Saturday, June 30, 2007

Think like a hero

One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being. -May Sarton, poet and novelist (1912-1995)

I like this quote. We’ve been working through Romans at church, and recently covered Chapter 12 and the verse "... be transformed by the renewal of your mind". The mind, and what and how we think, really is the source of our behaviour. But has anyone ever discovered that even when they think their thoughts or perspective on a certain situation are reasonably lofty their behaviour often slips up (I know I have), which perhaps indicates that the thoughts weren’t actually so lofty, but it is where we have to start. We have to think like Romans 8 people if we’re ever going to behave like Romans 12 people. We have to think like "more than conquerors" (8:37), if we’re ever going to "overcome evil with good" (12:21), we have to really know that nothing can separate us from the love us God (8:35-39), if we're ever going to be consistently genuine in our love for others (12:9-21) ...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Your soul's health

I thought it was about time I posted something with a little more substance than I have been of late. But I haven't had a good week. It's had one of those moments of realisation in it when you discover that you really are just the stupid ass, who actually thought that this time you might get the dangling carrot, but that it's as out of reach as ever. And so I dug another grave in the graveyard of buried hopes (to steal a melodramatic phrase from Anne of Green Gables) and faced the void of disappointment.

But sometimes we receive simple prompts from strange places and during the week I received an email from Sweden, which quoted from Phillip Yancey's book "Prayer". I am not an indiscriminate Yancey fan, though have certainly benefitted from some of his writing, and this is what was in the email:

In all my prayers, whether I get the answers I want or not, I can count on this one fact: God can make use of whatever happens. Nothing is irredeemable. "Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin," prayed the British author John Baille: Let me use disappointment as material for patience, success as material for thankfulness, trouble as material for perseverence, danger as material for courage, reproach as material for long suffering, praise as material for humility, pleasures as material for temperance, pain as material for endurance. Pp 239-240
It reminded me of something I read recently, but can't remember the source, which said that "nothing can happen to you that is bad for your soul's health" - if only we can so turn it around.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Be transformed

But wait, perhaps I am Cate Blanchett after all. Anything is possible:

P.S. To quote the SMH: Voted in as the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival on Saturday Night, this TV ad from Ogilvy and Mather Toronto for Dove started it's life on the internet as a "viral" short film. It's written, art directed and co-directed by Toronto-based Australian expat Tim Piper.

Famous actress day

Today I am having one of those days when you notice a few people looking hard at you and you wonder why. This happened particularly when I walked into the RTA this morning to register my car, and several people gave me that look - the flash of something followed by the stare. Then when I got to the counter the fellow behind it says to me "Has anyone ever told you that you look like a famous actress?". To this I replied that occasionally I had been compared to Cate Blanchett - and that is who he had in mind.

I couldn't help asking, after waiting with my ticket for ages and realising I was going to be quite late for work: "I wonder if Cate Blanchett has to register her own car?" :). He replied by telling me quite a few famous types come through - politicians etc. (Here's hoping we don't pay our politicians in the order of Hollywood actresses - even though their job is probably harder!) He then asked me whether I was offended. Hardly. Here is a picture of Cate from yesterday's SMH, looking particularly lovely I must say, and bearing very little resemblance to me. I think she has quite an unusual face myself, and I know from watching the The Shipping News recently that she doesn't have my Amazonian legs. But I'm quite happy to be likened to Cate, rather than certain other famous actresses, because she seems to have a dignity, integrity and humility about her, and to stay above the Hollywood muck (from what I read, or rather don't read, in papers and magazines anyway! - and except for that sordid role in Shipping News).

Anyway, we just had Krispy Kreme donuts at work, to celebrate our last month's achievements. Now I feel disgusting. I bet Cate doesn't eat Krispy Kremes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not yourself

Quote from yesterday:

Don't be yourself. Be someone a little nicer.

-Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983)

Cf Colossians 3:12-17.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The disguises

Yesterday I found a magnet in a shop, produced by Shannon Martin at Madison Park Greetings, which pictured an old black and white photo of a funny-looking lady peering into the distance with the caption "What I am looking for is a blessing that's not in disguise". Made me laugh. Then I walked away thinking about the way blessings often do come in disguises, or as a result of seeming disasters ... and wondering if life would perhaps just be all too obvious if they didn't.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Just got wet

I read a quote somewhere the other day that "Some people walk in the rain. Other people just get wet". At the time I liked it, but today I just got wet. I had to go to the post office at lunch to post something I had forgotten to post all week, and it was raining hard and blowing a gale such that my special light-weight umbrella, which seemed like a good idea at the time, just flipped inside out and was impossible to use (and my bottom half was going to get soaked anyway), so I just gave myself up to the elements, screwed my face up at the weather and dashed along. Then I needed a little something extra for lunch so I bought a nice yoghurt, a Friday treat, from the cafe down the road, only to discover that the lid came off in the paper bag in the hurry to make it back inside and I had yoghurt swimming about everywhere when I got my wet self back to my desk with my dripping useless umbrella.

I mean there's rain and there's wind, which I like to walk in, and then there's that impossible combination of both. But I guess that is actually the point of the quote really isn't it - to enjoy where you find yourself.

