Tag Archive: identity


My faith community are looking at the Aaronic Blessing and suggested we have a go re-writing it, see The Aaronic Blessing from a Hebrew Perspective by Jeff A. Benner for insight and inspiration…

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May the Creator that drew, knew and grew you

Enfold her in her arms that feel like home

May her peace abide in you and bring you to

stillness in the knowledge of being wholly loved and loved wholly

Reflect: Expressions of Her, expressions of you, expressions of Her…

wonderfully Made.


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The Bright One, Maker of the made and all the made ever made

invites you to regard Them and be seen. To know yourself in Them.

Under Their gaze, there is no loss, disappointment, separation, brokenness.

The communion loaf holds many-in-one. Whole.

See. Be Seen. Be.


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Wisdom, may her light guide and guard you, pouring love, supersize, not subside. Do you hear Her Voice down inside you? Live it out loud, be proud, never subdue. The wholeness is calling for you, speaking for what’s true, naming the whole you into being. Seeing, freeing, we are undone and one at the same time. Truth is hard-won but I can see in the dark. Spaces, places, all of her faces – shine. And I can see in the dark. Spark. I can see in the dark. Wisdom’s calling me home, I’m known and whole. Under the cone, in my heart, it’s safe to make a start. Enfolded in the keep, I can sleep. Smart enough to know I need more, to restore, to adore her more. Her love is at the core. Hit the floor, raise my gaze, begin another day. It pays to know she’s on her knees at the door on the floor too. She knows the score on being poor. Destitute. Restitute. Resolution. Do it better than before. Not alone any more. This is what she made you for: Be. Love her more and love you. Be loved. Spark. I can see in the dark.


I will lead you into the wilderness and I will allure you. In the still and quiet places you will hear my voice calling you. Calling you home. #wilderness #koraha

Salam Fest 2019 Artist Panel: Hanifa Deen award winning author, visual artist Ms Saffaa and Asia Hassan, creative director of ASIYAM clothing.

“A quality you forget about migrants is that you need a heart big enough to love two countries… you cannot choose between two children. We should want people to come here with hearts this big.”

Hanfia Deen

“In 2016, an image I had drawn went viral: I am my own guardian.
I didn’t want it to… I’m an accidental activist.”

Ms Saffaa

“I was visiting a detention centre, it was over Christmas and they had a Santa come in to give out presents as a human gesture. The Santa was calling out children’s numbers not their names and someone said to him, “Use their names” and he replied, “I don’t know them”.

Hanifa Deen

“There are three different kinds of Muslims who live in Australia and research indicates you can roughly break them into these kinds of categories: about a third are orthodox and they pray 5 times daily, another 1/3 fast during Ramadan and go to the mosque occasionally and another third are what we would call Muslims of the heart.”

Hanifa Deen

“I think it’s important to dispel myths about Muslim women.
Just the way that I exist asserts a different way of being Muslim.
There are 1.6 billion ways.”

Ms Safaa

“I started my own fashion label because when I was growing up I felt like my clothing bought me no joy and no particular effort went into making it, so I made my own. A learning was realising that my product is not going to appeal to everyone and it never will. It’s only really for those Muslim woman who dress like I do.”

Asia Hassan

“Muslims are not used to being a minority population
they aren’t in the country that they come from.”

Hanifa Deen

“Identity is not a singular thing but made up of many parts I’m Muslim, Australian, and a woman. We must accept people as individuals.”

Asia Hassan

“Asked where come from, sometimes I play a game with people and tell them “I’m from the desert, guess which one” and they start guessing the names of different countries and I say, “Further south, further… eventually I tell them I grew up near Kalgoorlie.”

 Hanifa Deen

“I know that “I’m a gift to the Earth.”
I’m confident and happy in the room…
I bring my positivity with me and
can share it with others.”

Asia Hassan

“It’s not my job to educate or make people better.
I exist comfortably within myself and
exude goodness in the world.”

Ms Safaa

Any advice?

“Know why and who you are before you go into battle.
Have empathy for others and move on.
Be true to yourself.”

Asia Hassan

“Don’t take permission from anyone.”

Ms Safaa

“Make alliances… you are not alone.”

