Sound and Silence

when necessary, use words



Afrika Burn 2008 syncroblog

Calling all … all blogging burners, survivalist aesthetes, desert rats, sacred activists, uberjollers, gonzo journalists, hippies reincarnate, diehard libertarians, cultural creatives, nieue afrikaanians, glocal emergents, even just voyers, lurkers and wannabes.

Going out on Monday 26 October 2008, participate in a post-AB08 synbcroblog. Reflect collectively on our experience in words and images.

For those who haven’t done so, a syncroblog is a peer-to-peer similtaneous blog posting, in which you contribute your offering together with links from all other participants to theirs. This way we can host in our usual online space but still be linked to each other. Once your post URL is ready, submit it to me here via a comment and I will compile the list of participants. You can then copy and paste it into your own blog post.

So on Monday 26th (1 week after the event), first thing am, I will create the list and post it here. Copy it and edit your offering, and the syncroblog is away. It’s a great way to get an overview, and for lazy press hacks to purloin plenty of excellant material concerning local Burner Culture. But, in a gifting economy, plagiarism is impossible, right?


the conundrum of hope

hope requires expectation,
expectation risks failure,
failure undermines hope


“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” [Matthew 6:24]

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” [Carl Jung]

“… a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” [2 Pet 2:19]

Having just read Peter Rollins’ brilliant “How (not) to speak of God“, and learned a little about his community IKON, I have been made aware of a fascinating duality. I speak of idols and icons, more generally put the iconic and the idolotrous. IKON presents itsself as having 5 significant facets: iconic, apocalyptic, heretical, emerging and failing. Regarding the duality we are discussing here, this is how they view it:

“Idolatry can be understood as the sin of viewing something as that which renders God’s very essence visible to human experience […] either aesthetic (like the Golden Calf mentioned in the book of Exodus) or conceptual. In the later we make God intelligible by constructing a doctrinal image which we view as a manifestation of Gods essence.

To treat something as an icon is to see it as that which draws us into a deep contemplation of that which cannot be reduced to words, images or experience.”

So an Idol is a created thing usurping the place of the creator. An Icon is a created thing mediating between created and creator. Although it initially appears clear cut, the line between them is surprisingly hard to define once one starts to explore it.

One main point in “How (not) to speak of God” is that of the nature of the idol: idols are traditionally thought of as statues or things but can be conceptual. This can mean any ideology, such as Consumerism, Materialism, Unfettered Industrial Progress or Militarism, but as it turns out, is very often Theology. The very thing we think of as sacred, as the opposite of these human, fallen thoughts can turn out to be an idol. What I term “Biblism”, a combination of literalism, superstition and piety, is an example of this close to home.

Here is the problem: If we refuse to examine this, and therefore tacitly accept our adopted, underlying, and default myths, we can never be sure of what we are worshiping. For example to deny that our theology might be our relativistic view of truth rather than THE absolute truth, opens us to idolatry. Socrates famously said that the unexamined life was not worth living. But more than that, the unexamined life may in fact be our ticket to destruction.

What we will not countenance will master us. It’s only in facing our deeply held myths that we either “prove” them or dispel them. This is why fundamentalism is so toxic. It prevents the healer from accessing the true problem by denying that the problem exists. If we misdiagnose our ills, they will probably kill us.

I have been discussing issues of inclusivity in Towards radical inclusion, and I mentioned the paradox “not with me is against me – not against you is for you”; I quote once again here from Luke 11: 

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters. When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Adding to these thoughts, the “exclusion” hinted at in Luke 11:23 is an unwillingness to actively and continuously follow Jesus. Many people come to faith / join a church / theological tradition and then adopt an “arrival” mentality. They feel that they have “crossed the line”, are justified by faith, confession or membership, and become passive. The culture and assumptions of the organisation they find themselves in probably contribute handsomely to this false sense of security, due to its questionable assumptions about what constitutes being included and where the line of salvation is drawn.

So what happens to the apathetic believer? Jesus suggests that whatever idols / demons / wrong views of G-d and the cosmos were dispelled upon repentance will return sevenfold. The state of an apathetic, conservative, non-thinking orthodoxy is many times worse than the “pre-Christian” one.

I really detest the macabre Charismatic fear-mongering view that emphasizes the dangers of demonic possession in this text (although I’m not discounting this entirely), because the underlying “dangers” of apostasy (here’s another word that due to be taken to the cleaners) are not simply evil spirits, but anything idolatrous.

