Monthly Archives: February 2022

2022: Visibility and Invisibility #9

This week, in a lesson about finance (more an unlearning than learning) one of the presenters Joy Anderson, Criterion Institute, shared a quote familiar to me, from a USA theologian, Walter Brueggemann. I have appreciated his work on prophets, and given my propensity to be future facing, have found his work helpful. My theological stance has tended to be in the vision and dreams space, coupled with my love for science fiction, I find I am usually leaning into possibilities, the what ifs, they why nots, and the what’s getting in the way. More than once I have made accusations, that it is, mostly, a lack of imagination that holds us back, closely followed by fear and people pleasing.  I felt encouraged and affirmed by the Bruggemann reference in a SheEO learning track. I also took it as another sign of integration, more threads of my life weaving new cloth.

The prophet makes something invisible, visible. The calling forth of the possible through insights and wisdom is the job of the prophet. The job description includes speaking truth to power and usually results in being a fringe dweller in their own territory. Their words are considered dangerous by those who are benefiting from the power based the prophet names to disrupt, and heralded as a gift and call to action, for those who hear the words as truth, and the welcome mat to a new dawn.  The words of the prophets may well be written on the “subway walls and tenement halls” but they are not the sounds of silence. They are imaginative possibilities made visible by their words, actions and sounds that invite risk, daring, and danger.  Often a prophet will cause anxiety in those holding institutional power, those power brokers reacting as if the prophet is a loose cannon. They are not. They usually have held consistent and complete unwavering positions on what is just. Think Rosie Batty, Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, Christine Holgate. If you experience bullying tactics, consider the possibility of that being evidence, of your prophetic nature. The bully can come in all shapes and sizes, even from the highest office in the land. The prophet might be you.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience of being asked to quieten, work around someone else’s behaviour, hold your nose and look away? What were you making visible? What were you blowing the whistle on?  If you have taken a stand and for those who have also resigned and walked away – you have enacted a prophetic act.

This is holy and sacred work. It is imaginative, creative work. It is the work that will get us to a just future.  Our radical imagination, even with a shaky voice, maybe your gift to a fantastic future, today. If you can’t see visions, imagine them, and bring what is invisible to others into the clear light of day.  I have some more prophetic moments ahead of me. I am building a runway and confidence, evidence, impactful words and action. Being prophetic comes at a cost. In the past I have lost friends who wanted me to be invisible, or not cause embarrassment. I have also found new friends who found courage to take their own steps into unchartered waters.

I feel like it is time to write a new job description for myself. How about this? I am a minister of imagination, ordained by the Future, to bring forth possibilities, in the company of extraordinary dreamers, seers and prophets. As I’ve said many times, I am not into palliative care, I am more in the midwifery business. I am calling out and calling forth new ways of living justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly (to paraphrase one of my favourite prophets, Micah). And I would add, disarm artistically, with poetry, song and dance.

“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that make it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” Walter Brueggemann

Photo by Benn McGuinness on Unsplash

2022: Visibility and Invisibility #8

No one really knows what goes on in a relationship, except the two people in it and even then sometimes neither of the people involved actually know either. As I made my way into the abyss that a long predicted and marathon entry into widowhood, I unearthed details of the marriage I had been in for almost 40 years that demonstrated I had no idea what was going most of the time. So this year when the date of the wedding came around this week, I decided time for some nourishment for my hippocampus – new pathways and new meanings to memories. My creative solution to this date invisible to most of the people in my life was to take myself on a date. What could dating me look like? I made space for myself to show up by clearing time in my diary for me and being leisurely in finding my way to a location where I wouldn’t be disturbed where I could look out over a river and admire the pre-settlement gums that were shedding their skin ready for the next season. I stretched out on a very comfortable and large bed with extra pillows and a hot chocolate to take an unseasonal chill out of the air. I ordered room service for breakfast. These simple activities felt extravagant and on a date with myself decided that extravagance is exactly what I should expect from self-love.  I didn’t reminisce, I wasn’t nostalgic, I was very present to the here and now, with myself in the moment. I like the idea of going on a date with myself and now having tested it can see the value of doing it more often.

I have learnt a bit about the hippocampus this week (thanks Gill Hicks and Fiona Kerr) and I think something of a puzzle I have been unable to understand is now losing its fogginess.  I have been wondering why some of my memories are unable to be static and just be bundled up with a little bow and stay put in the place they were made. I understand now, that everytime we take out a memory we package it up a little bit differently each time before we put it back, and move it to a long term storage facility in another part of the brain.  This explains to me why some of my memories have been erased or unable to be retrieved in the way they went in. A memory comes from behind its cloak of invisibility when its imprint, latent or fresh, is triggered by some other stimulus. Perhaps it is a smell of the bakery on any High Street, the sound of the rhythmic waves, the siren of an emergency vehicle that opens up memory and transports you through time and space.

On the way home from a sojourn to the city this week, an ambulance came roaring along side of me lights whirring and flashing but no siren. The lights were enough for me to slow and pull over and as I did, the sirens sounded. I was so startled I pulled over to catch my breath. The lights didn’t trigger me, although they warned me to slow and adopt a good driver posture, it was the siren though that put me in a spin. I had an immediate experience of feeling in danger, of being caught, as if about to be arrested – although the mostly likely kind of arrest at that moment was a cardiac arrest. I was stopped in my tracks at great velocity.

The visibility of the lights and the sounds, were a potent example of what happens when something we can see coming, arrives and transforms us, because now we see and, hear, clearly. We are interrupted. We may even be disturbed. We might have to stop, take respite, sit out the next dance, while we gather our energy before stepping back onto the floor.  

