Beware That Impulse To Know

Angel’s Blood

I am the poema
The angel’s blood that pulses in your veins—making that which is unseeable.

I am the shades
The silence that walks behind, unheard
I am Eurydice, following her Orpheus out of hades.

Beware the fate of faithless Orpheus
That impulse to know for sure, to turn and look—to remove all doubt that your beloved, loves.

Oh the sadness of the maker, unmade by his own hand

Making of me a thing for eyes to see, to understand, like prose, like heresy.

Thus and so, poor Orpheus took ‘One backward glance, suffice to see, to lose, to kill, Eurydice.’

(Peter Volkofsky, Dubbo, 2017)

Check The Night

The Night

Wondering about the night that’s sleeping now
And the dog that wants to go out and play
Think I’ll go with the dog and see if there’s things that move

Or what the stars are doing
Or what might come to meet me
Knocking softly on the oaken doors of mind and heart—walking with me in the dark.

Like that boy on a night just like this
Swinging through the moon in a tree
Or that other one laughing with the running waves of a muddy river

Or that girl smiling like the sun on her face
Or that other one who was always delighted, still is

And the wife who’s always making, adorning the world each day—and this Lovely Presence, Walking this grove of silver gums.

I’m sure Eve was here the other night, weeping and singing

And Adam came past in a hurry, looking away
I tried to make out that the dog was fierce
But Adam just turned, smiled and said hello

‘It’s too beautiful a night for sleeping,’ he said.

Peter Volkofsky January 2019

For You

To You

Take my hand and listen
Take my heart and pray.

I can hear the rumble of deep motors
Of tying on the blindfold, swallowing the pills
Foot to the floor, screaming through
Those micro-lies
Quick thinking replies.

I am the burning blade dragging across your heart.
The smooth brown, laughing, river full of sisters
The sighing trees, the singing stars
That long to be alone with you
That wait through the night for you to turn and look, really look
At my pale sky paper-wrapping
All dressed up like Christmas
With her blood red ribbon of sun
Inviting you to do likewise
To offer up your sunrise
To loosen up your heart
To become like her, a prayer, for quenching thirsty ones.

Take my hand and listen
Take my heart and pray
That love finds the light
That grace makes a way – for me, to you.’

 

Peter Volkofsky (March 2018)

Listen Carefully

The air is thick and heavy. Rain threatens. Our neighbourhood is almost silent, except for one loud out-in-the-street voice: irritating, as usual. Boom! I know what a heavy calibre rifle sounds like and that was one. The street voice has stopped.

It begins to rain and we—at home in our lounge room—all look at each other, unsure what to do, what to pray. Even the weather seems to be on pause. We decide to wait, given that there was no preceding, audible fight and that ours is that kind of street.

The best answer to our question about the boom! might be that someone was trying to say, Enough is enough! of that constant, loud talking out on the verge. White noise is what our world is good at. Sometimes we try to silence it with another kind of noise and sometimes we listen carefully to see where God is in it.

 

The Mercies of Perfection

Today, in my class, Adele’s lilting voice sings a soft ‘Hello’ into the room. On the floor, a dozen teenagers laugh and scream as they roll dice and play the ‘chocolate game’: a reward for their achievement of golden points. Another prized thing is here too—infinite love—largely (and appropriately) unrecognised, but surely felt, as if heaven has bent down for a few moments and given us a taste of one of her perfections.

Charles Williams tells us that according to ‘Romantic Theology’ such perfection is implicit in every human being and to sell it and yourself short is a great insult, not just to God but also to the human race. Speaking of those lovely and yet dangerous moments when we glimpse this in another human being—as we do every day—along with all their faults. He says, ‘We cannot look fixedly upon such love and glory because the soul is so intoxicated by it… it at once goes astray…’ The attempt to extort (to obtain by force, threats, or other unfair means) leads to a perversion of the image. Hence what chaos and despair would follow if all men and women were so beheld. Therefore the Divine mercy intervenes, clouding its creation by drawing the veil.

He points out that this is why, in the Garden of Eden, once they had insisted on seeing good as evil, they were mercifully ejected from paradise. He adds, ‘How could they have borne with sanity that place of restrained good, all of which could be known (experienced) as unrestrained evil?’1

I wonder; if it’s true that it could be a ‘mercy to be ejected from a paradise’; might there have been times in our own lives where—because we were unable to bear with sanity some place of restrained good—that we experienced the mercy of being ejected from a paradise, but failed to realise that it was actually a mercy?

1 Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice, Apocryphile Press, Berkeley CA, 2005 (originally Faber & Faber 1943) pp: 47-48

Spiritual Symmetry

The symmetry of beauty has been on my mind, especially the way it happens in the symmetry of sacrifice. As an expression of deep love, God shouldered a cross in order to create the universe—in turn—as an expression of deep love, we shoulder our cross and the beauty is impossible to hide. (see CS Lewis’ poem, ‘Love’s as warm as Tears’). It all falls over of course the moment we allow sanctimonious pride, fear, repressed anger, score cards and so on to replace self-forgetful love as the motivation behind the sacrifice. This latter experience would be a bit like finding a flower growing in your yard but you realise that one half of it is plastic. This is what happens when our love starts out well but then slides back into a contrivance.