Hanifa Deen

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‘I would like to go, stupidly, towards the bodies that my anxiety has kept me from.’
– Guy Hocquenghem, ‘The Screwball Asses’

I will be content with nothing less that the total and complete destruct-
tion of my body. Now is not the time to be flippant, now is the time to be
sincere, and helpful, but I still say, ‘I like to sleep with people who could
break my ribs id they chose to’. It’s stupid because couldn’t anyone, phys-
ically? And wouldn’t they?

Smashed ceramic chips are like fingernails, kept clipped short
and ragged, scraping over your legs. No two chips are identical. Rough
snaggles, little knives. Obsessively clipped every day. I love forms that
take a long time to set. I love thinking about waiting for the grout to dry.
Thin cylinders, almost meeting in the corner of the room. At the same
time smooth, especially aesthetically, and rough, like a secret. I feel like
I’m visiting the clinic, and I’m into it.

I was clearing away the cups from tea and coffee after group.
There was a tea bag bound to a stirring stick, the string wound tightly
around. In sharing time he said, ‘If you can’t be a faggot, why be a man at
all?’ and honked, a nervous burst of laughter. When he was not speaking
I looked at him. His shoulders hung forward with many years of habit,
the same as mine. The things I love looking at are the things that are the
same as me, or spaces where I can see that I could be too; there but for
the grace of God go I. When he was speaking, I looked away. It’s just a
wrapper. A vessel.

I like to think about bending steel. To make something look like it
flutters but allow it to be still. Allow something so precious to evaporate
into the air. Less death wish, more stability. It’s good to have a role, you
whispered, handing me a tray of raw meat, not looking at me. ‘everybody
treats you like a boy until you say you are one’. The bruise becomes the
unmistakable centre of the long neck. The neck becomes negative and
the bruise positive. Like the neck exists only o support the bruise. Like
this vessel exists only to support what’s inside of it. To see your pulse in
light blue. To feel your heart beating in your skin. ‘These things we do,’
he says. ‘they never used to come naturally to me,’ Nothing even really
happens, but the interiority is so overpowering, so strong. The blood is
at the surface.

An excerpt from the stunning work of Spence Messih with Vincent Silk and many other artists are now on display as part of the UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Perspectives on art and feminism exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 15 Dec 2018-25 March 2018. Free entry. Check it out!

 

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re-membered holy and whole body identity

I don’t much like looking in mirrors. I find them critical, unkind and discomforting because the image there seems to confront me with all the things I am not: skinny enough, beautiful enough, skin imperfection-free, hair-free… the world tells me in a myriad of ways this is my truth. In fact, the capitalist economy relies on me believing this. The reflection I see seems so distorted – how am I to know myself as holy and whole? I’m not called to a deficit existence but one of abundance.  Made by God and belonging to God. Cheryl Lawrie’s beautiful poem invites us to remember and re-member ourselves through the power of raw grace.

We are each of us made in the image of God.  God knitted us together and we are made as we were intended to be.  A special mention here to those LGBTIQ+ identifying whose personhood has experienced base-abnegation by the church, particularly throughout the recent plebiscite debacle.  I would pray for your wounds but its really not you I think are broken. Please don’t ever doubt that you are wanted and loved.

In his book, Our God Is Undocumented, Ched Myers  tells us to share communion in order to “Remember what has been dismembered. (p.200)  Whenever you ingest this memory, said Jesus on the eve of his execution, you join yourselves to our historic struggle to make the broken body whole.  It was, and is, both invitation and imperative, equally personal and political.  If we refuse to heed it, we are doomed to drift forever on or be drowned by the tides of empire, refugees all.”

I don’t go to church or and belong to a community, in this way I am perhaps a refugee, but I enjoy regularly observing the ritual of communion by myself at home, 1) because I believe absolutely in this invitation to wholeness – for myself and others and 2) I frequently garnish my communion with cheese. I f**ken love cheese.

As with most queries for which I have no answer, I try and pray my way through and that went a little something like this…

As I reflected on my culturally and societally-imposed, as-is, identity I found myself focusing on those imperfections  – the scars, the stains, the marks… it felt powerful to name those things that sit at the centre – fear, longing, doubt, insecurity, hunger, desire, hope… I juxtaposed this with some bible text to explore how it might reframe some of that thinking and was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the invitation to raw grace. I remember and am re-membered.

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I’ve had a bit of a go at packaging this up as a DIY reflection activity… get in touch if you want to be a guinea-pig. The beauty of the invitation to the communion table is not being limited to a plus-one.

