Friday, 20 September 2013

Desiderata, or, Things that are Desired.

Every now and then you come across texts to live by, this is one of them. A friend just posted a link to it and it was a timely reminder. My mum introduced me to this poem when I was around ten years old; my father had given us a beautiful keep-sake book each - a hard back with gilded pages and a green and gold cover - in which to write treasured poems and thoughts. Mum included this in hers and the words have stayed with me ever since.

And a plain text version here:

Desiderata Poem

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious
to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter, for always
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the  changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment;
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

©1927 Max Ehrmann

Monday, 16 September 2013


The best book I have read recently is called 'Silence' by Shusake Endo. My subjective definition of a good book is firstly, quite simply, one that I read to the end. Very few books fall into that category, I usually get bored of them long before that. Secondly, it is one that I can't put down, and thirdly one that contains a sentence or more that hits me in the face. 'Silence' met all of these conditions. It is predominantly about the silence of God in the face of suffering. It is also about vicarious representative action, that is - in this context, suffering on behalf of others, even if it means giving up everything you hold dear, even your most treasured theological ideas, and even the opportunity to speak about the truth as you know it -willingly embracing silence so that others may have a voice. It is a powerful, thought-provoking book.

I have thought a lot more about silence in the last few days: silence as a form of speech; silence which speaks more than words; silence which is not the result of being silenced (which is a manipulative, destructive power game) or of punishing another (which is also a manipulative, destructive power game) but a form of taking back power, of resistance, choosing to speak rather than having to speak. Words that come out of silence usually have so much more force, relevance and poignancy and yet silence is not just an absence of words, it is not mere negation, it is communication.

The following poem could be interpreted as referring to the crushing power games or as silence as a form of speech, for me it works both ways.

The technology of silence 
The rituals, etiquette

the blurring of terms
silence not absence 

of words or music or even 
raw sounds

Silence can be a plan 
rigorously executed

the blueprint to a life

It is a presence
it has a history              a form 

Do not confuse it with any kind of absence

by Adrienne Rich, "Cartographies of silence"

'Sometimes...a long time [has to be given] until the right word has grown and ripened. Words have their proper time. Forced words are like broken buds...Openness is something wonderful, but being open for the other, even for the other's silence, is more important.' 
(M-m) Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Picture taken from here:

Friday, 13 September 2013

Now that he is safely dead

Martin Luther King day has been and gone but I've been reading about him today and came across this poem by Carl Wendell Hines:

Now that he is safely dead
Let us praise him
Build monuments to his glory
Sing hosannas to his name.
Dead men make
such convenient heroes: They
cannot rise
to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives.
And besides,
it is easier to build monuments
than to make a better world.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Eating dust

Another draft bites the dust, as do I. I no longer know where I live or what my name is - time to sleep. But before I do:

Go on...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The music of procrastination

Resplendent music of the moment, this:

and this:
[from 2.33 onwards this is so visceral and physical that it almost hurts - amazing]

I like my high horse

This has just come up on my music device [no advertising on this blog ;-)]:

and I counter it with this: * 

[imagine the acute accent over the 'e', if you please, I can't find it on here]

...and now to get back to putting words in a word doc.

*pic taken from here: tumblr_med9mmD9AV1rjq40do1_500

Clarifying Panic

This evening I am greatly in need of a healthy dose of panic. The kind of panic that is sufficient to force my thinking into that teeny weeny channel in my brain that produces words on a page... lots and lots of them, around 15,000* [gulp], and also enough to produce focus but not so overpowering that I lose clarity.
Easy peasy :-/

Hello all-nighter, we meet again.

*Thankfully, many of them are there already just not in the right order...

This will be the situation after the all-nighter:

And perhaps my supervisor will say/do this, perhaps...just perhaps:

Monday, 2 September 2013

On being open for the essence

Pondering on NSA, stalking, gossip, and the manipulative power games people play often in the name of righteousness which is nearly always a thinly veiled self-righteousness and a warped sense of entitlement. Once again, the main man Dietrich Bonhoeffer* has something to offer:

'Do you want to see him as a photograph that records everything? Or with the respectful and loving eyes of one who takes in and is affected by the essential picture of the other, and who lets the other's secret be? And what is clarity, when there is often so much obscurity within people themselves? Then one must wait until the storm has passed and the water has settled and cleared up again. We must have a lot of patience with one another.'


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Sublime connections

On very rare occasions I have experienced that moment of truly connecting with another, human or animal. I had one of those moments on Thursday...with a Scotsdales garden centre, Cambridge. We went from saying hello to each other repeatedly to profound encounter. I started speaking kind words quietly to the parrot and s/he came down from the top of its large cage and leaned its feathery cheek hard against the bars closest to me so that we were eye to eye and just stayed there listening and looking intently - sublime moment. 

[A photo taken a few minutes earlier when still in the hello-hello stage]

And here's a rather wonderful, manic Greek-speaking (British Cypriot by the sounds of it) parrot:

Locusts and tea-cups, the little things.

This rather lovely cup, saucer, and plate:
remind me of this promise :
                    'I will restore the years the locusts have eaten' (Joel 2:25) 
and of the most violent thing I never did.

I am rather attached to crockery - sad, but true - I always prefer tea out of a beautiful and/or funky mug/cup and if I regularly visit someone I very soon have a preferred vessel to drink from. One day, though, I smashed my favourite mug. I meant to just pour the hot tea away but I smashed it instead. I did it in frustration and have regretted it ever since (it was a beautiful mug that was now in pieces, too many to be repaired just like the state of affairs that led to its destruction) but I was at least glad that the anger was taken out on the mug and not on the person who precipitated the action. 

A couple of Christmases ago a friend took me to our regular Sunday market and told me to chose a trio from the vintage china stall. I found this. It is so similar to the broken mug that it caused a wry smile to arise within me; I remembered the promise that I had been given repeatedly during a difficult few years of my life. It's the little things, not just the big ones, He really does restore that which was taken, broken down, eradicated, obliterated - and even smashed - through words, actions, inaction and He gives back more than was taken.