My, what fun I had outside today in the wild weather with a paper bag full of yoghurt! Was so invigorating! Makes a person feel alive ...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Annie Rose

I have a new niece, Annie Rose.

And this is what Aunty Ali is going to give to her (which I just stumbled across, and was delighted and thought it most convenient of someone to call a book of poems for children just that).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The casualty of moral outrage

This blog is going to have very little to do with that title, I just liked it as a title. And from that last sentence you would never guess that I spent yesterday at the Sydney Writer’s Festival. There I met up with some old friends, Gordon and Rosemary. Gordon and Rosemary are actually the parents of my best friend from childhood Tamworth days, Pam. I first knew of Pam from our church, where I thought she was a little odd, with her strange clothes and her hair worn very long and straight and pulled completely off her unusual face with a wide black band (those were the 80’s days of big, fluffy hair). Her family had not-long returned from New Guinea, where they were missionaries and her Dad flew small planes on hazardous flights for the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. The first time we visited their house they were still sleeping on the floor (having not yet acquired beds) and there were washed plastic bags hanging on the line (having not yet discovered that plastic bags actually breed in people's kitchens back here).

On my first day at Tamworth High School I found myself in the same class as the girl with the wide head band, the one familiar unusual face in a sea of strangers, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. Later on in High School we’d both stay back after school for the extra classes in 3 Unit English. Reading and writing was just our thing. And Pam got it from her Mum. Rosemary has more literary books, and more interest in literature, than anyone I know.

The Writer’s Festival was most enjoyable. It was just a plain lovely day to be down there on the piers by the harbour, and Gleebooks had a book shop set up to delight any book lover and there were all sorts of interesting things to choose to hear. I was puzzled that the vast majority of people attending were of somewhere around middle-age, perhaps those who’ve now realised the value of reading and reflecting, or actually have more time to do either. We started at a session called "Funnies for Kids", which featured Richard Glover from the ABC and an English children’s writer, Philip Ardagh. It was advertised as a discussion of making reading a joy for children, but that was really just the subtext to a comedy act of them both describing how they came to write books for children and what they wrote about. I shook in my seat or laughed out loud for the entire hour and thought the whole thing was worth it just for the amusement factor. Richard Glover has written a book about two boys, one who has a Dad who tells the worst Dad jokes (and there were hilarious examples of those, even though the definition of a Dad joke is apparently that it is not funny in the first place - and has endless opportunities for repetition) and the other who has a Dad who always mishears song lyrics, and sings regardless (and there were hilarious examples of those too). What Philip Ardagh’s books are about I still don’t really know but he is one very amusing Englishman.

The next session we attended was called "The Narrative Drive and Nonfictional Storytelling", presented by the historian Antony Beevor. This was a lot more academic but quite superb, even to one who has never read his books and is no historian. I now feel quite compelled to go and read Stalingrad, Berlin and anything else he wrote. He spoke fast and well throughout a presentation he has given to writers for the BBC in England and let fly with many great pearls of wisdom, one of which was "intellectual honesty is the first casualty of moral outrage", as a warning to those who over-interpret and don’t let history speak for itself. I was suitably impressed. He invents nothing, yet makes history come alive as story.

Then we had a coffee at Simmer on the Bay just enjoying the sunshine and the water and discussing, and that was most of my Saturday. Last night three girls from church came over for takeaway and we watched "The Holiday". That’s a nice piece of light romantic comedy that toned down my day. And we had roast apples and dark chocolate tim tams for the perfect ending.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A good day, or a good life?

I am currently reading The Writing Life, that little piece of freely-admitted insanity by Annie Dillard. One little morsel, along the saner lines, that I feel like reproducing is this one:

What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching rays. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order - willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading - that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?

Why Annie Dillard even wrote this I don’t know, because her own life was far from consistently scheduled. Perhaps that is why it became an aspiration. I am not one for schedules myself, but I read that and feel so inclined. But the other aspect of the quote that appeals is that while the doing of something in particular may not feel like a good day, it makes a good life. I had a small epiphany earlier this week in reflecting on a few weekends spent quietly in recent weeks and their tendency to render me slightly miserable. I do love to read, and would answer to anybody that time spent reading is time well spent. But when people ask me, as they constantly do, do I have anything "nice planned for the weekend"? or did I do "anything interesting" for the weekend, why do I feel like something is a little sub-standard, and under-optimised, if I am not getting out and about seeing and doing exciting things, when I am otherwise genuinely quite happy with a book? Life in Sydney certainly feels like it’s supposed to be one of sensation. In future I shall liberate myself from the appraisal of the weekend-activity-askers, and it’s subtle influence over me, and say "yes, I read". But what about a life of crochet?

I had a coffee after work today with a traveller from Germany who has been coming along to our church recently. She was telling me that in order to begin her degree in Germany in the History of Art she had to be proficient in five languages. FIVE languages!! I felt like a nincompoop. The idea of being fluent in other languages is something that really makes me covetous, perhaps owing to a love of words and language and expression ... Anyway, she went on to tell me that the first three are the hardest, the next three are easier, which was most heartening.