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Let me leave you with a psalm by New Zealand author Joy Cowley by way of benediction:

Seeing

Dear God,
I need to see myself
as you see me.
My own vision is fragmented.
I try to divide up my life
and reject those parts of me
I consider to be weak.
I waste time and energy
in the battle of self against self
and Lord, I always end up the loser.

Dear God,
help me to see myself
as you see me.
I forget that you made me just as I am
and that you delight in your creation.
You do not ask me to be strong;
you simply ask me to be yours.
You do not expect me to reject my weakness,
merely to surrender it to your healing touch.

Dear God,
when I can see myself
as you see me,
then I will understand
that this frail, tender, fearful, aching, singing
half-empty, shining, shadowed person
is a whole being made especially by you
for your love.

Joy Cowley
 
 
Amen.

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“Consider what has been lost, grieve it and acknowledge the ache.Grow in your own strength. Know you are loved, wanted and needed… tell us how best to do this through the assertion of your will. The way you let, and encourage, us to be us… this is a gift. when you connect with your essence, you show us how too. Have your solitude. Find all you have to offer – don’t cheat yourself… don’t cheat us either.”

 

Just in case, by some miracle, you have gotten this far in life without hearing of the Enneagram it’s a personality test based on 9 interconnected types.  You can do a basic test and find out more about the types here if you’re interested.   The quote above relates to Type 2: The Helper.

Ryan O’Neal, Sleeping at Last (you may be familiar with his music anyway from shows like Bones, Grey’s Anatomy or movies like Twilight and The Fault In Our Stars…) is writing a song for each of the Enneagram types that is designed to speak to the heart of what that type longs to hear.  His music and words are soulful and melodic anyway… now they make you cry from the acceptance and affirmation.  He’s including “fingerprints” (little sound bites) in each track submitted by friends and family that are of that personality type – definitely worth a listen to better understand yourself and others. #layers

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A short introduction to the life and work of Stevie Smith for the Spiritual Reading group meeting at the Carmelite Library in Middle Park.  After a short talk to contextualise the work of the artist we read some of the works aloud and hold shared discussion reflecting on what they might mean…

Stevie was born Florence Margaret Smith in 1902. At 3 years of age, the marriage of Stevie’s parents broke down and she moved with Mum, Ethel and big sister Molly from Kingston Upon Hull, Yorkshire to Palmers Green in North London. Contact with her father, who was in shipping, became single line postcards saying things like: “Off to Valparaiso, Love Daddy”

Contracting tuberculosis peritonitis  at 5, Stevie was taken to a sanatorium at Broadstairs in Kent for 3 years. Being separated from her family was hard and Stevie has said that this is when her preoccupation with death and fear arose.

When Stevie’s mother Ethel became ill, Madge Spear, affectionately referred to as “The Lion Aunt” came to live with them, raising Stevie and Molly.  A feminist who had no patience with men, formidable Aunt Madge raised a family of women attached to their own independence counter-cultural to the ruling Victorian idea that “father knows best”. When she was 16, Stevie’s mother died.

Stevie studied at Palmers Green High School then went to Mrs Hoster’s secretarial academy – the North London Collegiate School.  It was around 17 the “Stevie” moniker came into common use arising from riding in the park with a friend who commented that she reminded him of the champion jockey Steve Donoghue.

Stevie suffered depression all her life that expressed as nervousness, shyness and intense sensitivity.  Straight out of the Collegiate school Stevie became a secretary at a magazine publishing company, and eventually became the private secretary to Sir Neville Pearson with Sir George Newnes and Newnes Publishing Company where she worked 1923-1953.  In this time Stevie had published 3 autobiographical novels and 4 of the 9 volumes of poetry published in her lifetime.  The themes of her work traverse: loneliness, myth and legend, absurd vignettes, war, human cruelty and religion.  Stevie’s line drawings, which she called her “higher doodling” often weren’t published with her poems, that happened later when collected works were published, and the pictures weren’t necessarily drawn to go with particular works but she would merely pick out whatever seemed appropriate.  They often lend a note of whimsy to words of touching depth or sharp parody to her satirical set-downs.  Stevie used comedy to talk about dark things and used the tools of her craft to resist domestic ideology around class, religion, marriage…

While her early novels and volumes of poetry were a great success, the work of the 1940s and early 1950s had been less well-received. She was seen as eccentric and the style of her poetry out-of-fashion.  One account suggests Stevie invalided out and was given a full pension following a nervous breakdown at work that led to her attempting suicide at her desk after an incident threatening her boss with a pair of scissors but another says perhaps more discretely that Aunt Madge became bedridden and Stevie left work to care for her. Stevie perceived death as she did god, someone perhaps to have a dialogue with ‘scolding for taking her loved ones and those whom the world will miss’, someone she had to acknowledge and comes to terms with the existence of. Stevie has said that she was “so consoled by the idea of death as release” that she didn’t have to commit suicide it was enough to know that death was there to look forward to. This god death is often expressed as kinder in her writing than the God of church and religion.

