Sunday, April 16, 2017

Being a Lake by Robert Wrigley

He has never dreamed of being a lake
in the high mountains, and now he wonders why.
Surely there could be no better, in the way
of dreamy aspirations to be clear and cold
ad swum through by trout. To allow the sunlight
far into your depths, to have depths no one
will ever visit. To be ceilinged by ice
and many feet of snow in winter, to shine pure blue
into the pure blue of the sky, to show the stars
the stars, to be drunk by wild animals
And to admit an occasional human,
who, because of the memory of having been there,
might dream of being there. Being there.
Not a visitor but a dreamer, dreaming
this very lake is what he's always wanted to be.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Love Khalid Masood.

So the Archbishop of Canterbury called the results of the terrorist attacks a “victory for what's right and good over what is evil, despairing and bad”.

It was part of an endless capitalisation of the drama of the lone man who killed four people. So swiftly has the British press become American!  But just like the Brits have the Black Friday sales without having Thanksgiving, here we have endless propaganda about how good and brave all the MPs and police are, without anyone really actually believing that our MPs and police are good and brave.  In the post-truth age, the press and the State shamelessly try to manufacture feelings of loyalty and an understanding of the State as good. Whose interests does it serve? Is it at all true? 

Can you see the racism, the imperialism, the self-congratulatory disgusting tone Welby's comment? How essentially non-Christian it is? We are who is right and good and the terrorist is who is evil and bad. That is the thinking of a Trump voter. That is the thinking of a Pharisee. There is one person Jesus would have tended to above all others on that bridge, and it wasn't the people that the Archbishop of Canterbury called 'right and good', it was a fifty-two year old man born Adrian Russell Aja in Kent who somehow became convinced that the activities of England in the Middle East were so unjust that the heroic thing to do was - well, in 1984 parlance, Eric Blair (George Orwell)-style, throw acid in the face of the child.  Strike out for freedom. 

The only job Christians have in this situation is to love Khalid Masood (the enemy) and try to understand why this happened. To pray for him. The Church of England is in a unique moral space. It is endorsing the sitting government. It has all those people in the House of Lords. Rarely do I feel more hopeless about the future of the world than when I see the Church being the reflexive yes-man for the status quo. I felt sick, really sick when I heard this quote at breakfast. . Jesus, it's like being in North Korea listening to the news. We are good and the enemy is bad. Listen to my tales of heroism by us, the good people, be so proud of us. Don't worry, the Prime Minister is ok. We know you love her very much. GAH. 

It used to be back in the day when people had backbone and principles and weren't run by money and corporations, it used to be that the church would be critical of the state. Even to the point of conspiring with the powerful to force justice. Now the church is trivial, weak, disappointing and of all the evil on show this week in London, Welby's comments are really competing hard for first place.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Let It Glitter - reprint from 2012

This month is March Madness, and I ain't talking about basketball.  I have had sick children, husband, cats, it has been all about vomit and diarrhea and sleepless nights and with that deteriorates my mood and in the last few weeks I have fallen into a pit.  The only good thing I can say about it is that I am able to realize it is falling into a pit.  I know that intellectually but not viscerally.  Because when my mood descends, when the horror of every moment is all that makes itself known to me, I do not have the strength to imagine otherwise.  You suffer when you are bipolar, like I imagine you suffer with Alzheimer's or cancer.  I would venture to say that my personal mental configuration, when suicide looms as a wonderful alternative, the most seductive thing in the world, I would venture this configuration causes comparatively a lot of suffering.

And with it comes a drop in competencies, I don't eat as well, I don't exercise, I miss appointments, I forget things. And with it comes, at least it seems to me on this run, sort of a radical drop in the strength of my immune system.  This plummeting mood is hand in hand with garden variety viruses, but three of them in a row.  Owain and I have both had them and take turns being sick.

And work, well, the evidence of my life stands in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom that part-time work is never really that challenging for bright women.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha. 

So things have been stressed and sad, and there have been pale children and hundreds of wash cycles and scrubbed toilets, and there have been cancellations of big events that mattered to me and many evenings of exhausted collapse.  Things fall apart.  On Sunday I asked if Rhys could go through the McDonald's drive thru for dinner on Sunday.  It tasted so good.  There are hours of television, and me so short tempered and sad, but there are also good moments, good moments to explain to Owain about bipolar and why it is this and not him that is making me sad.  This is tough stuff, but, you know, he can handle it. And there are good times too when they really help out when I am fragile and they believe in their own ability to help and make a difference when they see it in my face.  Yesterday Liberty put her own diaper and pyjamas on and brushed her teeth by herself.  She is three.

