Sunday, 30 October 2011

texting esther

Tricky texts. 07729056452

Es1-2 Meekness is not weakness. .. Problematic passages this morning. What is the beauty of a woman for? You should ask this, why am I beautiful? For it is a form of power, it is a currency, it is a gift, it carries consequences. There is the question equally for men, perhaps given less mileage in Esther, to what end is their strength? .. We have a portrait here of a culture not unlike our own. With any culture we can absorb+assimilate, we can reject+escape, or we can engage+subvert. What do we do with a culture's gendered notions of sexiness and strength? Vs a chauvinist tyrant Xerxes, Mordecai the meek seeks to save the King's life anyways, confident that God will vindicate him. Vs Vashti's aggressive bid for feminism, Esther the meek seeks a culture's favour complying with the powers that be, confident that God will vindicate her. How should we then live? These are uncomfortably non-purist provocations. Meekness is not weakness.

Es3-4 Haman and Mordecai offer pictures of ourselves, our mixed motives, poles of what we could be, could we decide who our God is – ourselves, or the true God? Hamanian hubris begets pride, alienation from the other, isolation, violence. Vs Mordecai the brave, the secure, the humble. The king and Haman sitting down for a drink while the city was thrown into pain and confusion initially reminds of bankers in trendy bars so alienated from the consequences of their actions, the chaos around. But this will not do to blame bankers – it is my actions, my compliance, these consequences. Esther the brave makes a commitment, a covenant: speaking out her intent so that she can be held to account for that which has convicted her, that which she has promised. Let us speak our convictions to each other that we can hold each other to account, then let us fast and pray for each other. I cannot do this alone, I need my community.

Es5-6 For such a time as this, and with such an attention to timing as this. Wait, watch and pray, fast, wait. At one level patience and associated non-violence are true truths, but even this 'god'-less passage won't let us rest there, these are Jew truths 6v13, because of specific revelation we are free to be so bold. If only we would. There was a JP talk in which he advocated Life Course inviting motivated by a basic self-interest, that is evangelism for the sake of survival, because time will come, unless we act, when Christianity will be illegal in this country. Insofar as there is truth in this, Esther is a model of a Godly application of self-interest. Not so much that we-are-going-to-die-anyways, but rather that the good life calls us into such as drama as this. Oh dramatically to live and expect much of God today, this Tuesday.

Es7-8 Of 8 this seems like a strange victory in many ways, it is a victory constrained by the limits of bureaucracy, the well I've signed the forms now sorry, nothing I can do about it – only create a further, reactive legislation that begets war rather than peace. Maybe we should take from Esther's story that victories within the system, on the system's terms, can still be understood & celebrated as victories. But how much better a changed system, a transformed understanding, rules remade rather than elaborated ad infinitum. Jesus, teach us how to engage & subvert. Skipping back to outing oneself as identified with this God, this is powerful. With every new meeting we are coming out of the Christian closet. How we do it is powerful, it will change things. So today, so today's conversations.

Es9-10 If we are to apply this, who are the Jews, who the Hamen? For God is not a tribal deity (if he ever was?) Rm3v29 or even Jn2v4. Who then? Hamans as the world, the flesh, the devil? But yet his kingdom is not of the world Jn18v29 and our battle is not in the flesh Eph6v12. I am mixing my metaphors? Are we our own worst enemy? If in the cause of non-violence we spiritualise/allegorise/internalise Esther to such as extent that we relativise the universe out its very real theses and antitheses then we will lose the foundations for the drama of the good life. I have said nothing to answer who the Hamen and how? .. Legislation used excellently, obligatory feasting, gladness and social justice. There is a relationship between sabbathing's best and a community's submission to a coordinating synchronising authority.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

texting nehemiah

Come text, without money, without price. Our life dialogical is yours if you like. 07729056452.

Ne1-2 More lamenting. This is a way God's heart is known to us. Sometimes there need be no struggle in discerning the right and the good, for the Holy Spirit breaks out in us a lament over brokenness, which should be resource and motivation enough. We cannot be accountable for what we cannot discern, but to fail to respond to God's prompting is to be ugly and small and dead. To seek God only to not see it through is the greatest tragedy perhaps. Nehemiah demonstrates that faithfulness begets faithfulness and is possible. Stop doubting, and believe. God in our proclamations, God in our secrets, God in our sadness, God in our work..

Ne3-4 Of 3, there is a redeeming of work, when it is done so, rather as Cool Hand Luke sanding the road, there is a rhythm to the muscling in alongside, above him and the other and after and then and so. Oh a rush and a push, dear brothers and sisters.. Then, of 4, of that which is true in pantomimes, Sanballat he's behind you.. We live in such a world, where we would do well to see in higher contrast the forces that conspire to 'cause confusion' by force of weapons of mass muddling, by an assault on language itself.. That our yes should be yes is a military imperative. So, with courageous unambiguity, go, be unconfused in this: our God is great and awesome, he is, he is, he is, and our God will fight for us, he will, he will, he will. So build, rebuild, the unbuildable.

Ne5-6 I feel like I'm reading Nehemiah anew. I forget this hero of faith, a model of one who convicts, communes and compassion cares for with those with whom he shares his life and work. Able to speak authoritatively about the wrongness of wrong, and able to model and instigate a better way. This is a way to walk in, the forfeit of our own rights, the cancelling of debts owed to us, the sharing of our food, a happy feasting image. To honour God thus is to take part in saving the world. This a hard road, people tried to kill him y'know. But what a way. Let's let's.

