Monthly Archives: March 2016

Dancing with speeches #13 Elizabeth Windsor

Queen Elizabeth II described 1992 as ‘annus horribilis’ and in doing so, gave the world a collective term to gather up a tough year, rather than a series of single incidents. She has continued steadfastly in a role she cannot escape.

While it is a tragedy to have your house burnt down (for Elizabeth it was a castle), there was lots more to come for Elizabeth, deaths in the family, children going astray, public humiliation … the usual costs of living.  When we take the time to collect up our thoughts, and give the time or place a name, we name moment and in doing so create a still.  An invisible marker arrests us.  Maybe it is an anniversary,  a birthday, an occasion – whatever the marker – it hold us and ties us to the time and place.  Being held there we can wallow, re-member, transform and with wisdom and grace, transcend and integrate.

Easter is one of those times. From re-enactments of passover in the family home, to gathering for ecumenical last suppers around cafe tables to finding a church with the barest of remnants of the faithful, that invisible marker holds me still and connects me to the past, present and future.  This rich season of ritual percolates through the most secular of cultures and even the hardest hearts taste something of the season as the moon determines what comes next.

In 325CE the Council of Nicaea declared Easter to be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (March 21).  What always come next is the waning, moving from full moon to new moon, the eternal celestial revolution. For the ancients this is a time for spells that banish, release, reverse. This is a time to break bad habits or bad addictions, to end bad relationships. This is a time of deep intuition and a time for divination. The days (and nights) Easter brings invites us to renewal.  To set aside what is not working and look ahead to what you are being invited into.  To take up a fresh start and set aside the horrible, unpleasant and nasty. Being offered a hand to embrace the new when all the while you want to hold on to that place-marker that invites you to stay delusional and frozen in time.  Knowing when to move on and to be transformed may well take more than the biblical three days the Easter season advises, it may take a year, it may take longer.

Learning the lessons from the moment being held onto so they can travel with you through all the moons to come, requires practice for integration.  Leaving behind what needs to be left behind, taking within what can be absorbed and adapting to the new. Like the moon, forever turning and tidally locked to our planet, we too might be locked into values and beliefs that help keep us steady in the wobbly moments (and years) when things might go horribly wrong.

To wax and to wane

To drift and to drive

To live in the pain

And be fully alive.

(c) Moira Deslandes, Easter Blessing 2016






Dancing with Speeches #12 Tim Winton

2015 Palm Sunday Refugee Rally Tim Winton, one of Australia’s greatest living authors gave a speech that called us to rise up to our best selves and not harden our hearts. With echoes to Jesus in the temple, Winton overturned the stones in our hearts, the profit makers in the temple transacting business in turning back boats and detention.  This speech was printed in its entirety in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Turn back o man, foreswear your foolish ways so the psalmist sings and o what foolish ways there are to be had and will be revealed in the courts in The Hague in years to come, where our hard hearts and false sense of security will be on trial.  Being about to turn around is the metanoia this season calls for – to change our way of life as a result of our penitence, resulting in a complete change of heart.  The work of this time is to be changemakers of the heart, to break the stones and find the vulnerability. With the ego naked, the spirit is laid bare ready to receive the gifts of vulnerability. Vulnerability is state of being open to injury, hurt, betrayal, ashamed, defenceless, knowing all the while that you are still whole despite the pain and disappointment.  How we stand in the space of vulnerability as a nation is a step to be taken as we journey to metanoia – we have so much we need to turn around from and turn towards.

Turning around to face truth is a simple as looking into the mirror as Michael Jackson sang, all change starts with us looking at ourselves.  So I will be taking to the streets, yet again, this Palm Sunday as it is my journey to Easter to turn my attention to Calvary for once you face Jerusalem there is no going back.  The palms are blessed and into the palm of our hands they are placed, to be turned into ashes when the new season of Lent comes around the following year.  I will be working on getting my ego and vulnerability in place to receive the palms with an open heart to face the challenges embedded in the reception waiting for me when metanoia sets in.

Looking East” by Jackson Browne

Standing in the ocean with the sun burning low in the west
Like a fire in the cavernous darkness at the heart of the beast
With my beliefs and possessions, stopped at the frontier in my chest
At the edge of my country, my back to the sea, looking east

Where the search for the truth is conducted with a wink and a nod
And where power and position are equated with the grace of God
These times are famine for the soul while for the senses it’s a feast
From the edge of my country, as far as you see, looking east

Hunger in the midnight, hunger at the stroke of noon
Hunger in the mansion, hunger in the rented room
Hunger on the TV, hunger on the printed page
And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the laughing and the rage
In the absence of light
And the deepening night
Where I wait for the sun
Looking east

How long have I left my mind to the powers that be?
How long will it take to find the higher power moving in me?

Power in the insect
Power in the sea
Power in the snow falling silently
Power in the blossom
Power in the stone
Power in the song being sung alone
Power in the wheat field
Power in the rain
Power in the sunlight and the hurricane
Power in the silence
Power in the flame
Power in the sound of the lover’s name
The power of the sunrise and the power of a prayer released
On the edge of my country, I pray for the ones with the least

Hunger in the midnight, hunger at the stroke of noon
Hunger in the banquet, hunger in the bride and groom
Hunger on the TV, hunger on the printed page
And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the questions of the age
And an absence of light
In the deepening night
Where I wait for the sun
Looking east.



Girl Before Mirror, Pablo Picasso, 1932

Dancing with Speeches #11 David Morrison

Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison’s message about inappropriate behaviour of male army personnel is the book end to Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech in the Australian context. His ‘take no prisoners’ approach to sexism set a new standard in clarity about what it means to be inclusive.

We all have standards that set the tone of what is and isn’t acceptable, and we settle for a range of standards for the same things in different contexts. Take for instance the humble hamburger: a fancy de-constructed gourmet version in an upmarket location attracts different expectations from the one we might eat in a fast food family restaurant in the suburbs.  Morrison made it plain the Army held itself to the highest standard and there was no room for anything less that holding that standard.  So often we settle for less, we make excuses, we compensate for inadequacies, we might even say “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.  This will lead us to betray our standards and in the end, we become the victims of our own inability to hold ourselves to our own standards.  We end up being less than our potential. Whether we are a nation, a military outfit, a community, a family – there are standards infused with our values we can proclaim, hold ourselves to account and practice in a disciplined way.

This week, Tony Windsor, independent political candidate aspirant reconnected with his standards, no longer able to be a passenger on standby, has raised his hand to be considered by the people of New England (NSW) to be once again their representative in the Australian Parliament.  He says he must step up to the plate again and give the voters a choice about the standards he holds for a democracy that will take his community to heart in its decision making.  The week before, elder Patrick Dodson did the same to join the Senate, a place made clear for him with the resignation of a right wing senator opposed to marriage equality. The ‘father of reconciliation’ will bring a spiritual power to the Senate never seen before in the Australian landscape.  A new standard of the land as mother. is eeking its way into our national parliament.  We heard this week from women (and men) members of parliament about who calls themselves a feminist and Dale Spender’s definition got a good run again, courtesy of Senator Penny Wong:

Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety in the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centres, women’s refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist’, I ask, ‘Why? What’s your problem? – Dale Spender

The standards of justice, equity, inclusion, access, participation – are my kind of standards and I often let them slip.  I too make excuses and reluctantly defer to the culture in which they slip. Yet as Morrison pointed out, there is no room to do that, it is ill disciplined to settle for less. We are all responsible for building a culture. We can invoke Drucker’s culture eats strategy for breakfast mantra to help us and to build the inclusive culture in which the standards are in the bedrock, long before that culture gets translated into strategy.  The Army who treats its own with disrespect will surely inflict more atrocities on those they meet in the theatre of war.  So it is too, if we don’t hold ourselves and those around us to the same standards of decent, respectful behaviour, then we will not translate that careless, discipline to those we might work alongside of or serve.

It is easy to let your standards slip, it starts often as an act of compassion or forgiveness even, yet before you know it you are out of step and drowning in the consequences of accumulated slips.  Holding yourself to your own standards requires hearing the reveille each morning as a call to those standards to be upheld.  We need to wake up to ourselves, be roused, hear the bugler call us to get up and be armed with the necessary discipline to face the day where we set standards. We need to hold ourselves accountable to those standards, and if others don’t like that, well, find another friend, another colleague, another partner, another workmate.

Dancing with Speeches #10 Dancing Alone

There is no speech to dance with this week, sometimes you dance alone, moving to sound, through space and oblivious to time. A solitary experience with bodies all around you, in and out of step with the music, counterpoint and counter-cultural, you might find your way or perhaps join with the hum and become another note, another step in the forever dance. The whirling prayer of a Dervish in union with his God, pivoting and channeling divine and human energy into a single cosmic thread uniting heaven and earth seems to make sense to me in times of ferment when everything is swirling around and mixing the energies to achieve ecstasy.

I think the most famous dancing alone moments of my time are depicted in the haunting song They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo) – a song that is a metaphor referring to mourning Chilean women (arpilleristas) who dance the Cueca, the national dance of Chile, holding the photos of their loved ones who have disappeared in the Pinochet regime. Tragedy echoed in every step so eloquently put to music by Sting.

When I dance alone I hold neither the thread to heaven, or the photo of loved one to my breast, I am often in the act of longing. Longing for clarity to find in myself and the movement the moment that will be both moving on and holding still – which is perhaps exactly what both the Dervish and the Chilean mother are doing too?

Longing is a lesson born of desire. Before the desire is manifest, it’s fruit is already sour or bitter, gone bad by the attachment to what might be. Longing is laced with ache. Hanging on will only lead to loss and disappointment, moving on and leaving the longing behind is the only course for compassion and self preservation. Dancing alone becomes real when the dance is for the self and contained in the moment not waiting for another to join or to be visible on a crowded dance floor searching for meaningful “come dance with me” eye contact.

I wasn’t able to dance with the speech of another this week. There was no space to invite another in, or a rhythm I could find to compliment. Dancing alone is not like bowling alone, it is an act of pulling your self together and taking responsibility for those bits of the dance that are for you alone. It is an act of self interest and self expression. It is not for others, although the world might be watching and witnessing what you have to say for yourself. Dancing alone is moving on and holding still.


One of my favourite books from the 70s