Superhero…

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(Written in the wake of my son watching yet another one of those superhero films. Wondering what they tell us about our culture and our aspirations. And being a curmudgeon.)

 

Superhero

 

Tonight I am special

The atomic spider bit deep and now

I top the bill of this everyday freak show

looking down from height, my laser vision

scanning for photogenic girls to

save from the clutch of some comic-cut villains

because every empire needs a

convenient kind of evil

to scare the children to their bed and

the parents to their polling booths

 

Tomorrow I will be ordinary

I will commute through the same crowds as the crowd

all of us on our way to work in shops to earn money

to spend in other shops and if we are lucky

a little will be left for some compensatory

distraction. A movie perhaps?

We can watch the gods up there in their plastic palaces.

Fearing this truth:

that if we are all extraordinary

then none could ever be a super

and who would want a world like that?

TFT Christmas card, 2016…

 

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Baby, breathing

 

A madman ascends to the gilded throne

The whole Empire convulses

A star tumbles down from the Eastern sky

Appalling portents in every Facebook feed

For we are, it seems, all doomed

(Apart from the celebrities)

 

Meanwhile in an alley behind the Chinese takeaway

Joseph and Mary are bin diving

Because nothing is made from wood these days

And they have no plastic

Mary wonders where they will lie

There are no stables in this town

 

It was always this way my friends

Just when hope was almost lost

When joy was replaced by mass distraction

And peace replaced by fear

Love comes down

Like snow

 

Like the soft sound

Of a baby

Breathing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The people of Aleppo…

During our on going clear out pending next weeks house move, I came across a picture that Michaela bought for me a few years ago. We had agreed to only buy presents from charity shops and she had found a watercolour print- a series of quick wet into wet sketches, entitled ‘the people of Aleppo’.

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Of course, since then the picture has a whole new level of significance.

A couple of friends sit chatting on a park bench whilst someone takes home the shopping. An old man reads the newspaper while his friend pauses to chew the fat. Women walk home arm in arm and everyone lives outside in the sunshine. Life is ordinary, and all the more beautiful for that.

What happened to these folk?

Did they all survive, or are some still buried in the rubble of their former houses? Outlasted by this portrait done in happier times?

Have some fled and become refugees, scattered across a European landscape increasingly hostile to their presence?

Are some still there? Sheltering in cellars. Starved. Fearful. Awaiting the retribution of the approaching government troops.

Have some become heroes, rescuing others as part of the White Helmet organisation?

We will never know, but spare some thoughts friends for the people of Aleppo, who find themselves at the centre of a power play that they can never win. May they survive, somehow, to a time when they can once more sit in the street with no fear of bullet or barrel bomb.

I searched for the artist, Lucy Willis, and discovered that she is selling prints of this painting and others via Oxfam in aid of the people of Syria. Check this out here, as these might make fantastic Christmas presents.

 

 

The second simplicity…

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I should be packing, but here I am again. I felt compelled to reflect on one of Richard Rohr’s meditations that landed in my inbox like manna. If you have not heard of him, you might like to check him out here, via his Centre for Action and Contemplation website.

Richard Rohr speaks of the one-ness of all things; the hope that we might come to understand ourselves not as individual units of consumption, satisfaction and distraction, but rather as held in a relationship with all things.

Today he used this wonderful phrase ‘the second simplicity’, which he defines like this;

As we grow spiritually, we discover that we are not as separate as we thought we were. Separation from God, self, and others was a deep and tragic illusion. As we grow into deeper connection and union, the things that once brought meaning and happiness to our small self no longer satisfy us. We tried to create artificial fullness through many kinds of addictive behavior, but still feel empty and nothing, if we are honest. We need much more nutritious food to feed our Bigger Self; mere entertainments, time-fillers, diversions, and distractions will no longer work.

At the more mature stages of life, we are even able to allow the painful and the formerly excluded parts gradually belong to a slowly growing and unified field.  This shows itself as a foundational compassion, especially toward all things different and those many people who “never had a chance.” If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can now do it for everybody else too. If you have not forgiven yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others. “What comes around goes around.”

