Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Not so much to say lately. But the fellow flying the helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan yesterday is a good friend of my sister and brother-in-law, and the poor chap who died was one of my brother-in-laws first students (my brother-in-law is a helicopter pilot and flight instructor with the Army). So, that is sad. His unit called off work for the rest of today and they’ve gone to the pub. So I’m praying for the people involved and my brother-in-law as he has conversations with work mates.

I went to guitar class again last night, and didn’t feel like I had done enough practice, as always. I’ve also been feeling like a teenage boy without a garage trying to play Oasis. Wonderwall is quite boring (and you don’t move two fingers for the entire song, so it all sounds very similar!). A lot of guitar music is not that enthralling without the accompanying singing – but to sing along you’d have to actually know the song.

Last night we played some John Hooker Lee (I think that is his name) blues arrangements, with sliding notes. This was interesting. Ben will be pleased, because next week we are apparently going to split the class and play in a round (half the class on lead, and half the class on the rhythm response)! The teacher also told me his wrist warmers are “awesome”. He apparently wore them while warming up for a gig in Dubbo recently where it was freezing (he said he didn’t wear them on stage, but we’ll just let that go …). So, it’s now official: you can play guitar and wear them at the same time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A morning bird call

I've decided to blame the fact that I think I broke my toe on a red wattlebird. One seems to have taken up residence in our neighbourhood, perhaps right outside my window, and heralds the dawn seemingly before the dawn has in fact arrived. I'm quite sure it's actually waking me up, almost every single morning.

I've forgotten a few things from my wildlife career, but the sound of a red wattle bird isn't one of them. You can listen here. And our particular individual seems to leave out the nice twittering in between and just do that "warck, warck" noise over and over again.

I do love birds, and the fact that a species like the red wattlebird persists here in this inner-city suburb, but I do also secretly wish this one would sleep in every now and then.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My market-selling debut

If this blog has been suffering of late, the reason is (well this is my excuse anyway) that I have been busy hooking away on these.

Today was my market selling debut, where I put a few out at our church Made Fair markets, where all products sold are fair trade, ethical, sustainable, organic, recycled, upcycled ... you get the point. So, these are all made from Australian grown and processed wool, and if anyone was exploited in their production, it was yours truly (but voluntarily).

I found a funky male who was happy to wear and model them.

My crochet bunting in action.

I didn't do a roaring trade, as it was quite quiet out and about (and the same was said at the big markets across the road), but after subtracting my costs I came home with a couple hundred dollars pocket money, so I am pleased.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Crochet bunting

Some time ago I showed some pictures of some curled up scraps of granny square that was bunting in the making. Well, here is the finished product. It's super bright, because it's for a Fair at my church, just to hang about and look festive. I got so frustrated trying to get photos as one or many ends kept falling off the wall, that I called in my flatmate and then hastily snapped away. Now that I've had a go, I feel like I could do all sorts of things with this, if I was so inclined ... (Oh, and I thought I included a link in the first post, but here are the instructions I followed. The internet is great for saving you from working out how to do even simple things yourself! I liked this particular version because it has six groups of trebles at the centre, rather than just three, if you know what I mean, and this gives it a more solid and rather flower-like centre.)

Memory as a "save as" function

I’m finding all sorts of interesting things on Austin Kleon’s tumblr. Perhaps the sort of interesting things that I don’t need to consume time finding out about on the world wide web, but I found this article seriously fascinating. The sort of fascinating before everything was fascinating. It’s about how TV commercials, in particular, can create false memories, but it goes beyond that to the way our brains constantly remake our memories.
It turns out that vivid commercials are incredibly good at tricking the hippocampus (a center of long-term memory in the brain) into believing that the scene we just watched on television actually happened. And it happened to us … The scientists refer to this as the “false experience effect,” …

The answer returns us to a troubling recent theory known as memory reconsolidation. In essence, reconsolidation is rooted in the fact that every time we recall a memory we also remake it, subtly tweaking the neuronal details. Although we like to think of our memories as being immutable impressions, somehow separate from the act of remembering them, they aren’t. A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. What’s disturbing, of course, is that we can’t help but borrow many of our memories from elsewhere, so that the ad we watched on television becomes our own, part of that personal narrative we repeat and retell.

This idea, simple as it seems, requires us to completely re-imagine our assumptions about memory. It reveals memory as a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. The recall is altered in the absence of the original stimulus, becoming less about what we actually remember and more about what we’d like to remember. It’s the difference between a “Save” and the “Save As” function. Our memories are a “Save As”: They are files that get rewritten every time we remember them, which is why the more we remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jonathan Safran Foer

I read this quote below somewhere the other day. Sometimes I read such things and feel like they have nothing to do with my life. But, since roughly three-quarters of the books and songs and movies in the world are about love, that is something one has to get used to. And I do like this. I haven’t read any of Jonathan Safran Foer’s books, but I think I shall, if he writes this way (and you will see why it took me back to a poem I wrote once). He is married to Nicole Krauss, who wrote The History of Love, which I enjoyed (and quoted a few passages from here). I googled this quote to see which book it came from, and came across a whole wikiquote page of Foer. He's going on the list.
Touching him was always so important to me. It was something I lived for. Little, nothing touches. My fingers against his shoulder. The outsides of our thighs touching as we squeezed together on the bus. I couldn’t explain it, but I needed it. Sometimes I imagined stitching all of our little touches together. How many hundreds of thousands of fingers brushing against each other does it take to make love?
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More from Herman

Just so you know Herman Dune can be serious and mellow and a little angsty as well.

