Monday, April 27, 2009

my parents are coming to visit

back to the first post

I finished reading The New York Review of Books articles on torture and was quite sick. Re-reading this before posting I remember Max Von Sydow in Hannah and Her Sisters: 'If Jesus came back today, and saw what what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.'

I think that by the time you get into arguing over whether or not a specific way of inflicting pain is or is not torture you are already so far from what is right (never mind what is true, worthy, loving, etc.) as to not be worth listening to. I might want more from the current administration. I certainly don't want less and am often reassured.

I don't know what to make of the rabbit that belongs (for now) to Pierre Bergé, but felt happy trying to draw it. It was a gift to the Chinese Emperor a couple of centuries ago that was stolen in the 1800s. Monsieur Bergé says he will happily give it back when the Chinese government recognizes Tibetan independence.

I messed up the drawing and it was fun trying to set it right again.

Greenbelt Art

Greenbelt: Visual Arts 08 from Nathan Jones on Vimeo.

It is many years since I went to Greenbelt (the reasons for my absence are all geographical - and financial I suppose - absence makes my heart grow fonder of all those I already love). I dearly miss it. In many ways it continues to be a touchstone. Time spent there and recent virtual reconnection inform what I read and listen to. How I think.
Over the past several years I have been able to listen to more and more of the talks and more recently some videos have been appearing. I like this one a lot.

Jonny Baker linked to the video at his blog. Is this what they call a hat tip?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

listening and hearing

I should say that I am often someone who does not read poetry. That I don't stop, listen, or hear. (And even when I do stop, I don't often listen. And even when I stop and listen, I don't often hear). I find it very hard to stop and to listen and to hear. I see this as a cause of a lot of the stress in my life. Or maybe I should say, This adds to the stress in my life. I forget who I am. Or become uncertain. I look for answers in the wrong places. I get rattled and rattle others. I snap and tear. Sometimes.

Sundays are always the hardest day of the week for me. This has been true for a long time. I am not sure why. My going to church rituals somehow contribute to the feeling that the rest of the week is hurtling towards me. All of which is to say that it is hard to have a day of rest - to stop and listen and hear. It is hard to ask for help. This has been a good Sunday for the most part. Church. Good conversations. A long lunch with friends. More good conversations. Not much stopping, listening or hearing outside of these but grace in all of them. Not sure that this post is going anywhere else right now. I feel the rest of the week, work, pressing in. But I also feel okay. Aware. Even if I am not ready.

It's national poetry month. I just found this out. Here we all are.

word has arrived...

This seemed like an appropriate 'yet, not yet, life after Easter Resurrection' poem. Margaret Avison. Found here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

like a library

I do not know much about Simon Channing Williams, who died last week. But I remember him very fondly from the documentary extras on the DVD of The Constant Gardener. One of those people who seems to carry a whole universe with him, bringing others benevolently into his orbit. This was evidenced, not least, in the organization he founded in Kenya after the production finished. He produced all of Mike Leigh's films for the last twenty years. My own favourite is Topsy Turvey, but I like many of them.

the best laid plans

I had planned to post on Easter Sunday. Resurrection (and the Resurrection) was on my mind and has been since, in large part in response to Surprised by Hope, which I finished on Good Friday. In the interest of posting something rather than nothing (which might happen if we wait for me to articulate my thoughts) I put this up, even though Tom Wright does not look like this really. I have also been thinking about a stream of consciousness post, to see how that goes. This is not it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

good friday post

'For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.'

Thursday, April 9, 2009

priestly duties

So, when I tried to get into the spirit of drawing a response to the Leunig figures I like so much (looking for a kind, human figure) this is what came out. I am not so surprised that he is a priest. I am surprised that he looks so traditional. I like that he has bare feet.

Around the time that I drew this I was reading Ben Myers' posts on William Stringfellow, which gave me a lot to think about. In particular, this piece on ordination. I agree that there is a lot of confusion on the role of priests/pastors/vicars - particularly around their full time status, which can make the rest of the church sound like lukewarm amateurs. One of the distinctives from my Baptist past that I recently became aware of again is 'the priesthood of all believers.' Although there was a paid pastor, the church I went to in my teens and twenties rarely had the same person preaching at consecutive services. I benefit from this even now.

All of that said, I have a very high view of priests as partners (priest being shorthand for someone who has been formally ordained) and remembered this Stewart Henderson poem while I was drawing. I am also posting this today because the the poem turns to reflect on The Priest Jesus, remembering him in the garden, 'beside himself'.


What should a priest be?
All things to all -
male, female and genderless.
What should a priest be?
reverent and relaxed,
vibrant in youth,
assured through the middle years,
divine sage when aging.

What should a priest be?
accessible and incorruptible,
astemious, yet full of celebration,
informed, but not threateningly so,
and far above
the passing souffle of fashion.

What should a priest be?
an authority on singleness,
Solomon-like on the labyrinth
of human sexuality,
excellent with young marrieds,
old marrieds, were marrieds, never
marrieds, shouldn't have marrieds,
those who live together, those who live
apart, and those who don't live anywhere,
respectfully mindful of senior
citizens and war veterans,
familiar with the ravages of arthritis,
osteoporosis, post-natal depression,
anorexia, whooping-cough and nits.

What should a priest be?
all-round family person
counsellor, but not officially because
of the recent changes in legislation,
teacher, expositor, confessor,
entertainer, juggler,
good with children, and
possibly sea-lions,
empathetic towards pressure-groups.

