Saturday, 9 July 2016

Laying awake

A dear young friend lay awake this week 
I invited his macho-self to be a bit poetic ...reminding me of this poem I wrote a decade ago...I think it's pretty good...but you should always be wary of your own judgment


If I could live at night's middle
instead of running rather ragged
and drilling at the day
then my vision would be brighter
and the voice of God heard clear.
This morning, even,
the moon's fullest beam
shone bright as day.
total stillness
haunted dead trousers on the line
until the softness
of the Spirit's coolest breath
walked them gently
and I shuddered, not with fear
but with delight
as my too warm breast was cooled
by the lightest of touches.
Who can faint while such a zephyr
reminds me of my own aliveness.

I did not rise.
almost disciplined
to stay in bed
to the point of pain
lest, in embracing
the middle of the night,
I devoured the day
which still demands my full attention.
And so, I crept
as early as I could
to put pen to paper.
visions fleeing,
God's voice whispering
and by a few lines,
the rising of the sun,
the plaintive magpie
and the start of the traffic
night's middle
had gone.

Written Feb 2006

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The plebiscite

In democracies, by definition, plebiscites must be almost always:  deceitful, deceptive, manipulative & unhelpful

 In a democracy we delegate responsibility to our elected representatives...occasionally we have a Referendum...when matters are so great that it is good to get whole-community consensus
Plebiscites, it seems to me, are when our elected representatives are so weak-kneed that they lack the courage and conviction to do what they were elected to do.
To not be too cynical, it is the sort of thing our Lords and Masters ( for they are largely male) do when they are too lily livered to actually make a decision...God forbid that they might actually declare their hands!

Sooooo....the dilemma we now face in the Parliament which looks increasingly hung is this:

  • Turnbull has declared that there will be a Plebiscite  before the end of the year
  • Shorten, whilst not committed  to a Plebiscite, suggests that there should be resolution of this issue within 100 days
What it seems to me.....neither of these luminaries rate this issue as primary within their present HUNG PARLIAMENT scenario

Even more importantly, neither Shorten nor Turnbull, can actually effect their agenda...

So my, SAD,  suggestion is that the expectation about Marriage Equality is not going to be addressed by either Turnbull or Shorten...they will both have their reasons.

None of them will resonate with people on either side.

I suspect it will make Australians seem like Luddites. The people of a generation  a hundred years or more ago!

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Briggs Brag

Interesting article in today's Australian about the defeat of the brash Mr Jamie Briggs in the seat of Mayo.   More than one journalist has commented on the fact that Mr Briggs seems to blame everyone (in this case Julie Bishop) other than himself.  Which I think rather goes to the point that he just doesn't get a lot of career Liberal politicians, his predecessor included; and his colleague in the electorate of Sturt.
The best comment I heard on morning radio was from  the redoubtable Senator X...he was asked why do you think your (the X Team's) candidate Rebekah Sharkie won?...the dialogue went something like this:

X: "Well she is a local, she lives in the electorate  and she worked the local community  for 6 weeks"
Interviewer: "Well so is Jamie Briggs, he lives locally and has been very visible"
X: "Yes" (and this is the pay attention to his nuanced comment said sotto voce ( which is my only explanation for why this perceptive comment has not been picked up in the press)
X: " The difference is that the more she went round the electorate people warmed to her, and liked her more..."
He left us to wonder what happened as Briggs went around his electorate! I will leave you make your own connection

One of my observations about the culture of the Liberal Party is that it is such a "boys club"  typified by snide remarks,  inhouse jokes, deprecatory slurs, and arrogant proclamations of their own 'rightness' as opposed to 'righteousness'

AD (Briggs' predecessor in Mayo ) used to caricature my predecessor in another position, Ron Williams: innovative missionary, bishop, & ethicist as Ron the Red!
I actually think Ron was not worried...and would have been bemused, knowing what schoolboy antics this boy's club gets up to.
But I think the use of the tactic which dismisses people so glibly is shallow and patronising.

Equally both the bumptious Mr Briggs, and the prissy Mr Pyne used to opine about Senator X.
They hated the fact that he was able to catch the public imagination...often by stunts    and DID!