Tell me something I don't know

What this world needs, is more music videos featuring small blue yetis (and John Hamm).

(I'm loving Herman Dune! - you have to watch I wish I could see you soon and see if you don't want to do what he's doing about 1:40, then 1,2,3 Apple Tree and My Home is Nowhere Without You, for a video without puppets.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan on his work

I had another guitar lesson last night. We’re being pushed on to new heights, trying the lead guitar in Van Morrison’s Brown-eyed Girl, then 16-note strumming in Wonderwall by Oasis and so on. I feel like it’s getting serious! And I’m getting together an interesting “guitar lesson” playlist on my iPod, of songs I wouldn’t normally listen to (eg Wonderwall and Good Riddance).

I’ve discovered that trying to learn an instrument as an adult is a whole other story to when you were a kid and could have some kind of after-school practice/homework routine. If I have things on in the evening, days can go past before I have it out of the case, then it’s Monday* again, and that’s as someone who is really enjoying it. My Mum took a video of me when she was down, in my tracksuit, trying to be Dido, which I thought about posting for a whole half a second.

But anyway, since it’s his 70th birthday, and he’s on my guitar lesson playlist, here is a quote from Bob Dylan. More could be said about his “work ethic” (refer to this talk here, for a discussion on this):
“I take [my work] less seriously than anybody. I know that it’s not going to help me into heaven one little bit, man. It’s not going to get me out of the fiery furnace. It’s certainly not going to extend my life any and it’s not going to make me happy.”
- Bob Dylan in a 1966 interview (H/T Austin Kleon)

(This course also switched to a Monday night, in a less convenient location, and that has turned out to be quite a nuisance clashing with things, and I had to reschedule reading the bible with someone to before church Sunday, which I thought would work well, but isn’t really ...)

Monday, May 23, 2011

The delight of books

Books delight our innermost selves, they speak to us, advise us, and are united to us by a kind of living and clear friendship.
- from a letter of Petrarch to Giovanni dell’Incisa (Rerum familiarum III, 18).

I’ll give it to you in the original Latin, which might seem high-faluting, but is actually just copied from the novel Romola by George Eliot, from my nice Penguin classics version which gives you much-appreciated footnote translations (and I do have some kind of fondness for Latin, I must say).
Libri medullitus delectant, colloquuntur; consulunt, et viva quadam nobis atque arguta familiaritate junguntur.
Both George Eliot and Christina Rossetti quote Petrarch. I think there’s something in that for me. Among other things, such as being considered by many as the father of the Renaissance, he is known as the first person to climb a mountain for pleasure alone, merely for the delight of looking from the summit.

Reading Romola makes me want to go to Florence.

The mystery of the other

I don’t read Christian romance novels as such these days, though have read plenty in my time. For a while these all seemed to involve a wagon-train journey across the frontier of America (anyone else know who Clark Davis is?), then I read some by Gilbert Morris, and I appreciated his novels because they all featured tall, competent women (rather than the tiny, physically delicate sort with large, violet eyes), and the men who liked them and could see deeper than skin to still treat them as women, but who really were the equivalent of James Bond for heroics. It's George MacDonald novels that I really got into, because they were more complex and less blatantly romantic (you never knew quite what you were going to get in terms of theology however), but the truth is that the hero always emerged with a compelling strength of character. Anyway I believe I’ve linked in the past to, and we've probably all read, posts/articles about the parallels drawn between romance novels and pornography, but this article was still worth a read, and what I thought was particularly interesting in it was this paragraph:
And in both cases, what the “market” wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are “real” men, but, in terms of a concept of romance, are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.
I think one of the consequences of growing up without a father (or men in the house) is that I actually have something of an overdose of the "mystery of the other". The opposite sex "thing" gets compounded by the absence thing and I get so overawed (if that's even what it is, maybe mystified is more like it) in situations of attraction, it's incapacitating. But, ah, where am I headed with this? ... Stop, Ali, stop!

