imagining…


imagine….

bush, vine or green grass

inter-twined
complicated
inseparable
Tangled (2)creolised perhaps?
in this mixing-up
purity has lost
its crafty intentions
blooming
bloody red
springing up
interrupting
undoing
expectant
thriving
wildly
releasing
converting
versions
of divinity
from human clutch clinics

 

© jagessar (words and image)

the myth of securing a better future…


While the race to see which nation can drop more bombs to “degrade” and eradicate the elusive and brutal ISIL gang continue to dazzle us across our media screens and the deadly Ebola virus seems to only now make news and touch our consciousness when there are western victims Disrupting safe theologyinvolved, here in the UK the Tory Party at its recently concluded Convention in Birmingham has launched their agenda to win our hearts and votes with their strapline of “securing a better future”. One can be excused for being cynical about any suggestion from governments about securing anything given, our track record for creating more insecurity, fear and for selfish motivations. The ordinary punters on the streets in Britain forced-fed with a staple diet of fear be it about Europe, muslims, terrorists, migrants, deadly diseases from geographical corners of the dead continue to grumble but largely looking on zombie-like having so internalised the “keep calm mantra” and “don’t panic” mantra.

So what about the Tory’s promise of securing a better future? Well readers can make up their own minds but in a nutshell (with a warning that you should read the speeches and presentations yourself), here are just a few of the promises:

  • that rulings by the European Court of Human Rights would be ignored with the pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act – to be replaced by a new British bill of rights (re-crafted in the image of the Tories).
  • that there would restrictions on the freedom of movement within the EU at any renegotiation plans before a suggested referendum in 2017.
  • dealing with “fiscal drag” by announcing the threshold at which the 40% tax rate is paid would be raised, bringing fairness to tax (yes, this is no joke!)
  • that there will be more cuts (a further 3% amounting to £7bn) most likely to affect the public sector (one wonders whether the notion of fairness would be deployed here!)
  • that of more anti-terror laws – for instance to ban non-violent extremists from television and protests which raises a bundle of questions on the freedom of speech and democracy

Are you starting to feel more secure, if you are British and living in the UK?

Welcome to our new world of fear, fences and fibs. In the meantime, you may or may not have noticed that the soundtrack (not the political sound-bites!!) accompanying the Tory Party’s autumn conference was from a band called the killers. This, of course, is intended to make us all feel secure, especially the chorus “I’ve got soul” probably intended to whip up our enthusiasm.

The reality is that it takes a lot of searching among the rubble and rubbish to find any soul. And speaking of rubble, rubbish and soul, I was delighted to read George Monbiot’s observation on how “the humanitarian argument” advanced in our recent parliamentary debate raises serious questions as to the limit of where next governmenst would consider dropping their deadly and expensive bombs. As he noted: “the humanitarian argument…if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East and west Asia. By this means you could end all human suffering, liberating the people of these regions from the vale of tears in which they live”. Evil will be wiped out “by the destroying angels of the west”.

It is strange what our ‘air-shows by ‘boys with destructive toys’ are doing, not the least to galvanise and bring together rival and disparate groups of ‘marauding terror agents’ (also boys with toys). What are we actually perpetuating in the name of peace? When will the next ‘so called moderate group’ which we arm turn the weapons we have provided them upon us? What lessons have we learned? It seems that we have either lost the ability to learn and/or are unteachable. Whatever has become of our moral conscience in this never ending theatre of errors and tragedy?

Jagessar October 3rd, 2014

sports, losing and crossing


This has been a summer of various sporting events: World Cup (football), Wimbledon (tennis), the Commonwealth Games, Golf and Cricket (England versus India). Besides some wonderful individual and team performances in all of these games, I am struck by the inability of many to DSCF1049see and accept losing or even failing as an integral dimension of any games of sport.

No one wishes to lose: my team, player, club or nation must triumph come what may. No wonder managers and coaches, with pay packages that boggle the mind, are shown the road, players are turned upon and scapegoats are sought out with much haste, vigour and aggression. So we make of athletes super-humans and place them on pedestals, demanding that they perform and produce “wins” all the time in order to massage our egos, betting habits and media punditry.

Consequently, when our “team” fail to produce we are unable to accept that they have been outperformed on the occasion by the better team or that a player may be having a ‘difficult time’. The very supporters and media pundits who have been praising the players/managers will then proceed to crucify individuals as finding a scapegoat and blaming someone becomes the name of the game. Any sense of the delight and beauty in playing the game and participating in the particular Sport become causalities as a result of a new idolatry – the ‘must win’ or ‘only winners’ one. Delighting in the sport and affirming ‘good sport’ or a ‘good game’ is lost somewhere in this winning fog, largely dictated by money, prime time advertising or any sense that the only way up is through losing (or falling downwards).

Lest you are wondering, I have not been permanently glued before our TV set over the summer. But the times I have looked, I was largely pissed off by the focus on particular athletes/players (as if others did not matter), some very bias and ridiculous commentaries, and an obsession with the best and most perfect: best goal, best player, best batsman or bowler, best tactical managing, best ever world-cup or games – all pointing to how we are unconsciously amusing ourselves to death in our obsession for perfection. What are we trying to compensate for? Now and again one can sense some hope as some minor player or athlete is recognised for their love of the sport, sporting spirit, commitment and their talent – or through subversion by a surprise win!

A related observation, while deep in preparing papers for conferences on postcolonial perspectives on worship, has been (what I have termed) the liturgical play of players in some of the sports. I mean the crossing of the self (father, son and holy spirit) when entering a football field or before a race and then the falling on the knees upon winning, the ‘finger-waving’ to the heavens and the gods, or kissing of the earth upon scoring a goal, breaking a record or winning. This was especially case during the World Cup football in the SA, reminding me of Cristobal de Colon first liturgical act upon landing in the Caribbean/Americas: he fell on the earth of what was new world to him, kissed the fertile soil giving thanks to God, and then rose and fell mightily upon the ‘Other’ – the friendly, welcoming and surprised Indians – with swords and guns.

Much may have changed but the enslavement continues as the stories of corruption, the rolling billboards and sponsored markings, stamps and brands all over the athletes suggest.

© jagessar August 2014

Home Sweet Home (or should it be Honey?)


We always look forward to our summer break in France. Thus far it has never been a ‘dull’ or predictable experience. If surprises can be considered predictable, in the sense that there seems to be a pattern of surprises on the menu then such (surprises) can be considered the constant of our French experience.

I am not referring to workers striking/protesting, a few extremely hot days, the overabundance of melon and jambon as a starter in most restaurants in summer, the almost lethargic pace of life in the Gers or spotting the English piling their shopping carts with wine (far cheaper than in Britain) and perhaps getting drunk out of sight. I am referring to the kind of surprise one would never expect!

Our surprise this year (I think the most unexpected thus far) is to arrive at the place we call home in France to find bees busy, organised and industrious working on a hive between one of our windows (with the best view) and the wooden shutter. At first a scary sight but now a delightful fixture as through the glass we can observe their work, play and rest habits! It is a young hive and overnight we were amazed to find another comb built! This can prove to be the envy of any natural museum!

