Tuesday, 29 July 2008

... in which the wicked Caliban thanks and is thanked.

I entered the blogosphere after lurking with longing at MadPriest’s incomparable Of Course I Could Be Wrong. Here were people from around the world, it seemed to me, who’d also been chewed up and spat out of the Church to which they’d come seeking solace – and yet who were not only still laughing, but still seeking to engage with the God who refused to discard them.

From there I first drifted - no; actually I clicked with an excitement I hadn’t felt towards matters theological for a decade - to two places: Doorman-Priest’s Doorman’s Journal, which reminded me of a world I’d also once known so long ago - one which was integral to my Vocation; and Wormwood’s Doxy whose irrepressible passion gave me the courage to start speaking out in a way I’d long not dared to contemplate – something I’ve never told her, and for which I really should have thanked her before now.

What’s happened in the past year since then still leaves me stunned: like the children discovering a doorway into Narnia, I’ve discovered a world where people really are - albeit in our own crazy ways – fighting for a world in which Churches are more Christlike, where ridiculing sacred cows and the pompous clerics who ride them is considered an art, and fear of those who’ve made an idol out of what a former lecturer at Moore College once described as “Mono-Method-Mania” (he left before he was sacked;-) is non-existent.

I’ve also been asked to guest-blog at one of those sites – look for me at The World of Doorman-Priest after August 2, and recieved the Arte y pico award from Doxy: two honours which mean more than I can possibly describe without sounding really soppy – and Aussie blokes who’ve spent as much time in the ocean as me don’t like admitting we can get soppy ;-)

The rules of the Arte y pico award are:
1) Pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: Arte Y Pico.
Except as I’ve said here before, I don’t always do rules so well, and once again I’m going to break them as soon as they're posted. Or sort of break them: rather than list all five blogs in one post, I’ll break them up over a few posts to keep each blog distinct.

The first one I should have linked to months ago, and have really felt guilty about not having done so, since Christopher Orczy's … ascending and descending… is a place that’s become an integral part of my spiritual nourishment. Written by another rebel here in Sydney, blogs like this not only help remind me God’s Spirit still flourishes here regardless of whatever nonsense comes out of those who think they hold power, but also (and much more importantly) that following Christ in the face of our current storm runs a lot deeper than just raging back at the winds – it’s important to take time out to listen to the One whose concerns are far, far greater than our bickering.

Even more amazingly, Christopher is the only other person I’ve ever encountered who counts Bo Hansson as one of their influences. Which shows he’s not just someone with a theological insight well worth listening to, but also a man of impeccable musical taste and depth.

Thanks and God Bless the lot of you!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Blogger is Casualty of World Youth Day

Ok, so after spending the day wandering around the WYD crowds with two small children, a large pram, and a camera I came home and made my first post of the day's findings. Then I cooked dinner, and Mrs. Caliban and I put the littlies to bed...

...shortly after which I began turning as blue as this WYD "installation", and imitating a stranded fish gasping for breath. Whereupon a panic visit to people who specialise in such things pronounced "asthma" as a result of this wretched @$#%&$#! ongoing flu.

Which leaves me in the present (sort of), having consumed more steroids than a Tour de France team, and thanking assorted pharmaceuticals companies with every breath.

It's funny, because aside from a period when I found myself devoid of marbles, I've always been a fairly healthy out-doors kind of person, so these last few weeks have been a bewildering experience. For me breathing has always been something taken for granted, but there’s nothing like a short spurt of oxygen deprivation to change one’s perspective ;-)

I’m also feeling very grateful for modern medicine (somehow I don’t think ancient therapies involving cobwebs and powdered bits of criminals would have worked nearly as well), and the Australian health insurance system, which isn’t perfect, but sure is a whole lot better than you-know-where. Just a tip for the coming election folks – vote as if your next breath might be your last.

And damn but it feels good to be getting back on top of things!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Pilgrims are Coming! (WYD Update #3)

By midday today the streets of the Sydney's central business district were filled with groups like this: in the morning the Pope had made a quick drive-by across the Harbour Bridge and to Government House (which is not where parliament meets, but the official home Queen's state representative), there was a lull while he prepared for his boat trip. Most of the "pilgrims" appeared to fill this time by wandering around waving flags, singing their national anthem, and generally acting like very straight kids who for for the first time in their lives feel kind of important.

Which is probably what most of them are. The kids above were from New Mexico and having the time of their lives: the only really obnoxious group I encountered were a group of Canadians acting more like football hooligans than pilgrims. The picture of them below was taken on the escalators at Martin Place station: the two dark figures at the right are Railway cops coming up to speak to them about the almost-empty coke cans they'd been throwing around on the subway platform.

The most inspiring thing was that despite whole thing being, let's face it, just a giant advertisement for Archbishop Pell's life-denying vision of Christianity, human nature and those wild old hormones that only a wonderfully humorous God could have made in such abundance, kept bobbing up at every turn.

