From shuffling to sauntering

 Posted by at 2:09 pm  Atelier, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Aug 202009

Two figures – they could be out of Beckett – shuffle on to the stage. One represents darkness, stupidity, density; the other I think of as "occasional sparks of brilliance." Bereavement rendered me stupid. I couldn't think. The trauma of it seemed to break my connection to my previous life, as though the event had brought my own 'old life' to an end but at the same time I had to continue going through the motions of a life.

After a few years I found my way to the Mass of the Catholic Church. A place of respite, of refuge; it seemed to make sense, give a form to what could barely be put into words. One way of looking at it might be that the Church grew, expanded, developed following the traumatic loss of Jesus. Jesus, God incarnate, his only son, murdered by us, a sacrifice for us, lifted up to his father's side, and the promise to return to us. The Mass enters into and remembers the crime, the loss, the sacrifice, the rising . . . we too can rise from this . . . in death.

Does the Church merely wish to lock us into endless bereavement, the guilt of the survivor? I wish it were that simple. There is also talk of love and the freedom to be what we really are . . . but always in the light (yoke) of obedience to authority.

Yet to grow up is to assume that authority ourselves. It is stunning to bear in mind how recent it is that we've taken on the exploration of full democracy, the rights of and the respect for each individual life. And the argument is not finished; there are many among us whose instinct is to clamour for authority.

It appears self-evident to me that the Church should be on the side of democracy but its own psychological and organisational structures are monarchical and habitually non-trusting. A state which leaves it seeming to pull against us. Instead, what would it take for the Church to celebrate our long and problematic growing-up? Rather than (as it sometimes appears) enmeshing itself in a sulking ressentiment.

Don Cupitt, in his Jesus and Philosophy, marks the line of moral teachers from Jesus, through Blake and Dostoyevsky to Nietzsche. Those four have made and continue to make the wires hum. This reminds me of the impact they had on me: Jesus in my childhood/adolescence, the latter three in my late teens/early twenties as I pretended to saunter nonchalantly into adulthood during the late sixties/early seventies – informing my notions of morality.

What a lovely word – ressentiment

 Posted by at 3:46 pm  Atelier, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Aug 182009

An evocation of younger years. I'm thinking of the task of protecting one's self-esteem from the knocks of misadventure and the drudgery of daily life in those years before one's life has really got going; discovering that one is nearer the bottom of the pile than the top; working out those strategies by which one might not only survive but relish the small victories, the grim satisfactions of clawing out a niche in the pellmell anarchy of social life. Three words: defensiveness; resistance; ressentiment. 

I'm not exactly in that ressentiment but there's a memory and a taste of it and suddenly (as it were) there's so much studying to do. Earlier in my life I was too busy being angry and following my own path; yes, studying, but through narrowed eyes – all that one is likely to do (at best?) is reinvent the wheel.

It is necessary to get up to speed before launching oneself (again) into the world. And what about joining the club – a place to think with others.

Always trying to find a place to stand

 Posted by at 12:21 pm  Atelier, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Aug 142009

During yoga practice ( usually at the beginning) I endeavour to (re)find the way of standing in which I sense a verticality of muscular/skeletal connection. It comes when I've got my feet 'sorted out' – heel, outside edge and ball of foot in good contact with the ground. The result is a flow of connection from feet, up through legs, spine to crown of head. Shoulders relax; I'm alive and easy, light and balanced.

Like planets orbiting some sun, a variety of psychological/emotional aspects circle a me, an ego, some central identity: faith, critical thought, reason, 'I'm passionate about . . .', the unconscious, irony, humour, and all the rest. A spectrum of attractive/unattractive, another of comfortable/uncomfortable draw me this way and that.
I cannot live without faith.
I cannot live without reason.
Left and right. Nought and one. Being and not-being. Balance and off-balance. I believe and I doubt.
Me and other.

Rich Pickings

 Posted by at 12:10 pm  Atelier, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Aug 112009

A line in Jorie Graham's poem Later in Life caught my attention: 'there is something I must tell you, you do not need existence, these words, praise be, they can for now be said.'

You do not need existence. I do not need existence. This is one of those underneath ideas, beneath the surface; ideas that make me wobble, crash to the floor. Back on the surface of things, there's a line of thought: consumerism has highlighted NEED. I need this, I need that. I need to live, I have a right to live. Consumerism segues into rights; we understand about life, about stuff through the distorting lens of consumerism and human rights.

To not need existence opens up life as outrageous, gratuitous, miraculous gift.

Yesterday the Guardian ( on the findings of research conducted by Nuffield Health under the heading 'No sex please, we're British and we're lazier than ever.'

We don't necessarily like the gift of life because it demands something (a lot) from us. On the other hand we are very addicted to life and don't like the idea of its removal.

What is Thought?

 Posted by at 10:57 am  Atelier, OVER and BEYOND  Comments Off
Aug 072009

Sun after rain 

cycle, circle . . . enter the
fall in love 
build your home 
have your children 
grow your vegetables 
laugh a lot 
go in peace.

p.s. you may need to adjust the specifics.

In-between places

 Posted by at 2:39 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Aug 062009

Who's in, who's out? Who's listened to, who's not? Slightly different questions: where am I listened to? Who listens to me? I married (1968), a ritual to glue me in, to mark an achievement. Sixteen, seventeen years later I separated, divorced, freed of glue (sort of), thrown into limbo, the liminal, the in-between, another sort of ritual. It could be called the ritual of alienation. Seven years later I was bereaved when my partner died; a funereal ritual of abandonment – the two of us because I was alone with the loving duty to bring up our three year old daughter. 

Urban life (the one we all seem to have now even if we live in the country, though I suppose there must be a few of us still living a rural, peasant life in Western Europe) is necessarily one of alienation; is it I and Thou or Me and the Other? The politics of envy and consumerism; wars on the TV news; God's either disappeared or on some distant horizon or is on Big Brother. Terrorists have a go at waking us up but they're pretty scary, mad, bad; best left to the authorities to deal with.

This minute, now, I must find the word or words through which alienation is diminished, limbo is narrowed, and life becomes, once gain, the same old miracle. And, amazingly (I remind myself), the Mass still has the power to reconnect me to you and You, and the hunger of purpose is a joy.