Office dangers

We've had a first aid incident here at work. Something bigger than a paper cut. I wasn’t actually involved, because it occurred on another floor. But the cause of said incident: stiletto heels. Now admittedly, I’ve never been trying to be any taller. I’ve also never been aiming for more calf definition (I constantly get asked if I’m an “athlete” in my flats). But you need to pause and ask yourself a few questions about your footwear when you get taken away in an ambulance after falling off the dizzying and unstable heights of your own shoes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Poetry Day - Dover beach

I thought I’d post another Matthew Arnold poem. He is perhaps most famous for the poem The Scholar Gypsy, but that is quite long. Many of his others are quite dreary and truly hopeless actually. Here is an example. (And as an addendum to the last poem, I didn’t spell it out there, but in referencing a love outside of the poet, I was actually thinking myself of the greatest love, which is that of God. The poem Who Am I?, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, goes through a similar struggle with our buried life, and arrives there.)

Photo by Brian Storm at Panoramio.

by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Slowing down

So, I thought it was quite pointless but went to the doctor in the end yesterday about my toe. She confirmed for me that there is nothing to be done for a broken toe, also “doesn’t believe in irradiating yourself for nothing”, since it makes no difference to management, and that I should just stay off it and just be “governed by the pain”. Apparently you stay off a broken toe for four weeks (in terms of running “off”) and she reckons I won’t be running on mine for at least a week (but it’s possible it’s just dinged up and not broken, so we shall see). I’ll be climbing the walls! It’s the silliest little thing, but so frustrating in terms of getting about. Perhaps it’s good for me. When my Mum was down visiting I realised how quickly I can get about normally, because she is a lot shorter than me, doesn’t exercise a lot, and seemed to fall behind every time we were walking somewhere (I rely on walking about a lot where I live, because there’s nowhere to park your car even if you do drive, and I don’t really think about how are some things are) and I had to slow up and wait, which tried my patience occasionally. Now I’m really slow.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Grief in singleness

I thought I would share this note written on facebook by Narelle Jarrett yesterday (with her permission). For those of you who don’t know Narelle, she was Principal of Mary Andrews College (associated with Moore Theological College) for many years and is now Archdeacon for Women in Sydney. Here is the note, exactly as she wrote it. Some of the comments on this article were great also. I particularly like the second-last paragraph, and find that just a little bit of empathy can go a long way in encouraging people on in service:

I have written this in response to an article on singleness that I read on the web this morning. Unfortunately I've lost the link and haven't been able to track it down again. It was largely exhorting singles to be content and not self pitying or complaining. Here is my comment to the writer of that article.

Thanks for your article on this topic. However I wonder if you move too quickly to the resolution of 'trusting in the Lord and the wonderful promises of the resurrection' and, consequently, haven't given any time to reassuring singles that what they suffer is 'grief', that grief in singleness is OK and that grief refuses to be dealt with by logic. Grief demands to be recognised and allowed to be what it is - an uncontrollable emotional response - sadness - in the experience of a great loss.

No one chooses grief - it just is. It sweeps across us unexpectedly, it catches us by surprise and it refuses to disappear just because we want it to. It demands acknowledgement, it demands that we pay attention. That is why it is so cruel when we are called to 'trust God and get on with serving'.... In most instances we are in fact already doing just that.

We have been trusting God throughout our lives and the sudden onset, or the re-emergence, of grief doesn't mean we have stopped trusting God. Rather, it is the demand of our emotions to us, to pay attention to what is happening inside us - that we are grieving. It is only as we allow ourselves to grieve and talk with God about our grief that ultimately we will recover our equilibrium and find our settledness again. As with all grief, it is beyond our control.

Because the griefs of singleness and of not having children are so deep, so real and so totally right, they can't be dismissed or dealt with by anything other than allowing ourselves to grieve. Grieving with the friends who understand and who don't imply we are being self-centred or self-pitying or even that we're doubting God's goodness. Such hurtful and totally inappropriate, even cruel responses to women and men in grief, do not help. In fact they add to the isolation and loneliness of grief.

It is true that God binds up the broken hearted and He does that as we are allowed to express the grief we feel. As with all grief there is no timetable for recovery. Grief just is. How good it would be if preachers began speaking of the reality of this grief and affirmed the single in the reality of their grief and prayed for them ... without any tag lines like 'and help them to serve you Lord and to find their contentment in the wonderful opportunities you give them for serving'. I have never yet heard a preacher speak to discontented marrieds in such terms. Nor do we imply that marrieds are being self-centred or doubting God's goodness.

I know singleness from the inside, I serve the Lord with a glad heart. I've been an adult single for over 50 years, I've learned to grieve and to live with what is an extended grief. I've learned to allow myself to be a human being, and I've also learned that servant-hearted women who are single need to be set free to grieve. In such a context of loving concern there is great comfort and support.

And finally, if anyone is worried about this, you can be sure that God will look after growing us to Christian maturity in His time and in his way for, each one of us is very important and precious to Him, and He loves us dearly.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


This morning I woke up about 5:30 am. I don’t know why, I just did. So I decided, in my half asleep state, to go to the bathroom. I have no real idea of what happened next, but I found myself falling on the side of my face up against the back of the bedroom door, with a throbbing foot. I hobbled to the bathroom, wondering ‘what was all that about?’, then went back to bed, curled up with my sore foot.