The kids in the back of this picture are from Indonesia, while those in the front (the really cute girls) and the guys on the far right came from (I think) Northern Italy. And I'm not going to risk anyone getting busted by saying which girl I later saw flirting outrageously with the super-cool Indonesian guy in the black t-shirt - but let me tell ya: if I was 17 and had seen them I'd have converted on the spot. If that's Catholicism it's the religion for me, no matter what a bunch of grumpy old guys might claim ;)

Incidentally, check out the kid's shirt up close:

There's no way hard-liners of any demonination would approve of that, and him wearing it struck me as one of the most wonderful things I saw. No matter how hard you might try to keep the human spirit down, it always bounces back up in the end. For this boy it was no doubt just a shirt; something that looks cool he'd bought in an upmarket shop: he looked far too young to think through the theology of wht he was wearing. But for me it was a reminder of why God really does love our crazy species so much. Irrespective of what those who profess to speak in God's name might say.

Forward in Faith's new best friend.

Today is the first day the Pope is actually in town (since last Sunday he's been staying at an Opus Dei property on Sydney's far north-western outskirts) the Pope-on-a-Boat parade takes place, and the media's calling it "Super Thursday". While I won't have any pictures of the flotilla (have you any idea how crowded it is at any of the viewing points? ;-), and I know I've been awfully tardy when it comes to providing other reports (though in my defence not much worth blogging about has happened that other people haven't covered far better, and a return of the dreaded 'flu has left me stuck inside again, drowning in a puddle of bleccchhhhh!) I did drag the two little Duck-Noodles into the World Youth Day central today, and will show what we found...

... but first, in keeping with the spirit of the day, may I present this hilarious opinion-piece from today's Sydney Morning Herald.

You got it: with flawlessly tacky timing Phillip Jensen, Anglican Dean of Sydney and younger brother of the Archbishop (not, of course, that that had anything to do with his appointment) has delivered a sectarian rant pinched directly from one of those "Nuns eat Babies" tracts that were so popular in the early part of last century. "If Martin Luther came into Sydney and saw Roman Catholicism and its Stations of the Cross" says our aspiring acolyte of Ian Paisley, "he'd say, 'Ah, they've cleaned up their act'." But fortunately we have Dean Jensen to see with a clarity Luther lacked, because, he insists, "Things are actually worse than in Luther's day".

You couldn't make this stuff up. Have the Episcopalian Anglo-Catholics who've embraced the Jensens any idea of whom they've entrusted with their future? Are they really that naive?

As for any Roman Catholics reading this: please understand that not every Sydney Anglican is this obnoxious. We mightn't be that crazy about your heirarchy's views on gender, sexuality and contraception, but we're not under any delusions about ours being any better. And we're really proud to consider ourselves part of the same family as you, irrespective of what a few of our idiot relatives might say.

Sindce posting this I've learned Jensen's rant was taken and transcribed by the Herald (without permission) from a presentation on sydneyanglicans.net, which helps explain why it's sounds so disjointed and (let's be honest here) badly written. It was published without the Dean's permission, and its timing was beyond his control: it was, in short, printed to stir up a bit of controversy in the newspaper's coverage.

To be fair, the Herald could have used some far worse quotes. Sit through the whole 28 minutes and you won't feel much sympathy for Jensen, who comes across as firmly stuck in the battles of the 16th century, and absolutely convinced that Luther was a card-carrying sydney Anglican.

Friday, 11 July 2008

World Youth Day Update #2

This morning while exploring a ruined 19th century swimming baths, which were built as part of a now closed psychiatric institution (another project of mine involving a truly enlightened Victorian doctor (who was almost certainly gay) which will (hopefully) one day have a web site of its own) with my littlest Duck-Noodle and the Hounds of the Atonement (ok, so one's a terrier-cross, but let's not be picky) we heard the strangest sound coming on the wind across the upper reaches of Sydney Harbor.

It sounded like - I swear I'm not making this up - a group of women singing "whoo-hoo" to the X-Files theme. Given our surroundings it was spooky enough to start the dogs howling, and you've got to remember these are creatures that don't bat an eyelid when I play Rammstein.

Now I've got to confess I always found Scully kind of cute in a purely physical way, but Mulder was the much more interesting of the pair, although I suspect his life would have been a lot simpler if he'd tried a little anti-obsessive medication. For a few moments it wouldn’t have surprised me if either of them jumped out from behind a tree, and I turned on our trusty camera in anticipation.

Looking towards the source of this strange chanting, it seemed to be coming from a group standing in front of the Sydney Boys High School Rowing Club. Zooming in revealed the singers to be a group of nuns: it was then I remembered that next week the Pope-on-a-Boat parade will be passing this way en route to the Sydney Olympic stadium, where he’ll be doing whatever it is Popes do in Olympic stadiums with a couple of hundred thousand young people. Clearly the X-Files is part of this aquatic liturgy, and the Sisters were just rehearsing. Which sure makes a big change from strumming guitars and singing Kum-By-Yah.

