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intimacy

“From wild man to wise man” session 2

Male and Female God created them

We were encouraged to enter small group conversation with the heart and not the head, and reminded that groups very rarely went “deeper” than the ethos with which they began. The idea of “Cell Memory” – the body-wide repository of accumulated feelings, was introduced. Sergio spoke of mourning as a process of owning our own feelings instead of projecting then outwards or suppressing them. The central idea of the “Father Wound” which marks so much of our Western civilasation was futher opened up.

We began exploring the idea that the Genesis account demonstrates that the image of God was expressed in the creation of male and female aspects. We touched on Rohrs idea that “all healthy spirituality will always have a truly ‘sexual’ character to it, a desire for re-union”. (Rohr p 13) Continue reading ““From wild man to wise man” session 2”

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OM : re-imagining the Logos

Before Time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial voice remained ever present with the Creator; His speech shaped the entire cosmos. [John 1, The Voice]

OM. The eternal Word is all: what was, what is and what shall be, and what beyond is in Eternity. All is OM. [Mandukya Upanishad]

lattice-dynamic-mt-doveExclusivism cries foul on my right, and pan-anythingism beckons on my left. Christianity demands that I conform to its interpretations of “the way, the truth, and the life”, as Eastern philosophy calls me away from māyā, my illusions. But I engage the fracas, because I believe a re-imagining is not an optional extra. And specifically, re-imagining the bankrupt Modern Christian tradition. Continue reading “OM : re-imagining the Logos”

An Economy of Grace

I have been reflecting on Afrika Burn 2008, with 2 articles, a general synopsis called “AB08 scorecard” and a cheeky cultural crit called “Soop – Sound (Waves) Out Of Place“. But now I want to get to the heart of the experience, from the point of view of the theme camp that our community set up, Sanctuary. Continue reading “An Economy of Grace”

designing the sacred

The future is a design problem.  [William McDonough]

“Son of man, describe the temple … its arrangement, its exits and entrances — its whole design and all its regulations and laws … ”.  [Ezekiel 43:10]

Recently, within the timespan of a week, I visited 3 very different spaces. These were

  • Wednesday :  A microsoft vista product launch.
  • Friday midday: A mosque.
  • Sunday morning: An evangelical church.

The connections, and disconnects between them said something to me. I have offered similar thoughts before in space, worship praxis and ideas of temple, and this extends thereon.

The Launch demonstrated all the trappings of an advanced marketing plan. Besides the lecture rooms, there was a convocation space which included fully equipped coffee stall, technical kiosks, sleek hostesses, video projections, a DJ/automatron pumping out lo-volume grooves, an information desk, games consoles, semi-stylish food. The message was clear – We are more than software, we are lifestyle. And it’s a cool lifestyle, if you use our product.

The Mosque had the feel of people who knew what they were there for. A certain tranquility prevailed aided by the sound of running water from the cleansing baths, and soft, diffuse light. This helped mitigate the cheap carpeting and fittings. The smell of summer socks wafted through the predominantly male congregants. I was greeted openly but tersely by those seated next to me. For some time I stared at Arabic inscriptions on the walls. I learned how to bow, stand, sit, and for a short time felt a part of something larger than me.

The Church was a carpeted hanger-like hall, well organised and planned with numeric expansion in mind. Technically it was somewhere between the Product launch and the Mosque, with projectors and a very large ceiling-mounted PA system, which I found imposing. People were relatively engaging, smiling profusely and at times making me feel welcome. The sermon and singing, casual and proficiant, brought no surprises.

An awareness of space. A variety of spaces, all tinged with desire in some way or other. What space would I choose? Which elements of the above might go into the ideal?

I got to thinking and came up with a list of indoor environments from which I might design the most appropriate space in which to house the Sacred.

  • Coffee lounge/Pub – Friends, acquaintances or strangers converse casually in public while snacking or drinking.
  • Dance floor – Tribal energy of the moment, a recreational and immersive experience where communication is physical and mostly non-verbal.
  • Chill room – This immersive environment allows for reflection usually after the intensity of dance.
  • Gallery/installation – A contemplative, yet public space allowing for engagement with the mysteries of the artists imagination.
  • Home – A “good” home is private and intimate, including sleeping eating and relaxing without agenda or expectation.
  • Official Sacred – The church, temple, or meeting hall forms a structure, an escape from the world, wherein people expect to engage with the sacred in some way very different to any other.
  • Industrial/functional – Such spaces are about work and cater for efficiency – desks, computers, technology.