Many who are judgmental and unforgiving seem to have missed out on the joy and clarity of the first childhood simplicity, perhaps avoided the suffering of the mid-life complexity, and thus lost the great freedom and magnanimity of the second simplicity as well. We need to hold together all of the stages of life, and for some strange, wonderful reason, it all becomes quite “simple” as we approach our later years. The great irony is that we must go through a lot of complexity and disorder (another word for necessary suffering) to return to the second simplicity. There is no nonstop flight from first to second naiveté, from initial order to resurrection. We must go through the pain of disorder to grow up and switch our loyalties from self to God. Most people just try to maintain their initial “order” at all costs, even if it is killing them.

As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why we are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep goodness, or what Merton called “a hidden wholeness.”

I love this. Not because I think that I have yet embraced this deeper sense of who I am in my second half of life. I can lay claim to no great maturity, and have more than my fair share of mid life complexity. However I know that in these words there is such hope.

Not just hope for a life of some kind of Zen like personal satisfaction, for what is the point of that, but rather a hope for all things, that at the end of all things, there is a wholeness that holds everything.

 

They sail away don’t they?

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My daughter is 21.

Let’s leave aside all the talk of the speed time passes and seems-like-yesterday…

But then again, I am less immune to nostalgia than most, particularly where my lovely lass is concerned. She has overcome a whole raft of challenges already in her young life and somehow stayed loving, creative and hard working… my pride in her is a deep well of goodness.

One of those aforementioned challenges is dyspraxia and yesterday, on her actual birthday, she exited the house too enthusiastically and came a mighty cropper, ending up in casualty. She is now stretched out on our sofa unable to walk because of a horrible cut to her knee. Not the best way to spend your birthday. We can only ope that she will be healed up in time for our house move, or we will have to find a large roll of bubble wrap.

Come to think of it that is not such a bad idea…

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Our present to her was rather symbolic. She loves sailing, so we have managed (via the help of a number of friends with Towbars- thanks Andy!- and driveways- thanks Moseleys) to purchase and secrete a sailing boat as a 21st birthday present. To be more specific to those who are into such things, a very old (1964) Mirror sailing dinghy.

Because they sail away, our kids. Slowly perhaps, but their horizons will always be different from ours. The boat is small, and the ocean vast, so forgive me the fears that linger on this old landlubber but there really is no other way. They must sail away.

By the way, this was taken pre accident yesterday on the Argyll Riviera.

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Kate Tempest on the process of writing…

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Anyone who writes things will get this. It is a bit of a conversation between Kate Tempest and Fleabag writer author Phoebe Waller-Bridge. You can read the whole interview here.

PWB Can I ask you, Kate, writer to writer: do you ever write something and go, “Smashed it, that’s brilliant, I’m keeping that, that’s amazing.” Does it get to the point where you can step back and go, “That’s a really good piece of writing” or, “That’s not such a good piece of writing.” Or do you just write it all down and not think of it critically?

KT It’s not like, “Wooh, I’m smashing this” but sometimes everything else disappears, and that happens very rarely. The rest of the time, it’s you writing when you don’t feel like writing, writing when you hate everything that’s coming out, forcing yourself to engage with the idea that it’s going to be shit no matter what you do, and trying to kind of break through that because of a deadline, or because you know that it’s very important to continue. This is what enables you to be a writer.

The difference between a writer and someone who dreams of being a writer is that the writer has finished. You’ve gone through the agony of taking an idea that is perfect – it’s soaring, it comes from this other place – then you’ve had to summon it down and process it through your shit brain. It’s coming out of your shit hands and you’ve ruined it completely. The finished thing is never going to be anywhere near as perfect as the idea, of course, because if it was, why would you ever do anything else? And then you have another idea. And then these finished things are like stepping stones towards being able to find your voice.

The thing is, everybody’s got an idea. Everybody wants to tell me about their ideas. Everybody is very quick to look down on your finished things, because of their great ideas. But until you finish something, I’ve got no time to have that discussion. Because living through that agony is what gives you the humility to understand what writing is about.