At its best, tradition is like a tall sailing ship, navigating the uncharted narrow shoals of postmodern times. Its cargo is the virtues and values that create civilisation. From time to time, its crew has found it necessary to discard outdated, redundant and no longer serviceable jetsam. To navigate unknown shallow waters, the art of “kedging” or “warping” is applied. A dinghy rows forward a small anchor attached to a hawser while simultaneously sounding the depths. The mother ship then hauls itself forward. Rinse and repeat. In this way, the good ship “Tradition” makes its way forward through brave new worlds. When done well, such tall ships are feted and celebrated. (I am indebted to Leonard Sweet and his book, Aquachurch (Group Publishing, 1999) for this helpful concept.)
Is the universe typified by chaos or harmony? Ancient societies in the Mesopotamian cradle of civilisation theorised on chaos – hence the justification for violence and conquest. The Abrahamic faiths, introducing monotheism, pushed back with a view of order and visions of harmony. Philosophies continue to compete in all the human disciplines – fundamental apocalypticists vs present world peace seekers, rationalists vs poet-scientists and all the spectrums in between.
Can harmony emerge from all this randomness? Is there a singularity?
Then there’s this –
A friend last week reminded me of the time, some years ago, I saw myself as a boundary rider, looking for and mending holes in fences. It probably suited my maverick-like approach to my work, seeking to be a part of but apart from the communities in which I participated.
Upon reflection, the boundary rider still rides, but his tasks have changed. He rides the fences looking for closed gates. He opens them wide. Some open easily on well-oiled hinges. Others are rusted with corroded padlocks that can only be removed with bolt cutters or an angle grinder.
Gates – they can keep people in or let them through.
I must be in high dudgeon this morning (could be the result of some fruitless negotiating of the labyrinthine corridors of two government departments). The moment I saw today’s daily prompt “lollypop” I thought of those enormous “all day suckers” of my childhood. The double entendre does not escape me, nor does it with Stevie Wonder when he sings:
I’m an all day sucker
Coming to give something to get nothin’
I’m an all day sucker
Coming to give something but to get none of your love…
(Singalong if you are so inclined!)
Such melancholy thoughts are normally foreign to me. I love my work. I love my engagement with others. I love the healthy interchange of giving and receiving that is a constant part of my daily experience. I generally have an optimistic outlook.
I think I am reacting to an overarching idealistic zeitgeist to which western democracy seems to have succumbed. My recent encounters with the way public policy is being enacted at the coal-face have me in sympathy with those who claim the government is simply “playing us for suckers!”
That’s how long it has been since I’ve scrawled on this blog. Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter, have seen more regular utterances during this time. Why? Perhaps a bit more immediate. I am usually reacting to or commenting on a stimulus that appears on social media.
Blogging, for some unknown rationale in my mind, deserves more gravitas.
So what brings me here today? Thrift! I just paid some money to keep this domain registration open. But maybe it’s time to consider again how this page can be used.
“9 months!” – this suggests a period of gestation. So what is birthing in my pilgrimage at the moment? During this time I have announced my movement towards retirement from full-time church work. It is still 21 months until this comes into effect at the end of my current contract with the church that has been our life and community for the past twenty years.
Changes will be big – finding accommodation, a new community, and satisfying tasks. A long lead time is helping as we research what can be done with limited collateral and the need to be far enough away to avoid interference yet close enough to maintain important continuing relationships. It is exciting and scary – as is the way with all our little deaths and rebirths.
So maybe this blog will become a place to reflect on the matters that arise during this transition period.
If this is not useful to the casual reader at least it will be helpful to me!
After several years of blogging in fits and starts, I’ve signed up for the basic course at WordPress Blogging 101. Today’s exercise is to consider my blog’s title and tagline and whether its time to change it.
I quite like the current title and find it quite suitable for my purpose. It carries a question within it that reflects my ambiguous nature. Does he really mean “wondering” or perhaps “wandering” – a gift to my critics who have, at times, accused me from wandering off course. What glee!
Of course – it is “wondering.” My contention is that when we arrive at a place in our pilgrimage where we cease to wonder, we cease to live. And if this means “wandering” around before returning to things you are certain of, so be it.
The tagline may need some attention: the ramblings of a perambulent and often distracted sojourner. It’s possibly a bit obscure and loquacious for a casual reader.
It doesn’t point the way to specific content and leaves the field quite open. I am asked about my audience – who am I trying to attract. The answer is anyone who stumbles upon it and cares to linger. I guess I’m the first audience, as this is where I think out loud. Sometimes a reader will open some dialogue, and this is great. The blog is kind of an open journal that I don’t mind people reading, but equally, I don’t mind if they don’t. So I might keep the tagline too, but am open to suggestion.
the mutterings of a curmudgeonly old sociopath
thinking out loud on life’s mysteries
musings of a muddle-headed wombat
None of these really appeal to me! So no change at present.
Today, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, I respond to the challenge not to give up something, but to take something on – a discipline of some kind. A way forward might be to begin a daily reflection according to my spiritual tradition. This Ash Wednesday, my guide requires me to write a prayer of confession for use throughout Lent.
A resistance arises within me, for the traditional rubrics of confession across the spectrum of Christian traditions are rooted within the Augustinian notion of original sin, by no means a universally accepted Christian understanding of the human condition. The moulding of my understanding has been more influenced by Abelard, or even Pelagius, eschewing the notion that we are driven by an innate corrupt nature from birth, but acknowledging the freedom of choice in our moral judgements and expressions.
