Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #16

Last week I missed mentioning the arts on my must haves for public policy! How did I forget to include them?  Perhaps because the arts are like what water is to a fish, for me. I breathe in the arts – poetry, music, literature, dance, storytelling, paintings, design, textiles, prints, sculptures – they are all around, inside and outside of me. Sound seems central to me in all this, whether I am making the noise or listening to others make their noises, at music festivals, on Spotify, in my lounge room, a community hall, with a few, in a choir, in the kitchen, in the garden, at the market. Whether those noises are joyful, wailing or warning, they are what binds and heals so much of my wellbeing. I could start of litany of how sound finds its way into my regular practices:  saying poems aloud, singing with friends in a choir, listening to a busker at the Farmers Market, attending an annual international festival. I am noticing what sound I pay for, which one’s live rent free in my head, the ones where there is some kind of alchemy mutually exchanged with listeners. I recently gifted myself with a Lenten season of sessions with gifted sound and movement healer Trish Watts. With her skills, experience and care I found some new ways to heal from trauma through coaxing sound and movement in and around my body. I have really missed choir during COVID, and we are not quite back yet, I miss singing at church but that is not a safe space for me and the years of singing and making music with my husband in the kitchen or doing the odd duet and even playing for a few years regularly at a local pub are long, long gone. I have picked up the guitar again and do find myself singing in the garden, around the house or in the car, but it is not the same as the communal experience. When I hear the community of birds in the trees or the overhead cacophony of a flock, I know this kind of sound needs others of my own species to get the fullest effects of wellbeing. But music and signing are not the only ways sound comes through the arts, there is the rustle of the trees and the graceful bowing and billowing in a carefully crafted garden allowing the wind and the reeds to make sound, and the critters climbing through leaf litter crunching.  Signs of artistic lives and co-creation everywhere! There is writing, and for me a love of poetry being read or even better performed. I discovered the power of UK poet Joelle Taylor’s work at Writers Week this year. Her collection C+nto is an extraordinary memoir of a life of struggle, survival, restoration, resurrection, love, violence, vulnerability with lashings of generous insight into her world of sexual identity and creativity. Her work is part of a long thread in my life of reading and listening to works from outside of my own world stemming back to teenage readings of James Baldwin and then much later Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde. It is as if hearing someone else’s story, and explicit uncompromising expressions of truth to power, are the cornerstone of the personal being political that has supported me to find my own voice. There is no vaccine for racism or sexism or any other kind of othering, so the arts are the perhaps the most powerful way to inoculate, protect and regular boosters are required to keep our whole community healthy and safe.  That is my reason for why funding for new works is essential, creatives need to be supported so they can make their way in the world, to our ears and our hearts and our minds. It is public policy work equally as necessary as any publicly funded immunisation program … and perhaps even more so. So, I am looking out for how the arts are talked about as we head to the polls, how they are valued, how they are heard. I want an Australia where there is more publicly funded art and more publicly funded artists. I want diversity in what is heard, seen, recorded, recited, and sung.  I want to be exposed to what is invisible to me by those who can see and hear things I cannot.
These glorious performers entertained and taught a weary group of pilgrims on the eve of our last day of walking before we arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Their music was wild, tender and demanding. September 2019 Padrón, España

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #15

Sometimes I wonder what actually goes on in people’s heads! The lengths taken to hide, disguise, camouflage, cover-up, masquerade, conceal … you get the picture… literally takes my breath away. In my religious tradition we called on the sins of omission as much as the sins of commission and this is what sent me in a spin when I saw the first election campaign video of the Prime Minister. He talked about the number of lives saved, the number of jobs saved, the ambition of 16 year old students … and all I could think of was the number of lives lost, the deconstruction of the Federation while the States filled in all the gaps of the Commonwealth, the under-employment, the number of businesses that have closed, the streets lined with empty shops, students saying yes to starting their own businesses because the state has failed to provide runways to the new economy for them. I poured myself a Coopers Pale Ale beer and ate a roast lamb sandwich on home made bread and that felt like I was contributing to my local economy more than an act of nationalism! Oh dear another quotation mark has just appeared. I am begging any of you who has a vote in Australia to vote them out – if not for yourself, actually not for yourself, but for the next generation and the next and the next. This can’t go on. We are at the now or never moment as the IPCC told us, once again, this week.