She is very Joan Crawford at the moment.  She will put her hands on her hips and shake her finger at you with the most dramatic delivery, telling you exactly what you should not do and why.  But that same passion translates to everything, good things, what she plans to eat for lunch.  Just planning what we are going to eat for lunch can cause that girl shivers of delight.  She is painting a lot, and since Christmas has requested access to a glitter shaker we got for her birthday.  She puts some glitter on the paintings as accents.  But last week when she got her shaker, she shook every piece of it on to the floor.  I didn't see this. I was probably posting something bitter about the Olympics on Facebook.  Anyway, when I saw it I sighed and looked at my daughter ruefully and said I did not want to clean it up.

Hands on hips, finger in the air, "NO MOMMY!  NO MOMMY!  LET IT GLITTER"

I left it there in the rug, the little Chinese pugs glinting here and there, I left it and looked at it.  So I am letting it glitter, all the broken pieces of my life, all the parenting mistakes and shortcomings, all the tears streaming down cheeks and vomit reflecting in the toilet bowl, there it is, it is glittering, it is my life.  Letting it glitter is the best antidote, the best antidote to my personal mental configuration.  I am going to let it glitter. Then I remember that now I am typing away to my heart's content, and that the play will come, and Spring will come, and all I need do to honour this life is to let it glitter.

Friday, March 17, 2017

You are NOT IRISH and you will NOT BE WEARING GREEN (reprint from 2009)

My mother is Welsh and emigrated to the U.S. in the early sixties. To her, the Irish were the people who bombed innocent people in London, killed police and endangered a generation of children in Ireland. They were, essentially, terrorists. Lawless killers. Worse than that, they were the Celtic people who got all the good PR in the States.

The Irish have St. Patrick's Day, leprechauns, New York cop accents, Lucky Charms cereal, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. What did the Welsh get? Nothing. We have a super cool flag with a dragon and promote leeks, which are very healthy, but no one really cares. In fact, "welsh" is kind of a depressing word. It means to be dishonourable and renege on a deal. (Welsh on a debt, for instance) I wrote a complaint letter to the Economist once: "Not to compare the plight of the Jews with the plight of the Welsh", I said, "but why are you saying the U.S. is "welshing" on foreign debt when you would never say the U.S. was "jewing down" interest rates on the debt?" It got nowhere. But I know I'm right.

I think the superior Irish PR has to be down to geographic distribution, right? The Welsh came to the U.S. and settled where there were mines, in rural Pennsylania. The Irish settled where there were gay parades, bar fights and police corruption, in Manhattan. O.k., I'm kidding, the Irish brought those things to Manhattan.
So I thought when I moved out of the States in 2001, I would be free of the whitewash job done by the red-headed midget in the green suit. I moved to London and a lot of Londoners have no time for St. Patrick's Day either. . .two sides to every story, you know, including the one between the IRA and the English, and no matter how you slice it a lot of bombs went off during the 70's and 80's in London thanks to the Greens (and a lot of those bombs were funded by passing the hat in bars in Manhattan).
But no such luck. My son's nursery was in Kilburn - they billed it as West Hampstead, but it was about 50 ft from Kilburn High Road, one of the most Irish parts of London. And I'll be goddamned if they didn't spend all of freaking March colouring little leprechauns and four-leaf clovers and rainbows and pots of gold - incredibly annoying. I had to do an intervention and give them Welsh flag dragon colouring sheets for St. David's Day. ( Much cooler than leprechauns) I also tried to do a mini-Eisteddfodd at my son's school - the Welsh singing festival (again, I know no one cares). I tried to scale it down for 3-year-olds. We ended up doing the chicken dance. The kids loved the chicken dance but now all the employees of Teddy's Nursery "West Hampstead" think that the Chicken Dance is Welsh. No - if you take one thing away from this blog, it's that the Welsh lay no claim to the chicken dance. 
So back to my Mom. She was pretty incredulous when even in the small town in Western New York where I grew up, we were told by our teachers to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. To her this was obscene. We were absolutely forbidden to wear green ("You are NOT IRISH") and in fact, lately my mother has admitted that she scoured our wardrobes and dressed us in orange, the colour of the Nationalists. I am sure no one in Corning knew the significance of her dressing her children in organge, but I imagine it gave her some grim satisfaction. In fact, bitter, silent denigration of other Celts may be the single most Welsh thing my mother did. Well, that and perpetual Welsh cakes.
I actually am pretty unclear what it means to be Welsh. When I was at Oxford in the 80's, my boyfriend at the time walked past Jesus College (the Welsh college on Turl Street) with me and remarked (before he knew my mother was Welsh) that all Welsh are short, hypochondriacs and liars. I think this was my working framework for quite a while.
So maybe I'm jealous of the Irish with their superior PR. I certainly am jealous of their playwrights. Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson, Frank Guiness, Enda Walsh, Brian Friel. Holy shit, they really do write the best plays. I think it has something to do with them being warlike.
Which is why it is absolutely killing me to watch the American show Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This animated tv show chronicles the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Princess Padme, R2D2, Yoda and Obi wan Kenobi during the clone wars. There are a load of new characters too and the accents are hilarious. The blustering stormtroopers lacking self-awareness? Australian accent. The female sith lord? French accent. Of course. And best of all, the pacifist racoon people who colonized a remote planet rather than take sides in the Clone Wars? IRISH! That kills me! To hear these racoon healers spout Buddhist/Swiss peace talk in a thick Irish brogue - I am on the floor. IRISH? Irish people take sides in a pinball game! Someone make George Lucas go see the Leiutenant of Inishmore. Having Irish pacifists is kind of like having Welsh life coaches. OK, I know no one understands that. Which I guess is the point of this blog.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