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.

Fire

Being hit on the head with a pulpit.

Courtesy ShipOfFools.com

Paraphrasing an encounter over the weekend, between me in the back row and one behind a pulpit.

Pulpit – “Those who are seeking a place for their gifts need to submit to Eldership.”
Me – “Yes, I agree that discipleship is very important, but feel that the church easily  misunderstands creative people. Don’t you think that there are problems with the way the church does not reach those with creative gifting?”
“No, I think people need to learn the costly sacrifice of submitting.”
“I speak for all the marginalised, and say the church has a problem with unconditional  acceptance.”
“No, the people with the gifts have the problem.”
(Woman in front row jumps up, turns and practically spits this scripture at me:
Proverbs 18:16 says A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”

Implication: standing up for the artist is siding with rebellion and selfishness.
Realising the “conversation” has run its course, I withdraw.

I now realise, too late, what the next verse says:
17 The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

People are afraid,
afraid of silence,
afraid of asking questions,
afraid of their own demons,
afraid of trusting the unknown,
afraid of not being in submission to authority,
afraid of not justifying everything by bible verse,
afraid of the creative.

Afraid of being seen to be afraid, which makes for contradiction.
Afraid of being seen to be contradictory, which results in wrong reasoning.
Afraid of wrong reasoning, which leads to hypocrisy.
Afraid of being hypocritical, which makes for a closed set of truths the outside of which is banishment.

Banishing and not integrating, not circulating as is natural.
Buildup of toxins which are never flushed out by truth.
Toxins which kill, kill enthusiasm, “Godwithinness”, and ultimately, are killing G-d.

no

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.

You told me your name.

By Chris kutscheraYou told me your name; if I could just remember it then maybe I could frame the life you laid at my feet. No meat, no bread, nothing to eat, your system is no longer accepting nourishment. I gave you water. I gave you clothes that you could sell to earn your ticket home. Or maybe, just the memory of home.

You said, “Maybe you are lucky to help me.” At first I read arrogance but upon reflection, you were so right. Fortune was finding a way to my heart, finding me via the way of your abject misfortune.

Your clothes were clean and ironed; i saw your pride in life in the face of its demise. And you are as thin as a sword and just as upright. Yes, righteousness itself flashes from the shook foil of your emptiness. Your story overflows, but there is no self pity, just the welling waters of the acceptance of your mortality.

No self pity, perhaps, but there was panic. The panic of a soldier about to mount a final charge over into no mans land. Metallic, hard, the flavor of machinery. I tasted it too, but the lingering tang was simple Rightness, and thanks to you, I tasted my own true place in things.

You show me the doctor’s letters, your anti-retrovirals. A small purse, a small collection of artifacts. It may be all you own. But this predicament, is not yours alone, we all return to dust and we all face our Creator. And at this moment in time, here on a sidewalk, this is hallowed ground. Our feet are unshod, my brother, we both see the consuming fire. I feel your panic, but I also feel the birthpangs of your freedom. You are unfettered by illusion, sojourning as you are through leafy, vacant suburbia, you have no attachments.

You’ve gone, but you won’t go away…

You have already gone through the loss of your very self. No friends in this city, no more work, no more strength to work, your father, mother and grandparents, no more. And you, man in what may have been your prime, have not had the privilege nor earthly honor to have a family of your own. Ah to hold my babies, to hold my loved ones; but you, life has torn through you
like a devouring scourge.

And yet you believe, you look at me a stranger and honor me with the title “Brother, my brother.” Will I ever have the purity of your knowledge, the depth of your worship? There was an ocean of words someplace, just waiting in the wings, ready to issue forth, but all I could muster was muteness.

The closest you could come to locating yourself in a history was your uncle. Not that he could support you in your hour of need, having no work himself, nor even a room for you. But he is your connection with a time spend on Earth, he is Blood. You needed an insurmountable sum for transport. It’s yours, take it.

It was 10 minutes cutting into my day but I was staring into a great fissure in time and space, I was staring into Eternity. All I can say is, go well my unnamed brother, go well, and think of me when you reach paradise.

