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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Love is...

"Love is not merely a warmth to bask in, like the boatloads of honeymooners who basked on the warmth of coral beach, but a grave, fierce yearning and reaching out for paradise itself, a losing and finding of the self in the paradise of another."

                                                                                                               - Frederich Buechner

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Frederich Buechner Drops a 85 minute Truth Bomb

"I want to be a leader. I want to do my bit, you know. I want to do my bit to change the world, in whatever small way that I can."

These words, offered rather nonchalantly to me over a beer and some pork dumplings in a small restaurant in Kings Cross, have remained with me since they were first spoken to me, now over a month ago. In the quiet moments of my day, when all the noise stops briefly, they come back to me. Or perhaps they have always been there and I just choose to listen.

"I want to change the world" is a phrase that people throw around regularly. It's a simple edict. I suspect it is often dismissed as being meaningless for that very reason. However, it is the "in whatever way that I can" in the words that were spoken to me that continues to haunts me. I can't shake them for their simplicity, because as simple as they are, I can't deny that they are entirely attainable. I can't dismiss them for the niggling questions they raise in me. Am I doing what I can? Am I even a leader? And if not, why not? What have I become? What can I do to change the world? What if we all were to wake with this one simple mandate? And what if we were to hold ourselves vigilantly to it?

I have been listening to the 1981 lectures of Frederich Buechner. I have blogged about them previously. In these lectures, Buechner comes across as a writer/theologian at the height of his powers, effortlessly constructing and deconstructing life's deepest and trickiest questions over three 85 minutes lectures. I truly believe that if these lectures were in another art-form, a painting, a book or a song, we'd be holding them up as classics. The quote at the end of this is just a snippet from the 2nd 85 minute truth bomb that Buechner drops, a lecture so perfectly and consistently woven with wisdom that I can only listen to it in small morcels, for listening to the lecture in full, the undiluted power of Buechner's words become almost too much to bear. Like a man staring into the sun, I have to look away, or be blinded by the dazzling light.

One of Buechner's talents is his ability to speak, as Rilke says, in questions that become answers rather than the other way around. So often today, in so many aspects of our lives, we are given boiled-down-easy-to-use answers to our problems. "The ten things that make us tick", "The 5 keys to financial success", "50 ways to know if your boyfriend is cheating" - each give the impression that there are a finite amount of ways to succeed, to be happy, to know yourself and that beyond these finite ways there is no use searching further. Slogans like "Stopping the boats" are held up to us as the very essence of Australian immigration policy. Stopping them is good. Not stopping them is bad. No other option is available to us, not even an "all of the above". And while such messages are easy to consume, not to mention politically expedient, they fail to acknowledge the full gambit of interlocking issues that affect, determine, manipulate, or cause the nature of immigration in Australia.

Buechner's beauty lies in his complete and fearless recognition (and celebration!) of the uncertain, the unknown, the uncontrollable, the unexplainable - the mystery of life. For Buechner, it is this very mystery that makes life beautiful. In accepting the existence of mystery, Buechner accepts much more: ie. that there are many possible explanations for its existence; that it is very probably that none of the explanations explain the mystery entirely; and that there is room for this unknown, for the inexplicable, in our lives - we need not have all the answers.

I can't help but want to send the lecture to you all, but instead I must be content with another small snippet. Below, Buechner boils down the idea of faith and the idea that once we have found what we think we have been looking for, we find ourselves with a niggling inner yearning for more.

"One way or another the journey of time starts for us all... what it is primarily is a journey of search. Each must say of himself what he searches for, and there will be as many answers as there are searchers. We search for a self to be, I think. We search for other selves to love. We search for work to do. And since even when to one degree or another we find all those things, we find also that there is something crucial missing which we have not found and we search for that too, even though we don't know it's name, or where it is to be found, or even if it is to be found at all."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

roll up

A Yongman BBQ

Tess and I went down to Canberra this weekend to visit the Canberra crew. Andrew and Clare are off to Malaysia for three years with the foreign service and they were hosting a farewell BBQ. Andrew's culinary talents were once again on show - a giant paella and sweet pork ribs - both of which were delicious and not your typical aussie BBQ fare. As the afternoon sun sank lower in the sky, the day drifted into a session of backyard cricket, followed by another couple of hours of lawn bowls. Thanks Canberra.

Honey! Snap!

Honeysnaps made with love to make someone happy. They were yummy. Thank you!