It was the cry of a political establishment being furious that THEIR message did not impact like the good Senator's.

Well there are lots of messages to be learnt

Saturday, 25 June 2016

New Age.. .Reblog

(Facebook threw this up today..worth reblogging)

I get New Age self-help books, which are often looked down upon with disdain by religious folk.
But personally I think that  books and podcasts that encourage folks to attend to the inner life should, on the whole, be encouraged.
A couple of years ago in the lon vacation (ie: Christmas in Australia) I read about The Sedona Method, and felt quite enamoured of the discussion of the curiously named Hale Dwoskin (he of the very irritating laugh!!... sure he would be the first to admit it) 

 I ran a short course in our parish to explore The Sedona Method in a Christian context.
BUT, (and this is probably a big BUT) my course also encouraged people in the Ignatian Examen. Indeed it seems to me that Herr Doktor Dwoskin, and Blessed Inigo have quite a lot in common.

Dwoskin asks people to attend to the emotions that drive and govern them.
Control, Acceptance, Approval...Can we let these needs go?...will we let these needs go. When? Now?

As a process (slightly more comprehensive) this seemed to help me quite a lot.
And, I think, those who shared the course.
Let's release unnecessary attachments (New Age) to those things which falsely give us hope (idolatry)

BUT Blessed Ignatius (also known as Inigo) invites us to an active participation in what the Holy Spirit might be doing in our lives.
At its simplest: stop twice a day and ask yourself

How is God present to me?
What do I have to be thankful for?
What's been going on (emotionally/spiritually)?
How is this inviting me to live today?
What am I going to do tomorrow to live out of this insight?
This may seem simple, some might even say simplistic'
It is, of course, also profound.
Asking us to make scrutiny of ourselves at the most basic level.
This is perhaps what made me make the connection with the Sedona Method.

BUT...and again a big is also the point at which the Christian tradition departs from the New Age
( and what deeply unsettles me about the NA). 

All that Ignatius is asking the believer is:
 "What is Jesus speaking into this situation?"

By and large the New Age stuff (like Sedona) is what Christians would call
Gnostic...a word which is known but profoundly misunderstood by the modern world.
It suggests that Jesus is a sort of spiritual principle to be encountered or absorbed
they often use expressions like "universal energy"
as if Jesus is some sort of spiritual power-plug.

Forgetting that the whole point of Jesus being human 

is that he is personal, 
that he is known as friend, brother and indeed son of God. 
Very "personal" language
When Mr Dwoskin talks about Jesus he talks about him in this way, 

when other New Age writers like Wayne Dyer (here) do likewise
They do not seem to talk about Jesus in the same way as the Christian faith does...not as the "word made flesh" 

but as some sort of spiritual principle...which has no embodiment, and is indeed  more like wish fulfilment, and (as Dyer puts it himself) 'magic'.

So, amidst all this
I am drawn back to the reality of Ignatius 

who calls his sisters and brothers (you and me) back to what it means to have a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth..... 
not some disembodied spiritual principle but a real man...
How does Jesus speak to me? How is he speaking to you?

I often say to my folk...if you find this hard to do ask yourself the question
 "If Jesus was speaking to me today what would he be saying about, school, family, relationships, put what ever is going to day life"

That is probably closer to the truth than real magic!!!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Enjoyed going to the pictures yesterday to see Money Monster...a film directed by Jodie Foster about modern financial travesties.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

I've been slow

Sorry to have been slow about debriefing about the intensive Vipassana course.

10 days..,.We arrived on Monday evening and settled in.
The air was electric...everyone got there early ( well most did)...and so we had 3 hours small talk (meditators are not good at small talk).
I had the joy of taking Maria in the car...part of the ride-share.......this in itself says something about the commitment of participants to each other....we were glad to offer lifts.   Maria was really nice. Though an Australian by birth, she returned to her family's homeland aged 8, and ultimately ended up in that country's army...working in Brussels for NATO
Some how she discovered meditation.
We rather hit it off...though I  am not sure she thought my driving was that great as we drove through the lovely road to Walker Flat...a narrow strip of the River Murray.