It wasn’t till I tried to get up later that I realised just how sore my foot was, and noticed that one toe was slowly going purple and red. Still unable to grasp what I had done in the night, I did a scan of the bedroom floor wondering what could be the offending item. I think I found it in that new bike seat I was too lazy to go down and screw on last weekend (the old one is too hard is all I’m saying, and sticky goop started oozing out of the padded cover I had put over it, so I bought a new seat – but it’s cold down in the garage, I'd have to go fossicking for a spanner and I haven’t put it on yet). There it was lying upside down on the floor with it’s too steel attachment bars facing upwards, looking like it must be what I collected on the way to the bathroom.

I had actually planned to walk in to work today, rather than ride, so I could go on over to the city tonight to shop for something for my niece's birthday, then bus it home, and for some stupid reason I carried on with this plan. Halfway here I just wanted to stop and howl with pain and frustration at how long it was taking me to limp all the way into work and was wishing I had someone else’s life. But then as I hobbled across a road I found $20 lying in the middle of it, which temporarily alleviated all that. I don’t think I’ve ever found $20 before.

By the time I got to work my toe looked a big, swollen, purple mess, which is some relief really. It’s better, when something is extremely painful, and you’re limping something ridiculous, that it at least looks like it should be painful. Invisible injuries are harder to deal with. And it seems to be getting worse as the day goes by, such that now the work bathroom and coffee machine seem a long way away, let alone home.

I was feeling like I should go and give that $20 to a homeless person, or someone who needs free money more than I do. But now, I think I might just blow it all on a taxi.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Someone linked to this talk on TED from Alain de Botton on facebook (can’t even remember who) and so I just rather randomly flagged it for a listen here at work (then discovered I can’t hear the audio but that you can read the transcript on the right). It’s interesting to listen to a “secularist” work this idea through (and he actually gives a strange thumbs up to Augustine and also to the idea of a “day of Judgement”, believe it or not). Some of my favourite bits:
You know, we're often told that we live in very materialistic times, that we're all greedy people. I don't think we are particularly materialistic. I think we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. It's not the material goods we want. It's the rewards we want. And that's a new way of looking at luxury goods. The next time you see somebody driving a Ferrari don't think, "This is somebody who is greedy." Think, "This is somebody who is incredibly vulnerable and in need of love." In other words -- (Laughter) feel sympathy, rather than contempt.

I'm drawn to a lovely quote by St. Augustine in "The City of God," where he says, "It's a sin to judge any man by his post." In modern English that would mean, it's a sin to come to any view of who you should talk to dependent on their business card. It's not the post that should count. And according to St. Augustine, it's only God who can really put everybody in their place. And he's going to do that on the Day of Judgement with angels and trumpets, and the skies will open. Insane idea, if you're a secularist person, like me. But something very valuable in that idea, nevertheless.

In a way, if you like, at one end of the spectrum of sympathy, you've got the tabloid newspaper. At the other end of the spectrum you've got tragedy and tragic art. And I suppose I'm arguing that we should learn a little bit about what's happening in tragic art. It would be insane to call Hamlet a loser. He is not a loser, though he has lost. And I think that is the message of tragedy to us, and why it's so very very important, I think.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two movies

I’ve been a bit sick lately, with one of those colds I "never get". I think it was brought on by cycling home in the freezing conditions late last Monday, when I got caught out without a coat or anything resembling one, then walking about that night and getting rained on. But I thought one only fell ill from being out in the elements in Bronte novels, so perhaps it’s all a little romantic. I wasn’t feeling great on Wednesday so I took work home to do at home Thursday, then thought I could sleep in a bit and go out for a jog when it was “warmer”, so I set out at 7:30 am only to discover that Thursday was the coldest May morning in about 50 years! I don’t think that helped. So Friday I stayed home.

I then did something most unusual for me and decided to go to a video store. As per usual they didn’t have the movies I’d like to see: top of my list was Secrets and Lies directed by Mike Leigh, because I really emjoyed Another Year, which I saw at the cinema earlier this year, and apparently Secrets and Lies is similar only better. Then I wanted to see Remains of the Day, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, because I never saw that either. But I did get bingo when I got down to The Hedgehog, which is based on the book I'd also like to read called The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It’s a French movie, and almost a bit stereotypically “French” really, with the characters bonding over a Russian novel and discussing obscure Japanese films and so it goes on. But it’s nice. In it the building concierge secretly devours literature (under the claim that “no-one wants a pretentious janitor”) but is caught out by a new resident when she says “All happy families are alike” and he responds with “but each unhappy family is unique”, which is the opening line of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (a book I wouldn't pick for bringing people together, because it hardly bodes well does it?). Her cat is called Leo, his cats are called Kitty and Levin, and then there is little Paloma, who lives upstairs with her family, and their cats Constitution and Parliament. And it’s really just the story of how they all become friends, with a good bit of French arthouseness thrown in along the way.

