Monday, June 30, 2008


so begins another week.
the last was one of knuckling down to some hardcore work on the internal world. with that paid off i am feeling a whole lot better than i was. i find myself grateful for those i love and for reminders of why i love them. as the dark veil lifts i see their beauty. but beyond... i feel it again. feel myself connecting with the warmth it brings into the atmosphere.

this past weekend saw the first Corrymeela Summer Festival. 300 folk gathered up on the north coast for a kind of day long mini greenbelt. seminars, workshops, music, art making, exhibits, a barbecue.
i went primarily to accompany jayne, who was working at the festival - since it was her birthday i wanted to honour her with stepping out from my comfort zone of isolation. i am glad i did. i gained greatly from the mental challenge and stimulation from the likes of Donald Shriver and Nuala O'Loan, enjoyed getting to see my friends in the Lowly Knights inspiring folks to dance and was mightily impressed by The Delawares, who headlined the evening's festivities.
met familiar folks not seen in months and encountered new people who left me humbled and encouraged. laughed over wine with dear friends and felt grounded in their presence. we stayed overnight and hit the beach in the morning. i felt refreshed and awed by the raw beauty of the coastline. was awash with memories that i chose to embrace and cherish rather than pretend i was forgetting...

to feel the flooding of the self by more emotion than one can bear recede has seen productivity start to return, and words fill pages.

strands of themes start to emerge - old themes finding new expression...

two points of inspiration weaving with my own embryonic thoughts of the week... affirming me to stay on this path, to follow where my heart leads, to trust my instinct...

today's poem courtesy of the writer's almanac is a beloved one and i was grateful for the reminder...

the summer day by mary oliver...

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver, from The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press, 2008.

and this, totally new to me, an incredible project... We Feel Fine...
you can get a guided tour of how the site works here at the TED site. technology is rarely this beautiful and moving...

your one life is wild and precious...
whatever you do with your one life, let your light shine, make your unique voice heard...
want more in this life than to live it vicariously... want nothing less than the real thing...
your one wild and precious life is a story in which you, and no one else, are both the author and the central character...


Saturday, June 21, 2008

come on Baby, do the Locomotion with me...

depression seems to slow time down. or perhaps better said, stretches and pulls it. like toffee. yet it has such sharp edges...


heard garrison keillor read this beautiful poem this morning. made me think of my father, who is currently in Africa. he gave me a love of trains. but not jazz. i'm not sure if he has ever listened to jazz. i can't honestly say i ever heard it in his company. i've always found jazz intimidating. as if it some secret language i do not understand. will maybe never understand. jazz lures me and yet leaves me feeling left out of the world. without fluency.
the sound of a train has always brought comfort. clackety clack has a constancy. no surprises. no detours.


it would have been my mother's 61st birthday this past week, were she alive. i wonder what i would have gifted her. i cannot remember the last gift i gave her, on her 52nd. strange the things one remembers and the things one does not...


also heard on the writer's almanac today:
Writers are like jealous lovers. I just want you to think of me.
- Ian McEwan

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

grow up

SATC: the movie has restarted the all too familiar critique that the lives of Carrie Bradshaw et al perpetuate a myth that to be fulfilled these women ultimately all must acquire men. hearing that critique again, and a very challenging conversation with a gay man who's lifestyle is polyamorous, has had me thinking about why it is that heterosexual desire on the part of women - in the form of monogamy - is something that can be openly critiqued or even ridiculed. is monogamy a myth?
it seems one isn't allowed to be an intelligent, educated, sophisticated (see interview below) woman and then expect with reasonableness to be in a long term faithful relationship, particularly if one's object of desire is male. or perhaps, you can desire it but just don't vocalise it. men, on the other hand are permitted or encouraged in patriarchal systems to be limitless. our culture is such that men are not expected to ever weigh up the cost benefit of career success, parenting, partnership. can women "have it all"? men certainly can. and do.

and then today i was passed an article by Wendell Berry, which in its thesis (on our current economics and their ecological effects) argued that [American] culture is based on limitlessness...
i was struck by this line...
The normalization of the doctrine of limitlessness has produced a sort of moral minimalism: the desire to be efficient at any cost, to be unencumbered by complexity. The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination -- this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.
mindful of the fact that our leaders and heroes are for the most part male, it reminded me of my reaction to this, which describes one perspective on what's it's like to have it all, and want more...
The Affairs of Men
- one of the most depressing pieces of writing i have read in a long time. on a number of levels.

stephen colbert interviewed the author, philip weiss. in fact i hunted down the article because the interview (of Monday 9 June) was so memorable. Colbert's mask slips for a moment and he goes straight for the jugular. or was he plunging a knife below the table? regardless, he asks the question this guy never seems to have bothered to ask his buddies or himself although he does admit to feeling guilt, which he resents.

boundaries, limits - they exist for a reason. the article references georges bataille. in his book, eroticism, if i am remembering correctly, he writes about taboo. the argument runs: taboo exists in order that we can function as a stable society. all eroticism is transgression. what is permitted is not erotic. taboo is where we put the stuff we shouldn't do that would undermine our stability. so taboo is kind of like a closet full of our guilty pleasures. and it is a kind of necessity for us.

so, we could assume that the breakdown of taboo is that we get what we (apparently) want without such stabilising constraint. to live without taboo is to live without limits. and yet maturity is surely about limits. limits don't just exist to protect the self, but to protect others.

the spoiled child gets exactly what they want, when they want it. perhaps philip weiss would be happier if he didn't treat his wife like she is his mother.


Monday, June 09, 2008


last night saw the last ikon gathering of the term in the black box.

this is the piece i wrote and performed.
the blurb that follows was not used last night and is intended for the ikon wiki, where a written version of the gathering is being constructed as we write.


:: Nothing::

When Pilate asked, “What is truth?”
The man who stood bound and barely upright
before him with swollen eyes and bloodied split lip

“What is truth?”

What Pilate got for an answer
was the terrible gift of silence…


I have nothing.
Nothing to sell.

What is to come
Is not a commodity,
Will not be
Cannot be
Packaged, marketed, advertised, pitched, branded,
Bought or
There will be no free binder with part one,
No special offer for new subscribers,
No interest free credit for 12 months,
It cannot be charged to your account.


I have nothing.
Nothing to say,
Or at least, nothing worth saying…

What is to come
Cannot be written.
If I write – I write out of DISsatisfaction
Every line, every Word,
Is a striving, desperate attempt
To uncover truth
To express the real
The authentic
The meaning filled
And every stroke of
the nib on the page
is Failure.


I have nothing.
Nothing to speak.

What is to come
Cannot be said.
Not uttered,
Not mentioned.
What is to come
Lies deep beneath words
In the place where there is only silence.
The closest we can manage most of the time is
A cry of despair
A howl of pain
A lover’s gasp
The first breathe of air we draw
And the last we exhale.

What is to come
Cannot be explained
Cannpt be systemised
Or made doctrinally correct.
It can only be done


What IS to come?

I do not know…

But something that is more like nothing
Pulls Hope from me
Drags me on when I would give up.
For what is to come
Is not an answer
But a Possibility…


Blessed are you who are at the end of your rope
For you know just how much you need,
How priceless Hope really is

It is you
Who see the man with swollen eye and bloodied lip
For who he really is
You, who have nothing,
(Not even words…)

You, in your desperation,
You will hear truth in that
Terrible silence that is a gift…

You who have Nothing,
You who have Nothing to lose,
You who expect Nothing,
You who have felt
The Loss
And the cost.
Who are empty
Like a tomb
You, who are a cup -
Perpetually waiting…
Waiting to be filled.
You who are without
Anymore words…

You are closer to something like truth
Than you have ever been…


I have Nothing.
Nothing to sell.
Nothing but hope in Hope itself


Silence is a terrible gift.
Nothing… is a gift.


Author’s afterword:

This piece returns to a theme I have explored time and again in ikon gatherings: hope in absence – finding life in spite of pain, particularly loss, and in spite of ourselves.
The starting point came from Jon Hatch, who in discussion noted the idea that writers (and indeed all creative artists), can be seen to create out of dissatisfaction rather than satisfying fulfilment. We write another line or paint another painting because of what we have not yet said – that art is an attempt to express that which is just beyond our fingertips. But we keep coming back to try again. This resonated and so I took it away to see where that frustration took me. Since many of the other elements in the gathering were selling something, and prefiguring the gift we were to later offer those present, the authentic alternative appeared to be to have Nothing to sell, or to say. And of course, that inexpressibility is an echo of our idolatry in trying to pin down the unnameable name of the divine.
This piece marries, and again, not for the first time, my own motifs with central images from Frederick Buechner’s “Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairytale”, which has influenced and haunted me more than any other theological text– particularly that of Pilate and Jesus meeting, and gospel, “as silence before it word”.
See also, John D Caputo’s “The Weakness of God” – specifically, the notions of the “to come” and “hope in hope itself”.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

just like you and I

On Thomas Merton,

"For him the vital religious questions will always be variants of the question: Who am I, and who am I meant to be? In this sense he was representative, even a typical, modern person, whose strong sense of self if constantly met by the sense that the self and its preoccupations are unworthy or illusory. his answers will always involve a pledge to devote himself to an ideal way of life, and this way of life, and this way of life will be bound up with an ideal setting: a space, a place, a destination, a habitation. If only he can find the place where he is meant to be, he will tell himself, he will become the person he is called to be - will fulfill his God-given nature."

p.21; The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie (FSB, 2003)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

on the shoreline

first up, thanks for the messages left here. much appreciated. really.

this life by the sea is so far so good. still getting a thrill at having everything on my doorstep. enjoying being able to dander along the street for purhases local and organic. belfast feels very far away and i'm not complaining. not sure i can call this a honeymoon period but perhaps better a recognition of the good things about this town. i've given myself a couple of days of nothing but rest and relaxation after the hard labour that was moving week and some hard core work in therapy to get round the corner of recent depression. tiredness and anger that has nowhere to go has left me struggling to encounter other humans so some momentary retreat is well in order.

spontaneously bought a new touring bike yesterday (not exactly the cool retro European style i'd have liked but at a quarter of the price it's gonna do the job) and cycled along the lough with the tea time sunshine casting diamonds across the water. we're enjoying freakishly good weather here in our little corner of the world and we're enjoying it all we can, lest we get a repeat of 2007's 2 months of rain that had no right to be called a summer. planted window boxes and pots with some vegetables and flowers this morning on what my landlord and housemate, the good Father, calls his front terrace. whether the courgettes, basil, dwarf french beans, butternut squash and outdoor cucumber will be edible remains to be seen but we'll give it a shot. it's been a while since i had my hands in soil and it was therapeutic. my hope for the summer is for a simpler way of being. little by little discontentedness gives way to calm and what i'll admit is probably some kind of resignation that life is always gonna feature asshole behaviour of others, including my own, so i better get on with learning how to live with the reality.

right, off to the butchers and then it's time to cook a big pot of chilli for team fury.

be well, wherever you find yourself,


Sunday, June 01, 2008

goodbye to the castle

final posting from the upper th'east side. as of today i'm resident in Holywood, Co Down.

after a 4 days of moving belongings i'm knackered and not particularly looking forward to the sorting out of boxes at my new abode - there is much to be recycled and delivered to the local charity shops. but the apartment is empty and it feels a relief. as i wait to hand over the keys, jayne and i are lounging on the lawn by the pool and taking one last swim.
this has been a great place to live. quirky and full of rambling character. will i miss it? probably. are they great advantages to the move? many. reducing my life once again to one room makes for a lot of extra work but is cleansing - forcing me to get rid of stuff i should have given away two years back.

i wanted to try living on my own. i found somewhere that made me more excited than afraid to do so. and this old mansion has done its job.
this has been an eventful year. the past 6 months especially so. in 3 and a half months i leave for the US again. in the meantime i have a summer by the sea to look forward to and a deadline to meet.

so, one chapter ends and another begins.

a house is bricks and mortar. home is something very different. home is where the heart is.
home is therefore something you can build anywhere you bring your love...