I am aware that the tone of this post is rather negative and critical. But what really excites me is the exploration of the iconic. I want no more to be an idol destroyer than an idol erector. Idols are boring. The desire for life draws me in the direction of icons – questions of mediation, imagemaking, inventive theology, the creation of icons, and new liturgies remain upmost in my mind.

Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.  [Matthew 9:17]

Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine. Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil. [Gospel of Thomas 47]

History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today. [Henry Ford]

History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals. [El Malik el Shabbaz (Malcolm X)]

WineskinAfter some decades of bandying about the phrase “New Wine”, meaning the “Exciting, relevant, latest, greatest thing that God is doing” I have been brought short in my tracks by a reading from the Gospel of Thomas. The assumption I have held is that new wine (meaning new content) is better than old, and that new wineskins (new forms) are better than the old.

However I enjoy wine enough to understand that generally speaking, aged wine is finer. The party animals of Jesus’ day, concur. It is mellower, smoother, and the product of nature’s processes. New wine is generally an easier product as it does not take up space for extended periods of time. So old wine is a symbol of quality, and stands against the cheapening contemporary trend towards profit making and comodification we find in any “eminently quaffable Vin Lite“.

I have assumed all along that Jesus stands for “New Wine”, a revelation of Grace, and against the Old, the dispensation of Law. Also I assumed that with the new wine it was necessary to use new wineskins. This for example meant that if you had a revelation of the “Charismatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit”, (non condo bondo shondo, rikki tikki ninga nuum), you should then create spaces in your “liturgy” for that.

So no longer did you adhere to the program of the hymn-sermon-hymn sandwich, but you made room for spontaneous prayer, song, insights, prophesies, readings, dance etc. and tried to go with the flow not merely the established pattern. So, in the church, acoustic guitars replaced the organ in the 70’s, then in the 90’s came the U2-charist, and rave worship, for example.

But now I am not so sure. Maybe Jesus was in fact pro-Old wine. His concern in Matthew seems to be with the wineskin more than the wine. Certainly he rejected the religion of the Pharisees, but that was primarily a stand against hypocrisy and the righteousness of law. And when he says “both are preserved” is he referring to old wine and new wine, or old wine and old wineskins?

Thomas’ rendition makes me even less certain of my old assumptions. The first half, “Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break” seems to be concerned about old wineskins, while the second half “aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil” is mostly concerned with old wine. So is Thomas confirming Jesus’ preference for the old?

RedFrom my current point of view, where I embrace traditions with a new understanding that tradition is not bad of itself, in fact we are in the West very affected by the “cult of the new”. Henry Ford, a preeminent symbol of modernity, shows us in the above quote just how debased our thinking can become when we put Progress on the throne of life.

In more contemplative traditions, this tendency is far less apparent. What matters here is the acknowledgment of centuries-old practices, rituals and creeds. The novel and the current are seen as mere eddies at the edges of the broader main stream, and are of little concern.

So, I have come to see the following concerning tradition:

  1. It is not bad merely because it is old. This view, that of “contemporary chauvinism” is a relatively new phenomenon, prevalent for perhaps only just over a hundred years.
  2. Much of the enduring content of faith is that which has stood the test of time.
  3. The main thing to ask about a tradition is the question of quality, not the measure of time. 
  4. Truth appears in all traditions. I for one consider myself heterodox; an Orthodox view tends to see ONE tradition, for example Catholicism, as the one true tradition.  

Malcolm X, growing up in the whirl of baby-boom, racist America, rejected the culture and spirituality that resulted from Fords vision. He embraced radical Islam, and he lived and died for his faith. He reminds us of the power of remembering. To re-member means to bring together afresh.

So perhaps Jesus was suggesting that as we move towards a future, the quality of the life for which we hope, will be found in our gathering and re-integrating that which is noble, fine, and mellowed, whilst allowing culture and spirituality to naturally evolve and emerge. Both what is new and what is ancient need to be finding their right places alongside one another.


undefined liturgists – WeTube

God is making a movie. He’s using us all—whoever we are, whatever our gifts, in a cast of billions. We make it what it is—a holy narrative of Love, with a screenplay of astounding complexity, resulting in accolades the likes of which have never been seen or heard. (Ephesians 2 paraphrased)

Friday 27 July, Cape Town: We gathered to explore the parable of Gods Movie under the banner WeTube. Whether or not we cut and post an actual movie remains to be seen, (candles are not optimal lighting for cinematic productions, as we found out) however I think all felt that the event was worth it.