I also hired out Possession, which I picked up while looking for other things. I never did finish the book by AS Byatt. It was a long time ago, but the truth is, I just thought it was "pretentious". There are certain types of writing, generally considered "good", which is a bit too self-consciously artsy for me, and even as a former biologist I couldn't get through all those insect letters. But, I did enjoy the movie, in a sort of guilty fashion, because it's so amoral (it's about two poets though you see, and that said, there is actually a whole lot less "sex" in it than I thought there might be - DVD covers can be quite misleading on that point). This is somewhat redeemed by Christabel's maturing acknowledgment that she has "done a great harm". Anyway, I might go back and have another go at the book someday.

Life is selection

A “poetic” contribution to the uncluttering phenomenon. Don't make me read "how to" books on decluttering, quote me a poet saying 'life is selection', alluding to trees and libraries, and I will do it:

Life is selection, no more. The work of the gardener is simply to destroy this weed, or that shrub, or that tree, and leave this other to grow. The library is gradually made inestimable by taking out from the superabounding mass of books all but the best. The palace is a selection of materials; it’s architecture, a selection of the best effects. Things collect very fast of themselves; the difference between house and house is the wise omissions.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 16, 2011

Words and work

Apparently one in seven of the Proverbs relate to words. What we say is of great importance. This was a great sermon on the idea last week. In it Paul Dale dismisses the childhood defence “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, because the truth is that words can do a lot more damage than sticks and stones. I’m not convinced that “actions speak louder than words” is altogether true either. If the two conflict, a person has no choice but to hold to the words, and you won’t undo damaging words with actions alone.

I’m loving this sermon series on the Proverbs. Last night’s was on work (the sermons are mostly based on one chapter, but pull in other related proverbs from the rest of the book), including the idea that in biblical terms our “work” includes not just our paid work, but our home work, our relational work, our kingdom work etc (and he does compartmentalise life a little here, but I think he's doing that deliberately so that people won't only think of their "paid" work), and with it the possibility that you can be a workaholic in one area, but a “sluggard” in another (and that there's a sluggard somewhere in all of us). If you’re interested you’ll be able to listen to it sometime soon also.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What Instagram would sound like

Since everybody is freezing, and it's Saturday, and I have been raving about phone camera apps, here is a video of what Instagram would sound like on a day at the beach. It's a mashup of instagram photos and voice memos.

Day out at the beach from Alex Harding on Vimeo.


So, blogger went down for a few days, and lost a couple of posts. Since they were sitting there in the google reader cache I decided to reinstate them and trick you all, so they might come up again (comments are gone though sorry).

I think it does us all good to lose access to these things every now and then. I think facebook should now go offline for a week or two, then someone can take out the TV stations some other time for a week or two. If I was going to be part of an outer space invasion in a sci-fi disaster movie, I'd come down to earth, and I wouldn't put viruses unknown to science in the water supply or some variant of nuclear radiation in the bread (I'm making this up, because I don't watch sci-fi disaster movies), I'd take out the TV stations, and after everyone had gone crazy with the angst of what to do with themselves for a few days, the movie would end with people having family sing-alongs and playing scrabble. (Anyone want me to write the script?)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Poetry Day - The buried life

I am a little stunned to find that this poem has not already graced this blog, as it has swirled around in my head for many a year. So, here it is (copied in from here). Mind you, I don't think that "whence our lives come and where they go" is found by delving deep within, and curiously, even within the poem "rest" ultimately comes from the love of another outside the poet.

Image taken from here.

by Matthew Arnold

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,
We know, we know that we can smile!
But there's a something in this breast,
To which thy light words bring no rest,
And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.

Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves—and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

But we, my love!—doth a like spell benumb
Our hearts, our voices?—must we too be dumb?

Ah! well for us, if even we,
Even for a moment, can get free
Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd;
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd!

Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby man would be—
By what distractions he would be possess'd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity—
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us—to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves—
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well—but 'tis not true!
And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.

Only—but this is rare—
When a belovèd hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd—
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.

Why Singleness? Why Marriage?

On Monday night I skipped a guitar class to go and hear the lecture at the Centre for Christian Living by Andrew Cameron on Why Singleness? Why Marriage? It possibly wasn’t the best thing to do, because I realised I am reasonably familiar with Andrew’s views, through the sharing of them by his friends, one of whom wrote this article on singleness (and I'm completely unfamiliar with 12-bar blues, which we did last week in guitar class), but they are worth hearing and it was a good lecture.

I took the plunge asked a question at the end, which didn’t come out quite right as a question, but Andrew himself came and spoke to me for a good while afterwards, so that was kind of him. Andrew’s wife (I'm not entirely sure what her name is, otherwise I'd use it) actually followed up my question by saying “Andrew you’ve said before that we don’t choose marriage, we only consent to it” (which I think comes from Christopher Ash?) revealing that she was picking up on my wavelength. Interesting. You’ll be able to listen to the lecture at some point here I assume (and here's hoping they didn't record the questions, because I might have embarrassed myself for the cause) and there are some articles of interest here (in particular we were pointed to this article on family).