Ne7-8 Should we number ourselves? Being and times-tables.. We should number ourselves, in accountancy-as-worship, for by numbers God makes himself faithfully known by his promise to multiply. .. 'Faithful and God-fearing..' necessary and sufficient to govern a city. .. Celebration. God is this and not that, here and not there, he inspires and enables, event and place, specific and intentional. We, exiles, ought to celebrate, to re-centre our identity in The God who laughs Ps2v4, The God who rests Gn2v2, The God who dresses the lilies Mt6v30. Today reading Gottfried Semper: “ perpetuate commemoratively a festive or religious act.. ..the idea for monumental art was in an analogous manner suggested by similar festive celebrations.. ..improvised scaffolding.. ..special splendour and frills that indicate more precisely the occasion for the festivity.. ..draped with carpets, dressed with bough and flowers.”

Ne9-10 Go through looking at all the divine verbs, summarised by v9 'heard' and v13 'spoke'. This is what I hope to articulate today, the God relationship is intersubjective, dialogical and alive, and this changes everything. Keep us alive and unabstracted in conversation with you, God, in confession, praise, remembrance and promise, responding to your creation, care, covenant, keeping. In thought, word and deed.

Ne11-12 What is a wall? Why do we sing? Where is Jerusalem? Who should we station there? Interesting that the Telegraph reports only one in ten tents at occupylondon is slept in. Perhaps a tangent. But the city is a difficult and dangerous place, with or without a tent, with or without a Georgian terrace. This ceremony of commissioning volunteers to the city for the city is something we could learn. Let us come to the city, a place of intensified brokenness and of centralised conflict and meet it with intensified worship and centralised compassion. Come prophets priests kings, be curbside prophets, street pastors and urban servant kings. Christian hedonist, rejoice with great joy, God is for your joy, moment by moment for your joy. Battle for your joy, study for your joy, protest capitalism for the joy, I adjure you, I enjoin you, live for the joy who is there and is not silent.

Ne13 Such passages about segregation do of course have things to remind us about holiness, and purity of heart, but let us also remember how a Jesus-shaped community transforms all this. This is a shadow of holiness and a shadow of community where these things in their fullness are as Jesus, who transgresses boundaries of native and foreigner. Jesus transforms our honest work and our serious Sabbathing with his words and his way. Jn6v29 Mt11v28

200words: tacita dean

Let the dead bury their dead..” Luke 9:60

So, we're not scaremongering, this is really happening, 16mm film is no longer printed at Deluxe, and so no longer in England. This, apparently, is no mere passing of the cinema baton to younger model mediums, this is a death marked by a Unilever-sponsored season of mourning.

Only living things die.

Film lived. Any of us who have ever stood, like children, spellbound before the flickering light on a screen, delighted, know that it lived in the currency it carried: the holy moment of the creative act conveyed, unabstracted, uncoded, from the cinematographer's eye to yours. Film's creative act comes at a cost: that cost is a risk: that risk is the power of art.

Digital production is about another power. Power over time by the elimination of cost by the evaporation of space. It is not nostalgia to decry the rising tide of this infinitely expedient medium. To live digitally is to live a pixel's life, as discontinuous, reductive, isolated packets of data without meaning.

So, film went out with a fizzle. A silent dirge, a bitter 11 minutes of carefully made, forgettable imagery, raging against the digitalising of the light. I have seen too much, have you seen enough?


Monday, 24 October 2011

texting ezra

Easily Ezra. Game for for texting texts? I continue to be 07729056452.

Three things temples need: (1) stirring, (2) freedom, (3) supply. (1) God's work done God's way never lacks God's stir-ply: v1 'the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus..': God will make an evangelist and reformer out of a gentile if need be. v5 'every [jew] whose spirit God had stirred to go...': Christians need the will to want it (and a little self esteem) .. (2) Like leaving Pharoah, it's ever a freedom to worship. So for us. If it were for freedom that we were set free, then it is for worship that we have our freedom, and it is in music and temples and food and colour that we have our worship. How free are we? How worshiplessly fritter we our freedom away? (3) Supply. Can we be, could we be? Is mine a life that a Cyrus could give gold towards? Perhaps the Dod is.. How do we put ourselves in the way of supply? .. Be stirred and know that God is God.

Ez3-4 rebuilding the altar, rebuilding the altar first, before anything else. Worship first, sacrifice first, seek first the kingdom of God. Every day sacrifices morning and evening. Life is hard, and seeking God first is an every moment breathing living surrender. The altar ius rebuilt when afraid. & there is much to legitimately fear. We build and re-build now when we're not afraid, but when we are brave. Rebuilding. Re-building. Building something that has been before, building it again, trying to build it better, building it again because it was important & valuable but got destroyed. Building it the same but different a crying and a rejoicing. We are mixed motives, mixed feelings, we live in these tensions. Yes we do. To not feel tensions is to stop being alive, but God is the God of the living, God of the crying wailing rejoicing hurting celebrating worshippers. Go the God of lives that feel tension, God of the higgledy piggledy here and now. And bribes and discouragement and fear come against temple rebuilding, but a temple rebuilt is still a rebellion against all that rebels against God. So all this. Holy rebels let us be.

