Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Human defrag

Last night, my computer refused to turn on, and my friend Danny suggested I run a disk defrag. He explained why it was necessary: disks, once whole, compartmentalise when they save. If you delete something, it doesn't go back and fill up the empty space, it keeps moving along to the next, till eventually, there are lots of tiny spaces, but not enough big ones to let you do anything. A defrag condenses it and makes it whole again - giving you a tightly condensed area and a big open space, allowing you to do what you need to do.

This morning, I read this fantastic post at Chez Fabulous. And I couldn't help connecting it with last night.

Alison talks about personas, the different people we are in different places, the different masks we wear. Sometimes, due to personal development or leaving a particular environment, we drop a persona or mask that no longer serves us, which is great.

But then, do we act like a hard disk? Do we leave that space, not tend to it, not fill it with something more authentic, and carry on fragmenting till we no longer have enough space in our lives to breathe, to do what we need to do, to move forward into truly being ourselves?

Might that be the cause of so much depression, nervous breakdowns, the low to mid-level unhappiness so many of us live with?

Maybe we need to learn to defrag regularly - pulling all those personas into one place, where they can work together as a whole, co-operatively rather separately, making them stronger, more flexible and well-adapted - and leaving us the large empty space we need for breathing, reflecting and resting: in other words, just being.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Dream log 15/04/09

There was more than one dream last night of note. I'm fighting for the memory of the one just before I woke up, but the one that came just as I was falling asleep is one that I am not likely to forget any time soon. Yes, it was one of those 'wake up with your heart pounding, was it really a dream' dreams

I was standing in a huge cave with a good friend - there was lots of light coming in from an entrance to our left and behind us, and from above us, where there was a natural skylight slightly obstructed by a huge rectangular piece of rock jutting across a shelf just below the opening. Weirdly, though neither one of us is an engineer or a geologist - both our fathers are engineers, but different types - we were knowledgeably discussing the cracks in the rock and the safety of the cave. I was pointing to the rocks in the wall and saying, "They're just fine - but if you look up (pointing to the rectangular rock) - THAT is a serious stress fracture, and we need to be worried about that." He nodded thoughtfully.

Suddenly, the earth beneath us shook, and I had a quick vision of houses folding as if they were origami, before looking up to see the rock break in two along the crack and fall - too quickly for me to get away, and I was buried underneath it.

Oddly, my friend DID make it out, though I have no idea how. Possibly because he was slightly to my left and a step behind me, or he'd already started to move. I somehow *knew* there was only time for one of us to make it out, so I wasn't bothered by the fact that he didn't grab me or try to save me too - I knew we were both where we were meant to be. It was absolutely fine. I was completely calm in the dark; I could hear him calling me, but I turned all my energy to finding my way out. Somehow, I managed to stand up underneath it, dropping the two halves of that huge rock from my shoulders like they were styrofoam.

"Irim! You ok?" I turned around to see his head poking through the cave entrance.
"Ja," I replied, assessing the situation and realising I couldn't exit that way.
"We going to have to anchor a rope, have you tie it round your waist and lower you to the floor of the cave and get you out that way."
"Fine," I said, managing to reach the rope he'd thrown my way, and tying it round my waist, feeling the tension as he adjusted it at the other end.
"First, we going to have to bring you up - can you reach the two little girls there if we do that?"
I looked up to see THREE young girls trapped on a ledge near the roof of the cave. I looked at him and said, "There are three - do you want me to get all three?"
"NO," he said emphatically. "If you can reach the two nearest you, I can get the third, no problem."
"Ok." He hoisted me up and I just managed to grab the two girls nearest me as the rope swung. I held them tightly.
"Great. Now we'll let you down slowly. We'll see you at the bottom."
It was unnerving beyond measure to be lowered with my arms full and not be able to use them to feel more balanced, but I held onto the little girls for dear life. The pitch dark seemed to last a lifetime, and children zoomed in out of the darkness to hold onto me and be lowered down, some desperately wanting to be hugged/held so that they could feel safer on the descent. Just once, I started to go to hug one, but held onto the girls for dear life. I was NOT going to let them fall. The others could hold onto any part of me - legs, torso, whatever - but I was NOT letting go of the girls.

Finally, gently, my feet touched the floor of the cave and the kids let go of me and ran through the small, triangular opening through which the sun was streaming. I gently put the girls down and looked out to see my friend and the third girl grinning at me from the other side of it as we moved out to join them.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Drawing from the spiritual well, or, being hit over the head with an angelic 2x4

This morning's synchronicities and the trail that followed feel oddly appropriate for the 14th anniversary of my religious conversion. I'm not *quite* sure how to interpret them fully yet, though the overriding message feels like one of reassurance, but there is a hell of a lot in there that needs unpacking.

As per my status comment, after a difficult decision to confront someone on their behaviour and the usual ensuing feeling of being dragged through a wringer b/c, contrary to popular belief, I *hate* performing the INFJ doorslam - it's always a last resort - I received the following quote of the day in my inbox:

"Give it thought, Irim. Consider every angle. And then speak your mind. You've not been drawn into anyone's life just to listen...."

Ok, definitely a sign that it was the right decision, though I may have the odd doubt about the execution and timing - in part for the sake of the person in question, but mostly for those from whom that person is likely to request support.

I carried on cataloguing, working through the feeling that beneath my reasonably together exterior, everything feels...shattered is too strong a word, but something akin to it. Nothing feels whole, I can't see a full picture; instead, it feels like there are loads of sharp pieces. I loved Vera's comment on Skype the other day about it being a mosaic, and until it was whole, I couldn't step into it. 'She's right,' I thought, 'but I want to see more. I feel...lost. Am I completely on the wrong track? I just want to see where the hell I'm going.''

It wasn't the next book, certainly - that would be too much, even for a film. But a few books later, a lovely old-fashioned bookmark fell out, with a picture of a bouquet of flowers at the top and the quote:

"The Lord shall guide thee." Isaiah 58:11

I blinked at it for a few moments, startled. I've almost never received such a direct answer, and something made me feel that though the immediate and total reassurance was meant, there was much more. I needed to see it in context:

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in."

My kind of religion, without question. I've always adored Isaiah, and this so represents the core of what I believe that it feels like a mandate, more than anything - IF thou..., the Lord shall guide thee. There's a lot of unpacking to be done here, but I get the gist. I'll be working on that one for a while, and following the guidelines for the rest of my life. I love the idea of a 'restorer of paths to dwell in', the idea of making barren places fertile once again - be they hearts, lives or land. Hmmm. Bigtime mother imagery there. Hmmm.

As if that weren't enough, not three books after that, the following fell out:

"There are in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime
with whom the melodies abide
of everlasting chime
who carry music in their heart
through dusky lane and wrangling mart
plying their daily task with busier feet
because their secret souls a holy strain repeat."

HAD to google that - and found it in "All the women of the Bible" in Google Books, under a section called, "Mothers like merchant ships". Since my main archetype is Demeter, my wolf ears stood straight up, as far as they could stretch. The line that struck me in that section was "True mothers are unselfish and sacrificial, whose lives are spent for the enrichment of others and whose lives are spent for the enrichment of others and who never fail to deliver the best of goods to those around them."

Again, that concept of nurturing, of salve for the afflicted soul, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. There are more themes to be drawn out here, but that's the one that hits me first. I'm particularly fond of the merchant ship image, as I love the sea. But 'merchant ship/merchant navy' is ringing a bell that I can't quite place at the moment - and it has NOTHING to do with NCIS, Ell!!! ;-)

Suddenly, I had an image of a page in one of Rachel Remen's books, from a story where she is sitting with a dying friend and they recite "Woman of Valour" together, one of Rachel's favourite parts of the Bible. I can see the lines 'she puts her hands to the distaff', 'her candle goeth not out by night', 'She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet."

I googled it and recognised the Eshet Chayil. It's 22 verses, so I shan't put it here, or this will become far too long, but it's beautiful and is sung on the way home from Shabbat services and to the bride at a Jewish wedding, IIRC. The whole poem struck home, but the particular verses for now were:

Oz v'hadar l'vushah vatischak l'yom acharon
Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.

Piha patchah v'chochma v'torat chesed al l'shonah
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.

For the whole text, go here:

It's just...beautiful beyond words.

The last verse was one my eye fell on as I was waiting for grace before lunch. The Bible on the stand was open to Ecclesiastes, and the verse was: "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry." That is obvious enough, and probably a sharp tap on the nose from above about how I executed Monday, as was the 'consider from all angles' in today's first synchronicity.