During the evening Andrew, when speaking on marriage, quoted Stanley Hauerwas as saying “We always marry the wrong person”, which is not unlike this recent tweet from Alain de Botton “Back-to-front modern assumption: we think it's easy to love, just hard to find the 'right one'.”

Anyway, this is the post that wasn't, because I haven't shared much about the lecture, or what my question was - I've gone all blog coy, and don't know what it is I was trying to say anymore. Next post.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A little daily poetry

It's been sadly lacking in poetry here lately, but Laurel has begun a daily Haiku blog, where you can get fresh pickings. I love the way she’s presenting them!

People are strange

Speaking about people you meet, and new shoes: last Friday, I decided that since I had nice new shoes here at work, I could throw out some old ones I had here under my desk, which really were worn out. So, I put them in the bin in the kitchen. It was then amazing how many people commented on the fact that someone had put their shoes in the bin. I mean, where else was I supposed to put them? Then one guy, the office joker, actually comes around here, holding the shoes, fished out of the bin, to find out who’d done it. So I fessed up, and for some reason it was quite hysterically funny at the time. Anyway, I couldn’t help noticing that my shoes never actually made it back into the bin, so I suspected they would come back to haunt me sometime, but, from a glance around his desk after he left, it appeared he’d actually taken them home. But then this morning, he comes around to my desk and he is actually WEARING my old shoes (which are of a Mary Jane style)! (He’s a small, skinny sort of chap.) I am really starting to wonder …

Old phone and new phone

I got a new phone on the weekend (see bottom of post) so have been cleaning out my old one, and I found these picturess. Random moments from my neighbourhood wanderings.

(I poladroided them so they'd look less like crappy old phone pics, which changes the dimensions and so alters the composition a little, but not to worry ...)

But yes, like I said, I got a new phone. During the holidays, for some strange reason, I started wishing I had an iPhone. I wanted to do Hipstamatic and Instagram things. But, my existing phone plan was only $24 a month, so I had to tell myself that paying $59 a month for an iPhone, just so I could fiddle about with photo apps on it and go roaming around on facebook or google maps, was dumb. Anyway, my old plan was long up, so I thought that perhaps I could at least get a better phone. So, I popped into the shop and I now have a HTC Aria Android, which apparently has just been dropped back from the $49 plan to the $29 one. And it does essentially everything (most things?) an iPhone does (as the girl in the shop said to me, in her charming Russian/Canadian accent, “iPhones are only expensive because they’re apple – they don’t need to be so expensive”). So, I’ve been having some fun since and no longer feel so medieval. I've downloaded a couple of retro camera apps, after going through that rigmarole which is setting up some kind of google two-step verification thing, and took a couple of snaps last night to see what happened, but I haven't worked out where the photos actually ended up yet ...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Am I wearing pants?

This is not quite the calibre I was aiming for on this blog, but in the public interest, if you haven't already seen this and experience some confusion over whether jeggings are appropriate attire outside your house, perhaps it might be of assistance. From here.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ten things I've learned about life

For the past few years my church has run a morning for women called Ten Things I've Learned About Life. What this morning involves is simply hearing the stories of two women from with the congregation(s) and some of the things they've learnt about life and God along the way. I've been at the last two, one of which was on the Saturday just gone, and they are really good times of encouragement, and getting to know more about some of the women you see around you (and I made the same mistake again this year and went without tissues). We get a little book-mark-style handout of the distilled points from each woman, and I still have last year's up on my board, so I've scanned them in here (which hopefully isn't going to violate anyone's privacy), because they say something without you needing to know the stories behind them.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Why the King James Bible endures

This article, from the New York Times, is interesting. This is one somewhat amusing paragraph from it:
Not everyone prefers a God who talks like a pal or a guidance counselor. Even some of us who are nonbelievers want a God who speaketh like — well, God. The great achievement of the King James translators is to have arrived at a language that is both ordinary and heightened, that rings in the ear and lingers in the mind. And that all 54 of them [on the committee] were able to agree on every phrase, every comma, without sounding as gassy and evasive as the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, is little short of amazing, in itself proof of something like divine inspiration.

