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Showing posts from August, 2018


Clemency and me on the medieval bridge at Hospital de Orbigo, on the Camino Frances. I’m trying to find my earliest memory of her. I think I have it. It’s 1968, so I am 15 and she is only a few weeks old. The shop is busy, so I’m left, literally, holding the baby, not that I mind or anything. Far from it. Very far from it. I proceed as Mum has shown me. I measure out the formula and mix it and place the bottle in a bowl of boiled water to heat. I test the temperature of the milk by splashing a few drops on the inside of my forearm, then hold her in the crook of my left arm with the bottle in my right. I put the teat between her lips and watch how her suckling makes her tiny cheeks move. She opens her eyes and looks vaguely around, the way new babies do, then her eyes catch mine and she looks up at me. Her eyes are so blue. In all my life I have never seen anything quite so beautiful. She coughs and gasps on the milk, so I stand, and lift her onto my shoulder, and pat her back.

God is a Woman

My daughter Catherine has, as part of her life’s mission, taken on my musical education. She recommends artists to me, and by and large she’s pretty accurate in knowing what I will respond to, so, a month or so ago, when she sent me a link to the song above, Ariana Grande’s  God is a Woman , I watched it. It’s the exception which proves the rule I guess. I thought the song was crap, and explained my reasons why to Catherine. A dull, repetitive, unimaginative, unoriginal tune. Clumsy, inelegant, monodimensional  lyrics. A video full of kitschy religious iconography, kind of like an animated facebook meme of the type that tells you to share to prove you love your Mom. Catherine told me I was being a pretentious old man (she is right on all three counts, of course ) and asked what did I expect from a 23 year old pop singer? She said that the video was valuable for the conversations it would generate. The video has beeen viewed, as of today, 84.5 million times, been liked 2.3 million t


A long time ago  I discovered David Bentley Hart,  whose demolition of the new atheists is founded on the very sound assumption that Hart’s opponents have, in general, not the foggiest idea what they are talking about. When the new atheists vent their individual and collective spleens they are talking, usually, not about the God of the great monthotheistic faiths, but about something smaller: a demiurge. A demiurge is a secondary God. In the various forms of Gnosticism which competed with what later became Christianity, the demiurge was created by God and then in turn created the universe. The demiurge is an extraordinarily powerful being, but is itself a creation and is subject to the laws of the created order. A demiurge is, in other words, superman. The demiurge is powerful enough to create worlds and tear them down, but is geographically and temporarily limited, is subject to the full gamut of human emotions when deciding  how to act, is constrained by externally imposed l

Looking out my back door

 Today the mist is squatting over the harbour. It's trying to rain but not very hard. The clouds are listless and low and don't look like they're going anywhere very fast. On my way to my study to be quiet, I look out the window and see how still the water is. Bad mistake. Now I have to get my camera and my car keys. I know this harbour well, but I've never seen it the same way twice. Change the lighting, or change the way the wind is blowing and its a whole new world.  I have no idea why the tyres have their cryptic message, but I kind of like its incongruity.  The light is changing. Every minute it looks different. I could stay all day, but I won't.

The Gospel of Jesus

We humans, we love to order things. We lay out our patterns, shape, and trim and weed and water, to make the miracles of the universe, present at every hand, all around us, fit into our ideas of what is decent and seemly. We do it with plants. We do it with the events of our own lives, to make for ourselves a personal history. We do it with the people we encounter. We do it with the  deepest knowings of our souls, shaping and forming our encounters with the universe and with ourselves and with the dimly perceived presence which seeks us in everything, fitting the working of our inner lives into an ordered structure: a religion; a gospel. I look at the church and at what we teach and wonder, sometimes, what Jesus would make of it all. In Mark's Gospel we have a record of Jesus' first appearance as a teacher in his own right, away from the now unknown influences which formed him. And we have a record of his first proclamation: Repent and believe the Gospel, which raise


Self portrait, St. Mary's Diocesan School chapel  Anthony DeMello says the three rules of spiritual practice are  Awareness, Awareness, and Awareness.  Which is, I guess, his smart alec way of saying that the spiritual life is the process of moving ever closer to what is real. Nobody much has a problem with that, as all of us, even those subject to outrageous psychoses, think we know what is real, and the way we hear an injunction to get in touch with reality is as a suggestion that everyone else needs to open their eyes and see the world as it is; that is as I see it. It's not what DeMello meant. Kind of the opposite of what he meant, as a matter of fact. The world is hidden from each of us, behind the thick curtain of our own preconceptions. The spiritual life is about lifting the curtain. Or curtains. It's a dance of the seventy seven thousand seven hundred and seventy seven  veils, a gradual striptease in which our own illusions are recognised for what