You’ve gone, but you won’t go away…

A Worthy Worship 4 – Intimacy

Rolf Lislevand - lute

With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument
Not as a lordly conqueror who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.

Frances Cornford, “The guitartist tunes up.”

Here we have some images reflecting an artist at work. Or to be exact, involved in the preparations for work. Happily for Rolf Listlevand, seen above tuning his lute, work is play.

What I notice above all things is his attitude. He bends his ear to the body of the instrument, listening for things that very few people might be aware of. He listens for that moment when 2 frequencies become one, vibrate in perfect unison.

This act is almost impossible when there is any distracting noise. It requires a space and a time completely given over to the task, to the relationship between the artist and his instrument. 

These days, given the high levels of energy implicit in much publicly consumed music, we have given this ritual over to technology. We use digital tuners which tell us visually whether a string is in tune or not. I refer to many types of music, but not the classical kind – here the ritual of tuning up retains its currency. Think the Western orchestra, or the Indian Classical ensemble.

So what is so arresting about this mans attitude? For one, it demonstrates commitment, representing years of practice and discipline. It demonstrates respect, respect for the music about to be rendered, the instrument, the exchange. Above all, and incorporating these two aspects, it is an act of intimacy. 

The comparison with an intimate relationship between 2 people as expressed in Cornford’s poem, and the element of play involved in that relationship, is very powerful. It brings the respect shown to a thing or an abstract idea, into the realm of the personal.

It may be a truism but it remains worth saying, that one of the most sacred experiences we can have is an intimate relationship with a lover.  What underpins the power of sex? Here are two answers to this question:

Firstly, it ensures the survival of the species, it leads to procreation. And second, the sexual urge draws to our attention a yearning for intimacy. And the ultimate intimacy is divine intimacy with the Creator. 

I would go as far as to say that the ultimate goal and prize of all spirituality is not escape from damnation, not even the achieving of perfection, but it is defined relationally, in terms of intimacy. And all worship needs to have this as its goal.

Intimacy is a frightening proposition. Fairly scary for women, and terrifying for men, if I may allude to common stereotypes. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, says the book of Hebrews.

Is this because the living God is a vengeful, malicious megalomaniac? I suggest that the answer lies in the fact of Holiness. G-d (at least the God of the Bible) is by definition holy, and that which is less than holy is simply unable to survive in that reality, like straw in the presence of fire. 

But we need to be clear, holiness is not achieved by good works or self-sanctification, it is the gift of G-d in Christ, experienced through faith… this is the heart of the Christian gospel.

I hope that the relation ship between holiness and intimacy is emerging.  Although the Holy G-d can not countenance sin, we are asked to present ourselves, present our whole heart. This means that we bring every part, the light and the dark, all our blemishes, doubts and failings.

Intimacy may be about holiness, but it is not about perfection.  If I am 90% light and 10% darkness, and I present my light, happy-shiny 90% in worship, am I better than he who is 60% light and 40% darkness but presents 100% in worship?

True intimacy in worship involves the whole heart, including what is fallen. In fact it is these very blemishes which are ironically becoming to G-d, and it is an act, perhaps the greatest act, of courage and of faith, for anyone to allow another into the darkness of their secrets.

Religion encourages us to look and act the part of a holy person; but G-d asks for all of us including the our down and dirty secrets. If we were to say that it takes two to be intimate, we will have made some progress. But I believe the journey far goes beyond this. 

Intimacy should become an expression not just of an individual and their God, or of two individuals, but need to become an expression of community as well. It needs to become a quality of life in a group of people.

Worship should enable this process.  And furthermore, as paradoxical as it may sound, we need to become intimate with the cosmos itself. By understanding that the whole created order is not something separate from our relationships with people, our worship will reference the world, the whole of creation.

Righteousness is not a moral achievement, it an awareness. It means to be in right relationship with all that is. If we are becoming friends with G-d how can we not care for the ongoing work of G-d, the ongoing act of creation. This involves restoration of damage, be it relational, ecological, psychological or in any other domain, but more so the ongoing act of creation, in all its forms.

If we strive then for a worship of righteousness, of rightness, in closeness with life, this sense of harmony will begin to emerge. And then we can with our maestro, perhaps begin, “Inquiring with delight what slight essential things she had to say” …

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