On Mother's Day

I don't really like Mother's day. As someone who always wanted lots of children, and most likely won't have any, what I'd like to do is just ignore it. But I do appreciate this post from Practical Theology for Women. I especially appreciate that Wendy doesn't try offering earthly consolations and substitutes, she just lets it be what it is. But she does point us to the gospel and to heaven, which is where the only real consolation is found.
Single woman watching your biological clock tick away, I encourage you to look today at your longings through the lens of the gospel. You don’t have to deny your longing or talk yourself into a happy attitude for all the good things you can do without kids. It’s OK to mourn the loss. God said children are a blessing. But after the fall, we do not all get to experience that blessing. The gospel makes up the difference. While you are disappointed in deep ways and that disappointment is real, you will one day sit with Jesus in heaven profoundly content with His work in you through this disappointment. In heaven, you will have no longing for something you missed. You will not be disappointed. May confidence in that hope sustain you.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The people you meet

This is why I occasionally find it difficult talking to my work colleague. The other day she got a book in the mail from Book Depository and was all excited about it, and I too get excited about books so I asked her what it was: Treasure Islands: tax havens and the men who stole the world.  Seriously, I think that’s one book you’d have to pay me to read. I'm just not interested. And my other work colleague, who came along to the Faithful Writer conference with me the other year, left here yesterday. She recently went to San Francisco to do a course in hypnotherapy, as people do, and now she’s opening her own business (she’s invited me along to the Opening Day at the centre she's establishing for various therapeutic and artistic pursuits, which could be interesting!). She gave me a cute knitted thing from San Francisco, and I gave her some crochet. It’s a shame she’s gone, because she wrote poetry and didn’t read books about tax evasion. But, people don't cross our paths by accident ...

Online shopping triumph

I have feet that are on the larger end for women, which I’ve always hated, and often trying to find shoes is a pain in the neck, so after looking around a little over the holidays for some simple flat, black shoes to wear at work (I tend to keep some in my drawer here as my staple) without any great success, I clicked on through on a sale email from Long Tall Sally, where they also cater for the feet of tall women, and ordered some. I’ve never bought shoes online before as I thought it was risky, but they arrived today and they’re perfect! They had two for the price of one on their clearance shoes, so I got two pairs of pumps for 7.5 pounds each (and even with the 15-pound postage, it comes to just over $40 for the two, which is a bargain for a large-footed woman). So, I’m now tempted to go crazy with online shoes ... but hopefully I won’t. Shopping online is way too easy ...

We have to have our dark corners

Hmm, do people think this is true? I've probably strangled a thing or two with explanations. The context, commenting on the self-reflection and psychology of the 20th Century, is interesting. (H/T Austin Kleon)
We have to have our dark corners and the unexplained. We will become uninhabitable in a way an apartment will become uninhabitable if you illuminate every single dark corner and under the table and wherever—you cannot live in a house like this anymore. And you cannot live with a person anymore—let’s say in a marriage or a deep friendship—if everything is illuminated, explained, and put out on the table.
— Werner Herzog

Henceforth I shall be inscrutable. And why have I never seen a Werner Herzog film?

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Picture from Indexed.

I did finish Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns on my holiday also. And I just liked this graph from Indexed, so thought I'd tell you that. But it's a good book. I'm not sold on conditional forgiveness (ie, you only forgive those who repent), but I think it's rather obvious that there's a big difference between forgiveness involving repentance, reconciliation and restoration of relationship (if there was a relationship to begin with), and forgiveness that doesn't. (And some of the arguments elsewhere that run the other way do seem to me more like logic arguments than exploration of Scripture.)

I don't have a trailer load of baggage on this one, but there is that one event that comes to mind when people mention "forgiveness", after which the other person never said sorry and never spoke to me again (and there are reasons why it couldn't be me who tried to involve myself in their life) and so after months went by I made something of a tangible act of forgiveness, then soon after left that church (I didn't leave the church over that (I also left the country), though it wasn't encouraging me to stay, and I also didn't deliberately time the tangible act for then either, it was just the way circumstances worked out). And we've never spoken since. So, I do sometimes wonder what it actually means for me to say I've forgiven that person.

But, to set that aside, the book is really practical, as I've already mentioned, and there are chapters in it on How can I conquer bitterness? and How can I stop thinking about it? (and get off the "mental gerbil wheel" and win the battle for the mind) plus a chapter giving you some steps to go through to "go about" forgiveness. These are helpful and worth reading.

(And there are dozens of real reviews of this book on the internet if you want to read more.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Myths about introverts

I've been quite enjoying Austin Kleon's tumblr thing, which is full of short bites about creativity and other stuff. Recently he posted on Myths about Introverts, because he is apparently married to one. So, I thought I'd share this link, just to annoy the extraverts ;) (and I'll be the first to admit that some of these characteristics need to be overcome, in the name of Christian 'brotherliness').

I did think this was an interesting little piece of biology from the introductory spiel:
A section of Laney’s book maps out the human brain and explains how neuro-transmitters follow different dominant paths in the nervous systems of Introverts and Extroverts. If the science behind the book is correct, it turns out that Introverts are people who are over-sensitive to Dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. Conversely, Extroverts can’t get enough Dopamine, and they require Adrenaline for their brains to create it. Extroverts also have a shorter pathway and less blood-flow to the brain. The messages of an Extrovert’s nervous system mostly bypass the Broca’s area in the frontal lobe, which is where a large portion of contemplation takes place.
Oh, and I also liked this bit :) :
In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

Why I like books, poems, paintings ...

