Tag Archive: wonder





Found this in an op shop and am loving it so can only imagine I will have to restrain myself from a public rendering of the entire tome… I’m not apologising for that… I think its too beautiful.


Through our thoughts and our human experiences, we long ago became aware of the strange properties which make the universe so like our flesh:

like the flesh it attracts us by the charm which lies in the mystery of its curves and folds and in the depths of its eyes,

like the flesh, it disintegrates and eludes us when submitted to our analyses or to our fallings off and in the process of its own perdurance;

as with the flesh, it can only be embraced in the endless reaching out to attain what lies beyond the confines of what has been given to us.

All of us, Lord, from the moment we are born feel within us this disturbing mixture of remoteness and nearness; and in our heritage of sorrow and hope, passed down to us through the ages, there is no yearning more desolate than that which makes us weep with vexation and desire as we stand in the midst of the Presence which hovers about us nameless and impalpable and is indwelling in all things.

Now, Lord, through the consecration of the world the luminosity and fragrance which suffuses the universe take on for me the lineaments of a body and a face – in you.  What my mind glimpsed through its hesitant explorations, what my heart craved with so little expectation of fulfillment, you now magnificently unfold for me: the fact that your creatures are not merely linked together in solidarity that none can exist unless all the rest surround it, but that all are so dependent on a single central reality that a true life, borne in common by them all, gives them ultimately their consistence and their unity.

Shatter, my God, through the daring of your revelation the childishly timid outlook that can conceive of nothing greater or more vital in the world than the pitiable perfection of our human organism.



offwego[A short paper presented to the Spiritual Reading Group 21 July 2015 on Michael Leunig]

So… Leunig… one of the questions he is most often asked and is always baffled by, is what does a particular cartoon mean? “People will say, ‘I don’t know what it means but I like it.’ Leunig replies… “I don’t know either but I like it too. I’m not trying to say anything but I hope it awakens something in you.”

Michael Leunig was raised listening to Oscar Wilde stories on the radio. He read Enid Blyton, Biggles and Childrens Encyclopaedias… he went to Sunday  school and always said he found it, “not full of God but full of stories.” It was lyrical and what was lyrical made him happy – Leunig heard Psalms and asked of himself “What can I do like that?”

Though born in East Melbourne in 1945, Leunig grew up in Footscray going to Footscray North Primary School and Maribyrnong High School. Many of Leunigs friends, and many of his teachers when he grew up in the 1950s were war refugees or were the children of people from Germany, Russia, Poland. It was a very industrial area –ammunitions factory with machine guns firing, meat works, cannery… it smelt awful and drained into the river… for Leunig this wasn’t bleak but held lots of peace and space. Not a lot of nature around, but then you appreciate and give more significance to what you have… a duck and the moon.

A duck bought from the market while doing the family shop imprinted on Leunig following him around everywhere, coming home from school he’d turn the corner and the duck would see him and come running. So he always got ducks after that considering them playful and good-humoured and innocent with those rounded beaks.

A formative misadventure at eight years, occurred while playing at the rubbish tip Leunig stepped up to his thighs in hot coals and wires – receiving horrible and incredibly painful burns with fear of gangrene and amputation – for five months he couldn’t walk and had long periods of feeling cut off from others and lost.

From paper boy to making sausages at butchers on Barkley St, Leunig didn’t do well at school, repeating his last year, and came to work in the meatworks himself. This was great thinking time and Leunig advocates manual work that keeps your hands moving and your mind free. He said: “Working in such places either toughens or sensitises you” and it sensitised Leunig… he became a humanist (is now nearly vegan) and finely honed his earthy working class sense of humour. Leunig was conscripted for the Vietnam war in 1965 – he was going to fight it, a conscientious objector, but was rejected regardless when found to be deaf in one ear.