When we bought this camera Mrs. Caliban expressed concern that I'd get up to mischief with the high-powered digital zoom. Somehow though I don’t think taking telephoto pictures of Nuns was what she had in mind ;-)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

World Youth Day Update #1

It's taken a surprisingly long time to gather momentum, but Pope Fever is finally hitting Sydney. As a blogger living pretty much in the middle of Ground Zero (the poor young fellow who died of polio in 1925 has been staying about 10 minutes walk from La Casa del Caliban until his room at St. Mary's Cathedral is ready) I consider it my sacred duty to bring everyone the stories that L'Osservatore Romano miss.

Starting out is a sign that perhaps there haven't been as many pilgrims as someone has expected: my office is in a very down-market part of town, and while nicking out to the bank I noticed the shop below - a fly-by-night affair selling crappy fake-label clothing (yeah right, I'm sure those $20 bags are genuine Prada) - has a special on "Official" World Youth Day clothing.

I've zoomed in on two of the signs to make it clearer:

In the interests of investigative journalism I went inside and examined the clothing. It had surprisingly official-looking labels, which just goes to show these are quality counterfeits; right after I'd looked at the them the storekeeper ran over and began checking them to see I hadn't stolen or defaced one - it's that sort of neighbourhood. And since he was so obviously rude about it I took his picture, which had the alarming effect of making him instantly run out the back of his store and hide: why do I suspect the gentleman wasn't too keen to be identified with his wares?

One thing that's certain though: if World Youth Day souvenirs have already slid this far down the totem-pole you can be sure demand in the more pious ends of town is not as high as was anticipated. Or else the Opus Dei heavies are breaking the legs of anyone caught cashing in on their turf.

If anyone wants one of these to impress their friends/local priest/that really cute Catholic guy/girl you've had your eyes on for months let me know I'll happily get you one. At OZ$10 a jumper it'll set you back about US$9.60 + postage.

Although I'm not too sure the guy'll let me back into his shop ;-)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Naked Liturgist

Recently added to the blogroll is Christchurch New Zealand legend Fr. Bosco Peters - check out this clip for an idea of why I'm a fan:

His site Liturgy is the kind of place that helps remind folks like me why Anglicanism is worth fighting for, and that there's a whole lot more to the journey than just the current quarrels.

See for yourself!

Monday, 7 July 2008

It's an anniversary...

Today is the 7th of july, which is the anniversary of the day I met a black-haired flamenco dancer.

These days she's better known in these parts as 'Mrs. Caliban', but to me she'll always be the most beautiful woman in the universe.

And she alone will know why I've posted this clip, but I know she'll be smiling when she sees it.

"Believe in me
Help me believe in anything
I want to be someone who believes."

Sunday, 6 July 2008

The tide turns...

Sorry about the absence folks; for the last 10 days I’ve been marinating in my own mucus with a cold and flu of such virulence I’m convinced it was developed in a laboratory somewhere by a team of ‘reasserters’ with the specific intention of making life miserable for people like me. Ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s no less whacky than some of the stuff that’s been recently flying around the world. “Churches within the Church”, and the Sydney leadership urging North Americans to leave their national church and form a new diocese – even though those pushing them into this idiotic move are on record as saying they won’t do it themselves because they don’t want to lose their impressive property portfolio.

The more I think about all this, the more I wonder if Anglicanism has plunged into some modernist production of King Lear - the kings have become fools, and our only hope of finding leadership and wisdom remains with the fools and jesters. Perhaps the metaphor isn’t so strange; after all, the incarnation - that outrageous point in time and history when God became human – occurred in the face of a human claiming to be God: and by the standards of even our time the Roman Emperor made a pretty convincing job of his charade. But we all know how it ended for him.

Which is why, despite a hacking cough and radioactive yellow slime oozing from my respiratory system (hey: why should my wife, kids & dogs be the only ones having to put up with my moaning ;-), I’ve never been more optimistic about the sad old diocese of Sydney and her future. Sure, our Archbishop’s acolytes see him poised on the brink of giving them a global influence of a magnitude they’ve only previously dared fantasise in their puritanical wet-dreams, but at the end of the day all that’s happening is that a fish from a very small and provincial pond is trying his luck at swimming in the ocean…

… and little fish - even if quite big in their own rockpool - invariably get eaten when their transition to the sea is guided more by hubris than wisdom. Especially if the God of Justice and Love is turning the tide in the opposite direction. I’ve never been much good at predicting the future, but this time the stagnant water that’s been choking so many of us has never looked so close to being flushed away.

I can hear the ‘important’ and ‘powerful’ of the diocese laughing already, but this ne-‘er-do-well has never forgotten Jesus’ crazy notions about seeing God through a child’s eyes. So what’s the bet that this time the powerless might fly further than anyone had dared imagine?