Saturday, February 27, 2010

after breakfast

At the moment I find it hard to focus my attention on one thing. Witness this picture of our kitchen table this morning, which shows the scattered nature of my thoughts, running from an attempt to 're-imagine Christianity' to the Imam at the Bay Mosque, subject of one of Semezdin Mehmedinovic's short essay/poems, through Tipielo's painting of a Sunday stroll in the 1790's, Shaun Tan's wonderfully weird and holy suburbs, and, bathed in light at the bank of the table, wonderful Taha Muhammad Ali. I actually like the web of thoughts that form on long mornings like this (especially when I can go and chase the thoughts through the bookshelf rather than on the web).

A couple of choice quotes for further thought:
'For Jesus , at-one-ment was not only being at-one with the glory of the stars, or the first daffodil in the spring, or a baby's laugh. He was also at-one with all the pain and suffering that ever was, is, or will be. On the cross Jesus was at-one with the young boy with cancer, the young mother haemorrhaging, the raped girl... We can withdraw, even in our prayers, from the intensity of suffering. Jesus, on the cross, experienced it all. When I touch the small cross I wear, this, then, is the meaning of the symbol.'
Madeleine L'Engle, quoted in Re-Enchanting Christianity by Dave Tomlinson.

'3) I first saw this man on television: I trembled at the abundance of spiritual power by which he gathered sorrow into himself; he seems younger to me now, as he nears the table, putting down a pack of cigarettes, holding an ashtray, offering me one and saying: "I liked tobacco once, then I stopped, and now I don't smoke anymore." He speaks softly. When I speak softly, my voice becomes hoarse because of the cigarettes. I stare at him attentively, searching for a sign to reveal the power that distinguishes him. We speak; he says: "People can be divided into the stronger and the weaker, but you can't chastise the weak. There are reasons to justify their weakness: physical constitution for instance. And a lot of other reasons. I could never slaughter a sacrificial lamb, a kurban, with my own hands, nor would I ever have the strength to do such a thing. So be it." Pointing out his own weakness, he shattered my naive conviction that signs of his strength could be seized at a glance.'
from the poem/essay Imam Bey's Mosque by Semezdin Mehmedinovic

And here is my own copy of one of the figures from the Tiepolo painting. Here he looks as though he is hovering, about to take his first step. In the original he is much more clearly in mid-stride. Even though the figures are fantastical, I love the every day-ness of strolling in the rain.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Thirst, by Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.

My friend Karen sent me this.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


This man's life and his poetry feel like a huge gift, which makes me very very happy.

Peter Cole translates Taha Muhammad Ali.


In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn't cut down a single tree,
didn't slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
didn't raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
"Come in, please,
by God, you can't refuse."


his case is hopeless,
his situation
His god-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he'd serve them eggs
sunny side up,
and labneh
fresh from the bag.



I found the David Hockney image(s) I took this from here. I am sure that taking photographs by someone who usually draws and turning them back into drawings could lead to some complicated philosophy of art conclusion but for me there is just something very pleasing about the activity and life that these pieces, which Hockney calls 'joiners', communicate. Like seeing a conversation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

movie holiday monday

McLibel: Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

Spent part of the holiday watching this. Fantastic. Very scary, in an encouraging sort of way. On one level it is about the triumph of two individuals against a corporation. But it is also about the corporate takeover of global democracy. Steve Brodner has a pithy reflection on the Supreme Court-enabled takeover in the US here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

happy day

This is an excerpt from the Valentine's Day card that I made for my love.

The woman in the flower shop (which is also a pub in our neighbourhood) said that she has a mission (throughout the year but especially at this flower-giving time) to help people celebrate their lives with rituals, which most of us have lost. I was rather touched by this. She also included a sprig of rosemary in the bunch of flowers, which I promised to bake into my next batch of bread. And a cabbage too (which looks like a rose with green and white petals). A gift you can look at and eat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


There's a good article at The Guardian on one man's decision to make his own bread. The 'money quote' for me is, "I just wanted the family to have some toast in the morning without ingesting the unspecified additives that give a loaf of bread the same half-life as strontium-90." All I would add is, why not go the whole way and, for an extra ten minutes or so, find a bread that you can make without any gadgets at all (save the oven and the breadpan). Also, in the words of one of the great kids show jingles from when I was growing up, 'Why Don't You Just Switch Off the Television and Go and Do Something More Interesting Instead?' (And that said, the more interesting thing for me has often been to go and watch a DVD.)

I just took this from the oven. I hope it is toasted rather than burnt.

This was my latest attempt at a variation on a theme - yeasted bread filled with something tasty. I'll let you know how it turned out.

Andrew, from whom I took the quotation in the previous post, pointed out that the quote was from Philip Yancey, writing in Soul Survivor on Frederick Buechner, whom he much admires. I like them both and just want to make sure no one out there is confused.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


“Why do we do it, we writers? ‘Of making many books there is no end,’ sighed the teacher of Ecclesiastes some three millennia ago, and 50,000 new ones will appear this year alone. Yet we keep at it, cranking out more and more words, with the potential to bring harm as well as comfort. I think we do it because each of us has nothing else to offer than a living point of view that differentiates us from every other person on this planet. We must tell our stories to someone…
…Every writer must overcome a kind of shyness, putting out of mind the fear that we are being arrogant by thrusting ourselves upon you the reader and egotistical by assuming our words are worth your time. Why should you care about what I have to say? What right have I to impose myself on you? In another context, Simone Weil presents a kind of answer: ‘I cannot conceive the necessity for God to love me, when I feel so clearly that even with human beings affection for me must only be a mistake. But I can easily imagine that he loves the perspective of creation which can only be seen from the point where I am.’ That is all any writer can offer, especially a writer of faith: a unique perspective of creation, a point of view visible only from the point where I am… …We can only write with passion about our own experiences.”
Frederick Buechner (HT to my friend Andrew at Calamateur). I think some of the same can probably be said about bloggers.

The LP is not really into all the 'Goddy God' contemplative stuff, so look for more action in the next 'strip'.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

taha muhammad ali

I have not fully processed his writing and am not sure how to talk about him yet. But I know that I love Taha Muhammad Ali's story and his deeply human, compassionate poems.

Watch this video. Serious playfulness.

And here he is reading another poem, Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower.

Taha Muhammad Ali (with Peter Cole) from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin

At times ... I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!


But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.


Likewise ... I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbors he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.


But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbors or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

April 15, 2006

Thursday, February 4, 2010


You can hear the Radio 4 program on the new diggers here for the rest of the week. Definitely worth a listen - some kind of revolution.

And The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus, I think, has helpful commentary on my state of mind here.

would make me put on a seatbelt

Embrace Life from Haendel Dantas on Vimeo.

Most amazing ad (HT to Andrew Sullivan). What imagination.

Reminds me that I really need to make some time to watch Wings of Desire again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

wake up

Not so happy with anything I am drawing at the moment, but determined that I would post whatever came out next. Here it is. Does it lack some of the warmth of those longer cartoons?

"Dream dreams - Then write them - Aye, but live them first" - Samuel Eliot Morison