After diving straight in, open spontaneous prayers from a diverse group of people (many who were meeting for the first time), ignited the atmosphere. Prayers of brokenness, desire, and seeking, evoked images of emergence from a silent, desert space, as well as the delight in connectedness revealed.

When we started filming, the screenplay ran seamlessly from one actor to the next. Implicit in the event was the understanding that we were not gathering to perform a precast liturgy, but that the liturgy would emerge from who we are as individuals and as a unique group, to the degree that we authentically brought ourselves into the narrative. Furthermore, unlike the cults of movie celebrity, we brought not our egos nor agendas of power and glamour, but the emptiness which could make place for an expression of Spirit.

Threads of conversation included estate agency as a mission of compassion, Jesus’ words concerning acts towards the least being acts towards himself, a meditation on breath (accompanied by a singing bowl), a reading of TS Elliot’s Marina, cardigan knitting as service, an Islamic enquiry into the nature of church, and the Eucharist served to Van Morrison’s Rave on John Donne.

Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken…

undefined liturgists – “held”

Main ScreenHoldingWe Loved

 Constantia, Cape Town 24/06/07

A small gathering of 9 adults (and 13 under-10’s) met in and around our living room to celebrate/experiment with a liturgy called “held”.

Exploring the idea of “God in all and all in God”, we used image, recorded music (Crowded House’s “Fingers of Love”, Massive Attacks “Protection” and Stereo MC’s “Connected”), scripture, song, Eucharist, and statement-response to explore the sub-themes afloat, forsaken, letting go, lifted and sustained.

HoldingHoldingThe overall feeling was positive if somewhat muted, as everyone weighed up a new approach. The classic alt-worship question “But is it worship?” was not explicitly broached, and discomforts included the chaos of kids, distaste with the too responsorial or the too dancey.

For the most part, however, contemplation prevailed. But there was a surprising outburst of theological energy over lunch, and a robust debate around Universal Restoration v Eternal Damnation ensued.


the smaller picture

UnderwaterI spent the weekend with family and friends at Betty’s Bay, towards the southern tip of Africa. I used a handicam to gather about 2 hours of images, video footage for my new VJ project. The environs are spectacular, and for one whose traditional icons of contemplation are mountains and horizons, I was surprized to find myself drawn not to panoramic grandeur, but inwards.

TaillightDrawn towards detail, closeness and simplicity, and away from overview, remove and the large scale. Aware of close-ups, where the essential nature of objects is revealed. Seascapes and big cloud draped mountains just aren’t sitting well with me at the moment, at least in the context of imagemaking.  

And so I ask, why is this? I’ve always been a big big-picturist, always thinking globally, scouring the universe for meaning, and tirelessly surveying eternity. I’ve not been one for smalltalk. Ask any haridresser. And I have always been disparaging of the tinyness of my own attempts to engage the world.

MarblesMaybe the inner person is weary of grandeur. It’s well accepted that the soul seeks psychological balance. Whereas I might harp on about the History of Western Music, or the Greek influence on the Enlightenment, perhaps my soul is saying, snuggle up and enjoy your little space, your time, your family. 

But I suspect there is yet more to this. I think there is a move afoot by a subversive, backdoor G-d who says, yes, Bono and Anita Roddick taking on Globalisation are alright by me, but I am doing a new small thing. Bishops, priests, politicians, leaders, just let them be, you just pay attention.  Prophetic blogging elements such as smallritual or smallfire echo this sentiment. I saw a superb, if somewhat intellectual posting on HauntedGeographies called “Let us space”; I quote  

This is the idea that a fragment or torn segment of map can somehow speak for a whole territory, the rent in the canvas that reveals a universe. The macro understood through the micro … To some degree, fractals already contain the DNA of their parent– the shard that refracts a universe. 

MoonI think there’s a difference between images for ritual and images for other purposes, such as narrative or feature film, study and documentary, or to drive home a message as in advertising. Ritual lends itself towards repetition and contemplation, and moves into a space rather than along it. It is not goal driven or justified via entertainment, education or communication, although it can be any of those.