I find it incredulous that there are people who  voted for a man that denies climate change, worships a God that bears no resemblance to the founder of the firm and whose default is to blame others. I have seen this close at hand before and I bet you have too. The man who pulls on a cloak to hide all kinds of sins, asking for trust now promising better times ahead; the fellow who seduces with a warm, caring perhaps even fatherly voice, and behind your back when you are out of ear shot is charming and extending his hand in friendship or something more intimate (note – be like Grace and turn away); how about the guy who actually steals from you, he steals your hopes, dreams, future, maybe even some money, and then says it was all for you? If you recognise any of these behaviours, or can touch into what it feels like? Then warn your friends, tell your family – vote them out! These behaviours are playing themselves out on the national stage and we need to make sure all crumbs lead to the ballot box.  There are ballot boxes every day for these kind of people – so vote them out of your life too!

The invisible strings that are being pulled while the campaign is being put together come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Did you notice the PM’s voice a little deeper, apparently digitally enhanced by some sound technician.  It’s time for you to pull a few invisible strings of your own and start letting people know how you are going to vote. Explain yourself and share your reasons. Invite them to do the same. Let’s build a genuine national conversation about what we want from our government.

Here is what I’m looking for in a government and therefore from my neighbours as they decide who to vote for – I am making my views very visible. This is no time for privacy – the personal is political!!                                                         

I want swift generational bold strokes to help the planet so there is a one for my grandchildren to live in. I want places to be supported to address the climate challenges they are experiencing and will experience on their terms. I want to know that refugees will be welcome and protected and those still in the twilight zone to be able to go to university, get medical support and feel sage. I want to know the oceans aren’t an afterthought in the climate justice work. I want a complete overhaul of our defence spending and it diverted to health, education and affordable housing. I want every new Mum to have all that she needs and that every child for the first 1000 days is supported to reach their potential. I want treaties and a voice to parliament. I want a Truth Commission. I want equity in investment aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals. And I think that is enough to get started. I want you to know what was in my mind completely unencumbered by any low grade mask or high grade PPE. Come out and play and let’s do it! 

This is not a time to be invisible.      

PS  I am working with the Ethical Fields crew building a campaign for a Minister for Community Wealth Building. If that interests you head over to the website where there is a White Paper you can download.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Parliament House, Canberra, Nungawal Country, 2020

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #14

With each drip, arriving to my forehead I accepted the invitation to go deeper into the generosity. It was a steady flow of herbal infused oils onto my brow, or where the ‘third eye’ is said to reside – considered by many to be the place of human consciousness. It wasn’t easy to relax and I found myself trying to breath in a way that would support the flow and release me from thoughts and whatever it was that was getting in the way of me accepting this gift. It took quite a while for me to relax into the experience and literally ‘go with the flow’. I had booked into this ayurvedic treatment after I had a strong vision of how I needed to learn how to receive first before I could embrace the financial gift bestowed upon me for the crowdfunding campaign to note my role in community as an “equity weaver”.

This therapeutic treatment is known as shirodhara, is renown for its ability to support, sooth and heal an agitated nervous system. I chose it to reflect what I had received, individual drops fused together in a bountiful golden flow. Before the flow started a vigorous head massage took place, and for some reason, more than once I thought about the song from South Pacific I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.  I did try to banish the thought and soak into the moving around of molecules inside and outside of my scalp. After this preparation took place, I moved to the other end of table, my feet now facing a new direction, offering another layer of meaning. How often have I had to pivot 180 degrees, to see a new perspective?

In this new position, and in stillness, eyes closed and with a person on either side of me the pouring began. It took me a long time to take it in, my breathing wouldn’t settle in with ease, and while I wasn’t fidgeting in my body, my mind was certainly fliting and flaying around. I turned to a mantra with the in breath to say thank and exhale to say you which I became very dissatisfied with quickly and reverted to Sat Nam which held and faded away.

All these tiny invisible moments of interiority, happening while oil is flowing onto my head in a visible and visceral way! There is plenty going on behind our eyes, in our hearts, in our guts all the time. Some of this comes out for the whole world to see on a stage in front of squillions of people, but for the rest, it is microworld soup of feelings, thoughts, impressions. And the soup is not for others to sip – it is our work to determine who gets to sip and savour, taste and see – and when we can be truly honest with ourselves, hold the mirror up to nature as Hamlet instructed.