A come back after the period 1953-1955 when Punch was almost exclusively the only established periodical willing to publish her work. Stevie undertook a collaboration with Elisabeth Lutyens and Heidi Anderson when she struggled to find other outlets for her writing.  The arrangement and performance of her poems between her own readings were very engaging for audiences and led to Stevie eventually developing her own unique performance style of singing her poems.

Between readings Stevie would often sing, using sonorities and tonalities for effect, 2 or 3 of her works to familiar tunes she borrowed from Anglican hymns, folk melodies, popular music hall songs, a military march or tunes she made up in these styles.  While setting hilarious captions to the table book “Cats in Colour” in 1959 was I’m sure, a highlight, it may have been surpassed by receiving the Queens’ Gold Medal for Poetry in 1969. The last decade of her life saw her increasingly in demand to give readings not only to societies but schools.

Stevie died from a brain tumour 7 March 1971

Katherine Firth’s thesis on “The MacNeices and their Circles: Poets and Composers in Collaboration” provides insightful context of the time and place of Stevie’s writing.  The influence of modernism in the 1920s-30s had a destabilising effect on meanings – skilled practitioners were able to create works that reflected their own ambivalences, scepticisms and self-criticisms and you see a lot of this in Stevie’s writing – especially on the subject of religion.  Resisting her High Anglican and Tory Aunts’ influences with her lefty friends. This group of friends were influenced by Aristotle’s writing on poetry on the root word for poetry and action being the same so there was a sense that the words should be working to explain or impart something.

While Stevie lived a largely secluded and celibate life, aside from a few flings with both men and women, Stevie was a resolutely autonomous woman and rejected the idea that she was lonely.  Intimate relationships with friends and family kept her fulfilled. This was a time of cliques and gangs – groups of writers, producers, painters, composers, performers and critics that interacted socially and professionally in overlapping circles while retaining distinct identities.  Stevie corresponded and socialised widely with other writers and creative artists. She was chief bridesmaid and Louis MacNeice the best man at the wedding of the novelist Olivia Manning to the poet Reggie Smith. George Orwell was close and Sylvia Plath a fan.

New West End venues, technological advances and the rise in the role of the BBC in disseminating music were changing performance media.  Contemporary composers were looking to their poet-peers for lyrics, there were a range of styles of popular music and they borrowed from each other.  There was a desire convey Modernist idioms to reach a broader social and cultural context, making music and poetry relevant to the political and economic circumstances of the audiences listening. There was an idea that a poems words will do its work on someone if it is palatably wrapped as a hymn or cabaret tune.  The music groups of the day wanted audiences to be improved AND entertained.

Susan Thurman’s thesis provides this concise synopsis:

“Smith’s poetry reveals three major attitudes toward religion, which sometimes overlap: first, she is the agnostic who cannot make up her mind–she has faith in a god in whom she does not want to believe, yet she loses faith in a god in whom she does want to believe. Second, she often writes poems which confidently reject God; she is the atheist expressing approval of the decline of organized religion, strongly attacking both the Catholic and Anglican Churches. She vehemently rejects God and Christianity in such atheistic poems as being untrue, but if possibly true, then cruelly unfair. Third, however, she is a believer who replaces the Christian God of eternal damnation with what she views as a more merciful God of her own making. She tries desperately to create a God for herself in whom she can believe.” As she says of herself in her image on the poster for today’s event: “In yielding and abnegation I spend my days”.

