Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The revelation of love

Some people think that I am obsessed with death, but I am not. It holds perhaps a morbid fascination for me in its almost unparalleled power to reveal love. One could argue, if like me, you are a believer, that it is through the very act of death that the fulness of the One who is Love is finally revealed to us. But even apart from that eschatological reality, on a crude human level, is it still not true?: Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. (Kahlil Gibran)

CS Lewis, who knew love in the romantic sense, only very late in life - and briefly at that - before his wife, Joy, died of cancer, wrote in a poem Joys that Sting:

To take the old walks alone, or not at all,
To order one pint where I ordered two.
T0 think of, and then not to make, the small
Time-honoured joke (senseless to all but you);

To laugh (oh, one'll laugh), to talk upon
Themes that we talked upon when you were there,
To make some poor pretence of going on,
Be kind to one's old friends, and seem to care,

While no one (O God) through the years will say
The simplest, common word in just your way...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Funny hats

The image of a bishop or pope can evoke images of funny costumes and hats and men who are not too human. I am fascinated by the human side of these public figures and I will blog shortly on what I think is perhaps one of the most faithful and enduring love stories I have read about in a while. The love of Halina Krolikiewicz for Karol Wotjtyla and I believe his love for her. Not because it was ever consummated, but because in their perhaps mutual, but more likely individual decisions not to pursue it, they hardly counted the cost so strong was their conviction or faith - call it what you want. Another man I have a lot of respect for is Angelo Roncalli, who was later to become Pope John XXIII. In an entry in his diary in 1939, when he was in Instanbul, many years before he became Pope, he wrote the following:

Every evening from the window of my room...
I see an assemblage of boats on the Bosporus;
they come round from the Golden Horn
in tens and hundreds ... a most impressive
spectacle of colour and lights ...
These lights glow all night
and one can hear the cheerful voices of fisherman.
I find the sight very moving.
The other night, towards one o'clock,
it was pouring rain
but the fisherman were still there,
undeterred from their heavy toil...

Very little is left in this land
of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Debris and seeds...
We must do as the fisherman of the Bosporus do,
work night and day.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Reader

A couple of days ago, I went to see the film, 'The Reader'. I am not a qualified critic and have no expertise regarding how good a film is (or not), so if anybody reading this says the film was poor in this or that aspect, I probably wouldn't be able to mount an argument. I have seen films that have touched me before - sometimes because of the subject matter and at other times because of the sheer skill of the movie maker to manipulate emotions. At the end of this film, though, I was feeling pretty neutral on both counts - as a Christian, for one thing, I found the amount of nudity gratuitous. In spite of my objective misgivings, though, I just sat staring at the blank cinema screen even after the theatre had emptied, close to tears and I realised that I had been deeply moved by the sheer beauty of the film as a piece of art. I cannot explain why. But I also felt that way, the first time I saw my wife. Anthony Padavano has some very dodgy theological ideas, but he once wrote a true thing in his book, Belief in Human Life:
A child
cannot say why a balloon fills him with joy;
a poet cannot find words
to match his wonder at the stars or the sea;
a musician is at a loss
to explain what Beethoven does to him;
a man in love
cannot express himself adequately…

There are times when words say nothing
and when silence expresses everything.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Susan Boyle

I don't watch reality shows, but somebody sent me the link of Susan Boyle It is a simple story reminiscent of Paul Potts, both of whom lived in complete obscurity for years with an exceptional God-given talent. It has received more than 3 million hits since Saturday on Youtube. People love an underdog making good, but this story is more than that. My mother once remarked that it sometimes costs more to live for someone than to die for them. I don't know what experience in her life informed that wisdom, but I must remember to ask her one day. It is the story of so many people whose genius for whatever reason, is never revealed. I don't think it is always and only a result of life and circumstance, but a measure of the sacrifice that people make for love - the brilliant scientist mother or businesswoman who sacrifices the opportunity of a scholarship or promotion to look after a disabled child. Yes, the choice reveals the ultimacy of love, but somehow one cannot but mourn her very real loss. I don't think it undermines the ideal that love ought to be primary. I think it demonstrates the very real cost and depth of what sacrificial, selfless love entails. It is no less heroic an act than that of a martyr because it is the laying down of one's life for another. We are right to mourn the loss on her behalf as much as we are grateful on the child's behalf for her having made it. Nick Williams wrote in his book, 'The work we were born to do':
The wonder of life is that all souls enjoy different things, some enjoy numbers, others nature, some offices, others open air, some are creative, others logical. The only true problem is that we don’t always do what we really enjoy; we don’t identify and use our gifts and talents and so we become square pegs in round holes. Each of us is a unique expression of life, with God-given gifts and talents, each able to do things in ways that no one else can. Each of us has a song to sing, a gift to give. That calling has been placed in our heart, and it will never be lost. The greatest sadness of life would be to die with that song still in us our gifts not found or expressed.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter!

I hope whoever and wherever you are, you are having a very Happy Easter! (With, of course, lots of Easter eggs!) As at Christmas, families try and do something together: an easter egg hunt for the kids, etc. and these little traditions bind families. Because most of us have family or friends who have moved away- in some cases, countries - and even the fortunate may only be able to afford to get together at Christmas, it might be a time when people simply long to be with family or friends far away; or with those ones that have passed on. If you are one of those, may you have an even more Blessed Easter.
Can miles truly separate you from friends.... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there? (Richard Bach)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Weaver

I remember Kirstin's life with gratitude and a smile, but sometimes on this blog, it may seem that my only feeling about her death is one of sadness. But it isn't so. One of the most touching passages in Isaiah is in Chapter 38 and its description of death. I think of hers in these terms:

My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
like a shepherd's tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
he cuts me off from the loom.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

9 months

Yesterday marked 9 months.
Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need to know of hell. (Emily Dickinson)

Saturday, 4 April 2009

First kiss

In this cynical wider society, that now, in general, doesn't seem to think it a big deal for unmarried couples to sleep together, that loss of innocence saddens me. I can't help but wonder if a young teen's first kiss actually means anything anymore. We were lucky enough to be part of a close group (about half a dozen or so of us couples) who happened to be friends and of various Christian denominations who did wait. (No we were not a home cell or prayer group). As a consequence - and maybe I am wrong here, but I feel it is a direct consequence of that decision - the other moments along the various steps that comprise the levels of physical intimacy meant a lot more to me and I treasure them to this day.

The first time I ever kissed a girl was at the Wimpy in St George's Mall in Cape Town. A friend of mine and a friend of hers went there for a milkshake after school on her birthday. My buddy and I had planned the whole thing. I had saved enough money from my weekend job at an ice-cream parlour to buy her an expensive bottle of perfume. Well ‘expensive’ is a relative term, I guess. Anyway. We sat down, ordered the drinks and after 10 minutes or so, on cue, my friend and her friend whom he had prepped, excused themselves - ostensibly to go to the bathroom. I remember my heart pounding like a freight train, making it difficult for me to breathe. I handed her the present and almost chickened out of kissing her Happy Birthday, but she mouthed thank you, leaned forward across the table and we kissed. I remember feeling kind of dizzy and weird. Like when I once shocked myself while changing a live lamp wire – lameness from electricity running through my entire body. The song playing in the background that day was ‘Deep River Women’ by Lionel Ritchie. Don’t ask me why I remember that silly detail! Hearing it now always evokes that moment 22 years ago. When we left that restaurant, I don’t think I came back to earth for days. I never kissed that girl again, and life took us in different directions. I find it funny though, how the body responds to memories. The same tightening in the stomach. The same elevated heartbeat. The inevitable, involuntary smile.