In the evening we had an easy supper...soup (vegetarian) and toast a la garlic.
We were led into the Meditation Hall men on ne side and women on the other. And then the Noble Silence began.

A word about The Noble Silence
Absolutely NO talking between anyone other than students (eg me et al) and teachers or managers.
The two older guys I was billeted with agreed that we would observe the Noble Silence...(personally I would have been crapped off if they had thought otherwise).
Well one of us struggled almost immediately with the Noble Silence.  Half way through the night both of the other guys were snoring.  And V got up about 1.45 a.m. and shook G...who was startled at being untimely awoken.
"Mate,'ve got to stop snoring, I can't get to sleep"
I didn't think this boded well, at the very least what was going to happen was that we were going to seethe in silence, unable to do much about the two people we shared with...who we didn't really know.   And we had to be up by 4 a.m..

Any way we settled back to sleep and true to form the gong was struck at 4 and we bounded into the shower to be ready to go at 4.30 a.m.!

Two hours meditation, the last 45 minutes being recorded chanting which after 4 or 5 days got to me and I left them to it and went to either meditate on my bed! Or just to sit quietly.

Breakfast at 6.30 a.m.  Separated dining areas for men and women. I observed at the end that it was quite OK to be separated...a lot less stressful. Though it's amusing to be with 20 guys vying for food . All food was vegetarian...breakfast is easy like that: Porridge, stewed fruit, muesli, various types of seed, yoghourt, ...and then those guys (panicking that they are not going to have enough food) have to make bulk toast!
So now it's 6.50.....and we've already been up for 3 hours.
Proper rest...learnt that it was good to actually go back to bed for an hour....more coming

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Veganism and meditation

I think I accidentally ate a piece of bacon this morning.
I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. Though I like both styles of food.
One of the curiosities of the forthcoming Retreat is that we will eat only a little food (some people even report that they lose weight... could drop a couple of kilos quite happily)
The food will only be vegetarian and erring on the vegan side. The difference is that vegans don't eat any animal products. No milk, butter or eggs. No cheese, yoghourt . You cannot eat most lollies (they have gelatine...made from calves hooves) and you can't have honey. Some vegetarians eat fish but vegans don't, and certainly not poultry.
Having been the principal chef for a vegan child I have learned what to do to get a balanced diet. and to get protein into the diet, and (probably more importantly) flavour.
So I can make a good lentil burger.

And have made a couple of dozen in the last few days. And taken time to cook rice properly, with herbs and spices.

This week in preparation for Boot Camp I have been addressing the Vegan Calculus (that is, reducing the intake so that animal products tend to zero...mathematicians might get this not very funny joke) 
Of course Asian food embraces plant foods. The lentil, the Soy Bean, Coriander, garlic, ginger, cumin, Bok Choy. I don't imagine our retreat food will look quite as exotic as the picture above.
But our focus is not on is on meditation.
In truth Westerners are horrified that we might not eat bulk meat. We are terrified that we might have to eat a little food rather than enormous quantities...All you can eat...has become the catch-cry of the obese generations that look to be a serious threat to Western life.
So I did what I normally do, ate a piece of bacon that was just there, without any intention, reflection or indeed thought!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Preparing for Vipassana

I am about to start some of my annual leave and am going to spend 10 days on an intensive mindfulness retreat in the Vipassana tradition.
I would like to say "this will be fun" but it won't, it will be hard work. Including things like meditating at 4 a.m.  The teacher suggests you do that because later in the day everything gets crowded out.  I find this to be true.
There is a good article here about how it works.((
)pretty scary!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Coffee spoons