Psalm 51, set for the beginning of Lent, nevertheless says:
5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
In isolation, it is a favourite proof text for the notion of original sin. The very event of being conceived and born into the human race seems to doom us to passive perdition. Our being is forged and lived out in this experience of corrupt alienation from the source of life for which we must continuously beg forgiveness and receive absolution. The dispensation of such absolution is institutionalised in systems open to manipulation and control by fellow human beings who are similarly blighted, no matter how sanctified. The fact that I rebel against the injustice of this might simply prove the point! On the other hand, I might be drawn to argue against such a defeatist notion of the human condition by focusing on the celebrated maxim of Augustine’s fellow great Doctor of the Church, Irenaeus: “The glory of God is humanity fully alive.”
The prooftext for so-called “original sin” is not the whole of Psalm 51, which pointedly, is not a treatise on systematic theology. Rather the Psalm in its fulness is the cry of a contrite heart, aware of falling short of one’s innate purpose and identity. The psalmist is aware of the way forward, and it is in the direction of awakening awareness:
6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
It is the psalm of someone who is aware of the choices and decision making pertaining to their destiny, and their willingness to steer the course that will take them there. The poet has a growing self-awareness of the traps and snares that lead to deviation from the way and his own susceptibility. He seeks to focus on the tradition, values and relationship that keeps him on a true path.
The psalm indicates no final arrival at a resolution to the disquiet it expresses, but confidence that contriteness and desire is benevolently received.
17The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
If one can confidently embrace one’s own brokenness and dissatisfaction at being “not yet there,” perhaps one is well oriented to begin the Lenten journey.
Oh, the prayer of confession I’m supposed to write?
Let the above words lead me to a place of stillness and quiet that, this day, reveals the opening of the way further forward.
Started off in the electroplating industry when everyone wanted there stuff chromed. That era has gone.
Moved into department store retail, and the end of this era is now pronounced.
But I was only there a short while before training for my life’s work – local church ministry (the end of which has been forecast for some years now).
At the age of 64 – I still might make it beyond what used to be the retirement age.
Then again I might have to return to blogging!
Just when you thought it was safe to give up blogging… along comes Granny Dog to nominate you for the Versatile Blogging Award! While it’s been one of those time poor weeks where even the basics of life, like eating and sleeping, jostle for their allotted times – it’s easy to ask, “What can I do without?” A daily commitment to blogging inevitably comes onto the radar. But then again, as a teacher and a pastor, communication is my stock in trade and it deserves at least as much consideration as rest and nourishment. So thanks Granny Dog, for rattling my cage! These are the rules should you be nominated. Of course, whether you decide to abide by the rules is up to you!
- Thank the person who gave you the award.
- Include a link to their blog. Here’s how.
- Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
- Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
- Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.
Seven things about myself that I haven’t made transparent already? Well, here goes:
- I’m third generation Aussie on my mother’s side, fourth on my father’s.
- My father’s people arrived from Cornwall in Moonta, South Australia, in 1853.
- I have lived in South Australia, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia.
- I have travelled to Jordan, Israel, Greece and the USA.
- USA states I have visited – California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
- I aspire to travel with my church team to Zimbabwe in 2012 for a fraternal visit to supported churches and relief work and sharing of ideas and skills.
- I would like to travel again to the USA and enhance my training in teaching the Enneagram, a powerful pastoral/spiritual tool that I have been using.
- coobarietwo – my sister is not a habitual blogger, but this is a travel journal climaxing at Kitgum, Uganda, where she and her husband, Des, have just finished working for three weeks in support of an orphanage, hospital and school developed in response to the armed struggle there. So keep blogging, sis, now that you’re home
- bwinwnbwimusic – a thoughtful journey involving one person’s pilgrimage, philosophy and music
- The Holy Irritant – I have great respect for church folk who think outside the box. Holy Irritant is one.
- Kate Shrewsday – I have never come away from Kate’s blog without learning something interesting or simply being won over by her knack for story-telling
- If Darwin Prayed – evolutionary spirituality & the path of Christ. I met Bruce Sanguin earlier this year and have continued to enjoy his reflections.
- A Feather Adrift – a favourite daily read of someone whose daily homespun commentary on things of and beyond US politics keeps me both informed and entertained.
- Love vs.Goliath – the ongoing story of a compelling intercountry marriage that has negotiated Australia’s Kafkaesque immigration regime. Puts a human face on the acerbic refugee debate.
- The Go Between God – thoughtful, incisive essays on local current affairs and discussions from a faith perspective by my colleague and predecessor at Wembley Downs
- allaboutwordswa – a fellow Sandgroper simply blogs about her life in a simple and winsome fashion. A good friendly read.
- So Far From Heaven – from deep in the middle of Texas Hill Country, Old Jules writes his blog with a prose that is deeply musical.
- The Christian Left Blog – while the title may alienate some it attracted me. Its content is more radical (grass-roots) than left, and that suits me fine! Some fine commentary on the OWS movement right now.
- Call To Radical Discipleship – my nephew’s blog. He is innovative,entrepreneurial and compassionate and writes transparently about the projects to which he is summoned.
Well, I’m looking for three more. When I ‘ve found some, I’ll fill in the blanks.