Stevie often attracted labels like “eccentric”, “odd”, and “difficult” with causality attributed to her gender… Not Waving But Drowning is one of Stevie’s most well-known works speaking to our individual isolation within society.  Between the poem and the paradoxes of Stevie’s own life: participant or observer, believer or atheist, here to live or here to die? Cynthia Zarin draws a parallel – saying “she is at once the stranger and the traveller, both waving and drowning” – we’re going to wrap this up with Stevie reading that piece, it runs for about 2 mins and you’ll hear her at the start describing what the work was about…

References/Further Reading:

Anne Bryan. “Stevie Smith and God
Katherine Firth. “The MacNeices and their Circles: Poets and Composers in Collaboration on Art Song 1939-54”
Stevie Smith. “Some Are More Human Than Others.”
Stevie Smith. “Stevie Smith Collected Poems”
Stevie Smith. “Two in One: The Frog Prince and Other Stories/Selected Poems”
Susan E. Thurman. “The themes of God and Death in the Poetry of Stevie Smith
Cynthia Zarin. “The Uneasy Verse of Stevie Smith”

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1  Me nolentum fata trahunt is a play on a line from the Roman Seneca: Ducunt volentem Fata, nolentem trahunt. This means “Fate leads the willing, and drags the unwilling”. So, Stevie Smith’s line means “because Fate drags me, unwilling”.

 

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All rights to this work belong to the Stevie Smith Estate with Faber & Faber and have been reproduced here for educatonal purposes only.

love is love marriage plebiscite Australia

I’ve been trying to think a bit about what love looks like when both sides of the Marriage Equality debate are feeling persecuted and I come back, as I often do to the God who asks me difficult questions.

Maybe the pressure isn’t secular but wholly Holy, the Holy who asks: “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a good question to grapple with and we must grapple with our answer.

I can take bits and pieces of God, parts small enough to understand and think I ‘know’ but only a fool can imagine they can answer such questions because when You kneel before the One who made you, you realise how little you know, how little you understand, how little you are in this bigger Creation we all pay a part in.

Kneel. Be brought to re-awareness, re-awakening to the bigness of God. There is space there for all you fear and love, and love and fear.

Rise. Live, knowing that space is here too.
We carry it with us.

made or Made?

reflection a poem about self-determination Talitha Fraser identity Bar Josephine

made or Made?
how much autonomy
for self-determination
do we ever really have?
My working and undoing
are in You.
I look outside,
I look inside.
I cannot reconcile
why I’m here.
I would fear except that
I find the true in You.

Talitha Fraser

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In July a friend posted a link to this article “Against Self-Criticism: Adam Phillips on How Our Internal Critics Enslave Us, the Stockholm Syndrome of the Superego, and the Power of Multiple Interpretations” – it’s one of those rabbit hole things where you follow links within links to whole other articles… in a good way.  I think I experience some intersectionality in self-criticism being female and having a spirituality that calls me to try and live as a “good” person. Parking tidbits here so I keep thinking about them.

  • what kind of person would your critic be if you met them in person?
    boring? cruel? bully? abusive? would you keep them in your life?
  • if the critic mutilates, deforms, distorts our character… whose voices do you trust to speak to your character? what would you say if it were happening to someone else? what does it look like to defend yourself the way you would defend someone else against this kind of negativity? what techniques do you have for combating the critic when it’s a voice that feels loud?
  • the article refers to this critic as a mechanism of “unrelenting internal violence”. As an advocate of non-violence what tools and techniques are available to you to respond to, engage with and mitigate the impact of the critic?

 

“…in our capacity for merciless self-criticism. We tend to go far beyond the self-corrective lucidity necessary for improving our shortcomings, instead berating and belittling ourselves for our foibles with a special kind of masochism.”

“In Freud’s vision of things we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate, we love; wherever we love, we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can also frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us, we always believe that they can satisfy us. We criticize when we are frustrated — or when we are trying to describe our frustration, however obliquely — and praise when we are more satisfied, and vice versa. Ambivalence does not, in the Freudian story, mean mixed feelings, it means opposing feelings… these contradictory feelings are our ‘common source’ they enter into everything we do. They are the medium in which we do everything. We are ambivalent, in Freud’s view, about anything and everything that matters to us; indeed, ambivalence is the way we recognize that someone or something has become significant to us… Where there is devotion there is always protest… where there is trust there is suspicion.”

“You can only understand anything that matters — dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature — by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses. Overinterpretation here means not settling for one interpretation, however apparently compelling it is. Indeed, the implication is — and here is Freud’s ongoing suspicion, or ambivalence, about psychoanalysis — that the more persuasive, the more compelling, the more authoritative, the interpretation is, the less credible it is, or should be. The interpretation might be the violent attempt to presume to set a limit where no limit can be set.”