It is Margaret you mourn for

to a young child

by Gerard Manley Hopkins
MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older        5
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:        10
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sing the Movie and Kimmel bringing the peasants into the Oscars Ceremony

The premise of Sing the Movie and Kimmel bringing the underclass in to gawk at the luminaries in the Dolby Theatre have something in common.

While these are sweet and light-hearted moments they show me that the chasm between the underclass and the super-rich is so very wide that to cross that chasm is inherently comedic, and only ever done at the whim of the super-rich.

In the movie Sing, the talented performers had no hope to achieve their dreams of their own accord. Their only hope was external to themselves, a third party, a third party of unimaginable wealth. Only when that third party was impressed were their dreams possible. It is the X-Factor sweep at the knees of the American dream - you do not make your own dreams come true. If you are fortunate, one of the ruling class will look on you with favour and then you will get the fame you want.

In the Oscars moment, which was handled with grace by Kimmel, the tourists on a bus thought they were viewing costumes at the Dolby and were ushered into the ceremony. The joke is in part the surprise, but it was the vast gulf between the tourists and the audience that was apparent to me. I loved how Kimmel threw a little mini-revolution making Theroux hand over his sunglasses but my heart died a little more because two assumptions underpin these contemporary cultural moments: (1) fame and wealth are the only dreams, and (2) it is not up to you, powerless underclass, to make these dreams come true, it is only the grace and favour of the elite.

We have even in the last ten years entrenched a class system this far. Our poor children!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Siren Song of Donny Tinyhands

 So I marched and it was good.

 It does not make bearable the news.

 I watch my country fall to the darkness of serving money. I see the ultimate loyalty is to what we own and what is ours and what is not theirs. The House of Representatives worships an orange man with a golden palace. It is delicious for many to sink into the mindless slumber of unthinking support. I wonder where virtue has gone.

In me stirs a longing for sisterhood, for autonomy.  In me stirs the fire of revolution.

What began on January 21 was a movement, and now we must keep moving. It's World War Z and movement is life.

No one will invite you to be in this movement, maybe, except me.

What we need is not to fight what is, but to move toward a beautiful vision of what can be, to create a choice for justice that is real and compelling and takes power, that takes power by the force of its virtue.  We need to imagine a world where all are fed, and all have autonomy over their bodies and their lives. We need to imagine a world where the parasite of humanity has been taught to allow the host to thrive. Thrive. The gag order on the EPA chokes this vision, and silences us. Scares us.

Rise up. Not from fear but from your wisdom. Rise up for your children and your children's children.

The enemy to be defeated is not the Mexicans. It is not the Muslims. And further - there is no enemy. There are only the injustices before us.  Not even DT is the enemy.

The Siren Song of Donny Tinyhands will not be defeated by seeing him as the enemy.  He offers something to his followers. We must offer something more to ours.

The Siren Song of Donny Tinyhands will be defeated by composing a better song, and singing it, a fight song or a symphony - Mahler's 3rd maybe. A song of the earth, and of women, birds, dolphins, bees, slavery, refugees, drought, oppression, education, compassion, a song of justice and courts and wisdom, a song for humans dancing, touching and smiling. A song for this fragile earth, our island home.   A song to the humans of our past, a song to all our gods and angels. Let a song rise up that we can even dance to. The song will not include borders and sovereigns and corporations, derivative trades and shareholder returns. The song will not include multinational tech companies. It will not include Democrats and Republicans.

Even the tiniest strain of the song of justice and compassion, even a snippet, can unseat the primacy of the siren song of dictatorship.

First we need to hear it, and if we cannot hear it, we must compose it.