As far as music goes, I’ve also wondered why repetitive, pattern-based music has currently got such a hold on me. Underworld – trance, techno and ambient, Massive Attack – downtempo and triphop, Propellarheads and bigbeat, and the (classical) minimalist Steve Reich, provide a wealth of groove-oriented sound.

I started out my musical life with a few implicit rules such as “Non-repetition is good”, “Simplicity is stupid” and “Many notes are superior to few”. I don’t really know where those rules came from, but it’s taken a lifetime’s journey to unlearn them.

GreenGlassAnother facet of this discussion is that the world has over the last century shifted from an object based view to an energy based one, spearheaded by the newer and emerging  cosmologies (Einstein – Hawking etc). Furthermore, in the world of painting, light-based Impressionism and beyond took us away from the classical enlightenment notions of objects. As such, it is appropriate to explore energy (and the effects of energy) in our imagemaking. Images of the elements are for me a very powerful source of ritual. I spent time shooting wind, water, fire, and light.

 “The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”
– Thomas Berry, quoted from Rob

WindwiresWind is especially poetic and pertinent; for according to John 3, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

For me, it is the time for small ideas. Away from Grandness, Marketshare, Acceleration, Accumulation, Influence. 1 Corinthians comes to mind –

He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

But this is more than a lesson in humility, or a moral observation. It is rather an aesthetic, a design principle for life. It is something to celebrate.


Andy Goldsworthy @ YSP

There was something extremely fortuitous about spending Easter at the amazing Yorkshire Sculpture Park (near Sheffield, UK), where Andy Goldsworthy is doing a 30 year retrospective. The park itself is impressive; a huge diversity of sculptures not least of which are several of Henry Moore large brass works. It boasts 5 indoor galleries and a sprawling collection interspersed with sheep, woodland, lakes, and on this past Easter weekend, one of the biggest crowds yet seen.  

Hanging TwigsGoldsworthy’s works fill 4 indoor spaces and many sites outdoors. What is most striking to me is his integration with natural elements, and his sense of stewardship-cooperation rather than dominion-conquest over nature. There is a notable absence of synthetic materials, and his list of tools is mostly low tech, (with the exception of the camera used to capture his ideas) – a trowel for stone, a saw for wood. Indoors, which is not his preferred space; I enjoyed his hanging twigs – thousands of twigs suspended from a high ceiling and held together only with thorns, to make a web like net. A similar piece is shown here. 

In his “walls”, clay is allowed to dry, cracking into fabulous patterns, none of which he has excersised any control over. With the passage of time and natural decay being such a key aspect of his milieu, these sculptures will not last forever, and perhaps not even for the duration of the exhibit (Jan 2008). Sheep hoofs

The largest gallery, the Longside, holds large scale canvasses which were laid underneath a sheep feed. The muddy hoof markings (right) are those of the sheep jockeying for a place at the feeding bin. It makes so much more sense to me than ego-centric Abstract Impressionism, although the outcome is somewhat similar. And they smell quite different to Jackson Pollock too.    

Hanging TreesGoldsworthy works with rather than in opposition to the forces which shape the landscape. An example of this is his series called hanging trees, 3 felled yet intact tree trunks and boughs, embedded in pits of
Yorkshire stone which typifies the area, which form part of the boundary fence of the park.
His “outclosure”, a high circular wall around a pit, subverts the traditional notions of “My Property” or “My View”.  

I was quite prepared to fork out 35 pounds for his beautiful book Time, where the real essence of his vision – the creativity inherent in natural processes, is made clear with extracts from several diaries in which he simply journals his thoughts and responses to the world around him, without the philosophical baggage which typifies most contemporary sculpture and installation. 

For me, Goldsworthy is a prophetic voice whose low-ego vision of the Natural order is as magnificent as that order itself, for it is simply showing us the splendor of what is, rather than dominating, abstracting or attempting to own or control the world.




what will i do if your answer is no;
if you don’t want me where shall i go?
the sting of your retort will hurt
but what will remain lurks deep beneath the surface
conspiring there with all the gathered history
of like experience,
coagulating, subsumed into the tissue of my being
with a half life well beyond my remaining years.

yet i would rather you saw me off,
clinically severed,
than accepted me under duress
for whatever reason
endured me because i persuaded you
of my worth.
if you don’t see it
tell me now.
just say no,
and i will move on.
this sojourn of belonging
will move on.

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