Our local farmer and friend has advised us that the Queen in this hive having being displaced by the Queen in the other hive between our thick stonewall decided to migrate to this spot and some of the faithful decided to follow her. He quite correctly noted that the Bees in the region are endangered as a result of the use of pesticide and that we should try to protect these. One of his older friends, who is a bee keeper, will be coming to “recuperate” our surprise of a hive. I must say that we are caught between wanting to leave the bees alone, having seen the work they have done thus far, and being protective of this sweet place we call home. We are caught between a glass window/view and a bee hive!

In the meantime, as we await for the farmer to turn up, perhaps not with the same sort work ethic of this colony of bees, we can be assured that for certain this is going to be a memorable and sweet summer and no bee will be on strike! There must be a parable or sermon somewhere in this surprise!

©jagessar july 2014

Politics and Change


I can understand why many are disenchanted with politics, politicians and political processes. On the British and European scene I am tired with political game-playing, lies, staying in power at all costs habits, the scarcity of integrity, a lack of political will, and politics that cannot see beyond the next elections. The recent European elections, with the triumph of “Far Right” parties across the European landscape, have 20140409_203137been labelled in some quarters as “earthquake populism”. What a sad way for the population to rise up? Politicians in their usual way, meaning that you wonder whether they actually seriously considered the implications speak of this earthquake that Europe’s leadership should respond to. A few months later and it is still business as usual!

Now, the French Far Right leadership has noted that this massive win was a first step towards a long march to the “recovery of OUR identity”. Migrants and children of migrants who have contributed to French life are of course would be lucky to be included in that OUR! This is a debate that will not go away and the matter of identity will get even more complicated given the financial instability in Europe and the world. What is clear from the elections results is the massive anti-establishment fervour across Europe and the fact that voters are actually fed up with mainstream politics and politicians who all come across like carbon copies. The results which most colleagues in Racial Justice work predicted has resulted in much talk from the pundits about the need for “soul-searching”.

If only the political parties would listen to the punter in the street they would hear the long list of complaints that people are carrying like crosses on the way to crucifixion: politicians have lost touch with the people; politics have become a game for the elite; the voice of the people are not taken seriously even when they are asked for their opinions; politicians have sold out to the corp-o-crats; people are fed-up with myopic politics geared only at winning votes (not transformation); politics have been turned into getting the right “sound-bites” rather than displaying integrity and passion; all the political parties have been guilty of immigrant bashing

Of course, the political hurricane is tied up with an economic engine that is overheating. Long before Thomas Piketty, many Caribbean and developing world women were clear that: in an economy where the rate of return of capital is greater than the growth rate of the wider economy, the rich will get richer and the economy will become more unequal; in such an economy wealth remains with the wealthy to reinforce their position and that of their progeny, with wealth becoming more important than income; and that the brand of capitalism where the top 10% own more than 50% of the wealth and the top 1% more than 25% of it, is systematically making this inequality worse and democracy unsustainable.

It is evident that we need critical behavioural changes – cultural changes – that which is emotional as it is rational. This will mean tackling behaviours that are holding us back. One key aspect is the need to mobilise informal leaders – people at various levels of our life together who motivate others by what they do and how they do it – credible, trustworthy and effective people who can help create cultural change.

Faith and Faithfulness: Politics and Policies


My “hermeneutic of suspicion” always jumps into a different gear when I hear politicians attempting to equate national identity with being Christian. Are they standing up for the Christian faith? What is their understanding of this faith and most importantly the faithfulness that it demands?

20140425_134310So what does the Prime Minister (David Cameron) mean when he urged Britons to be “more confident” about their “status as a Christian country”? Sure he noted that this is not a call on “passing judgement” on those with no faith! On previous occasions Cameron did declare himself an “evangelical“, criticising those who are not believers for failing to grasp the religion’s role in “helping people to have a moral code”. In my view his contribution to a recent issue of Church Times suggests just a degree of awareness of the extent of the complexity and demands of the Christian vocation.

Churches and religious leaders have come out in support of PM Cameron. On the other hand a group of intellectuals (50 scientists and public figures) have criticised him for claiming Britain as a Christian country noting the possibility of causing further alienation in society and negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders. While the current Archbishop endorsed the statement of the PM, his predecessor Rowan Williams reminds his listeners that Britain is a post-Christian country – not a nation of committed believers but one in which much of the vision is still shaped by a Christian ethos.

The matter of defining what we mean by “Christian” is not insignificant in this discourse. If we are to take the PM at his word that believers should be more confident in spreading their views and make a difference in people’s lives, then we can with integrity ask him some critical questions about the policies of his government which claims to have many Christians in its midst: why for instance a wealthy Christian nation such as ours has people who are homeless, cannot feed themselves, with many are unemployed, and the gap between those who have and those who do not is widening? If all of us, as he claims subscribe to the same principles of love and justice why must tens of thousands of older people make a choice between eating and heating each winter and how do we account for the many families whose earning power has remained stagnated while the price of food has gone up by 30% in just over 4 years? And what about closing our doors to the foreigners and strangers in our midst and what will be the PM’s response to immigration policies that have lost a sense of moral conscience?

What the PM missed about the vocation of people who walk the talk of the way of Jesus is the prophetic edge/function of the gospel – largely critical of all that contribute to deny people full and flourishing life for all. Sure, the Churches desire and often seek to be partners with the government: but we are also independent of the state and when conscience calls or dictates, we shall dissent and stand up against policies and the governments that hide beyond them.

The Christian message certainly inspired many Western values and some of it are still worth defending – freedom of the conscience, as one example. And this may be one reason why it is wise that we do not speak of Christian nation(s). Having done so in the past, history is replete with what the West ended doing through an assumed arrogance and on behalf of others. At the same time denying the important role (often ideological) Christianity played in the history of the West is not very honest.

In the final analysis Christianity is not about nations – it is about those named after the one we have decided to walk after and follow. The danger in identifying with Cameron’s statements is that it can lead some of us (as we have already seen) into thinking that the Christian faith can be linked to his extreme neo-liberal political stand and the “conservatism” of the Tories. The message of God in Christ should never be equated, used or hijacked by or become enslaved to any form of political ideology. The bottom line of the message is about putting “heart” back into an unjust society (the realm/reign of God) where all Christians in faithfulness embody a commitment to full and flourishing life for all.

© words & image jagessar april 2014

“fair playing” nation loses its heart and soul….


The English pride themselves of being a just and fair-playing people – gatekeepers of truth, democratic ideals, and sticking to the rules, especially in the sports they have left behind in former colonies! The recent case of the student Yashika Bageerathi who, with only two ??????????months remaining to complete her “A” Level exams, found herself being hauled away, locked up, separated from her mother and siblings (because she is now 19 years old – an adult) and sent back to Mauritius because her case failed the asylum test tell a different story about this “fair-playing” nation. It reveals another side of the so-called English obsession with “sticking to the law” and observing it to extreme details; of how easy a people who are known for their love of justice and the “underdog” can lose their heart and soul, quickly turning into “pencil-pushing” bureaucrats, lost behind the politics of immigration numbers. One is tempted to compare such schizophrenic behaviour to that of the kind of people who, under the guise of being diligent and law-abiding citizens, support and even deliver the dirty work of dictators – hiding behind laws and systems!

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, the criteria for being classed a Refugee, and the legal interpretations of the law, the issue for me is the heartless way the teenager has been deported without any consideration, in spite of the thousands of pleas from students, teachers, and members of the public. The notion that politicians ever listen to the people is “bullshit”, even since TB took the UK to war to remove SH! Surely, Yashika could have been allowed that critical two months stay just to complete her “A” level examinations? This was the plea of her school, head teacher and mother (who also faces deportation). Instead no discretion was shown. There was no mercy at the gate of a rich and “free nation” that hides behind laws and rulings. Ministers of the government could have used and argued for discretion to intervene and stop this removal, but they did not and so they cannot wash their hands. They decided to play politics! Politics, numbers of migrants, and staying in power had eaten away at their hearts!

Owen Jones writing in the Guardian rightly observes the perverse reporting on refugees and migrant with “the media relishes finding extreme, unsympathetic examples of immigrants guaranteed to make readers’ blood boil: foreigners with multiple kids being housed in palaces made out of plasma television sets, that sort of thing.” And almost all of the Political Parties find the immigrant/immigration their ideal scapegoat for the ineptitude around continuing recession, unemployment, our economic woes and overspending. Who cares about facts and statistics: when we have the juicy and inflammable rhetoric that continue to demonise and erase vulnerable humans out of existence?

It is mind-boggling to read the Home Office reasoning for not even a discretionary consideration: she is an adult; the law is the law (Jesus heard such a lot!!) and besides the Home Office had received assurances the student would be able to complete her tuition in Mauritius. Which child or young person, displaced in such a humiliating manner, would be able to manage or cope with the trauma of being removed from family, peers and the safety of familiar surroundings (and held in detention before being deported) to perform well in their exams? No wonder the headmistress of the school and many others felt ‘ashamed’ of their British identity. The head teacher went on to say: “Why can’t there just be some compassion and humanity to allow her to stay and do those A-Levels?” This is the ultimate matter: whatever has happened to compassion and humanity?

Can it be that the virtues associated with compassion got damaged by the ‘flood’, frozen-out by the cold and is being negated by the Little Britain characterisation of “Computer says no”? Thank God that there are still people with hearts and moral consciences around. We all need to join force to put heart, conscience  and wisdom back in our immigration policies. I am of the view that UKBA needs to be held to very stringent scrutiny. Otherwise governments and politicians will continue to hide behind such bodies and rules, distancing themselves from any responsibility! There is much work to be done and I am relieved to know that my faith tradition has released me from any obligation to observe laws of the land that deny people their humanity!

jagessar© april 2014

Beyond Niceness – Rediscovering Protest


One of the books I quickly read when I first arrived in the UK was Jeremy’s Paxman’s, The English: A Portrait of People (1998). It is a fascinating read into the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the people called the English. English“The end of empire, the cracks opening in the so-called United Kingdom, the pressures of the English to plunge into Europe, and the uncontrollability of international business” got the writer thinking about “what did it mean to be English?” In his search to discover the influences on the roots of English anxiety Paxman was keen to find out: “Why do the English seem to enjoy feeling so persecuted? What is behind the English obsession with games? How did they acquire their odd attitudes to sex and food? Where did they get their extraordinary capacity for hypocrisy?”

I was surprised, though, that Paxman did not delve more deeply into the “long-suffering mentality” of the English even under the most intense of circumstances, though he did reflect on the population’s outpouring of grief at Diana’s death as a puncturing of a ‘reserved façade’ normally associated with the English. This so-called disposition of the ‘stiff upper lip’ and ‘putting on a brave face’ would betray nothing, even on a train ride. Research seems to suggest that this default mode may be having significant impact on the health and well-being of the nation. It has become so chronic that maybe the whole nation may be in need of help!

Train journeys at Peak times are a fascinating and frustrating experience in the niceness and stiff upper lip of the English – in fact across the whole of the British Isles. In crowded trains – which not even transported animals according to European regulations would be subjected to – where you can feel the warm breath of passengers caressing exposed necks, faces, armpits, chests and breasts, swoon in the aroma of perfume or bear the brunt of sour breadths of your fellow travellers, I am always disturbed by the apparent quiet acceptance and nonchalant response of my fellow passengers as if nothing is amiss.

These packed out trains are worse than a crammed mini-bus on a Caribbean island.  And when at a stop along the journey incoming passengers ask those inside to “move up the aisle, please”, I am always amused how quickly space is created without a murmur. In the Caribbean, I can imagine someone shouting back: “move up where, YOUR backside, mine or theirs?” Even more testing of one’s patience is the sudden appearance of a train conductor negotiating his way (they tend to be mainly men), climbing over passengers and luggage to examine the tickets. The audacity of it all is mind-boggling given that I thought that as a passenger I paid for a seat! I even once suggested to the ticket collector that it may helpful and fair if I am given a refund since I am standing all the way to my destination. In that overcrowded train, he suggested without any emotion: “Sir, I would suggest you try to find a seat or you can step out and wait for the next service”, which by the way will also be crowded.

But back to the passengers: these are mainly professional people on the way to work and I am sure their workplace travel rules will follow all the health and safety requirements about being seated and strapped into your seat on any moving vehicle or means of transport. Some of these travellers may even be managers and insurance brokers who would know that it is illegal to allow people to travel in an overcrowded vehicle and without being seated. Yet the train services can operate with impunity to crowd as many passengers as possible into a carriage to swell their coffers.

Why do travellers not protest? Why can’t train commuters rise up and take to the streets? Do we need to get into a drunken stupor before we can take on such nonsense treatment? It is time to kick this habit of polite meekness. Enough of the “so-called” English reserve, “niceness” and “stiff upper lip”: it is time for a protest that carries a growl and some transforming bites! Perhaps, we need to take some hints from the strategy book of protestors from around the world. Until people stand up to be counted, individually and as a community, much of the dehumanising nonsense and gradual degradation of rights would continue to become entrenched as the norm in our life together. The grins and habit of operating with the freedom to treat us as they wish need to be exorcized!

 

shop only if necessary….


We avoid shopping like a plague during Christmas. Why waste time in long queues and in shops that you can hardly move around without stepping on another person and with other humans breathing into your face? In fact, our motto is to shop only if necessary. Necessity and what you think you need should always Imaginebe in conversation. One commentator re-wrote the 1st line of the 23rd Psalm to read: “God is my shepherd, I will not want more than I need”. Spot on! We also try not to let price nor brand determine where we shop. This is never easy – especially if your credit-ability will determine whether it is the farmer’s market, M&S, Lidl, Waitrose, TESCO, the Pound Shop or Charity Shops.

 

Businesses would do their utmost to ensure that we worship at their sanctuaries. Why, for instance, would people queue up in the early hours of Boxing Day to stampede for a bargain? And without even batting an eyelid we would end up in debt thinking we have struck a bargain. I wonder if the millions spent their Christmas night just thinking of what they would go for in that stampede rather than enjoying their holidays, their time with family and the celebrations? And businesses continue to invest in studying our habits: so, for instance, because thousands of people are offten disappointed with their Christmas gift there are now companies offering a service to help you exchange these gifts. There is never a shortage of people available to “mint millions” from our insatiable wants. Shopping has become a deadly and costly ritual, in spite of all the new talk about its spirituality.

 

The situation has become so ridiculous that we are even given tips as to how one should be prepared for the shopping onslaught: ensure that you have a handbag full of water for dehydration; pills for headache and a banana for energy, among other things. And in case you are proper and decent this will not be the place for you, as it will be a “dog eat dog” situation with the need to use your elbow, instead of your feet, to get the bargain items you think you badly need. But be warned depression sets in by mid-January when the credit card statement arrives. This is the bit we are not told!

 

Businesses, of course, vie for our custom and will go at lengths to pamper us with loyalty cards, points, incentives and bargains. Even disloyal me can fall for the temptation. So like Pavlov’s puppies we salivate to these in fascinating ways. We keep returning, with wagging tails to these new gods who are only after our money and having us hooked to their fancy. What goes unattended is the length to which these new gods will go to keep a tab on us. The gods of businesses have got us well shackled.

 

Take supermarkets, as one example: they spend millions of pounds studying the psychology of us shoppers, rethinking the layout of their aisles, and where products are best located to get us to spend. And, how about the surveillance gadgets that are used to track the habits of those of us who walk through their doors and along their aisles? Some now adopt the tactic of telling us how much we save at each shopping and if we overspend we are given a voucher for the next time we return. They certainly know how to keep us coming to “screwed over and over again”. We shop excessively – more than we need to, therefore they profit.

 

Have you ever given thought to why supermarkets know exactly what kind of offers and discounts to send to us? They know what aisle we visit, where we do our pit stops to load up our carts, what range of products we go for. Churches may wish to take a leaf out of supermarkets’ manual to re-read their communities before they become totally obsolete. The moment we pass through the threshold of our nearest supermarket into their holy of holies, supermarkets already know which aisle we would visit, what shelf level we would reach for and will even listen in to our conversations. The latter I do not mind as I am sure they would be turned off by my constant talking back to their tricks, quarrelling about their excessive plastic-wrapping of almost everything, their dodgy tactic of “buy one and get the other at half-price” etc, and my cynical/dubious comments about a host of dodgy pricing and offers.

 

My new year slogan is: “shop only if necessary and do so locally”.

© jagessar january 2, 2014

Caribbean Christmas – Nostalgic ‘Take’


Christmas in the Caribbean has been and still is one of those magical moments in one’s life At least this is how I felt growing up in Carib XmasGuyana and working across the region. Whether it was the voice of Harry Belafonte, the Merrymen or some reggae/Calypso singer putting “Mary’s Boy Child” to Caribbean rhythms, the festive atmosphere where hospitality overflows, going to Church, participating in School Concerts, following the Masquerade Band around the town, or getting tipsy from eating too much of Bertha’s “Black Cake”, I still yearn for Christmas in the Caribbean: for once etched in the mind it is never the same anywhere else. Forget “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Dreaming of a White Christmas”, Christmas in tropical Caribbean always beckons!

A combination of things made Christmas in the Caribbean unforgettable for me. In the basket of magical memories are some that stand out: the distinctive sounds, especially music (religious and secular) at full blast, church bells pealing, radio programmes blasting away, the carollers braving the noise of barking dogs and unlit roads, and local market and roadside sellers hustling to sell gadgets while wide-eyes children gaze with astonishment starting to believe in Santa Claus. These sounds – the music, laughter, horns, whistles, bells, popping toy guns, crying dolls, screeching toy cars – all combine to produce a heavenly cacophony that will even displace “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

Then there are the distinctive smell of foods and drinks: the Christmas “black cake” that every lad will hide from when being prepared as their hands get tired from beating the salted butter in water with a large spoon. A cake that will travel to family members across the globe, with its unique smell of local fruits, soaked in enough rum for the taste and the long journey. Then there were the smells of the drinks: ginger beer, sorrel, and mauby, soon taken over by the aroma of foods such as pepper-pot and an array of dishes wafting around the houses and along the streets.

The other memory is that of an expansive hospitality that welcomes all to share in the festivity. Foods, cakes and drinks are not only prepared for one’s own family. It is shared with all those near and far, stranger, neighbours and family. There is so much exchanging of food-baskets that I often wonder who actually eats! It is an open season of feasting whatever faith tradition one follows. It maybe that in such down to earth openness and hospitality the Child of the manger may break into our midst and lead us in surprising ways.

©jagessar december 2013


 

Ecumenical Adventure in Images


It was certainly a feeling of Pentecost at the WCC Assembly, with so many churches from every “corner” of the world present – not to mention the “tongues”, the colours and the “wear”. The spirit of diversity was certainly around in the business sessions, worship, plenaries, workshops, exhibition hall (madang), in the corridor conversations, around the restaurant dining tables, at bible studies and in our ecumenical conversations. There were moments, though, when the tendencies of reverting to Babel threatened to de-rail the “spirit of ecumenical hospitality and diversity”. If only some of our conversations could have modelled the extravagant hospitality of our Korean hosts!

There were too many words at this gathering, so I have tried to find images to sum up my experience of the 10th Assembly of the WCC and in Busan. Here are a few:

where are the books

This is I titled: “where are the books? It was, of course behind the seating area – coffee shop

MugshotOn a visit to the church of the moderator elect of the Presbyterian Church of Korea whose Love and Peace cafeteria had this collection of diverse mugs. I have titled it: “Mug Shots”, though “mugging the assembly” would be more how I felt at times given the “politicking”, some “perverse (inconsistent) theology”, and the neatly “boxed in ecclesiology” on display.

Europe's CrossingCrossing Africa

I was impressed with the collection of crosses on display. This I have titled “Europe’s Cross-ing” playing with idea of Europe’s colonial hegemony in their so-called “new world”. I wondered what sort of cross was stuck on the flag that was planted on the shores of the Caribbean. I have juxtaposed the collection I have titled Africa’s Crosses – much of which is still borne today, though hope is elicited from the very cross….

eucharistic

My best communion experience waplease be seateds around the table for a traditional korean meal with a group of Korean theology students and their leaders – while theologians and ecclesiology experts continue to advance arguments why we are yet not ready to sit at the same table together…

Disrupting safe theologyBest theology presentationTwo best expressions of a hopeful future are captured in these images. The painting by young adults disrupts the “ordered and safe” God-talk of Church leaders and the song/contribution by the Korean children moved us to tears of joy and hope. WCC should borrow their language, spontaneity and humility.

Picturing It….


It is quite depressing listening to and reading some of the current news items. The growing meanness and inhospitable attitude of the Tory-LibDem coalition towards migrants and foreigners is sickening, as is the current story about blond children and the Roma Travellers. While seemingly different story lines, both underscore messages that feed bigotry, prejudices, hate, intolerance and give further mileage to the “far right” agenda. In terms of our government’s policy of migrants, Zoe Williams is spot on in observing:

“we’ve fallen into a trap where we accept from the outset that people are units of sale, to be weighed and measured by their economic activity. If this is the case, it doesn’t matter what the facts are – if immigrants are working, they’re taking our jobs; if they’re not working, they’re thieving our benefits. When money is scarce and that’s all that matters, the last thing we can afford is for people who don’t belong here to have any, however they came by it….”

Among the questions I have with regard to the view that the NHS is being “sponged” by migrants and tourists, is this: how much is the NHS and the UK sponging/sucking from developing and especially impoverished countries by recruiting their nurses and doctors to come and care for the health and well-being of British people? What is this costing these countries?

If like me, you are grasping for words to describe some of the sickening habits around us and struggling to call this place “home” – while contemplating what action you may wish to join in, here are some pictures (my images for your use) which may or may not say something, stir up words or help us to imagine alternatives…

colouring justice...with abundance and generosity for the long haul

colouring justice…with abundance and generosity for the long haul

may passion for justice glow, burn, grow and spread...

may passion for justice glow, burn, grow, spread, transform….

laying bare our hypocrisies...to experience hope rising

laying bare our hypocrisies…shedding prejudices to experience hope rising

reflecting mood...abridge to cross...choppy waters

reflecting mood…a bridge to cross…choppy waters, making waves

stones crying out...pleading to stony hearts

stones crying out…pleading to/melting stony hearts

the power of propaganda….


Those of us who are aware that we should view/read with a hermeneutic of suspicion everything that comes to us via the media, know how difficult it is not to be “lured” by images, supposedly well-argued positions, and the presentation of so called “facts” and by intentionally shaped, honed and chosen voices to make us believe and desire what is presented to us. 20130814_135728The reality, however, is that much of what we are presented with is subtle and in some cases overt forms of “propaganda”.

The recent and continuing build-up of a case to “take-out” the Syrian government and its leader has highlighted for me that the “power of propaganda” in the varying groups wanting to make us believe their ‘truth’. Being in the USA on holiday during the early part of the build-up, watching the television felt like having your brains, eyes and ears wired with electrodes, regularly “shocked” with doses of programmed information to make the viewer believe what is being communicated. It was traumatic to say the least and one had to rediscover the art of talking back to TV, much to the dismay of my family!

Propaganda is alive and its many current avatars are even harder to counter. And we would be utterly daft (though there are many of us who are) to believe everything uttered from the mouths of government officials! A year after the Iraq war, the NY times were honest enough to admit and apologise for some of its coverage on the build-up to the invasion, which included lack of its usual scrutiny of information and using of questionable and disputed information. Today, there are many reporters who in retrospect will concede that they were let down by their sources. A recent essay in the New Internationalist noted a 2010 study into the British media’s coverage of the Iraq War, found that ‘both television and press gave substantial reinforcement to the two main official justifications for war’ and ‘relied heavily on coalition sources’.

I am sure this pattern has been, and continues to be, repeated. And as we hear talks and rumours of war it would seem that some of the lessons from the recent past have been forgotten. It is true that the first casualty in the time leading up to war and during war remains “truth”!

A recent exhibition at the British Library titled Propaganda: Power and Persuasion (May 17 – September 17) captured a historical overview of some of the positive and destructive ways that Propaganda has been used over the centuries by the State to combat disease, fight wars, build unity and create division. Often difficult to identify it ranges from the monumental to the sincere, deceptive, shocking or amusing. And its users will range from governments to national institutions (including Churches!) Some of the basic techniques used over the centuries, include: appropriate symbols to establish authority; exploiting existing beliefs (playing on class, cultural, religious and national stereotypes); appealing to patriotism (playing up nationalist sentiments), creating fear (which plays on existing anxieties and prejudices), employing humour, implying that everyone agrees (appealing to the average person), disguising the source (giving the impression that the information comes from an independent source), hammering a message home (decide on a  message and bombarding people with it), making false connections (using uncontested statements and linking it with something more controversial),  being selective about the truth (where facts and testimony that favour the dominant group are heard), and giving agency to a leadership cult (where personal fate and that of the nation is bound up with the leader).

Mindful that there are positive roles that propaganda may serve in educating and raising awareness, and at the same time how it can be misused, we are challenged to find much more sophisticated ways to counter its misuse. Ecclesial communities are ideally located to partner with all justice oriented organisations in order to help “spin” the much needed alternative/counter story lines as we question what comes to us as “truth”. This will, however, mean that we need to hold a mirror before our own methods of sharing the faith and our life together, lest we be guilty of some of the very things we seek to expose!

salaries – a moral matter


This turning out to be a very ‘hot’ summer! Heat, however, is taking on a different dimension in the recent DSCF1745newspaper disclosure on the salaries of the CEO’s of some of our well-known Charities. The disclosure is generating much conversations, numerous columns in newsprint, scrutiny and debate, which in itself is not a bad thing, providing we do not return to “business as usual”. In response, the Charities are scuttling to do their own PR work to manage the fallout and holding on to their donors, lest they lose them in what is an already downward trend in giving.

Among the responses of the Charities, we find some fascinating descriptors being employed to justify their work and the need to pay CEO’s mind-boggling amounts. Some of the  phrases include: “commitment to transparency and accountability”, “a fair reward for a job that involves long hours, large amounts of time away from family and overseeing a large and complex organisation”; “real leadership” “knowledge”, “skill” and “talent” need to be paid for to get the best person etc.

Lost in the conversation is a sense of commitment to vocation and the common good. In fact, I felt as if ‘the common good’ – that is, where private interest is subordinated to the common wellbeing of all, seems like some outdated notion. Any distinction between running a profit making venture or business and operating an organisation aimed at improving the lives and well-being of marginalised people were blurred and seems lost. This becomes even more scandalous for those Charities working from a Christian ethos. For many, especially those already cynical about faith institutions, these Charities seem to have lost sight of Jesus’ teachings, especially his “sermon on the mount”.

The argument that “top pay” leads to better management and a successful organisation remains unconvincing especially since the evidence (from most sectors) seems to suggest otherwise: leadership disrepute and compromised morality. The (il)logic of the high pay argument is precisely what our financial institutions use to justify their large pay-outs, leaving us with screwed up economies and a cesspool of corrupted practices.  This is besides the fact that it is not impossible for Charities to find graduates and unemployed professionals with charitable souls who can do the task just as well, for less pay and with greater commitment.

The more urgent and vexing question, however, is how much should one earn to do such a job and to live comfortably on? The amount that people are paid is a moral matter and needs to be discussed openly. This is especially the case given the disparities and the fact that so many people are unemployed! Perhaps, it is a good idea for Charities to learn from each other – especially those that employ the principle of mooring executive pay to an agreed multiple of the organisation’s minimum or average salary. If Charities can do this then they may have a moral platform on which to engage the banking institutions, corporations and politicians (among others) on issues such as exorbitant salaries, and other related practices.

The Zombie Factor


I am no Luddite. I love my gadgets, though I want to believe that I am not enslaved to any. Others, like my family, may think otherwise. Of recent I have been irritated with the numerous people wearing headphones and always glued to some screen, be ??????????it ipads, iphones (among other gadgets), and laptops. The image that springs to mind is “zombie”. Even more irritating is the fact that I have to be extra vigilant as to where I walk, as I have last count of the number of occasions that these zombie-like people would just walk into me, even continuing their texting or speaking, in spite of the collision or near miss, without a word of apology.

Zombification of our lives goes well beyond the controlling powers of our gadgets and our inability to be off-line and out of contact for a few hours. Zombifying can come in subtle and overt forms and may include the glorification of misnamed “reality” TV shows, of addiction, of propaganda-filled education, and of course the mind-hooking programming of the media and advertisement, which our children and youth view and use for numerous hours per day. Zombification is there crawling into our political processes – from the budget to immigration policies to the rationalising of “cuts”. The classroom is not exempted from the reach of zombification. Teachers are constantly frustrated with a general sense of apathy and passivity in the classroom and among students. And here we are being led back to an “only exams” (for secondary schools) system, rather than more creative forms of assessment and pedagogical instruction.

Crass consumerism and the lure or uncontrollable urge to “shop till we drop” reach beyond the limitations of death. Our entire financial system is being zombified, with an increase in “functional stupidity” by so-called intelligent people, as foolish and dangerous practices are saved and sanctified by bailouts. With every zombie blow-up or revelation there is the necessity for more ways to save broken industries, broken institutions, and a broken system – effectively more moral hazard and zombification. And, what of our religious institutions (Churches) wrapped up in decline narratives, scarcity stories, conserving the faith, and closing down conversations on dissenting by re-inscribing “right” doctrines?

The zombification of the population serves the interest of politicians, advertising agencies and all those of the elite class who desire a population that can be easily managed. It does seem that Britain will have a long wait for its own revolution to be born. Ironically, the small and varying groups that are currently dissenting, protesting and daring to sing “a different tune” are often labelled anarchists. Yet, the place of the Church must be on the side of those labelled “anarchists” – after all, we are a strange and counter-cultural lot walking the way of the One who was nailed to a cross for being different and taking on the zombification of lives, by offering full and flourishing life for all!

Occupy Time


no entry here

this is my occupy moment

i may not look intimidating

beneath my charm lies…

Picture1  do not dare cross this line!

i am parked right here

rolling my eyes over your every move

sniffing out your every thought

it is your interest i have in mind

YOU look tired and spent

to be entering this space

you have turned into office and bed

forget that meeting, article to write

and papers to mark

Jesus did have a day off you know!

besides you can take me for a walk

around the ressa (reservoir)

i love chasing my squirrel friends

smelling stale pee and fresh air

and watch you pick up my crap

besides, you can do well

delighting in the scenery

and my rhythmic rolling backside…

Functional Stupidity & Fools for Christ


I suspect that given our politically correct world, we dare not call anyone “stupid” in front of their face or in conversations that may become Sitting Lightlypublic information. We may, however, often in the privacy of our homes or perhaps among very trusted friends, wonder out aloud about the stupidity of people based on the most daft of things they do that may ruin their careers, traumatise friends and families, leave loads of people hurt and penniless. Who are the stupid people among us? We can, of course, take our pick from a range of possible candidates. I wonder, though, how many of us would have thought that people with very high IQ would be high on that list!

A recent issue of The New Scientist (Sally Adee, March 30, 2013, 30-33), carried an article titled: “Stupidity: why are humans so varied about their mental abilities? Her article did two things for me: confirmed what I vaguely thought for some time and it made me think differently about stupidity! It does not take much to agree that “stupidity is too important and interesting to ignore”, especially since the “science of stupidity is producing results that challenge” concepts of intelligence. It certainly ought to be “humbling for many of the smart people who run the world, our organisations and country!

While it may not come as a surprise to many, the article reveals that “a tendency for entertaining rash, foolish or illogical ideas is not necessarily the result of a low IQ.” as people with the highest IQ will make the most stupid mistake. The finding of cognitive scientists (which my deceased grandmother could have told them!!!) is that many of the IQ tests floating around are yet to find a way “to measure intuition and the prejudices of our intuitive mechanisms”. The implication here is that a high IQ is no assurance that we will not be “tripped up by circumstances beyond one’s control” and as a result of our many inbuilt and learned prejudices. An alarming fact is that among the main culprits is a condition termed “emotional distractions”: meaning that because the very skills one is hired for is “turned off” many organisations end up operating in a “functional stupidity” mode.

Now research has also shown that “functional stupidity was a direct contributor to the financial crisis” [33] as logically thinking people had to leave any critique or concerns they had at the door!!! This sounds like some of Church conversations we are having about the future, populated by so-called smart and wise thinkers, but who quickly fall into a “group-think” mode. They leave all their creativity and wisdom at the door!!! But back to the context of banking: the question may be asked: can it be that “banks assumed that intelligent people act logically while at the same time rewarding rash behaviour based on intuition rather than deliberation.” The so-called war and intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan reasonably suggest that our politicians – some privileged top university graduates – can do some really unimaginable things, to the extent that even though the evidence tells another story, they are unable see and acknowledge their stupidity.

And, those of us in the Church (especially at its organisational level) may do well to remember the words of Flaubert: “human stupidity is boundless”, as we mind the tendency towards “functional stupidity” while also cognisant of operating as “functional atheists”. We may be “fools for Christ’s sake”, but this is not a licence to leave our “brains” at home or sit on it!

Let praise flow….


in the open sanctuary of God’s world

let praise flow out.

Praise Posture
stretch out your all

till you can feel your toes

tingle with joy

muscles relax

from frenzied activities.

 

delight in the sermon of

sunlight and unpredictable winds

‘fluttering’ overgrown grass

creating symphonies of kissing leaves,

sunlight doing dancing magic

through tiny cracks

travelling through the sanctuary

a sacrament of delight and goodness

for all.

 

in the open sanctuary of God’s world

let praise flow out

as inhibitions fade away with distant fences.

 

 

image and words© jagessar

Walking on Ice


sunrise or sunset?

conference of birds

or diverse gathering?

Picture1

early morning gathering

or is it an evening stroll

on frozen ice

for a refreshing dip

and chill-out time?

 

no quarrelling,

some flapping and fluttering

acrobatic posing

skating on thin ice

just sharing of space

from a safe distance of the ‘stranger’

a congregating of same.

 

is it fear of the ‘other’?

the need for security?

or not daring

to step out of comfort zone?

 

life together in a diverse community

is like

walking on ice…as the sun rises…

 

words and image © copyright March 3, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith like a Spider Web


Acrobaticthe walk of

faith and faithfulness

is like a spider-web

inviting

floating

suspended precariously

fragile

complex

inverted

tentative

full of holes

are we able and can we dare

to rest in such vulnerability and ambiguity?

or is this why we need

ropey metaphors of power, dominance and rigidity

to fix our own fears and insecurities….?

February 17, 2013 © copyright

Irritations and Peaking Human Intelligence


Climbing Through or UpI desire to be always generous. There are times, however, when I fail terribly. Two recent concerns irritated me so much that I reverted to getting angry, complaining and wished I had done more to change the situation. The first is related to my non-acceptance of very unprofessional and bad services in shops, supermarkets or across counters where my “custom” is being sought and where I ought to be shown due courtesy and care.

Just before Christmas, I ordered an item online for an elderly person. The promised item never arrived on the day it was promised and upon my call I was told that they had problems with sourcing the item, though their webpage clearly stated that it was available and money had already been deducted from my account. Way into January I was still waiting for my refund after about five telephone calls and three emails, not to mention the rude staff persons I spoke with.

If online may seem like a risk, visiting a shop on the high street is no different. I have lost count of the number of times those selling are unable to help, push me out of the way to stack their shelves or get something for someone else and when I do manage to purchase something to plunk into my hands my change and receipts at the same time! I know that Britain is keen to get out of the Euro but before they do so it may be a good investment to get the Europeans to teach them something about quality service and customer care. Or managers of High Street stores should take a walk down one of our busy open markets to re-discover the art of selling, conversation and charming the customer or at least to remember that the “customer is king or queen”. For many this may seem like an old fashioned idea. Or perhaps this may be why many prefer to shop online, hoping it works well!!! In any case, I have now developed the oversensitive idea of graciously walking out of a shop or a conversation if basic courtesy is not extended to me or if the service is terrible.

Then there is the small matter of the roads where I live and in my driving around. I thought Guyana had the prize for the most potholes per square mile. But I think Britain has certainly edged out most developing countries with potholes large enough to do salmon farming or bury the living. And no one seems to be protesting about anything. I am certainly learning to get worked up by this nonsense of the English “stiff upper lip”. Such long suffering has passed biblical proportions and I am now coming to grips as to why there may be no proper Protestants in this country!

Then there are the wider conversations around that feed my irritations. I can think of the use of imageries such as “fiscal cliff”, “strivers and skivers”, and the view about considering the more urgent deficit in the land, that of empathy. It may be that the January 2013 issue of The New Scientist is on to something in reporting that how a well-known professor’s research suggests that human intelligence peaked 2000 years ago and has been on a downward slope ever since. The reason for the loss of our brain power may be because we are no longer able to use our wits as our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. Now, you would understand if I suggest that this seems a plausible deduction given my shopping experience and some of the nonsense we see parading as television programmes of substance.

It may not be the whole story, however, as the same magazine highlighted some of potential technological breakthrough in 2013. There is the immersive virtual reality where a programme or game will soon be able to sense one’s emotions/feelings. And how about gesture controlled mobile phones (so be very careful how you gesticulate your fingers!). And for all my eco-warrior friends imagine buildings that will soon harness electricity from the sun. But the one that got my attention is the new mathematical formula (too long and fancy to put here) that will help us to predict and pre-empt massive crises. I am trying to get my son who is into deep and higher mathematics to help me in predicting the timings of some of the upcoming crises in the Church. He is kind enough to work out by when I should start looking for a next job. Luckily it will be at the same time that the experts are able to predict when the next financial meltdown should be – in 2024. I am already looking forward to my pension, whatever is left of it and doing what I really should have done years ago – working/tilling the land!

© january 31, 2013

Shoots of Hope


Thawing Outfloating,

elusive and frost like

fresh,

not treaded upon

green shoots

protruding vibrantly

and expectantly

not wilted

nor bent over

a sign perhaps?

for much of faith

and God talk

remain stuck in a  frozen state,

alien, distant and cold to many

attitudes and mindsets

that are preconceived and internalised

need to thaw out

to release shoots of hope

to sprout newness….

jagessar© january 5, 2012  [words and image]

(Sub)vertising and Hopes


I am learning to be idle. It is hard going. One of the habits in my idling moments is that of gazing aimlessly at advertisements to draw me out of “thinking-mode”. Dangerous habit though. The “idling” seems to only last briefly as my “head” starts to feverishly work at Late Afternoon - France 2010subverting some of these well thought Ads geared at us gullible consumers. Here are just a few (in italics) of what I have collected minus the product being advertised or the picture/design that accompanied it.

  • We are from different sides of the track” reminds me of much of our polarised discourse in church and politics. If only we can understand that a train or locomotive needs both sides of the track lines to ensure some form of movement or that the view from either side will only be partial. None can claim to have a whole view of the train and its passengers!
  • Measured in depth, not in volume” may be a spot-on beer ad, yet it can serve as a sort of a parable to bear in mind when we indulge in conversations. What matters in these and other forms of conversations is not the volume of our “voice production” (though we tend to listen to those loudest) but the depth of our measured, considered and passionate arguments. We quickly sense honesty, integrity and commitment in arguments that are deep and open to movement of all parties.
  • What does celebrity culture teaches us? The only way is excess.” This may certainly be the case as popular media may wish us to think and believe. It is the creation of a “dream culture of life as a celebrity” that has got many of us hooked to strange ways of behaving, believing and belonging. It spins off in most relational aspects of our life, hence the many disappointments people have to cope with. If only the excess can become a habit of generosity so that others may simply live and delight in living!
  • Strong, Black & Talented”: I cannot recall every reading or hearing such affirmative combinations associated with the word “Black” in any of our media. I have lost count of the number of times I have spoken back to newsreaders and television programmes negative association with word “black” – not to mention the ways in which Black people are largely often represented. And do not get me going on the pejorative use of “Black and Darkness” in the liturgies and hymns of the Church. Mind you, the above positive use is related to an Ad on coffee and not the people who grow the beans!
  • I suspect that after the festive season of eating and drinking the Ad “Give us your Body for a Week: And we will give you back your mind” may be more than appealing. This body holiday may not be a bad idea, but I suspect that with all the bills to pay (including this one to get “your mind back”) look more like an illusion than a delightful experience. The Ad, however, underscores the importance rest for both body and mind. We are not machines or robots!

And if you are stuck for 2013 resolutions how about considering the following Ads as offering some pointers with your own subversive take:  “Get More Control by Controlling Less”, “follow your heart, not the crowd” and “Love does not make the world go around….it makes living worthwhile”. And be warned about any invitation to consider “thinking about a money makeover” in 2013, “buy two and get the third free” or “buy now and pay later”! Quick responding is necessary: “Just take a deep breath and count to five” and then “make a resolution,[to] make a difference.” And remember that Ad: Doctor, the patient will now see you”!

Waiting for What? Advent thoughts with a Difference


Let me begin on the in-car-nate level.  Like most I too am waiting. Unlike most, I am waiting for: nothing, anything, something, Reflecting Fireeverything – all at the same time. Most of the advent language and imagery terrify me. I cringe and cower at the overuse and abuse of light and darkness – a reminder of the dark tribes and the heathens, from that place of total darkness in need of that Shining Bright Light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Those who live in darkness and embody darkness need light! Not to mention the fact that me and the darker tribes’ shade have always been a problem and the fact of how easily people of a lighter-hue are privileged over those of a heavier one. Not to mention those laden with long black beards. My terror is compounded by the ritual humiliation that many have to face day in and day out – overtly and subtly – reinforced by the very use of that kind of language and its internalisation in the psyche of the dominant and the dominated.

This is not all, of course: the imagery of the season from readings, liturgies and lyrics of those “holy than other hymns” that dropped out of the mouth of God ring in and cast and recast in concrete the notion of Empire: Lord of Might; Thrones shall rest; King of Kings – Make Way, Make Way; He who Shall by Right all the Nations Possess; Everlasting Seat; The Race that long in darkness  pined have seen a Glorious Light; His power increasing shall Spread; Him shall all the Tribes of Earth Obey; The Lord Makes Bare his Arms Through all the Earth Abroad. This was the wine of intoxication that Western Christianity drunk (continue to drink) and then reasoned a God-given right to shackle and lockdown black non-human beings. Scripture, theology, liturgy, lyrics, Empire and Kingdom got on board the holy boat of Christianity. So when the Empire’s priests landed on virgin soil, they fell on their knees, gave thanks to God, ask the natives for their gold and then fell upon them with the might of swords and guns. Today priests of the empire drop freedom leaflets and hand-outs for the natives, then bomb the living daylights out of them. I wonder: has the heart of God become sluggish? Stir up the power of your Love, O God and Come. Come Lover of the dead corners of the earth and the forgotten wretched of the earth!

Is there anybody is the many holy huddles really expecting Jesus to return? Do we think that the Church really wants Jesus to return? How many of us would like to take a “lie detector test on that one? To give up all the power, comfort and security and be no more? I may just manage that lie detector test – but for a totally different spin. Believe it or not – I, Anancy, am waiting for Jesus to return. I have too many troubling questions for Jesus. They are lying like splinters at the tip of my tongue ready to be rolled off. I will start with the simple ones.

How come a people of faith who adore and lavish the “child” of Christmas: with praise of love, joy and hope and canticles of “Unto us a Child is born”; Peace Bearer, Counsellor; O Holy Child; He smiles within his cradle – A babe with face so bright; Infant holy, Infant lowly…. has down the ages, exploited, abused and excluded children from most the life of their community – relegating them to the margins? Look Jesus, we so exploit our children that we need “Child Protection” policies to protect our children from our selves. Why have we missed your insight: Unless you become like a child you cannot enter….What is really your point? Should children become like adults to enter your garden? Or should adults become children – grow down (decrease) emulate the way of the child to stand a leaf of hope for a place in your garden? Is your garden /world one where children are the measure rather than measuring up to adults?

You see Jesus – there is a bigger issue here for me and my tribe(s). When all the nice people  who got taken by “your light” came to my part of the world, for our land, under the guise of bringing that light to us [even though we have a lot of lights over there] – they suddenly realised that actually we were/are “religious” people. Some even got interested and taken by our religiosity – but that superior mind-set prevailed in a kind of paternalism that saw us as under-developed children: childish and emotional and they and their ways as the superior intellectual, cultured, macho and reasoned adults. Did they internalise Herod – that one who was afraid of the Child? How locked? How dull? How unimaginative? How adult? – are our liturgies, texts, homilies, lives? Is this why we miss the music in the wilderness? O God please raise up children from these stones?

This brings me to the question of identity – especially yours. Who are you Jesus? Your genealogy is quite impressive. In fact, it counters the ridiculous notion of a “purist” identity: Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and God knows where. So much for the fossilized and shackling ideology of “essentialized identity”. The scandal of particularity sounds very much like hyphenated identities. Are you a hybrid Jesus? Is that why you were very comfortable in traversing and transgressing the worlds of nationality, gender, sexuality, race, and class? Is that why the purists nailed you to the tree? In Christ there is male and female, slave and free, Gentile and Jew, black and white, north and south, east and west – all at the same time!

I am Anancy, the web weaver, a cosmopolitan – an artist at work. I love creative disorder. I am WAIT-ing.  I am waiting for: no-thing, any-thing, some-thing, every-thing – all at the same time. There is a THING here. Like those learned visitors who sought to worship the Child – I may be off course by 9 miles. You see – as struggling negotiator of the state of in-between-ness, I have a very faint glimpse of what it means to straddle a paradox: that moving line between the already and the not yet; between hope and the temptation to despair.

For more, read: Christian Worship: A Postcolonial Perspective (2011)

copyright © jagessar Nov 31, 2012

transgressing…..


even a frozen shape

carries possibilities of

difference, and hope.

to naked eye

all is not what it seems

yeast or seeds work their miracles

beyond every effort to pin down

that which is elusive.

Spreading

in multiple directions

mirroring

shaping up and pushing its way

crossing and re-crossing boundaries

transgressing

beyond , below and above.

 

jagessar © november 17, 2012

Limits of Syncronised Mindsets


synchronised parade or just chilling out?

Is it a conference of birds?

perhaps a liturgical parade?

……where symmetry and order

attempt to  bring all in line.

Look alike, similar or almost same

but not same.

Can you spot the difference?

the intra diversity?

the ambivalence?

the insecurity?

Whose view do you suppose?

bird’s eye?

pinhole of camera?

or an unknown viewer?

Not to mention the angle!

Synchronised mindsets

point to fear

of the deep and unknown

of what lies beyond

of the Spirit blowing where she wills….

Futile are

our efforts at wishing

to “capture” the Divine

in neat parcels of dogmas and creeds…

there are limits…

©jagessar November 11, 2012

beyond drawing lines….


overlapping and colourful

textured and layered

is it easy to discern where one ends

and the other begins?

what is boundary?

the easy option is

to want to place restrictions on

complex lives and narratives.

there is a message here

not one for insecure humans

boundary is not where we draw lines

it is where interrelatedness continues

and gets even more messier….

© October 21 jagessar

Now I see dimly…


upside down or right side up,

perspective(s) is at the heart of our God-talk

even if we do not claim to  be working with one,

for nothing ever drops out of cloud nine!

 

where is beauty and truth in the viewing?

is it in the intricate weaving of complex lines

textures and colours?

or is it in the interconnectedness of floating,

suspended and displaced existence?

 

finger-pointing gets us nowhere

open hands or unclenched fists

offer bountiful surprises

ripe with generous possibilities.

© jagessar September 22, 2012