In Curly Stories, Leunig talks about it “Being an advantage to grow up without art consciousness… nothing to aspire to but things to find and create”. Homeschooling his own four children would have allowed him to foster a similar environment for them believing “Natural ideas exist within children… their play should be “utterly free” and they must be allowed to be bored – they feel free to explore and discover and the world is new to them and there’s this sense of wonder” Leunig refers to childrens ability to ‘blank out’ looking at a teapot spout or light through a window being present to what is right in front of them, commenting: “The loss of that beauty is appalling… how do I address that as a communicator? How can I express what everyone is feeling?” The prophet expresses the grief of the people. The artist expresses what is repressed.

maxresdefaultWalking out of his 3rd year at Swinburne Film and Television School, it was 1969 when Leunig first began to work as a political cartoonist at Newsday, while the factories might have taught him to use humour – intellectual, witty, cynical – to deflect serious things, Leunig says “I was sung sentimental songs. Part of my first language. Fluent in that emotional language” His Grandma used to tell him: ‘All the world is bad, except for you and me, but even you’re a little strange.’ …perhaps this is where we meet The Creature… The Holy Fool– scribbled in the margins since school – amusing to his slightly hungover Editor, with a teapot on his head and riding a duck into the sunset, the image was put to print. Subhuman, primal, foetal, without gender. Leunig is somehow able to speak to our soul. To take small things and make them large, domestic things and make them sacred. For his own discipline he talks about the paradox of art theory – rules to follow, teachers to emulate >> how this stifles creativity. It’s about earning money, systematic success, built for efficiency, for velocity but you lose much, Leunig believes: “[You] cannot love or appreciate beauty at speed. How do you talk about it in ways that are unsuppressed and real? Might make a bridge with love, make a sandwich with love – it’s passed on to others. Love is what we go to bed thinking about.”the kiss by leunig

Since his first book in 1974, Leunig has produced 23 more – books of newspaper columns, poetry and prayer in addition to his prints, paintings and drawings. Leunig shares intimacy with us, personal and confessional – e.g. The Kiss. We are invited into the privacy of his love life, his soul searching… Leunig makes the private public. He takes the small dark fearful things and brings them out where we can look at them “crying with the angels for a world that is different – this is not fatalistic but hopeful”. Perhaps it is because he has offered his own soul first that we are willing to listen to him expound on many themes:

>> loneliness >> the 9 to 5 grind >> war >> sex >> consumption >> love >> god >> media >> religion >> politics

It was being asked to contribute a cartoon to a new paper in 1989, The Age, that Leunig started writing prayers to the horror of his friends… Rather than born-again Christian Leunig’s interpretation lay in the realm of John Keats’s “negative capability”, a word for the unsayable and profound in life. He wanted to say the words publicly as another way of addressing the problems of our time, of our society, of our psyche, of people’s personal suffering {1998} His friends reactions sort of egged Leunig on, wanting to see how much he could push believing that “until a man discovers his emotional life and his gentle, vulnerable side, until he gives it expression, he never will find his women or his soul, and until he does find his soul he will be tortured and depressed and miserable underneath a fair bit of bullshit”.

From Archbishops to Presidents, the Opera House, Australian Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre in London to clay figure animations for SBS and remote communities in northern and central Australia – Leunig has Gone Places and Done Things. Declared a national living treasure by the National Trust in 1999 and awarded honorary degrees by 3 universities for his unique contribution to Australian culture.

094The ‘war on terror’ following 9/11 was a watershed moment in Leunig’s cartooning work where, opposing the war and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he was at odds with many editors, commentators and members of Australian society – there became less gentle and lyrical themes and he stopped drawing the whimsical characters Mr Curly and Vasco Pyjama as often although the duck and the moon have still faithfully remained. Adding curls arose out of Leunig’s desire to communicate that “What makes you feel so alone and strange is in fact normal. There’s a lot of curliness in life and you can have a homecoming – there is a place for you and for that aloneness, that eccentricity, and there’s a fulfilment of it eventually, it’s no longer the cause of your outcastness. So that’s the curl. It’s the curious, unique self and, if you find that, you find the connection to the whole world because the world is curious and unique and authentic at its best level.” You might say the war, not understanding how people can fight other people this way, has been a breach to Leunigs sense of connection to Australian society and thereby rest of the world.