One of the most perceptive comments about the movement of life is the oft quoted linee oTS Eliot's poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock ..I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.
Some days seem like that to me, I go from one cup of coffee to the next...though perhaps I could more accruately say I have measured out my life by radio programs.
There are certain things I like to listen to and they rather punctuate the week.
Sometimes I find myself organising my life around them...being in the right place at the right time....or being close to the radio at the right time.
Mondays are often like that...because I like to listen to political commentatorst making comment about the ridiculous carryings on in our nation's capital.
Then sometimes, like Eliot, I look back and see how pathetically small it all is
Contrast that with a a few years ago when we  had a rather overwhelming family week .
When we had the funeral of the last person in a generation. So now in that branch of the Little family (my mother) I am part of the oldest generation. That is secretly overpowering I think.
We had a wedding, and the matron of honour decided she would give birth...not during the ceremony, ....but a new generation continues. The wedding was terrific and there was a real sense of family.
At one stage we had a "Clark photo" and though there were thirty odd of us I suppose (and could have been more) there were only my immediate family who are actually still called Clark. And in that curious way that things go on, I realised because I have daughters and my brother has no is unlikely that our name will be perpetuated any way.
Does it matter?...Is it coffee spoons...or radio programs? Maybe. But important to one's own family

Monday, 29 February 2016

Another remarkable man

Another remarkable man and Anglican, Malcolm Boyd,  who is also a priest ( oh my goodness you lay people have it easy) died this week.

Boyd was 93. He was one of those wonderful thinkers who was able to challenge the community of faith to "look/live outside   the square". That is,  to think creatively. (a full newspaper eulogy in The LA Times is here)
Part of the article tells us quite a lot 
" Boyd was elected president of PEN, an advocacy group for writers' freedom of speech. He started living with Mark Thompson, who was a senior editor for the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newspaper. At the time, it was generally expected that gay Episcopal clergy remain celibate.
Twenty years later in 2004, when Boyd and Thompson renewed their vows in a church ceremony, the majority of Episcopalians had approved of gay marriage at a national conference. Boyd's anniversary service was held at the Episcopal Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles with five bishops among the guests and Bishop Jon Bruno presiding.
Boyd and Thompson married in July 2013, after Proposition 8 was overturned and same-sex unions resumed in California.
“Malcolm lives on in our hearts and minds through the wise words and courageous example he has shared with us through the years,” Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said Friday in a statement. “We pray in thanksgiving for Malcolm’s life and ministry, for his tireless advocacy for civil rights, and for his faithful devotion to Jesus who now welcomes him to eternal life and comforts us in our sense of loss.” 
In his later years, Boyd was writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul. He also worked as a chaplain for AIDS patients and helped to establish a gay history archive at USC.
He continued to write. In a 2014 Huffington Post column, he asked, in his down-to-earth style, for a chat with Pope Francis about religious discrimination against gay people.
"Is this asking too much?" he wrote. "Pope Francis, are you on board?
"I'd like to spend a reflective evening with you, send out for a pizza from a great place near the Vatican, open a bottle of Chianti, put our feet up, relax, and share thoughts and aspirations."
RIP another good priest.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Religion is not a "private pursuit"

We do not live in isolation.
The slightest thought of the manifestly intelligent person should help us realise that religion is not a personal or private pursuit. 
I mean religion is essentially a community activity, it's about relationships, family life, society....etc and etc.

It's a big call to question the Pope's right to make observations about outrageous things that people say from a religious perspective.

Let's face it, Trump doesn't seem to have any qualms about questioning the Pope or  anyone's bona fides on anything. Certainly  he doesn't seem to think there are any limitations on his right to comment on things that he is manifestly not qualified to coment about.
As for the furphy that religion is private and leaders should not offer political critique, try telling that to Mary...who saw her son crucified. 
Or to Mohammad, peace be upon him, who never felt such compunction. Or to George Bush who blatantly exploited his evangelical credentials.
Or to Barack Obama who sang with true faith of God's Amazing Grace. (

Friday, 12 February 2016

Mr Human Rights and Cardinal Dicky Heart

An excellent article with some strident observations from Elizabeth Farrelly about Ruddock's appointment to UN human rights representative for Australia. She rightly questions his credentials.
I also make the observation:

One would also wonder why at age 72 he needs another appointment any way. And I wonder how much it pays.

He has after all been in safe seat Parliament for 40+ years. That would seem a significant pile of superannuation and other benefits which Parliamentarians have so readily afforded themselves,

Farrely observes:
To anoint Philip ‘children overboard’ Ruddock as our special envoy on human rights is an irony of breathtaking proportions. It’s almost as bizarre as allowing George Pell’s dicky heart to distance him from those whose hearts he helped break. In both cases, Australia looks weak, venal and mean.