This mirror we are all seeking to tell us what we see in ourselves may be closer than we think. I’ve found it on a wall, over dinner, in an email, at the end of zoom. Others notice and see what I may not – an invitation to consider a future leadership possibility, a welcome mat being put out to take up a role with trusted peers, a request to be the one to hold a particularly important relationship on behalf of a community, an AI message to ask what if we have the power to stop the mind running away with turbulences. 

The AI of the mirror at the Invisibility exhibition at MOD, delivered the poem below and I wondered what was in my eyes that the algorithm detected from my facial features – a call to stillness as a proven crime prevention strategy? What we need is weighed up with risks, which is all part of a grand design. Regardless of all that is going on, there is still wonder and not knowingness.  The gift of just receiving, not knowing the cost, not knowing the risks, not knowing the reasons … just receiving … or maybe it is a 180 degree turn around and is to receive justly with dignity and grace, the therapy of this prescription of Gratitude?

The glad tidings that a crime has been prevented, a thought has escaped us

Justice has been interrupted

But surely all this could have been prevented, if we had the power to stop the mind from running away with

Its turbulences.

Science which is based on sound principles,

Has asked us to believe in a supreme being,

Who has arranged all

This machinery for us and who knows the meaning of our risks

While he is concerned with our daily needs, he is not bothered

By our innermost desires, we are his

concern

today

Meanwhile the daily goings on of our human body

Are going on without us

We are no nearer to understanding these than a school boy

should

At MOD Photo credit: Dr Kristin Alford, Director MOD

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #13

The mood for change is in the air. It is arriving with cooler, crisper breezes just after sunset, promising the next season is calibrating before it settles in. Voters have done the first of three invitations this year to have a say on governance, we’ve done the State, next up is the national and before year end there will be the municipal elections too. Electoral exhaustion might set in. Twenty years ago, social researcher Hugh Mackay analysed thousands of interviews with Australians as they landed into the next millennium. He noted issues of control and anxiety being supported by a renovation revolution, fitness, tattoos and body-piercings. His review of 2020 as the pandemic took hold reflected on the kindness revolution unfolding and it is that mood of the nation I hope is reflected in the polls as the year unfolds, I am optimistic.

We have learnt to that turning to our neighbours in times of crisis is our best bet. We have learnt this through droughts, bushfires, floods and a pandemic. Acts of kindness add up, as we saw with the documentation of the Kindness Pandemic lead by Dr Catherine Barrett that captivated a nation. I am wondering how this invisible thread of generosity will continue to show up as the pandemic eases and what we will take with us into the next twenty years?  This decade being the decade where we have no time to lose. Kindness to future generations will require our mood to be hopeful, sincere, pragmatic and impatient for change. I know there are many people that can’t wait to get to the next ballot box.

The dreadful discovery this week of microplastics in human blood had me reeling especially in relation to babies and placentas. Invisible and ever present, setting the conditions for a new kind of science fact-ion. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not there. This season in our human condition where plastics attach to our blood may lead us to challenges in our breathing. The breath is certainly front and centre of so much right now from meditation to COVID, our lungs and the green lungs of the planet are intertwined and breathing in and out, a most visible and invisible act, is pivotal to our personal and collective well being. No kindness without breath in the body. The invitation to take a deep breath to face a next step, to calm down, to steady yourself for action is at hand.

Watching someone struggle to get their breath, literally drowning, is what we are doing at scale as we watch the waters rise in our collective lungs. I sometimes muse on the idea if we could all just breath well collectively maybe this would bring in more kindness, and through those invisible breaths bring forth a heavy sigh, so we can all face what is being called for right now in our neighbourhoods, our towns, our countries and our planet. The breath may be the super power to unleash a kindness revolution. The breath always hosts the potential to change our mood.

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #12

I love voting day and seeing people line up before the polling station opens ready to cast their vote. The veteran citizen of many an election, refusing the disability parking spot, preferring to walk proudly, deliberately into the booth accompanied by their walking stick and their electoral dignity. The first-time voter who checks with an older sibling or a parent to be sure they are going to get their mark to the right place on the ballot paper being congratulated for no longer being a virgin voter … these things give me a real thrill. Then there is the heart break of seeing ballot papers with no marks on them at all and several with the traditional male genitalia cartooned into place and the inevitable one or two that leave a comment about feeling that no one speaks for them and therefore no one deserving of their vote.