These days, Michael Leunig has 3 small dogs but no ducks. He enjoys talking to strangers and going to bed at night. He is a devout nature lover and spends his time between the solitude of the bush in Northern Victoria and a home in Melbourne where he enjoys walking in the local park, morning coffee in the café, chamber music in the concert hall, and attending to work in his studio .

When asked: “What is the meaning of life?” Leunig replied: “For humans as for all the plants and creatures: know yourself, grow yourself, feel yourself, heal yourself, be yourself, express yourself”… “I want to be a voice of liberation”. Leunig speaks not only for the wealthy or the poor but both, not only those armed and those without weapons but both, not only the pretty people or only the ugly people but both – he enjoys this inconsistency and variety. As Barry Humphries says “through the vein of his compassion and humanity and his humour – illuminating many a darkling theme”

Like Jesus with his parables and questions – Leunig doesn’t present us with solutions or easy answers but an invitation. He sees his vocation as cracking what is stoic and cold in society – to make us feel anger, grief, joy, sadness… Leunig believes we have something to discover in the wrongness… “Live without ‘knowing’, in mystery. Find things. Unlearn. Get lost. Get primal, getinfantile. When you have lost all hope – start to play. You have nothing to lose. Stay with it and don’t take it too seriously…”

I hope maybe it awakens something in you.”



Only I would tear pages out of a book, draw on them, paint them, then decide I wanted to read it… not sure whether to laugh or sigh – perhaps a little of both is in order… already fascinating…

p.7-8  If we would appeal to science at all, we must use her methods – not methods of our own choosing.  Now it is a generally accepted principle in science that it is only through the study of the unusual, the odd and the seemingly inexplicable, that man can be led onwards towards new knowledge.  The scientist whose mind revolves only in the grooves of well recognised theory has little chance of discovering important new principles.  In fact, an important element in the scientific method consists in the focusing of attention upon the things that science cannot explain, or has difficulty in explaining.  In this way only can it be discovered whether known principles will cover all the facts, or whether new remain to be discovered.

We must apply the same method if we wish to build a reliable philosophy of nature.  If we consider only the recognised laws of science we shall never discover whether they are adequate to explain everything in the universe – we shall never even discover whether they are the most important factors of which we ought to take cognisance.  To reach a sane judgement, we must turn to the odd and the peculiar.  We must think about things which, in the light of present scientific knowledge, seem inexplicable.  We must ask if they really are inexplicable, or only apparently so.  And should the first possibility seem the more likely, we must ask whether the inexplicable facts can be explained – explained, not of course, in a fundamental sense, but in the scientific sense of co-ordinated or grouped together by a new hypothesis or theory which would make them inexplicable no longer.  Finally, if we are able to do so we must test our theory – we must see whether it can help us to understand yet other facts, which we have overlooked hitherto, whether it will stimulate our minds to research in new directions and so forth.  And, as the past history of science has shown on repeated occasions, it will often happen that the good theory, based upon phenomena that once seemed queer and out of the ordinary, will help us to understand the ordinary and commonplace.

This is the scientific method of discovery of truth – the method upon which the scientific edifice of our day has been built.  And it is also the way of common sense – a codification of the rules that are always used in establishing evidence.  For the scientific method is only a glorified version of the ways of common sense.  The detective, like the scientist, focuses his attention upon the details that seem queer and inconsistent with the knowledge he already possesses;  like the scientist he frames his theories upon those parts of the picture that at first seem odd and inexplicable; like the scientist again he seeks to discover whether his theories are adequate.  The economist, the historian, the archaeologist, the linguist – every one, in fact, whose business it is to discover facts adapts the same procedure.  The scientific method is the method of human reason.

p.9 Instead of examining the inexplicable. The modern writer only too often examines the explicable: instead of showing interest in the extraordinary, he revels in the ordinary.  And his reply to those who adopt a more orthodox procedure is to the effect that they are inventing a “God of the gaps” who will be doomed to extinction as soon as all-conquering science has discovered how the gaps may be filled in.