“It is books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.”
— Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness. (HT: Austin Kleon)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Elegant granny style crochet

In the deluge that was yesterday’s return to blogging, there was no crafty business. So, I am going to rectify that now. This variation on a granny square rug over at The Purl Bee did capture my imagination the other week. I have a pile of cheapy wool, mostly in one colour, that cost me $1.50 a ball at Spotlight a while back, and I think this is what it might become. I like that you can make the shape a bit more versatile this way.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Proverbs in May

We have just started a new preaching series at church on the book of Proverbs. And the challenge was: there are 31 days in May and 31 chapters in Proverbs. I'm taking that one up.

(Just got in from my intermediate guitar class, which started tonight. It was all about 12 bar blues. Interesting.)

God as Father

While I was in Canberra I stayed with a friend who is preparing to give a talk at EQUIP this year on God as Our Father. So, one day while she was out at work I picked up some of the books she was using, one called In My Father’s House by Mary Kassian in particular, and found myself a blubbering mess. An absent father is that great unknown I don’t give a whole lot of thought to, till something pokes me with what I’ve missed. So, I found myself reading and attempting to sort out what it made me think about God (there’s lists in the back of the book on this). Essentially I know my Dad loved me and was a good person (so others tell me) but he is nothing to or for me here and now, or in living memory, and I think there are ways I do subconsciously translate that – I know things about God, but what they mean for me personally is harder. (And the fact that I haven't had a male demonstrate a pro-active, Ephesians 5 style, interest in me doesn’t help me either, as a relational illustration – because I think that’s one danger, that in the absence of a father you can unconsciously look sideways at romantic interactions as representative, and we all know that they’re a very long way from ‘unconditional’. I’ve never known a guy to pursue a girl he didn’t find ‘attractive’, in whatever way – even if that’s ‘godliness’ it’s still a criteria you have to meet, to win initiative and attention and commitment in relationship.) So, that was rather enlightening. I’ve tried to work through this stuff occasionally in the past, as has been evident at times on this here blog, but I perhaps I just need to keep working on reminding myself to believe that God is so far beyond anything in my experience.

Anyway, I’ve ordered that book, because I think I read most of it but in bits and pieces all over the place. So, perhaps I’ll be back on this.

The new Fleet Foxes

While I was on holidays the new Fleet Foxes album was released, so I went to buy it that day like some sort of avid groupy, just because I could. So far I'm liking it, but I need to wear it in a little. I loaded it into iTunes without being connected to the internet, so it just came in as all these unnamed tracks all over the place, and when I hit what I thought was the first song, I thought I was playing Safe to Land by Jars of Clay by mistake (a song I really like). If you're a Fleet Foxes person, listen to the beginning of Montezuma and then listen to the beginning of this song, and tell me you couldn't mistake them.

There are some interesting lyrics on the album, like Blue Spotted Tail, which is asking all those questions science can't answer. Like this:

Why in the night sky are the lights hung?
Why is the earth moving round the sun?
Floating in the vacuum with no purpose, not a one
Why in the night sky are the lights hung?

Why is life made only for to end?
Why do I do all this waiting then?
Why this frightened part of me that's fated to pretend?
Why is life made only for to end?

Easter, ANZAC day and the Royal Wedding

So, I’m back from two weeks leave, a little disappointed that it’s over (obviously!) and also that in the end I didn’t actually spend much time at home doing home things (I think I am going to have to try again on that at some point - the last two times I’ve tried my Mum has ended up coming to visit, which, while nice, is just not the same thing as being able to stay home and read books and potter about). After Mum left I went to Canberra for most of a week and caught up with friends, family, old flatmates and old military connections (not that I was ever in the military, but was involved in ministry to the military for a time).

Easter itself was good. I took Mum to my church here on Good Friday evening and it was a beautiful communion service, with candles burning, acoustic music, the bible story from Luke read in excerpts, and a great and very encouraging message from Paul Dale (that I don’t think is online). There was something I found very suitably sober yet hopeful about the whole thing. Then Easter Sunday I heard a friend Dave Irving preach at Crossroads at ANU in Canberra on the Emmaus Road passage and the journey from disappointment to hope, which was also great and very encouraging.

While down there I also went to the dawn ANZAC service at the War Memorial, with 27,999 other people, which was quite something, except that it was so overcast the whole thing happened in the dark and we didn’t actually see anything, including the dawn! After that we went to breakfast with a naval officer I used to co-lead a bible study here in Sydney with, and his family, and it was still only about 6:30 am in the morning. That was a looong day. And of course, I also went to a Royal Wedding Party, with Pimms and cucumber sandwiches and a tiara on my head, for fun (and millions of people heard Thomas Cranmer’s wedding service and Romans 12 read, which is not to be scoffed at).

So, that was it for occasions and events.