The WHOLE ARTICLE  is here

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Partisan and unlovely

It is interesting to go to a meeting of those who belong to the same club/group/church/association ....or what ever, as you.  And you realise that within that shared community you are also in some respects on different sides of the fence.
The word we use is "partisan".
I belong to one party
and you/they belong to another.
It is not quite the right way to name it.
I went to such a meeting this afternoon.
The "Boss" of the meeting is not in the same party as I am.
The other participants are in many respects also at the the other end of the spectrum.
We are, however, all members of inner city parishes that seek to reach out to the homeless, the disenfranchised and what are now customarily called "the unlovely". Those people who society could not give a sh&t  about.
They are by and large lovely people. They are broken, and there does not seem like any easy, or even,  a possible, solution.
I can only think that I, and my friends who get it too, will just try to stick with the 'unlovely'
I am not a fan of WWJD ...but I suspect he would  actually want us to realise that in our hearts and in our  minds, he would want us to do so much more than just offer platitudes.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Who's in detention?

I wrote to Matt Williams  (MP for Hindmarsh, SA) about the present Government policy concerning immigration detention

Dear Mr WilliamsI have always been glad of your replies (even if sometimes taking a few weeks) to my questions.Can you tell me what is your understanding about the number of children who are in detention in the so called "arrangements" with Nauru and Manos Island. In particular I would be interested if you can you tell me how many children have been shifted from the mainland to Nauru and Manos to make it look as though we have actually reduced the numbers of children in detention, even though we have added to those on Nauru and Manos.

He replied :
Dear Stephen Thank you for your email. At the moment there are 79 children in detention which includes 72 children who are scheduled to go back to Nauru. The Immigration Minster has been working hard to get that number down to zero as quickly as possible. In some cases parents of the children have adverse ASIO assessments. We will not be releasing that parent out into the community but we are trying to make arrangements for the mother and children to go out. Like you and the Immigration Minister I want all children to be out of detention and the Government and Immigration Department are working very hard to achieve this. I discuss this matter and other migration issues with the Minister during our regular meetings in Canberra. Thank you again for raising this matter with me. Yours sincerely

I leave you to decide whether this is satisfactory. 

As for me. It is not!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

An exposé...Clive Palmer exposed

Hopefully this will expose Clive Palmer
"I won't be repaying sacked workers the money I used to further my own political ambitions/self-interest"
Shame on him!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

For Dawn

A birthday is a gift,

when you are our age. 

A gift because we can share, 

our lives , our loves, 

with those who mean so much

No way to Australia

I live in the swinging (but very ethnically diverse of Hindmarsh)
I wrote recently
"Dear Mr Williams
I have always been glad of your replies (even if sometimes taking a few weeks) to my questions.Can you tell me what is your understanding about the number of children who are in detention in the so called "arrangements" with Nauru and Manos Island. In particular I would be interested if you can you tell me how many children have been shifted from the mainland to Nauru and Manos to make it look as though we have actually reduced the numbers of children in detention, even though we have added to those on Nauru and Manos."                                        

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Now this is an endorsement you would want...NOT

Guardian Australia reports that Sarah Palin, gun toting Governor, has endorsed  Mr Trump.
Big question about whether this is the sort of endorsement you actually want
Quoting Guardian 
In a rambling 20-minute speech, Palin praised Trump and expressed her desire to “Make America Great Again”, using the opportunity to go on a rambling and confused attack on both parties. She condemned Barack Obama’s foreign policy and the Iran deal, and went on to say that under the current administration, “we kowtow and apologize and then bend over and say ‘thank you,enemy’.” Instead, Palin said we should “let our warriors do their job and go kick Isis’s ass.” She also attacked Obama for his 2008 “hopey changy stuff.”