Instead of avoiding the difficulties, instead of begging the question by pretending that every difficulty is mere gap, we must boldly explore the suppose gaps with all the care we can muster.  Nor need we apologise for doing so.

010– poetry + aesthetics + theology = theopoetics
– if theology is logical applied to God then theopoetics is poetry applied to God
– sense of place and spiritual quest = songlines

Poetry is ontology – Rowan Williams

Work of love. Poet is a seer/prophet/the songman > the paths we must take and sing in order to renew the world. “This becomes obvious the closer you are to death… I do not aspire to anything anymore except to be invaded by the roses in the garden”.

In the end end it’s a journey of imagination.

HOMO SAPIENS (Land of Gold, p.21)

If, to be alive, I am alive,
And if the witness to this
Is I, myself, watching the grass grow,
What is the meaning of the river?

Why does it sparkle, why does it twist?
In a slow meander, why do the weeds
Grow into islands, why is the sun
Sucking it into the sky?

Long have I dreamed
On the borders of creation
But seldom have I seen
The meaning of the river.

Now it is clear,
Established by the ages,
The river is myself,
An artery of the sky.

Sebastian Barker

The wisdom of the snow globe

Wonder and devastation111

A magic that alters

The landscape forever

To never be the same again

Wisdom of the snow globe:

  • Sometimes everything is all up in the air but eventually they settle down
  • Some things change, some stay the same
  • Things changing, and settling, changing and settling will happen again and again. You can rely on the rhythm but not rely on them always staying the same or always changing but the rhythm.
  • Wild vs. domesticated, good to have both (not just a house or snow  in a bubble but both – dynamic)
  • Can’t see during the flurry but you can when they settle down, therefore wait. It’ll be ok.

010Some things… you try and catch a photo of, and you can’t.

You fiddle with the settings, try different angles, to flash or not to flash… and eventually you realise that the moment you are trying to capture, the feelings/sensations you want to remember cannot be caught by a digital imitation.

There is a sacred quiet here in the graveyard.

Birds calling to one another, the rhythmic hum of motorway traffic and constructive sounds of industry form a backdrop to the peace in this place.

The headstones tilt at varying angles nestled in between trees and ferns, some messy and cracked, some maintained and others washed smoothly illegible by the rains of time.

I am somehow nestled in too here in the grass at the edge. I understand my place in the order of things and perhaps glimpse the rest that will one day be mine.

There is no striving in this place.
Striving is meaningless.
Here, for a moment, I am content to be.

Little black robins dart among the meadow daisies sun-blushed pink tips.



the tray of

daffodil bulbs from the dumpster

was mostly empty

but imagine

some day

at the tip

messy, smelly, unwanted things

the green shoots first

then golden trumpeting glory

in a unlikely place

Talitha Fraser
(photo credit to Duncan Toms)

004 008 010

There is something to the rhythm of life here.  Our days are shaped by liturgy at breakfast, lunch and dinner (most days), from organic food brought at the local farmers market where we know the vendors by name, to a walk through the chaparral countryside recognising the oak trees, mallow, sage we tend in the garden (Ched has learned to take cuttings from natives).  We check the weather report daily – checking for rain (the river is empty), frost (protect the citrus and avocado trees) and while we’re there, we check the surf forecast also – checking tide, temperature and wind direction.  We do a lap of the yard almost daily – remarking on developments new buds, early blossom, pruning requirements…

I’m living more in the ‘present’ than I can remember in a long time.

In the evening we sit out by the horno (clay oven) and can see the North Star and Milky Way…

My heart is ready, O God;
I will sing your praise.
Your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
And your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
And let your glory shine over all the earth. (Psalm 57:5)

What does that mean? Let your glory shine…?  We talk back and forth, about animism and anarchical primitivism, I learn the difference between pantheism and panentheism and for a moment I think to myself, “what a wonderful world…”