Lots and lots of food for thought and prayer. What does strike me is that all the verses are from the Hebrew Bible and what I would consider strongly Jewish answers - answers I would have expected from the rabbinim that I worked with. I can't wait to start to unpack them and see how they unfold.

And the final blessing? Taking a moment to talk to Clayton before lunch, who then suggested that we DO lunch in the semnar room, where I told him what had shaken me so this weekend - enough to put my faith in where I was in question. He listened and then we had a brilliant conversation. And it was to him that I finally admitted what I've known for months but have been trying to avoid - for the first time in a long time, my one-to-one relationship with G-d is out of kilter, and THAT is what I need to sort before I do anything else. THAT is the foundation. We talked about the tension between our relationship with G-d and being in the community of G-d in church at length, but he told me - gently but firmly - that I needed to take care of my relationship with God first. Community could wait.

I should have known it would be one of my Southern African friends who would tell me like it is in a way I could hear. (Clayton is Zimbabwean, not Saffa, I hasten to add.)

What an amazing confluence of blessings on my anniversary - almost like being caught in God's safety net. I'm looking forward to taking this all home - except Clayton, of course, who is going home to Rosie and his little guy ;-).

I'm hesitant to do so, but I feel like a confluence of Jewish answers deserves a Jewish prayer of thanks - so I'd ask my Jewish friends reading this not to be offended - the closest appropriate prayer I can find is the Shecheyanu, which is to be recited on the receipt of very good news:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
she-he-chi-a-nu v'ki-y'ma-nu v'hi-gi-a-nu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed art Thou, HaShem, Lord our God, King of the Universe,
who hath kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.


Sunday, 5 April 2009

Overheard in the Oratory forecourt on Palm Sunday

I caught Fr Dom after mass, and as we were chatting about life, the universe, and everything important, including how wonderfully curly the ribbons on Fr Richard's vestments were, Andrew, the organist and a GBF, joined us.

Andrew asked if Fr Dom had liked the organ improv he'd done during mass. I half drifted out of the conversation then, till Andrew said something about 'village organist'. It was too good to pass up: I looked up at Andrew and said, "Village People, more like."

"She has an answer for everything, doesn't she?" said Fr. Dom, resigned after years of friendship.

"She does," replied Andrew.

More conversation about music, and at a semi-appropriate point, I piped up with, "I'd be very happy to stand behind you whilst you play and appreciate your great ass," I said, reaching around cheekily.

THAT was too much even for Fr Dom, who looked at me in shock and said - albeit warmly - "SCANDALOUS woman!" (If only he knew...oh yeah, he's my confessor, he does.)

I gave my (in)famous WTF eyeroll (though I swear, it is nowhere nearly as good as Hyphen's newborn daughter's, who has the *mother* of all WTF looks. I want that.)

Andrew and I immediately shifted into our Indian accents:

"It is not a sexual thing, my friend, don't worry, it is just aesthetic appreciation," I said.

Andrew said, "Just aesthetic appreciation. Good."

Andrew came an put an arm round my shoulder and said, "No, she's not. She's one of those women that Jesus loved very much and spent a lot of time with." Then he looked at me wickedly and said,

"Your problem is, honey, you don't charge enough."

I burst out laughing and replied,

"Damn right I don't charge enough!"

"Perhaps you could bring a jar of ointment next week," said Andrew, which earned him a flippant two-fingered salute and a "I'll bring some in on Friday, shall I?"

"Yes, you can do my feet then," said Andrew.

Not your average Oratory forecourt conversation.

Good thing I was on form, though, because not two minutes later, when Nick told me he'd done three masses that morning and was doing (ie, reading the Passion) the 6.30, I uttered, "Jesus Christ!" and quickly had to backpedal by saying, "I mean my Hispanic friend Jesus in NY, whose mother is Mary and father is Joseph, erm, Jose."

Though actually, I was more concerned for Kevin's sensibilities, since Nick knows me.

Yet another non-average Oratory forecourt conversation.

I'm not sure I'll ever have one...

Saturday, 4 April 2009

An answer with a twist...

I had a fantastic time with Catherine, my first friend in the UK, and her sister Elizabeth today. As we sat over coffee, Catherine regaled us with a tale from her school visit to Oxford a few weeks ago at University College, where the tour guide asked them,

"One of our most famous graduates was Percy Bysshe Shelley. Can any of you tell me who Percy Bysshe Shelley was?" she asked, not really expecting an answer.