Imagined to Real

Quote

 

‘The glory of Christ has no weight while ever it is only present in your imagination and your mind; but when it reaches your will, the true weight of glory pours into your soul. The solid weight and gravity of God’s glory is activated by obedience.’

(George MacDonald, The Hope of The Gospel, Sunrise Books, 1989)

A God Delusion

A God Delusion’ is what Richard Dawkins should have titled his book, which (in a dead giveaway of his rather pompous approach) he called ‘The God Delusion’. I haven’t finished reading it yet but every page so far is reinforcing the fact that all of us at different times in our lives—whether we are believers or atheists—harbour various ‘God Delusions’. These tend to be expressed most boldly when we are rich and healthy or angry and in pain.

And this is not all bad, we find much of this in the psalms and other writings in scripture. Putting these kind of thoughts out of there is, not uncommonly, one way of processing them and sometimes realising how silly they are, and that they are delusional. In the light of that, it may well be that Dawkins’ book will help both Christians and atheists to be rid of one particular delusion* about God.

The difference of course with Dawkins’ book is the relentless rage—even hatred—that comes through. This guy is not going to listen to reason and his outbursts read more like those of someone in stage three of faith development** where everything is either ‘black or white’, ‘this or that’. A hallmark of this stage is the inability to see inconsistency in your reasoning and the inability to hear valid criticism.

Sometimes though, it turns out that the expression of our hurts and disappointments about God is not merely delusional, not silly and is in fact quite profound. Dawkins does allude to some of this but in a manner that suggests he’s not actually serious, he just wants to hate—like a propagandist—and that is that. On the other hand, when CS Lewis said the awful pain of having a wife die of cancer made him wonder if we were just ‘rats in a cosmic experiment’, he did it in a way that spoke on behalf of millions and enabled them to go somewhere with it. Interestingly—despite what some Christians thought—he hadn’t lost his faith, he was simply expressing it honestly.

* a delusion is a false impression that’s held onto despite the contradictory evidence of reality

** James Fowler, Faith Development

Back In Time—Just In Time

Mum, Granddad, Grandma, Uncle John and Aunty Jill

A birthday invitation to my aunt’s 80th has been lying around on my desk for a while now. I’m sure it’s here somewhere. I push a hand underneath the pile and tip it all upside down. There it is! A lovely sheet of pale, silken paper in a stylish font.

I look at the calendar. I can make it if I pull the pin on these other guys—but then I did that last time over a wedding. I probably shouldn’t stretch the friendship.

I send a text to my cousin explaining that I won’t be able to make it. Perhaps I could ‘visit’ via Skype, I suggest. I can already hear her laughing (with her mother’s laughter and a twinkle in her eye) and saying something about this being a rather cheap way of ‘assuaging my guilt’ at not coming.

I add (in the text) that I’ve always enjoyed her mum’s warmth and grace and her beautiful imagination with its storehouse of knowledge, music, art, jokes and memories—and her quiet prayers and joy in Jesus. I want my cousin to know that I thank God for this lovely lady.

In an afterthought I tell her I would have loved to have been able to go back in time—just once—and to have been close by (incognito) when her mother and my own mother were two young women having a picnic in a park. The laughter, conversation and joy in life would have been at once silly, deeply reflective and so human.

While I’m thinking about that I recall something one of my other aunties once told me. She was with my grandmother—on my mum’s side—at a time when it was clear that her daughter was going to lose her struggle with Motor Neurone disease. The news had been a crushing blow to my grandmother.

‘So,’ she said to my aunty, whilst looking up at the heavens. ‘Is there anyone up there?’

I don’t say anything about that in this message. It just sits there in a melancholy space in the back of my mind while I type. I finish the text and touch ‘send’.

Putting the phone down, I look up, and there, scrolling into view on my laptop screen is a photograph of my mother (looking a little gaunt) and the aunty who’s about to have her 80th. Between the two of them are my mother’s parents and her brother. I can’t take my eyes off my grandmother. She’s smiling. She looks so happy!

Once again, heaven has been reading my mind—has told me it’s thinking of me—and I’m losing it. It overheard my deepest longing and took me back in time. It’s so lovely and so terrible. Something deep inside is breaking open, again.

The Joke At The Party of Civilisations

The following news link tells of three Brazilian women ‘challenging the traditional family unit’ by marrying according to law in Brazil. http://elpais.com/elpais/2015/10/27/inenglish/1445948093_804967.html. I suppose it is a new thing for them to have a law officially pronouncing three women to be married but it all seems so beside the point, so tedious, as if—once again—we Westerners are casting about for something to make our lives interesting. Meanwhile, we forget that there are others at this party of so-called civilisations, who are rolling their eyes, even laughing.

Western culture is the funny little glitzy, flirty girl at the party who likes to paint herself up and imagine that everyone is talking about her supposed sexual innovations. Sorry love, but if you read history you will know that it’s all been done before—just with a few male warriors to protect you so you don’t get taken by the gremlins in the jungle. There’s nothing new or surprising here, it’s as old as Genesis.

To say that these women are ‘Challenging the traditional family unit’ is misleading and oh-so ‘tabloid’. Human beings have been getting together in various sexual arrangements since whenever and thinking of themselves as families. It’s embarrassing actually, this thing we in the West do with our narcissistic obsession and our determination to think of ourselves as on some cutting edge, some scandalous, avant gard, sexy thing. Frightening the rest of the world. Really?