another and not against each other.

I am deeply disturbed by the results in the NSW election last night – a community of voters elected Mark Latham to One Nation and another community electing Jenny Leong as Greens member. There could be no bigger gap in a parliament between these two elected representatives.  Together they demonstrate the polarities defining our nation – white and non-white, male and female, inner city and regional. We are dangerously closer to the US in our political landscape than our friends across the Tasman.

In the NZ PM we are being invited to a transfiguration, an invitation to a complete change of form into a more beautiful or spiritual state, where politics is a reflection of our best selves and not a reduction to the lowest common denominator. We are being invited into leadership to transcend polarities by rising to our higher selves, by tapping into the river in our hearts, that yearns and knows what is good and great, graceful and gritty. We are arrive at this invitation on the threshold of our own Alleluia and with the question on our lips, are we the ones who knowingly and intentionally rise to the occasion and embrace those grieving by setting aside our own analysis, perspective, fear of the other.

This is a time to call on the good angels, the ones who will feed our spirits and souls and fill us up with courage and light, carry us through sad times and bring us deeper humanity.  Leaving people behind will breed bleak terrorist angels. It will have dogs being whistled by their masters, starving, in a dry river bed. We need to fill each other up.

In no time at all we will be heading to the national ballot box, where we can express how we feel with the rather blunt instrument of a vote. We are being called to turn to each other in our common heartache and broken-ness and this feels like an easter story in the making. It feels both like the last embers of a fire glowing in the dark and the promise of a new fire to light up a new way for generosity to show up in Australia. All kinds of sparks might fly.

AUGURIES OF INNOCENCE
by William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thro all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State …

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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