What should a priest be?
On nodding terms with
Freud, Jung, St John of the Cross,
The Scott Report, The Rave Culture,
The Internet, The Lottery, BSE and
Anthea Turner,
pre-modern, fairly modern,
post-modern, and, ideally,
secondary-modern -
if called to the inner city.

What should a priest be?
charismatic, if needs must,
but quietly so,
evangelical, and thoroughly
meditative, mystical, but not
New Age.
Liberal, and so open to other voices,
traditionalist, reformer and
and hopefully, not on medication
unless for an old sporting injury.

Note to congregations
If your priest actually fulfills all of the above, and then enters the pulpit one Sunday morning wearing nothing but a shower-cap, a fez and declares "I'm the King and Queen of Venus, and we shall now sing the next hymn, in Latvian, take your partners please",-
Let it pass.
Like you and I
they too sew the thin thread of humanity.
Remember Jesus in the Garden -
beside himself?

So, what does a priest do?
mostly stays awake
at Deanery synods
Tries not to annoy the Bishop
too much
visits hospices, administers comfort,
conducts weddings, christenings,-
not necessarily in that order,
takes funerals
consecrates the elderly to the grave
buries children and babies
feels completely helpless beside
the swaying family of a suicide.

What does a priest do?
tries to colour in God
uses words to explain miracles
which is like teaching
a millipede to sing, but
even more difficult.

What does a priest do?
answers the phone
when sometimes they'd rather not
occasionally errs and strays
into tabloid titillation
prays for Her Majesty's Government.

What does a priest do?
Tends the flock through time,
oil and incense,
would secretly like each PCC
to commence
with a mud-pie making contest
sometimes falls asleep when praying
yearns, like us, for
heart-rushing deliverance

What does a priest do?
has rows with their family
wants to inhale Heaven
stares at bluebells
attempts to convey the mad love of God
would like to ice-skate with crocodiles
and hear the roses when they pray.

How should a priest live?

How should we live?

As priests
transformed by The Priest
that death prised open
so that he could be our priest
martyred, diaphanous and
matchless priest.

What should a priest be?

What should a priest do?

How should a priest live?

Stewart Henderson
from Limited Edition

We are all called to be priests.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

humour, humanity and drôlerie

Reviews of the first volume of Beckett's letters: Joseph O'Neill here and Anthony Lane wonderful as always here.

' are speaking for the ones who are being squashed...'

Mainly I am posting this so that I remember these links. I've been watching a two part interview with the Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig, which is available here and here.

I have loved Leunig's drawings ever since my friend G gave me a copy of The Prayer Tree. Perhaps just a short time later I bought copies of two Frederick Buechner books, which had Leunig drawings on their covers. There is a sweet robust vulnerability to his figures. The images and the books go well together.

And I find Leunig in the interview to be wholly winning - amazing awkwardness and pained honesty. Beautiful really. The anguish in his question, Why am I not allowed to mourn for the children of Gaza? tears me up. And his description of Piccasso is very funny. Besides, who couldn't love someone who shows covers the ground between this:

and this:

I tried to draw someone after Leunig's style. In the end was maybe too much like a copy - I'll post it soon. The person I drew ended up very closely attached to a poem I like, which I'll have to go and find.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

black & white & colour

I bought this beer for the first time last week. Very tasty. I like the label, so drew a quick sketch. I have not been happy with most of what I have drawn recently. Not taking enough time to work on things and not drawing often enough. This was part of a more concerted effort to draw at least one thing every day. The proportions of the bottle are clearly a bit screwy but I feel a certain attachment to the drawing. It feels like the bottle of beer even if it does not look exactly like it. The placing of the lettering on the bottle is all wrong too.

So I thought I would have another go - and this time in colour. The shape of the bottle is both closer and further from the look of the actual bottle. And the label lettering is further off. The whole feels less like the bottle I drew than the original drawing. But the whale tail is close to what you would see looking at the actual bottle of beer.

I am trying to get at something else with all of this. I am not sure what that something else is. Something about passing frustration and accepting happy drawing mistakes. Or just that I like good beer and a well-designed label.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


My first flush impression on reading about Freeman Dyson is largely the same as the feeling I have about Christopher Hitchens. I would not in any way deny their respective smarts (and, in Hitchens' case, find myself nodding along with a lot of what he says) but they ultimately seem to be so enamoured with taking a contrarian stance that it muddies their thinking when it needs to be clearest. This makes them vastly more entertaining than many other public thinkers but I they seem to do a lot less to helpfully move debate forward towards change (in the form of changed minds or social change). Maybe I am wrong about this.

Any value in being a contrarian would seem to depend on what you are against and on your stance being rooted in some sort of objective truth (what you are for). I think the same is true of faith, which is not a good or bad thing in and of itself. The object of one's faith is where the true interest and value of the faith lie.

Maybe thinking like this leads me to look too often towards thinkers and friends for whom I already have a positive bias. But even the places and people I go to, who shape my thought and sense of God and the world, can leave me frazzled and challenged. I have already mentioned this in regard to The Gospel According to America. It happens all over again when I read N.T. Wright. What is my love like? How do I actually see the world and what does my seeing say about where I am really placing my faith?

I should say that Dr. Dyson looks more gentle and less foreboding than I have managed to draw here.

I have been posting for three months now. I like posting. Not sure how I feel about what I post. I feel myself edging towards saying more about me, which I am happy about. The drawings are part of that and part of a larger process. I am happy about the anonymity too at the moment. Now I sound like a contrarian (at least with myself).