There was a pregnant pause, during which Catherine and her colleague thought "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let one girl know the answer and not embarrass us."

Suddenly, in chorus, the girls answered their silent prayer:

"Mary Shelley's husband.

Catherine and her colleague looked at each other and grinned, in the satisfied knowledge that their job as a girls' school was done.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The best quote/definition of feminine...EVER

I personally think that as long as you are a) a woman and b) not afraid or ashamed to *be* a woman and revel in the fact (as opposed to the O-type Stepford female), then whatever you want or do is feminine. Feminine is not defined externally; it's defined by women. So it's whatever we want it to be.

--Ari, in our discussion on my future tattoo

Perfect - 'nuff said.

The difference between right wing and true traditionalism

Most of the time, dealing with the right wing leaves me wanting to either throw up or take a shower, depending on just how creepy the rightwinger in question is. Damian Thompson's thinly veiled ambition, desperation for a good story, lack of integrity and nastiness usually leaves me wanting to do both.

But he's not the only one pretending conservatism/orthodoxy because it allows him to be an intolerant, angry, self-absorbed wanker pointing his finger at everyone else.

Let's be honest here: being rightwing has nothing to do with integrity, no matter how often they clamour about returning to 'old-fashioned' values. I would ask you to note that it is most often on the right wing that you find the homophobe caught in a homosexual relationship, a man berating adultery cheating on his wife, those proclaiming the need for fiscal responsibility embezzling money, naked ambition, unalloyed greed (Thatcher and Reagan) and unbridled individualism.

Essentially, rightwingers want to impose rules on everyone else so that there are more resources/money available to them, b/c everyone else is hobbled by the 'traditional' rules. Almost NEVER do you see the right wing acting in a way that shows care for the downtrodden, society as a whole, those suffering injustice, equal opportunity no matter who you are. They don't CARE about anyone else.

At its core, the right is about pure selfishness born of insecurity.

So it's no surprise that the politics and power struggles in a right wing Vatican make a day at Enron look like a walk in the park.

The truly orthodox/traditional look very different. As one of my more orthodox friends once reminded me when I sneeringly conflated the two said, "Irim, ask a *truly* traditional priest - not one of the insecure neocons who is in it for his own reasons - about suicide as a mortal sin. The latter would crow in horror, 'Of course, of course!' The former would look at you thoughtfully and say: 'grave matter? Yes. Full knowledge? In that state of mind, I doubt it. Full consent? No. Not a mortal sin.' A truly traditional priest is secure, flexible within the rules and has compassion. Don't confuse the two." Wise words. I was strongly reminded of that during a discussion re: abortion with a truly traditional friend the other week.

Also, John Ferris, another real trad, is one of my favourite people in the world, and our conversations about God and the world are ones I'd love to tape and listen to over and over again, especially when he begins sentences with "Some of your views horrify me, but..."

Traditional/orthodox, I can do - even often agree with. But both traditional/orthodox and rightwing are found in the same places, and separating them out can be very hard.

Back to Damian Thompson, whose vitriol against every bishop in England and Wales during the leadup to the Westminster announcement has left this liberal - who supposedly hates the clergy - horrified.

Today, a true traditionalist called him to task:

Perhaps it is now time to reflect on our behaviour during the past few months.

First, your cooperation in the breaking of a Vatican embargo with regard to this announcement. Remember that it is in the name of the Holy Father that this announcement was to remain secret until formally announced; I should be surprised at you going against the wishes of Pope Benedict.

Second, the amount of uncharitable things written about those men who have been chosen by the Holy Father to be bishops. The innuendos, “rumours” and half truths broadcast on numerous blogs, including this one.

Third, the lack of understanding that a bishop tries his best and is often impeded by his priests, religious AND laity. All bishops need our prayers AND support and not constant criticism “from all sides”.

Finally, we all should examine our consciences surrounding this Episcopal feeding frenzy: have we strengthened or damaged the Church? Have we unjustly caused hurt to individuals, including bishops, by what we have said? Are the confessionals going to be busy this weekend? On a brighter note, we might give thanks to God that the Dominicans in this country have so many good friars worthy of consideration. --meaculpa

Amen. A score for true integrity, right or left.