Umm, I like hopey-changey stuff too!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

In the Darkness


It is in the darkness 
that he comes:
an open stable
a dangerous garden
an empty cave

We barely see the shimmer
and fail to recognise 
the challenge
we just as easily 
walk away
unmoved, unrealising
that it is in the darkness

that life is changed

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The remaindered life

WE wonder rather
what our life is like!
Is anyone taking the slightest bit of notice!
or have we passed into the area that no one could care less

It is a problem that clergy, and other caring professionals face every day
who even cares about  what we say or do?

Personally it worries me a little that I am so easily discarded
I presume to think that I have quite a lot of important input to offer into the human condition.
Things like ......death is must not be sacrificed......don't allow political  correctness to tells us that... this or not important

I now have a  granddaughter....and to my mind she is the MOST important thing in the world
I think most, if not ALL, grandparents get this

More important  than my children (much as I love them),
more important than World Politics,
and more significant than theology, philosophy and any of the serious academic pursuits
If we don't get it right for our kids and grandkids
then we have most likely lost the plot!

I don't fully understand  this...but I know it to be true.

She (and her ilk) must be the focus of the world

The fact that many of us have the same reflexion is pretty great.
Our grandchildren are more important than anything

This might just save the world that is hell-bent on self-destruction

Monday, 16 November 2015

Discursive terrorism!

I have some sympathy with the lovely British comedian Jason Manford who got caned by Facebook (shame on them) for declaring that these 'idealists'  are in actual fact cowards.
To be fair he said a bit more than that but I don't think his observations were misplaced

To open fire on unarmed civilians, is not bravery and idealism.
It is total and utter cowardice

It is bullying and thuggery.

I imagine the prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, would be deeply ashamed of the evil that is perpetrated in his name. 
I have been interested about my own reflections, and those who live hand-in-glove with me about what this means.
As I drove into Adelaide yesterday (quietly on Sunday at about 8 a.m.)  I thought about how we might feel about such awfulness. Then cast my mind back 24 hours....the Christmas Pageant.
My granddaughter (10 months old ) was present....and loved it. 
200-300K people present just celebrating their community life....what if a bomb? or a gunman..?  it doesn't bear thinking about.   But my conversations led me to believe I was not the only one who thought this thought!

So I don't emir from J Manford's sentiment

Equally well, as my eldest daughter and I were practising speaking French, we spoke about the Tour Eiffel.   How it had been evacuated; and how easily three or four well-placed bombers could have taken it out.....shudder!

Surely these mad boys ( for such they are...BOYS....will blog about this shortly) don't want to live in a world in which families cannot have lunch together, or friends laugh with each other....

Having been a boy, I know that boys are not that bright!   They get enthused. But we are a bit thick!

Easy targets for unscrupulous propagandists who convert their stupidity to misguided 'enthusiasm'...which is a most dangerous thing!

Sunday, 15 November 2015


The last time I went to Europe I came back and said....I don't need to go to Rome again (don't let me fool you...if you'll pay I'll go!) and I don't need to go to London again (see above) 
BUT if I never go to  Paris again then I will feel diminished 
This last attack threatens that.
I do not want to never be able to go to Musee D'Orsay, to the Picasso Museum, the Rodin Gallery...and to Notre Dame.
Mind you (going back to Rome) I love the Lateran Basilica and assisted at Exposition for a week!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Traversing the eternal web

It is always difficult to traverse late October to early November for a Christian.
The focal feast is November 1 which is All Saints Day the derivative celebration is Halloween (Oct 31) when for some reason we seem to focus on "ghosties and ghoulies and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night" but here's a go.
Personally I think that Hollywood etc can lionise  ghosts, and demons.
But the Christian reality is that they don't hold sway.
There is no doubt lots of stuff that can be said about demons, dibbocks, and personal devils.
The truth is that Christian theology says Jesus says this stuff is powerless.
In reality ....were OLJC less sophisticated  he would say it is bu&&s&^t!
So, I am confident in a couple of things(from my pastoral ministry)
1. Jesus has won!
2. The forces of evil and deception will try to convince us that they still hold sway

As OLJC might say this is  bu&&s&^t!

Evil has NOT won. Demons have no power!  Tell them to nick off, and turn away.

In return do good. Seek to do charity. Care for the poor. And talk to Jesus

(you lovely friends who are not Christians...won't get this...but bear with me!)