Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

This is a poem by Wendell Berry called:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Be Surprised By the Tears

This poem is by Rachel Barenblat from her book 70 Faces http://www.phoeniciapublishing.com/70-faces-torah-poems.html.  She is a rabbi and in this book she is in deep conversation with the Five Books of Moses. "Lech Lecha" can be translated not only "go forth (from your native land) but "go forth from yourself".  Extend yourself, reach beyond yourself, take the risk of opening yourself. This is not only a physical journey, it to me is the internal one. 

Lech Lecha is what I will whisper into my boy's ears as I put them down to bed tonight.  I have heard it whispered in my ears too.  


It's not going to be easy.
All of your roadmaps are wrong.
That was another country:
those lakes have dried up
and new groundwater is welling
in places you won't expect.
You'll begin the journey in fog
destination unknown, impossible.
Don't be surprised by tears.
This right here is holy ground.
Take a deep breath and turn away
from cynicism and despair
listen to the voice from on high
and deep within, the one that says
I'm calling you to a place
which I will show you
and take the first small step
into the surprising sun.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Room For Me

My friend and poet Malcolm Guite http://www.malcolmguite.com/ passed along a section from G.K. Chesterton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton from his book Orthodoxy.  In it Chesterton leaves the shores of his faith to attempt to discover what he actually believes, only to find himself to have arrived from the point he originally left from.   But at first he does not recognize his surroundings and thinks he has discovered something new - only to find that it has been found by many before him.  With new and appreciative eyes he sees old places of his past in totally revisioned ways. This seems to be the way of faith, the way of integrating the various tensions in life, the various energies that pull us and pull at us.  There is a redoubling, a returning, a revisioning but only after a leaving and a setting out.

When Chesterton returns part of the new vision is the fact that faith and doubt are part and parcel of the same movement.  They live together in the same space.  They do so because they live in God that way.  John Erving in his book A Prayer for Owen Meany frames his story and this interplay between the presence and absence of God by echoing the voice of his High School teacher Fredrich Buechner:  “Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.” 

Here is Chesterton, sand on his feet, standing on the shore awash with revelation: 

But if the divinity is true it is certainly terribly revolutionary. That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already; but that God could have his back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents for ever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point--and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologise in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Truth as Provocation

I have been reading Katherine Moody's blog http://katharinesarahmoody.tumblr.com/ for a while now and she is on to something.  She is helping to open space so that reified concepts such confession, truth, love are somehow returned to the event that they attempt to apprehend. Recently she posted a long quote from Derrida describing his notion of "invitation" vs "visitation".  I was first introduced to this tension in Jack Caputo's "What Would Jesus Deconstruct" http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Would-Jesus-Deconstruct-Postmodernism/dp/0801031362 an important, readable and significant book.  
That confession and truth is de-centered from a rational abstract conception that I somehow can objectively stand back from while the same time "owning" and is returned to an embodied event that disturbs, initiates and agitates is crucial. Truth does in fact "fall upon us" much in the same way that it did Moses - "take off your shoes you are on holy ground" NOT "one step forward and you will be on holy ground".  The event had happened, perseveration was not an option and to do so would have been an abstraction way from the event, away from reality, away from the visitation in to a space that I control and so diminish.  Truth is provocation that demands my life, my soul my all. To be found "in the truth" is the continual act of creation all the way down. Or as my AA friend's say: We must act ourselves into a different way of thinking. 
Here is the Derrida quote via Moody:
[Confession is] not matter of knowledge. It’s not a matter of making the other know what happened, but a matter of changing oneself, of transforming oneself. That’s what perhaps Augustine calls “to make the truth.” Not to tell the truth, not to inform – God knows everything – but to make the truth, to produce the truth.
What does it mean to “make” the truth? If you make the truth in the performative sense…, it is not an event. For the truth to be “made” as an event, then the truth must fall on me - not be produced by me, but fall on me, or visit me. That’s “visitation.”
I distinguish between hospitality of “invitation” and hospitality of “visitation.” When I invite someone, I remain the master of the house: “Come, come to me, feel at home,” and so on, “but you should respect my house, my language, my rules, the rules of my nation” and so on. “You are welcome, but under some conditions.”
But “visitation” is something else: absolute hospitality implies that the unexpected visitor can come, may come and be received without conditions. It falls upon; it comes; it is an intrusion, an eruption - and that’s the condition of the event…
…it must fall on me - either from above, so that I cannot see it coming, like a bomb or an airplane or God [Derrida is speaking sixteen days after 9/11], or behind or beneath, but not in front of me.

Jacques Derrida on the event of confession, from “Composing ‘Circumfession,’” in John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon, eds., Augustine and Postmodernism: Confessions and Circumfession (Indiana University Press, 2005), p.23.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Guy Like You in a Place Like This....

It has been a while since I have blogged!  We have moved to Cambridge UK in August 2011 to do a Post-Doc in the Faculty of Divinity's Psychology and Religion Research Group.  It has been an amazing journey so far and I am finally getting sorted enough to get back to my sporadic blogging.

I am headed down to London tomorrow to go to the School of Life www.schooloflife.com.  I have wanted to visit this little place ever since hearing about it from my friend Barry Taylor.  Alain de Botton will be preaching about his new book Religion for Atheists.  Atheists like de Botton are taking a spiritual turn towards religion and actually engaging with religion in ways that are textured and critical.  There is an approach in the 2.0 version of atheism of the need to understand and learn from the dynamics of religion.  Within this engagement is the acknowledgment that individuals and society are facing problems and religion can be a helpful dialogue partner.  Alternatively folks like Jack Caputo, Richard Kearney and Pete Rollins are introducing western constructs of religion to continental philosophy's notion of the absence of God, the concealment of God and the unnameability of God.  This is the religious turn towards atheism and doubt as central to the christian faith.  I think there is much to be gained in holding these two dialogues in tension.

Here is de Botton at TED - my guess is that his talk on Sunday will be cut from the same cloth.  It is well worth the 20 min: