a good friday to you

By George Herbert1593–1633

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
               Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
               From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
               If I lack’d any thing.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
               Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? ah my dear,
               I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
               “Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
               Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
               “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
               So I did sit and eat.
How incredible that love should shine so brightly on so dark a day. When we think of love it’s usually so sunny and carefree – love sweeps us up and chases the clouds away, makes it all better etc. But real love has a cost, and had a cost, which I still cannot fathom.
This poem by George Herbert doesn’t dwell on the events of that dark day, but on the outcome. How is that so many of us take for granted the idea that if God does in fact live up in heaven we should be able to assume that we can have access to him and his help and love, despite never acknowledging his presence except when it suits us. we wouldn’t treat another like this, and wouldn’t expect a warm reception if we did. But we do with God, if we don’t completely reject him altogether.
And here the wonder-full love of God, that Jesus should take the blame. That by placing my trust in him I could come in to God’s house and eat with him… many say this demeans us. The fact that someone so incredible should pour such incredible, costly love onto me begs to differ.
There’s much more I could say about this delightful poem, perhaps another time. Today I want to simply remember such love that calls me, yes even me, to come in and eat, to turn away from my broken past and know him.

I need not deny my guilt and shame to try to live without it… I take it to him, and he has done away with it.

What about you? Does Good Friday mean anything to you?

poetry, art, love

No, it’s true I haven’t written every week on art I’ve seen, nor every fortnight on books I’ve read, nor at all on anything else. We labour, we strive, we kick against the relentless onslaught of time and life and brains empty of ideas. And they kick back. Still we don’t give up.

I have in the past attempted to learn how to write poetry. I even bought a book on the subject, by the wonderful Stephen Fry called The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within.

And what I got through is great, but I never got very far. Writing never seemed like a relaxing pastime but rather like work – not in a  bad way, there’s work that’s enjoyable – but neither in a relaxing way, especially when before you can write a poem you need to go through all these very great and very useful but not at all exciting exercises. I wanted write great poems, not learn how to write them. That’s my great problem with all my artistic endeavours – impatience.

What occurred to me the other day, however, is what a tool I’ve been about all this. You may have thought, dear reader, that if I was so interested in learning  to write poetry I must be a lover of reading poetry. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that, because it makes sense. After all, why would someone want to write poetry if they didn’t enjoy reading great poets? The answer, dear reader, is because they’re a tool.

When I was (not very) younger I scorned poetry even though I loved art, to the surprise of some who knew me. Over time I had softened to realise that I had a particular picture of poetry in mind, a caricature  of twee sentimentality and head-in-the-clouds denial of reality that simply isn’t fair to what good poetry actually is. However despite occasionally stumbling on the odd poem I enjoyed such as this one with which I introduced this blog to the world, I’ve never really been moved to go out and get into some of the well-known poets and see what they have to contribute.

I think it was watching Midnight in Paris a week or so ago that stirred again the fire of this love in me. The film itself was OK but it stoked the embers of my desire for that period (imperfect s it was, of course) and these great writers/painters (I also have a new quest to read Hemmingway. A must). At any rate something clicked a couple of days ago and I went and bought this big compendium of one particular critic’s picks of the best poems in the English language, from a wide range of authors. And though I’ve only read a couple, smokes I’ve been moved.

And there is nothing that could move me to want to learn to use language in this way more than reading the beauty of their words. It surely is the same with art too. It’s when I get to galleries and see what’s possible and what visions people have had and how they sought to bring them to fruition that I’m most moved and long most fervently to engage in this long dormant side of myself again. And yet things get busy and I get lazy on Saturdays and I haven’t gone for so long. And when that happens and I get taken up with the every dayness of life it becomes so hard to motivate myself to create, though I don’t understand why I find it so hard because I know I love it deep down. But I remove it from my life. I assume that I must do it first and then it can be a part of me and I can give myself to love it. I always said, I always knew what many don’t realise about me – that it’s not enough for me to make art (or write poetry, I suppose) as a hobby. It must be my life or nothing. I must immerse myself in it, it must be my passion or else I can’t do it. I can’t dabble on the side. Therefore, having chosen a different path for myself (and without regret) I haven’t known how to keep this in my life. It has felt like pushing a rock up a hill which constantly rolls out of my hands and back down to the valley whenever I get distracted with the great Everything Else. Yet, though it often does take a long time for the creaky cogs of my dotty brain to turn over what should be pretty simple realisations, I now know the way forward. I must immerse myself in it yes, not first as a doer but as a lover.  Love precedes action. And I’ll reclaim my love.

I’ve discovered John Donne, and I’m besotted. I look forward to sharing him with you.

writing out my soul

 

What does it mean to be a writer, and what does it take? I’m only in the very early stages of dabbling in writing, still finding my feet – or finding my voice, I should say. Posts come haphazardly because I don’t yet know how to throw something meaningful and well crafted out with anything like either frequency or regularity. I heard someone say recently that the best kind of writing is talking about the best bits of yourself. It expresses you, but the very best version of you and your voice that you can imagine. If that’s true, what do I want to say to people? And why in my everyday conversation do I not really think about that?

When I think about my art (which is about all I ever do with it these days) I realise that I’m motivated to express something profound about the act, the fact, of living. Of being human. That’s the very reason I started this blog too. In my introverted, reflective nature my art is a fundamental part of my speech. It’s how I seek to connect with others and express myself in a way I struggle with in everyday conversation. I’ve only begun to realise this recently – that I think I’m wired to articulate myself in creative ways and if I’m not doing that people are going to see me as being closed off  from others. Clearly I need to bring it back into my life, including this writing, in a big way. Perhaps that’s why I hold back from investing myself in art – when I invest myself in it and put it on display, I put myself on display. And now that the thought’s occurred to me, I know it’s absolutely foolish. We all long for connection, long to open ourselves up, to know and be known. If we can’t let ourselves be vulnerable, we can’t know love.

And so I write. And hopefully sculpt. I’d be very happy for you to come along for the ride, if you can forgive the bad writing as I figure it out on the fly.

How do you connect with and open yourself up to others? And if you’re a writer, or any kind of artist, what does it mean to you? What motivates you?

life, oh life, ooh liiiifffe oh life, doo doo doodoo

There comes a point where you start to let go.

I mean, when you’re younger you’re gonna change the world. You’re gonna figure this thing called Life out, you think you have figured it out, it fits this neat little schema. You know where you’re headed, you’re gonna take hold of life by the reigns and ride it round. Like Zorro.

But then you don’t.

You wake up one day and you’re 29 and not one of your plans have happened like you thought, and yet here you are and it’s all ok.

You wake up and you’re 29 and realise the nagging little feeling behind you’re heart you couldn’t name actually has a name. It’s the feeling of the days of your life slipping away like, well, like sands through the hourglass. But you’re not in some cheesy melodrama. You’re alive. And every throbbing pulsing thrilling tedious sunny gloomy moment is a little miracle.

Eventually you start to realise that the nagging little feeling behind your heart need not terrify or depress you. Yes, if you need to ride around on life, figure out life, achieve something phenomenal in life, make something of life, then it might. But not if you realise you don’t need to do any of those things with life. You need to live life.

When you were younger you looked forward to that point when your life would really begin. When you graduated. When you left uni and were working. When you got married. Then you suddenly realise that your life began a long time ago and you’re smack bang in the middle of it. Live it.

If death is the end, then what you get or achieve or become in this life becomes everything, since it would literally be everything. If death were the end.

Life isn’t about what you get or achieve. It’s about who you know. It’s about who you love. And at the heart of it all is the One who knows you completely and would be known, who loves you completely and would be loved. The One from whom all true love gets its name and to whom all true love should be offered as worship. It’s not about me. it’s about Him.

‘…if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.’ 1 Corinthians 8.3

love, actually

Just want to throw out a question to you all…interested in your opinion: How do you define love, and how do you know it when you see (or experience) it?