Ez5-6 Dear rebels, go, with unrelenting rejoicing, go be kind, remind, reenvision, so to rebuild. .. vs Phil's irrational fear of buereacrats: God knows the forms they have for you, and they are already signed, sealed and Eph1:13ed. .. When asked for your name 5v10, asked, 'who are you?' tell them whose you are, give an answer for the hope, tell them by whose authority you presume to be and to do and to have any claim on anything. This is how to bring the gospel into introductions and small talk. .. 6v10 Pray for king and for country and for the good of the city: there are legitimate ways to procure funding from the city in exchange for spiritual services and prayers-on-behalf-of-the-city? .. 'Huge stones .. diligently .. prospered.' Heave ho dear rebels.x

Ez7-8 the gold and silver we are given to spend wisely, towards the right sacrifices to God. This is our responsibility. Artaxerxes institutes a system that seeks to honour God because God 'blesses' v7, it is 'by grace' v28. So our responsibility and God's responsibility, and discerning what is ours and what is God's. Both are here, in these two chapters, in the repentance of our hearts and the leading of the spirit. This is hard, Gof, wat is our to do and what is yours? This discernement is a wisdom to be sought & what is wisdom? Looking at Pr3's advice for the young.. loyalty, faithfulness, trust, humility, obedience. Teach us their application today. I am struck also by a similarity in Ezra's prayers & Jesus' prayer for his disciples read yesterday. A prayer for knowing God to be God, a prayer for protection and a prayer for knowing one's belovedness. So God I pray for thee that you would know that you are v28 sacred to God. God, protect you from the eveil that will seek to destroy you. God, keep you safe to know who you are and who He is. v21 'lead us on our journey and protect us.'

Ez9-10 Today a marriage of convenient timing and a shallow exposition. Apologies if I don't do this important text justice. We can speak of marriage generally, specifically and metaphorically. We can ask of Ezra, who was wrongly marrying how and why? We can ask of our time, who should rightly marry, how and why? .. Marriage needs Law, insofar as it is the contractual propagation of a line by the intimacy of mutually motivated Others? Marriage images heaven in being a united unity in single-minded worship? Marriage is the public promise of a future fidelity by finite and broken beings, a promise predicated entirely on God's possibility, a possibility only available to those who will receive it? So, if they were not one in propagation, in praise nor in predication, they were marrying wrongly. How and why? Why would they marry like that? Ezra's not illuminating here. How and why might we marry wrongly? Generally, specifically and metaphorically. So generally, there is some mileage in extending the notion of a holy nation to the new covenant israel, in so far as there remains a biological multiplication imperative, and the need to retain the currency of a language of symbollic cleanliness, but. And we can speak specifically, less the question of whom it is impermissible to marry, but rather, why does anyone so compromise, and who can we serve those in a tangle? For surely it is a settling for less than God that is the why. And finally we can speak metaphorically, for we are married to many wives in this way. I am not tearing my clothes for my church promiscuity, I am not pulling out my beard for all the adulterous comfort capitalism's excesses afford me. Was it love or fear of the cold 10v9 that swept us into the arms of Rv17? Oh I am undone. .. 9v9 Yet our God.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

200words: john soane's house

Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones..” Mark 13:1

For all that is playful there is yet a beautiful sadness in the Soane house, perfectly suited to a clear October afternoon, the whole construction, permanently on the cusp of autumn, waits for a Piranesian shaft of light to some time grace the corners of its rooms and usher in the total ruination of contemporary empires. Obsessive compulsive, this ordering of the past by an exquisite eccentric, or by a salesman dwelling amongst the tombs, or a narcissist dwelling on himself through a glass darkly, was he a happy man?

Mirrors preside throughout as passive 'recollectors' (Furján, 1997), panopticon flies on the wall, trapping one as the protagonist in his own Truman Show, and as brothel ceilings and fairground distorted mirrors, you seek yourself out for the reflected glory of a hero in this Romantic mythic structure.

If this building is the image of the form of the mind of John Soane, what a mind it must have been to be inside, what a sense of a layered and dramatic universe he must have held, what a wilful pursuing of the joy of measured light falling onto crafted form he sustained over such a period.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

200words: hunterian museum

"...bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.." Ezekiel 37:8

A museum of a museum, a remembrance of a remembrance of things past. An aptly cold interior celebrating the birth of the clinical existence we now enjoy. And aptly bulletproof display casing for the Glass Menagerie our contemporary self-understanding clings to. We cling to this understanding: that the age of naïve surgery and capital punishment and surgical errors, is behind us: we live in the future now.

The too crisp effect, the needles of light, the clumsy perspex labelling stand cautiously at odds with that fascinated time, when everything was new, dangerous and undiscovered, when in warm wooden galleries, handmade specimens, held in handmade jars were handled by bold adventurers, daring in their enfleshed embodiment. Could they but see us now, all blanched bodies in glass postwar reconstructions.

This Pandora's cabinet of curios presents at least two difficulties, and does so frankly: the category of the 'freak' and the death of the deserving criminal. Architecturally, designers can navigate these by irony or fastidious neutrality: the grey of this exhibit is to cover our shame.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

200words: oma/progress

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost..” Luke 14:28

The cost for Koolhaas has been paid in “despair ... and vast foreboding..” (Harbison, 2009) which surface in pained essays like Junkspace. The delightful junk on show in this hyperexhibition for the tumblr generation: the material offcuts, grainy pictures, architectural detritus and self-deprecating anecdotes, are a deflection or a veiled apology for the guilt of complicity in architectural giantism: that utopian genetic disorder.

Stylistically and philosophically, OMA, as graphic designers with a penchant for cantilevers, have established a globally conversant mode of masterplanning consistent with an unstable profession in a volatile economy. In between the truss fetishising there is brave engineering, amongst their best laid plans, sketched from a thousand feet at a hundred miles an hour, there is a phenomenal creative energy, a frank and critical self-awareness.

In the exhibition, which is more a 1:1 scale model improvised in found-materials to demonstrate a possible exhibition, the strange veneration of process, and the relics of process, is total. We are invited to become the two dimensional cut-outs in another diagrammed proposal: we are exactly the statistics they love.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

200words: the ambassadors

“What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?” Matthew 11:8

We go out of our way to be told the messages we want to hear, in the comfort of places we want to be seen in. Catering to this felt need sustains galleries, cinemas, car-showrooms, coffee-shops, all the contemporary contexts we exhibit ourselves within and in which we are exhibited to. The Ambassadors exhibits exhibitionists just so, in a meta-commentary on the place of the arts in society.