I saw the lights before I heard the sirens. I stopped myself in my tracks. I took myself on a date. I highly recommend pulling over in the side lane from time to time to let the ambulance pass and rest awhile before getting back on the road. Here’s to more dates, and reading the signs of the lights without sirens. May I take heed of the sirens, stop and get out of the way of a damaging memory, and let it race away in its own ambulance to a destination of healing, palliation or destruction, in another part of my brain.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

2022: Visibility and Invisibility #7

Love is in the air and it’s the eve of Valentine’s Day – a day to exchange cards, flowers, tokens of affection between lovers. Legend has it that St Valentine was a priest who secretly married Roman soldiers who were forbidden to be married. Invisibility a feature of the Day, with rituals like getting a secret note signed from your Valentine has, and is, a treasure for many a young person before the correspondent is discovered. I have a friend who works in an all-girls school and each year witnesses the arrival of bunches of anonymous roses, separating, in a very public way who are the loved and unloved. There must be many heart aches.

The American sitcom Parks and Recreation introduced the idea of Galentine’s Day (2010) where women celebrate their female friendships. The diversity of ways in which love and friendship can be celebrated will no doubt continue to morph as gender diversity and fluidity transcends the heteronormative and binary ways of understanding gender. So much love has been hidden for many who have found themselves outside the norms of their dominant culture.  

Falling in love brings giddiness, a soaking in joy feeling, anticipation of recognition and reward. When a baby turns their head to the sound of the familiar voice of their mother or the crooning sounds of their father, love is visible.  I am watching a few love affairs unfold around me at the moment and the one that is captivating me the most is the head over heels experience of a six-year-old with his baby brother. I think he might actually explode with joy at any moment. All those happy hormones running around his little body and being mutually exchanged as the new-born starts to find his voice is beautiful to witness.

This is in contrast to noticing a litany of social media posts of unrequited love being matched with self-love messages as a young adult experiences loss and rejection. This relationship, completely dissolved, she is now untangling what it means to be unloved by one and still lovable in the world.

I appreciate that odd word of being noticed, the occasional unexpected gift, the extra hand on a task when under the pump, a hug of gratitude – all different ways of expressing love and friendship.  I am not risking myself to be in any place or position to invite intimate love into my life, although there is plenty  of intimacy in conversations with friends, I have no inclination towards any romantic love.

In reflecting on Valentine’s Day I realise I haven’t been asked out on a date since I was in high school! I was married at 19 and after nearly 40 years of marriage ending with my husband’s death 4 years ago, dating is not something I have any experience. I am loving every day. Loving the people and places around me, finding ways to show my love and practising how to bring more loving kindness to every day situations. I find some days easier than others.

I’ve held the words of Martin Luther King Jr close to my heart for decades: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”  Maybe this Valentine’s Day power and love will partner up and be high octane fuel empowering, unleashing and unlocking what is most needed in these times. Changemaking requires love to come to town (thanks U2 and BB King). I got a taste of that watching two 26 year old women speak their fierce truths to power and lovingly bringing to birth a future that privileges survivor voices. Their Galentine love is visible, noisy, uncompromising and next level. Love is in the air.

Photo by Christopher Beloch on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #6

While the wind is howling and rattling the windows and stumps holding my place to the ground, I am processing some now visible ideas that have formed through a process of inputs, discussion and discernment by aligning values and principles. The collaborative creative process that calls forth innovation is like a run-away ball of wool, darting behind cupboard doors, tripping under floorboards, sneaking in a tucked away nook and then we grab it and can tug on it, pull it into shape and order and start to make something with it. Working like this, to bring the invisible to life, is true creative industry. It is generative, inclusive, expansive. We need to be held in these spaces, so we do not run away with the wool, and loose sight of our purpose and with enough slack and tension, to make something together. It is the collaborative dynamic that is vital. While I appreciate the solo creative, there is another kind of magic that happens and the potential for scale inherent, when a small group of people get together. As the wonderful Margaret Mead said Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. 

This experience happened at Hen House Coop‘s board retreat. Our mission is to disrupt patriarchy to close the gender investment gap. As I drove home, and then arrived, to the wild winds licking the house and the ferment in the air, my mind kept going to Shakespeare’s Macbeth: something wicked this way comes. The witches are conjuring up a revolution is going to be irresistible. I am recalling: Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear We are setting out to make our revolution, irresistible.

What starts as an original idea or an imaginative thought builds momentum in the process and something new and valuable begins to emerge. The emergence is a Herald. And then you know when you have found something unique, a trumpet fanfare can be heard, hearts skip a beat and applause arrives. This is what happened this weekend at the Hen House Co-op board retreat – we flew into a new space and in getting there opened ourselves to a new horizon.  I will share more about this when the time comes, which will be a while as we translate and set the runway for what we are midwifing into the world. Like all babies, it might take nine months, but you will be able to see signs of it growing before it pops out into the world. My baby analogies will be plentiful for a while with two new grandchildren in the past six weeks. Such a blessing!

One of the things about a pregnancy is so much is both visible and invisible at the same time and the incredible instruments of ultrasound and blood tests can tell us so much about what we cannot see. The mother hosts the child until they come into view for all the world to see. Our ideas too, are hosted before they take on their own and leave home. Each newborn reaches its potential every day in trusting care and loving arms. As we learn to love our fledgling idea and trust it to grow in our care and feed it love and the right kind of nutrients to grow, we too will have our own growth milestone to reach. I suspect the trick will be to keep loving it even when it is tired and grumpy, even when we are tired and grumpy, when it is teething and we have not had enough sleep ourselves, when it is stretching and trying out new moves and when are transfixed and just want to look at it with love. While not all the lessons are visible, the natural order of life is always instructive as we make our way to the future.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash