Monthly Archives: July 2019

Sparks will fly #30 #reasonable

Making something that was invisible, visible, is the first step in addressing changes that might need to be made. We know this inside out when it comes to equity, inclusion, justice and rights. Once you have heard or seen something it is hard to un-see and un-hear. The cloak of invisibility falls and what is revealed is there for all to see.

The gender data gap has been pre-occupying me of late in the public domain. Invisible Women a new book by Caroline Criado Perez is essential reading if you want to get schooled in the way gender data gaps are impacting on women, some are lethal. Addressing systemic, consistent and invisible bias is all about fixing the system, not fixing women.  This is in the public domain, the structural and functional experience of exclusion. We all know it, we all see it and yet somehow when we don’t fit in we try and fix the person – it has always been at the heart of my social work practice and deeply rooted in my feminist approach to the world.  Why do we have to constantly fit in with what is there … what is there isn’t working for everyone? Surely it is reasonable to expect gender equality, if not equity in data?

I was at a company directors course this week increasing my financial literacy. It was very helpful to get the formulas and learn how to apply them to balance sheets and cash flow data. The educator was an expert in his field and my fellow learners all committed and experienced governors in their various boards. I left uneasy though.  Every example used referenced a man, every time a woman was mentioned there was a slight taint, a couple of times almost derision (one example was the female partner in a couple wanted to spend her dividend on home and holidays not reinvesting in the business), and a question I raised in private about application of a gender lens in decision-making practices was responded to about gender balance on boards – completely missing the point and thereby showing me the person concerned didn’t understand my question. A woman in the conversation knew exactly what I was talking about – bingo – unconscious bias right there, writ large.  I am so curious about how it is second nature for me to apply my gender lens in these situations, but quite often find myself wanting in personal circumstances. It is such an easy default to fall into old patterns and rest in the invisibility. It takes work to keep showing up, to being reasonable when that is not what you want to be; and some days I am just tired of calling out inequity and inequality.

Becoming visible is courageous. To step out of the shadows and into the light and to be able to be seen isn’t for everyone – but what is for everyone, is the right and access to be seen and heard – their truth, their experience, their wisdom. The feminist adage the personal is political comes into its own when visibility arrives.

Showing up day after day is something else.

I am missing phone calls, not returning emails or responding to texts. I am behind in my responsiveness. I am making choices about what I can and can’t contain. I am working on protecting the asset as Greg McKeown talks about in Essentialism . This too is an inside and outside job. I am actually working on protecting my physical assets at the moment, getting my property ready for sale, liberating myself of items and issues that weigh me down, redistributing time, resources and talents to what is important to me right now. This seems totally reasonable to me (although others might find me being unreasonable, having been so used to my reliability).

I have a challenge before me that is like a dog yapping at my feet. I am constantly falling over it and being tripped up. The challenge I have is to untangle myself from the lead of the dog and to decide in doing that whether that will set both me and the dog free? And like the never ending efforts required in feminism to bring visibility it is tiring and even at moments tiresome. You cannot make all things right, not even most things, but there are some things you can make right, and surrender is not something I am willing to do.

The constant see-saw of living with pain in the present and being open to joy in every moment is the way and find ways to squeeze wisdom from the intersection. Being at the intersection of fixing self and system on the see-saw is spark making, trust building and forecasting peace.  In the meantime though there are the ups and downs.  It is perhaps too why the Serenity Prayer is often only quoted as the first line and reasonable happiness is what is being requested as the means to serenity – not profound unbridled happiness – reasonable happiness. The kind of happiness within reason of the hardships and things you cannot change. I am reasonably happy. Many people talk about being in their happy place and I am discovering happy places can be found in me.

Reasonable happiness sounds very stoic to me … just thinking in the tougher times, I would like a few more sparks and sparky moments and perhaps it is OK to desire an occasional flash of unreasonable happiness in the public and private domains.


Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash


Sparks will fly #29 #Lunarlight

The last cage built to keep birds on the property is finally down. It has haunted me of a time past and a practice I didn’t much care for. In its place streams of afternoon light make their way to the dusty ground littered with old straw and husks of seeds long gone. I wanted the structure to be gone and now that it is cleared and the potential of being open, revealed an empty space. Making space for all kinds of things usually means clearing things, tearing down, unscrewing, lifting up planks and finding cockroaches, those contemporary dinosaurs, in hiding. The wind started whipping up its wings as the afternoon wore on. Ruah arrived.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruah of God moved upon the face of the waters.

In the beginning a man acted as if he had dominion over heaven and earth.

Heaven and earth had other ideas and let darkness befell him. When all was lost and he succumbed, as all will one day, to the earth. Life above ground went on. The sun rose. The sun set. The moon rose. The moon set. And all of creation celebrated with twinkles in the sky each night to guide those wandering about in the dark. Then Ruah came and blew everything away, taking the good with the bad, washing away memories and threatening to banish anything that was not nailed down. And nothing was nailed down. In a flurry of whirling bursts and blusters Ruah came to be still. She gently fondled the last of the autumn leaves and coaxed them from their branches. She burst into song, howling and moaning through all the places where her voice could be heard. Ruah wailed to her Sister Moon. Lunar light arrived, to softly fill the sky.

Now with the empty space where a structure of wire, tin, wood and steel once stood Ruah is letting others cast their shadow and plays with the light as night descends. There is a lot of descent and a lot of dissent in these activities. The nest I made for myself is now ready to be left. I have had my time to incubate here and the twigs that have held me in place have done their job. I didn’t know if I would have the courage to leave, and I haven’t left yet, but I am on my way.

Ruah roared overnight and so it seems she too is ready to use her breath and wisdom to blow me away to my next stop. I don’t want to wander too far and I like the simplicity and liberation of not having much. I embrace the life of the pilgrim to travel and be on a journey open to experiences, and striving for that be-attitude. To be fully present, fully human, fully alive. With all the imperfections, fears and joys of the world, this is the human condition. It is complex and some days it is really hard.

Mercifully we can choose to be kind to ourselves and take moments. Although, I wish sometimes they were more days, to come into stillness and rest looking at the horizon of what is to come and just glance behind you to know how far you have come.

My journey is inner and outer. The inner as deep and complex as any trip to the moon. I remember the grainy TV in the 60s classroom which we gathered around to watch history being made with less power than a light bulb. I still am in awe of what each individual person is capable of, if we truly set themselves to do the equal inner work it sure feels like you are travelling those 376,000 plus kilometres of the lunar trek. That’s about 40 days if we did 10,000 steps a day on this pilgrimage. Thinking my walking is like travelling to the moon is one of the ways I could see my pilgrimage and 40 days and 40 nights seems like a wandering, fit for a pilgrim. Maybe this is my moon landing.
I am looking forward to some wanderings soon. To tread paths already trod and to add my footprints to those places too.

Tapping into the power of light, where every spark glows to shine the way forward. Even in the dark, sparks sneakily appear in corners and light up a dark spot, and occasionally a beam hits the horizon to make everything clear.

Sparks will fly #28 #CooberPedy

The dugout walls are encrusted with the imprint of the machine that was used to hewn out the rock. The marks and pocks are layered and in relief. The beautiful mechanical cracked patterns at play, make a cave as a dwelling underground. This is Coober Pedy. A place where rules don’t matter a lot and where everyone can be themselves.

The wide blue sky is a canopy over the whole outback and its fidelity to stay blue is hardly ever interrupted by dark clouds or rain. What is it like to live with blue skies every day and a cave to retreat to at night?

Coober Pedy lessons abound: be yourself. find a place to rest in, look up, look down, dig deep for treasure, precious goods lie hidden, all creatures are companions, let people pass through your life, set boundaries, use signs to ward off trespassers and danger, change takes time, rocks can be moved with effort and force.

Going underground to find your own treasures and self- discovery is definitely like hacking through rock sometimes. Chipping away is often not enough to remove the stubborn blocks. Boring through hard to shift, solidified matter requires industrial strength equipment. I am employing some heavy duty machinery in my inner life of spiritual exercises that are taking me from big blue skies of compassion and mercy to the treacherous tunnels and shafts, in equal measure.

Each boring finds a new room to explore. The equipment being used is letting off sparks and some are providing light in the darkness. Leaving these places to be embraced by the light under the canopy of the blue sky, which is always there for comfort and relief.


Sparks will fly #27 #blindspot

“What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know, doesn’t exist.” DH Lawrence

This was quoted to me during the week as the provenance of the adage “You can’t be it if you can’t see it” and whether or not it is the genesis of this oft quoted phrase in feminism, both are really saying there are blind spots. We miss what we don’t know or understand.

I know looking at a landscape with my colonial eyes I miss many of the stories all around me that a Kaurna person would know. I know that when I am in new situations with new tribes I miss cues and messaging because I am not literate in the place I find myself in. I am grateful to those cultural attachés who help me out in those situations. To give primacy to the local expert is just good manners. I am learning more and more about what I haven’t seen because I didn’t know. Once you get a bit of literacy you realise how little you know! Just as a child first recognises sounds and then letters and phonetics there are a few steps to go through before the sense making can start.

You need perspective, interpretation and analysis to get the sensemaking to form. This takes time. Time to decipher, talk things through, time to test possibilities, time to reflect, time to consider expert and outlier advice. None of us have a mortgage on making sense, but we all do have our own version of what we see and therefore also what we miss and that means we also have our own version of truth and what we know. Blind spots are everywhere. Keeping an open heart and open mind is an invitation that keeps being offered. Just when you think you have opened enough, another invitation to go that step deeper, shade braver, extra thread to add to the weave. With each acceptance of another invitation another layer is removed enabling a new one to emerge. Shedding skin seems to be part of  this snakes and ladders game. I take heart in the knowledge that lotus grow in mud, lights are at the end of tunnels and that the sun does rise every day.

A blind spot physiologically happens when our visual field matches the place where there is a lack of light-detecting cells. This place makes things invisible to us and we don’t know where that spot is unless we move. It is defined and detected in relation to what is visible and the boundaries of visibility. You must move your whole head usually not just your eye to move away from the blind spot. Psychologically and emotionally it is the same. You can not see things from the same position, you need to move, your heart and your mind and position yourself in such a way that you can see differently and think differently. We reinforce our blind spots if we keep looking from the same direction, and don’t move the mirror.  I think it also has something to do with increasing empathy and maybe also getting angry. Dissolving a blind spot can only happening by moving out of the place it exists.

Moving the mirror is bound to cause at least a few sparks to start flying.