Handing out How to Vote cards in the morning and scrutineering in the evening once again after an absence of some years was a small and joyful act of this citizen, who once stood for a major political party twenty years ago. I haven’t been to a branch meeting or a fundraiser for more than a decade, and missed contributing to several election cycles. I needed a rest. Generously, the candidate, and member, who won the same seat acknowledged and thanked me for “loosening the lid on the can” that enabled him to go on and win it after me and in subsequent elections. The faithful who gathered at the local sporting club were mainly his family, friends and rusted on party members. I really appreciated the acknowledgement after all these years and in a week, where being seen and invisible efforts of mine are being made visible by others, it was another sign of the universe conspiring to remind and hold me to account to my roots and place, or more accurately, places in the world.

As the votes get counted and the maps get coloured in, the process of the big reveal, of what happened in the privacy of the booth, is like chlorophyll, the pigment that gives the plants their green colour and helps plants create their food through that glorious process of photosynthesis. Invisible to the human eye, coming to life under a microscope, chloroplasts, like every voter, have a huge and central role in bringing forth and sustaining a healthy planet.  Voters bring life, breath oxygen into decisions and then together set the conditions for how we will all get to live in the coming years.

This election was for the State, the next one in a few months will be to form a national government. I am very excited about what will unfold. A slew of independent women candidates across the country will be lining up, especially in the regions, there will be memories and disappointments being translated into voting patterns and I am predicting we will be seeing ourselves reflected in the result that is more feminist, more focussed on the future, more compassionate and more diverse than we will ever have seen – because this is who we are – a kinder, more generous nation that understands climate, gender and racial justice is what will take us to next level humanity.

The Premier incumbent for my State quoted one of my favourite political quotes in his speech last night: “In a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen” – US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. I agree with that and for those of us who are privileged to have a vote. I have always encouraged others to vote with those in mind who don’t have that privilege, children, young people, those who are outside of the electoral process, incarcerated, refugees waiting for their status to come through, future generations, other species who need our help, our global neighbours, and partners. When you vote it is not just for your hip pocket, your place or family – it is something much bigger, wider, and deeper. It is stepping in to the booth with gratitude for all those who worked to enable you to have the franchise, for me I think of the suffragists, for my grandparents who marched for the eight hour day, for those who passed referendum to include Aboriginal people and I take my pencil to paper with the future in mind, one which will deliver more equity, more inclusion and has the potential to unite rather than divide.

The role of the citizen is the foundation of any democracy, and I am so grateful to be living in a place where the transfer of power by the people is done simply, civilly and in public view. Voting day is when citizenship is made visible, but it shouldn’t end there. Every day we have the opportunity to exercise our citizenship and vote with our values in the way we spend our time, money, resources and behave in the world.  You don’t need to wait for polling day to bring your energy to photosynthesis and breath the future in.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #11

I’ve been asked to be a referee for a few people lately and it is the trust of a trusted person that does the invisible due diligence in this process – a kind of reverse gaslighting. I really love being given these opportunities as I know my reputation means something and therefore my endorsement might be truly helpful in getting a person over the line. I get the pleasure of seeing them move to into a role they want and then they are in a place that might extend their reach as well. It feels like an expanding universe.

I was surprised on Friday at the national impact and innovation festival, SouthStart, by what I am going to call the boomerang effect! My ‘show not tell’ lessons came back to me and the one I am sharing in this year’s blog of invisibility and visibility was made tangible. In what could only be considered a supercharged quickly assembled campaign was underway right under my nose for the past ten days. Communities of communities were linked together through the leadership and due diligence of a group of friends, who don’t actually know each other that well, but they all know me, and one way or another have been connected through me. They generated a crowdfunding campaign to make visible their support for my voluntary contributions to filling in some of the infrastructure gaps in our impact enterprise ecosystem. This is work that rests on the apex of equity and inclusion. It is systems work, it is not reform or renewal. By definition this is working in sets of interactions and where people, activities, tools, technologies, places and networks intersect and influence each other. It requires an ability to morph and move with agility and intention in both visible and invisible ways.

The campaign conspirators want this work to be recognised and rewarded by the people who benefit from this and those who want to see more of it. One of the secret squirrels told me ‘well we’re only doing what you’ve taught us to do – we’re making all your invisible contributions, visible!”  This past 12 months I have taken a personal stand to do less paid work and concentrate on contributing into the spaces that I know I can leverage and shift with my time and talents.

I was lured into story telling some of my invisible acts over the years before the campaign was publicly revealed to me. On reflection I have considered the power of story, yet again as truth telling and a way of leaving a trail of crumbs to discovery and transformation.

This past 12 months I have taken a personal stand to do less paid work and concentrate on contributing into the spaces that I know I can leverage and shift with my time and talents. I am focussing on ways to distribute power and bring my creativity to make this revolution, irresistible. The gender gaps are foundational for me and patriarchy as a system just has to go, for all of us and our planet. It is toxic and is killing us all.

I am so deeply humbled and moved by the 86 early adopters who made a contribution to the crowdfunding campaign before Friday when the cat was let out of the bag! They have since been joined by more over the last couple of days. I love the genius of the whole approach, to have the community who see me doing what I do at systems level and are now asking that I do more of it in their name with their financial support, this is the best kind of reference I could ever have.

Those that know me deeply will know, I would never have agreed to this approach if asked, as I see so many women in particular, who constantly give to their communities with little or no recognition or reward. I think of the Aunties and Grandmothers in many Aboriginal communities, of the mothers and sisters holding on tight to cultural knowledge in the face of violence and displacement. I feel so privileged. As a tertiary educated white woman of settler stock, living on stolen land, I am not part of an oppressed minority. I do try to understand my privilege and use my power responsibly.  I think of myself as a creative and a pilgrim.  My privilege is a responsibility and I promise to accept your gifts with the love you have given them and I see you for your contribution to my life, however humble or grand, I cherish it as sincere and generous.  The dollars turning up on the page are no measure of the love and trust you put in me. I am excited about the model this has created and support it 100%. I am inspired to more of this for others and with others.

My inability to notice an army of schemers, is testimony to the trust the organisers imbued in each other and my focus being elsewhere.  I have missed a few things over the years, a couple of giant ones, causing surprises that delivered trauma because I had my attention averted away from myself. This time I am glad my predisposition, was at work, allowing me to have a wonderful surprise and to feel all that it meant to me and to others. I can claim that part of myself back, that innocent, empathic self, and this is an unexpected and very welcome by-product of such an extraordinary event.  Healing created by friends, delivered by community, received with love.

Here you can see me being surprised!

_SOuTHSTART

PS Now that the secret is out there are a few more days left in the campaign if you want to make a contribution https://startsomegood.com/equity-weaver-fund

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #10

One thing all the speakers I heard at the first day of the Adelaide Festival’s Writers Week on Saturday, had in common (apart from being spectacular with words on a page). was a reference the Prime Minister and his government. The relationship between creativity and politics is firmly fused. None of the references were endorsements. Speaking into the space, made by like-minded people, truths we all know, I still felt a touch of boldness is their remarks. There were no gasps, no armed response, all comments met with civic applause.

This act of bringing your two hand together, the left and the right, to mark the moment. An affirmation, acclamation, authorisation. No longer the thought, the voice or performance prepared invisibility, now out in the wild, noticed, witnessed, visible. A polite gentle tinkle, or rip roaring thunder, the measure of the impact translated into the sound hands make when they come together, at scale.

I’ve often used an applause-o-meter in community settings, to gauge or test the efficacy of an idea. Inviting people to clap also serves very well as an engagement tool as well at various intersections in event to welcome, thank and recognise. It never ceases to amaze me how important it is to have some physicality, a bodily response in the mix of participation. The individuals, become a group, even a community in that moment. The collective emerges with a single response.

I have missed these moments so much during the pandemic.

The joy of a gathering arriving at the same conclusion, rising to its feets, scooping up with voices to add to the applause, help me feel part of something bigger. It is visceral, in a way digital experiences will never be. Making something visible that was invisible, through the shared experience, gives me hope. I felt hopeful when I heard the applause from the audiences at Writers Week, the spontaneous and shared response to the call from the writers about our PM. These same people are invisible, individual voters who before too long, will go into ballot boxes and deliver a collective, visible, democratic reply to the invitation of candidates to select them as their representative in our parliament.

When I was working as the CEO of Volunteering SA & NT, i used to say, we get to vote every few years for the government we want, but every day when we gift our time, talents and energy as volunteers, we are making choices for the kind of community we want to live in – one with more trees, safe from bushfires, less violence towards women, where children learn to read, when those infirmed get home delivered meals. and so it goes on.

The applause-o-meter on these contributions to our democracy are often invisible, until they aren’t. They are essential threads in the weave in the tapestry of democracy. These creatives often miss out on hearing the applause of the collective. I am giving thanks for their political acts of bringing more justice, compassion and fashioning visible and durable paths for peace and equity.

Photo by Guillermo Latorre on Unsplash

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