The endurance of Holbein's piece in popular fascination is a tribute to his mastery of technique in paint and in provocation, in drawing and in drawing a crowd. The Eastpak uniformed swarms each pause, kneeling dutifully to honour the artist's perspective, each bestowing a 15 seconds of fame on this marketeer's tour de force of trompe-l'œil.

Fire Exit signage is the momento mori of contemporary life, and art is our game of distraction. Here, in The National Gallery's Room C, the painting stands boldly proud of the wall, for the fame of its being famous, for the screening of the dark emergency doors behind and for the better oblique appreciation of death.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Not having seen the companion pieces to this, and being unfamiliar with the various public von Trier episodes, and also my ignorance regarding manic depression renders me as but a pair of eyes before a spectacle, it was nevertheless a worthy cinema outing.

The film, in its length and tone, is indulgent, rather as Tree of Life, and the parallels I would draw between the film go further. Both legitimise their indulgence as an expression of the grief of their characters, both concern the decadent wealthy, both define themselves against hard men, both have ambitions to cast the aches of the human condition onto a cosmic canvas, both spend the length of the film waiting for death. And I enjoyed both, considerably.

Untouchable unhealth. The film, largely, leaves undiscussed melancholia as clinical condition of imbalanced biochemistry except to consider the aspect of mental health highlighted by the strained, even slapstick moments where the wedding-planner steers to avoid looking at Justine. For Justine, wishing-the-earth-would-swallow-you-up leads self-fulfillingly to a self-destructive self-exclusion. But further, and crucially, the fear, by others, of melancholia as leprosy - as contagious - constructs an apartheid. How plan we our weddings, whom do we exclude and who are our planners? Who are we that we should turn a blind eye to depression? Who are we to make untouchable those wounded victims of a vicious world?

But there is for discussion more mileage in melancholia as philosophy and as social reality. So.

You are your eschatology. This is the purpose of beginning with the end: the notion that our stories track out intractably towards our foregone fated destinations with a mechanical inevitability. But more than that, what you look for you will find: we believe in an end, and we will it into being. And this is by choice, by belief in a fatal fatalism, that we are resigned to and complicit in our future tense definitions.

Environmentalism and the end of God's world. The Earth's cruel inglorious end, fading to silence, coming to nothing: does Justine know this will happen? Then the atheists are right. Does she cause it to happen? Then the atheists are to blame? I earnestly believe that among the reasons for the failure of environmental rhetoric is the failure to convince the carbon burning public that anything other than annihilation awaits them and all of planet earth. Of environmentalism, only future hope and its present joy-of-anticipation can move us to the present sacrifice needed for future salvation. Please believe.

I have been simplistic.

There's no driver at the wheel. The elegantly absurd stretch limo sequence establishes our difficult relationship with the God who may be there but is yet silent. This incompetent God hands the reins to a sentimental groom who hands the reins to melancholia who promptly crashes spaceship earth into a rock on the side of the road.

This very night your life will be demanded from you. You aesthetes, this is the tragic demise that moping preraphaelite hipsters predicate their decadence on. This is a film for a double dip recession, whose brief reprieve is the undoing of men who have identities built on and defined by doom denial. It is John's false confidences that collapse face down in a horse's stall.

Nothing tastes. The tragedy of bigger barn builders is not simply a moral tale for the end of time, it is a tragedy in the now. Affluenza's ruinous ruin sees us, with all our trappings, in dresses like the clouds of a planet, bounding in slow motion through the garden of space where everything is heavy, all tastes like ashes, all is but an entanglement of grey yarn through which we trudge. Ours will be a slow death by slow motion, as when an LP's turntable is unplugged, we spin slowly slower to a stop, unplugged from joy we wind down to flatline.

Sex and death. As the camera here pours obsessively and too close over Dunst, the whole film is a tailback crawling past a car wreck, oh curious beings-unto-death are we. Lust lusts after that which is death in the other? Justine, a type of Salome, parallels the planet in her destructive force, and in her being the subject of voyeurism, we see the power of Melancholia to captivate through the telescope as through illicit websites. Melancholia renders Justine exhibitionist and delayed-gratification-averse. Are we, do we? Parallels abound for we are planets crashing.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

saving architecture

This is a piece I wrote a draft of in the form of a letter in 2008, it is the culmination of various hopes and investigations from my time at L'Abri, and it was prompted particularly by conversations with JV, to whom the letter was written. It remains a work in progress, tidied but largely unchanged since I first put it together. In due course I will attempt an exploration of the same questions, hopefully being more historically and architecturally specific. Posting it online was prompted by two things:

After discussing with A a convoluted paper I had written in January, a tentative foray of a paper into the possibilities of critiquing sustainable architecture in world-view terms, we began one of those conversations, of the type that A clearly relishes, about the causes and antidotes to the environmental pickle we find ourselves in. To sum it up crudely, he posits the blame in a corrupted Protestantism, now indistinguishable from capitalism, and puts the responsibility for its resolution in the church’s hands also, by means of a critique from without rather than the popular but inevitably subvertable critique from within. Predictably this meant a protestant neo-monasticism. I take A with a pinch of salt, as I feel he does himself, it was the conversation I have found most fulfilling out all in my time here, it was not as perhaps it appears above, about them and us, nor did it contain a hint of the guns blazing monasticism with a capital M approach favoured by every other self-conscious emergent seeking to brand their intentional community into a publishing deal. (Too strong?) And this take on the affair lends a certain urgency and purposive direction t o a solution to our conversation-cut-short relating to how one might take the best of L’Abri home with you. If we were to make imperatives of those little pleasures that we are at liberty to take joy in here, the flower arranging, the high tea and sweat in the garden, and more than that, the placedness, the history and the pilgrimage, would we arrive at an environmental solution by accident?

Which I suppose leads me at a jump to thoughts of defining an archi-theology, how do I mean that I see everything though the lens of architecture? Certainly not in the limiting sense of everything being reducible to the built ego-theories of the last three hundred years, nor that my lens filters out all that is not a Cartesian architectural element representable in blue prints to some pleasing graphic effect.

“You talk of seeing the world as architecture. Would it make sense to you if I said I saw it through literature, as art. That is I'm exploring the relationship between literature and life and bonding them to be inseparable.”

This was how you phrased it in your letter and it has, without exaggeration, been on my mind daily since. I think if human life is story, then architecture is all at the same time the pages on which it is written, the stage upon which it plays out, and all the wardrobe, props and programmes that define and describe the action of it, of life.

So I am describing and prescribing a present and possible world and using 'architecture' as a lens and a language, claiming this method has the potential to make the world more beautiful. I stand at a difficult turn, obliged to go forward, to define, 'goodness' and 'architecture-ness', if only as working definitions, as a thing must be definable, as “more like this than this” or “not this” until eventually “this” for the blink of an eye, in the span of history, a definition stands and falls like those monastic ruins, a tribute to a former understanding.

Those who say we cannot define have surely never built anything, a brick on top of a brick absolutely is so, separating in from out. A definition may or may not last the breath out, but that is not to say that the task is fruitless or that people will not look at the carvings on a cathedral and ache for its beauty, knowing the beauty before them speaks of a time when people lived within a world sufficiently defined to build by. As your purchased Parisian letter proclaims that once there lived, moved, breathed and had their being, such p eople as took the time to celebrate the everyday. The question of 'right building' will be answered when we have established a realistic place for architecture within the attention of every soul, and this by setting out what exactly this thing, architecture, is. And so I should unpack this. I will come at this in two ways:
~2.0 – Architecture as a descriptive language for products.
~3.0 – Architecture as a prescriptive language for process.

Architecture as a descriptive language for products: Architecture can be a language for describing things as they happen and come to be. And in this case, by extension or analogy, everything is a building: a meditated construction on a greater or lesser scale, everything is a building, every coffee table, every book, every marriage, every intentional action, every proverbial tower in life before which we should first count the cost.

Form as inevitable given techno-economic force. Archite cture as engineering. Humans as machines. So ask: What wealth or power wrought this form?
We can view architecture as simply techno-economic phenomenon. This is an architecture of economics, it is trends and abstractions, a volumetric a rchitecture of developable areas extruded by profiteers, capped by planners, arranged by engineers, decorated by marketeers, purchased by statistics. This is a construction of reality and the reality of construction for many, but in this, popular and tragically fatalistic view we divinise the market and reduce architecture simply to impersonal grand expenditure. In this trajectory we get economistic architecture which looks, in form, increasingly like the diagrams and graphs, flowcharts and spreadsheets out of which it was birthed.

Form as a conch shell. Architecture as biological determinism. Humans as red in tooth and claw. So ask: What wind or weather wrought this form?
We can read architecture as a personal shell or frame describing the lives and lifestyles of individuals and societies: as one might understand a cr ab by its crabshell or a tree by its timber. The home is the residue of habit, the calcifications of personal and family life, the glorious conch reflecting the health of that organism, that body that had its being singularly and particularly on that patch of earth. In this way we can view whole environments in their complexity and judge if they were conducive to life. A healthy animal leaves a beautiful shell, a healthy tree spreads its branches and all varieties of bird make their nests there, a termite colony living in harmony with its environment will construct a balanced and beautiful mound. Here we are talking of broad sustainability but in this we are essentially viewing the humans who live build and design building s as mere animals subject to the forces of nature, living by nature within a naturalistic universe.

But to move towards an architecture that more truly reflects reality we must consider the total human, who cannot be reduced to an animal or machine.

Form as poetry. Architecture as belief. Humans as believers. So ask: What will or wonder wrought this form?
In this way architecture is like any other art, you can read the philosophy of the artist and the spirit of the times in the substance, style and symbols of the work. However, architecture, for being more immediately practical offers to reveal literally the view of the world a people held and how they projected themselves onto the given natur e.

So, one has a certain fundamental understanding of reality, of life after death, value in life, confidence in the goodness of man and nature or not: a metanarrative, a myth structure, a story which makes sense of the absurdity of daily experience. Further, and born of this understanding, one then holds certain values, certain priorities towards which one applies the weight of one's energies: into a pursuit of wealth, of personal security, longevity, knowledge, justice, mercy, peace, enlightenment. And so then towards the achieving of those hopes, one lives in a certain way, orders one's relationships, orders one's lifestyle. And so th en one builds in a certain way. This is elementary, obvious even, you desire privacy you will build accordingly etc; however many of the motives are subconscious or made on your behalf by a collective consciousness, the city council, the ruling party; or the motive forces lie in ignorance. So you wish to deny God's existence you will build accordingly; a n ation wishes to clear its western consumer conscience through extravagantly displayed environmental concern, it will build accordingly; or you grew up nev er knowing the joy of placedness you will then build accordingly. So in all these ways architecture incarnates a worldview, but so much further, architecture speaks, creates the conditions for, even imposes a worldview on the people that follow. That is to say a worldview begets architecture begets worldview.

So, to live in this house with these views, on this plot, with this decoration, we are submitted to all the previous generations and all they built in their striving, all that they esteemed, protected or destroyed, then limits us, at any one time their total manpower exceeds ours. So in obvious practical ways we do not inherit a tabula rasa, but further, our imagination and subconscious are informed, coloured, limited by all the frivolous and practical concerns, superstitions, and politics of our fathers, these make up the palette of visual, practical, conceptual elements which constitute our present language, life and values. These are the sins or virtues of our fathers being visited on us unto the third and fourth generations, this accounts for the long sounding echoes of Christendom in many ways through its literal and metaphorical architecture.

It is a similar conversation to that which asks of violence in film whether it merely reflects a violent culture or if indeed it instigates violence beyond the cinema. And clearly the answer is both, but in the case of architecture, its message and coercion is inescapable, it is not merely on every street corner, it is the street corner.

Buildings moderate and govern human behaviour and relationship, effecting division or unity. They are instruments for liberation or incarceration, they are potentially fall-mitigating structures, like spiritual disciplines in bricks and mortar. Or otherwise they are a crippling weight to bear, vast and anti-human sprawls sapping freedom, dividing family, demanding burnt offerings of oil and commuter hours to sustain even a meagre existence. These anti-places, bear fruit of cynical wounded people, with impoverished imagin ations and seared consciences. We have in places built for ourselves a living hell, any number of science-fiction films, 2001, the Matrix etc, resonate with their viewers because we feel in some way that this machine we have created is killing us, drawing the life from us, as if once we knew a real world, the keys to which we have handed over.

This picture I have painted thus far of buildings might equally, if to a lesser degree, apply to all culture, all art and enterprise. I view all things in terms of their order and potential through one lens, I call this lens 'architecture', it perhaps needs to be broader, a 'meta-architecture'. But I will for now continue to call it architecture as I make my meaning understood most easily in these terms, and to zoom out would be concede a place for private architecture as a subset in this system and it would be to run away from the redefining of architecture's place that needs to be done. It is not to privilege buildings over other arts, but rather there is still a need for 'architecture' as perhaps it might once have been, as a bridging language for all crafts.

Architecture as a prescriptive language for process: In this way Architecture is not merely a way of seeing the world, but a way of being and a way of doing life. If we substitute 'architecture' with 'the good life'? How do we make 'architecture' happen, who is allowed to participate and where? By what process do we hope to build our future? The definition of the practice good 'architecture' hangs on the hope placed on democracy, despotism or delegation, if you will. Thus:

On the one hand, everyone is an architect and architecture everything, it is a second skin, an extension of the self, an expression of how we wish and will the world to be; as a word it is interchangeable with 'technology'; it is all exercises of dominion; it is a means of describing the reconfiguring of natural resource and all the ways of bending nature to serve our individual will, our need, our comfort and survival. The hope expressed in this totalising movement is valid, it is motivated by frustration at former arbitrary definitions, however, it goes awry when it makes architecture of anything and everything I decide to call 'architecture'. Leaving a thin soup for culture, an unfenced playground, no rules to play by, nothing less architectural about a toothfilling than about a towerblock. Presumably this school of thought has a name. Positively and initially, it opens up routes to a more flexible and cross-pollinating artistry, and ideally impresses on people their responsibility as part of the whole, for the whole; negatively this is incarnated as a militant relativism motivated blindly against the abuses by those formerly in a position to define architecture, wounded and angry young architects would rather have architecture be everything and nothing than concede their own mortality, specificity and limits. Any obligation to history is sacrificed on the altar of possibility, in a world without fathers or story or judgement.

There is a striking parallel in this totalising re-jig of definitions towards a hope of painting a more cohesive, integrated view of the world in the debates defining 'Spirituality' in these last terms at the Manor. A damaging side-effect of the 'Comprehensive Spirituality' campaign by JP and EP is that having worked so hard to define 'spiritual' as 'that which is truly real', they confuse and disable people from discussing things which are spirit by nature, which is an impoverishment of language and muddies the water they hoped to clear. So too as I try to re-indigenise, popularise and make-human our built environment and relationship to it, if I go about it by defining all actions in space as 'architectural' then we strip language of a word to conjure the depth of that specific family of crafts related to shelter fabrication and leave a definition of limply thin vacuity.. Oh I don't know..

The other end of this pendulum swing places architecture in the exclusive hands of those great high priests, architects. There is a sense in which architects have seized a monopoly power to call their work 'architecture'. Marketing their skill as a mysterious, complex task quite beyond the scope of the ordinary home-dweller, and even if the plebian masses were competent to form safe and stylish abodes by themselves, it would be, they can argue, inefficient that way. 'Architecture' here quickly becomes a dark art, a philosophy, the work of a closed club of brutally initiated genius form-givers, an intellectual exercise in a coded language impenetrable to all but those well-schooled in post-modern literary criticism (and even then... to steal the metaphor, the experience of many in architecture school is of that dark room in which blind men are looking for a black cat that's not there). Architecture is dropped out of space as a joke at the expense of the pedestrian; architecture is violent spectacle assaulting the ground it stands on; architecture is illusion, the new clothes of the emperor, the art of selling facile glamour to the insecure, shallow prestige to a short term government, an air of ironic sophistication to the knowing middle classes. It could be argued this conceit emerges when architecture is argued for as a self-consciously distinct discipline, which it has a long history of doing, of elevating itself above the humble crafts of which it eventually consists, to a cerebral discipline, and this is the Greek and Romantics' heritage. In this way conventionally labelled 'architecture' is in many ways unhelpfully so delimited, as such a separation divisively severs such things which should be ordinary from the ordinary people who will daily use and inhabit this environment, it is a power game by an intellectual elite who eschew ritually unclean manual work.

I am not looking for some inoffensive middle ground that satisfies both the totalisers and the cerebralists, there must be a third way. A way by which architecture is not an abstract solution imposed by an isolated genius, but neither is architecture as a word and concept stretched so thin as to denote every and any accident and void in the spatial realm. We can redeem the word, the process and the fruit of 'architecture'.

Here I am looking across displines for writing defending craft, human touch, artistic expression and poetry. Seerveld in Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves extends his proposal for the normality of the artist and their role in a community some way in this direction. If his thoughts were applied, the need for a bridging language and its fluent servant enabling the integrity and coherence of the whole would be more apparent. If we all spoke a language which had signifiers ascribing value and importance to place, story and unity within a wider total vision of the human life, we could more directly speak of our loss.

In all this I hope there is the potential for an architecture born of the seamless integration of the artist and ordinary life, for buildings as the logical and beautiful by-product of life lived relationally, for 'architecture' as the life-skill and for an infinite personal architecture, truly sacred space.

3.3.1 – URGENCY -
This misfortune, this inconvenience of less than picturesque architecture is not a grand and lofty luxury we have fallen short of. Architecture such as this, personal, allusive, human and relevant, is as necessary as poetry, and conceivably more tangibly. The absence of poetry is the lack of something life-giving and sustaining, without which we would bleed to death for lack of joy and lack of understanding, here however we are dealing with the rash sprawling of its antithesis, the weapon drawing that blood. We presently face a vacuum of language defending the value of place and beauty in our experience of space. The loss of present, relevant local art is not a victimless loss.

Given those two previous sections discussing extensively and by analogy the 'Architecture' that could be, let us talk now about the architecture that is: Buildings and life as we know it. Let us expand where architecture is broken, and veer all over a landscape of apocalyptic language and hyperbole...

So far I have tried to limit myself to definitional problems within our conception architecture, which of themselves make of architects men less than fully human, and bear the fruit of buildings, alien and aloof. So there is this, and then a breadth of wider societal problems and disconnects whose causality is to and fro with an impoverished architecture: as we view buildings today, there are notable disconnects, of architecture/art from daily life to a professional sphere of its own; the loss of responsibility for the physical environment at all by its inhabitants; a loss of story, of meaningful interaction with the narrative of built history in which our chapter falls. So, this is to say that architecture and the various individuals and forces that bring it into being are disconnected from the people it belongs to, the ground it stands on and the time it is occurs in. Christians are apt to be those most acutely complicit in these disconnects, if they hold a glibly fatalistic theology of the fall, that somehow these disconnects are to be assumed, to be expected, to be tolerated and coping mechanisms devised for surviving within them, and coping mechanisms largely drawn from the individualistic self-help philosophies that constitute the atmosphere of counsel they breathe from a secular culture.. And this rather than going for the jugular.

4.1.1 - Aloof professionalisation: This and the academicisation of architecture. This is architecture by a self-proclaimed elite, where architects, for reasons known to themselves elected to elevate their role above the sweat of brick laying, and create an intermediary role, uniquely schooled in the mysterious language of architecture. They make for themselves an insecurity in the nature of their role as divine form giver and they suffocate themselves with the bureaucracy of this tertiary craft. This pattern is set in school, the building crafts, seldom taught within the syllabus, are considered as the inconvenience to be overcome in the realisation of a paper dream.

4.1.2 - Complexity of the building industry: This has reached a point such that architects are by necessity reduced to project managers and image-mongers. No one architect can sufficiently master all the specialisations, so even prominent elements within a design, windows, landscape etc, are sub-sub-contracted. Quite aside from a resulting lack of coherence visually, artistically or otherwise, this super-specialisation makes buildings completely unrepairable, it is systemic planned obsolescence. Further, the more complex and high-tech a building is, the more anonymous manufacturing steps between the human crafting and the human inhabiting there are, the more alienated the inhabitant will feel.

4.1.3 - Consumer Culture and 4.1.4 – Placelessness: Placelessness is consumer culture applied to space, as space becomes only a consumable commodity, it loses its placeness, to coin the phrase. The culture of consumption has roots philosophically and sociologically, it was made possible in its present incarnation by the industrial revolution, its was made probable, even appealing by the corrupted work ethic and individualism of the reformation/renaissance. It has been suggested that this culture is a form of empire, its is not the only and logical outworking of technological advance, oil-driven possibilities are pursued and marketed by the vested corporate interests of a select few, advantaging them at the expense of the weak and voiceless, the poor and the environment. Consumerism, becomes an ism at the point we define ourselves first by what we have, when this shift in identity is made a house is reduced to an image of a house, and so the upwardly mobile, geographically promiscuous migrate north from postcode to postcode to postcode to postcode as each annual city bonus allows them. It is not a great leap to see how this will effect shallow places, anonymous neighbours, unrelated neighbourhoods, further nuclearisation of the home, higher walls and less patience, an faddish disposable architecture of speed, spectacle and expediency.

4.1.5 - The infatuation with and intoxication by the virtual: The unreality in which we can be sovereign: that virtual universe, that 'life' online, is a place where we can be omnipresent and omniscient, we can be the identity we wish to be with power to bring into being anything out of nothing, our finitude touches infinite possibility. These are the same hopes that drugs and religion are made of, and you can sense well the addictive power of it. The effect on architecture and place is manifold, chiefly 1. people expend their energy, time and resource within an unphysical, impermanent, essentially unreal dimension at the expense the real, this is Narcissus wasting by the pool, these are slums with satellite dishes, the blue-white cathode flicker on the living-room ceiling of every ugly house in suburbia. And 2. they are disappointed by the real and physical, just as pornography will torpedo a marriage. This is ultimately a glory exchanged for an image, this escape from the physical and contempt for manual work have philosophical roots, gnostic ideas of man as spirit etc.

4.1.6 - A denial of beauty: This is done in subtle ways, where the question is marginalised on the grounds of it being arbitrary or uneconomical, although I have had more heated confrontations in school with tutors who feel more strongly against the power structures implied in the word. There is a degree of legalism around ornament, tradition and story. It is spilt perfume all over again. And I struggle to explain except by a flight from God, beauty points to something, has its origin in something, commands gratitude to someone. Beauty in a random universe is not beauty at all.

4.1.7 - The collapse of community: And so now we study abroad, commute to work, fly on holiday; we have abandoned the church, the local grocer and the village hall; we are bowling alone, living in single-person dwellings, unmarried, divorced, and childless statistically. If we consider this only pragmatically, we are living technologically enabled but vastly inefficient lives, or to term it less economically, we are living ineffective lives. The precious 24 hours we are gifted each day are frittered away in the car, infront of the microwave, paying off our personal mortgage and trying to bring up a family on your own. To live on one's own costs more to heat, costs more to light, cost more to feed, costs more period. And you simply haven't the time to decorate, embellish and enjoy more than to throw a handful of Ikea candles about the apartment in the image of homeliness.

More serious than this, is the loss of community, in particular intergenerational community. Only if we live with children are we reminded daily and personally of who the future we are affecting is, only if we live with the elderly are we truly aware of our own frailty and mortality, in them is a wisdom which cannot be penned, in them is a life's experience communicated tacitly. If we lose this breadth of community we lose our place in the story, we need go back to the beginning and start over each generation. And this affects architecture in a number of ways: we lose a timeless way of building and replace it with spectacle, we lose the foundations for visual consensus and we lose craft and an entire consciousness which values it because we lose the embodied knowledge in which consisted. And I think we lose confidence in our place on earth, contemporary architecture swings between timid parodies of former domestic style and violently bold cries for attention.

The measures of this lost architecture are read in the losses within ecology, as something or someone has to pick up the bill for this profligate existence. The trees felled, green fields sprawled over, oil drunk and carbon exhaled. It can be read in the loss of the human, both in the resulting extra-human scale of urban environments, super-human machine polished finishes and in the sub-human work done by an underclass reduced to a form of slavery, mindless joyless work simply to put bread on the table. And further in the loss of story, loss of ornament, increasing hardness..

I would argue that bad architecture is killing people, through unsafe space, depressing and hopeless space, divisive, exhausting and unnatural space but here, if I have not already I am sailing into spurious conjecture.

In this discussion so far I have dabbled in threads and narratives, I wish to venture a meta-narrative, I believe the architectural problem is better understood and the way forward more clearly navigated in the light of the God who is there and who is not silent. Theology threatens to be but another layer of terminology and disagreement to derail us, and yet, and yet, the beauty of the person of Christ, the coherence of his alternative and the witness of history's happy houses draw me onwards.

I recently discovered the writing of Quinlan Terry, who has written and practised in the area of architecture and theology, he comes out in favour of a pseudo-classicism which I have not yet reconciled, but provocatively he begins what I suppose is his main treatise on the subject thus: “My subject is architecture and theology, or rather Art and Faith, the place where architecture and religion meet. The two great authorities on this subject from the last century were Pugin, who designed the Houses of Parliament, and Ruskin, the celebrated artist and writer. Both started their lives as devout Christians, and ended their days in a mental asylum...” And so timidly I tread..

5.1 - THE FALL -
So, roughly the theology is th is, a perfect world fell, along with all its subsequent architecture, but they can be redeemed. The fall, a chip in the windscreen slowly growing to completely fracture the pane, where the integrity of the pane had consisted in those crucial relationships of us to ultimate reality, us between ourselves and that between us and created order. Fallen-ness is the inherited orientation of every human being towards the self. Psychology finds a common belief by people that once we were at peace with our environment but that we have lost that connection irretrievably, the largest part of other religions address this selfishness and the guilt of it.

If broken, one should then ask how a knowledge of this helps us. A theology of the fall should allow us to say that things are not as they should be, that human nature defaults to selfishness and self-destruction and that people are not perfectible. This can be taken too far, often by evangelicals, to crushingly low expectations of human possibility, but done well it saves us from modernism's naïve hope that human nature is intrinsically good, which expressed itself in equally naïve utopian architecture for perfect people. Further, such a theology of the fall makes plain the impossibility of our saving ourselves, and relieves architects of the burden of saving humanity as they are apt to aspire to.

If people could be saved from this fallen state they ought to be observably liberated to form better architecture. But if true, I would argue this myth provides a coherent structure which connects the moral flaws with the poor architectural fruit they bear. Thus bad architecture is fearful architecture, selfish architecture, deceitful architecture. Having spent the largest part of my time at university attending a tin warehouse church, I am conscious this jump is not self-evident.

In the light of this fall, Christianity claims God became a man in history, died and rose again. Demonstrating life is a story not an accident, language has grounds for meaning beyond itself, beauty has a source, death is not the end. So there is nothing to fear in life, you can be confident in death, you can be confident in poverty, you can be confident in suffering and fearless in everything you do make say and build. So to the disconnects:

5.2.1 Aloof professionalisation gives way to an acknowledged creatureliness, servant architects, sacrificial and anonymous building.

5.2.2 Complexity and the machine are no longer means to salvation, human personhood has grounds in the transcendent. Technology – which is never inevitable or neutral – is put towards the end of realistically sized community. Physical work is no longer unclean, expediency gives way to patience.

5.2.3 and 5.2.4 Consumer culture no longer pretends a monopoly on joy, a market economy give way to a gift economy, identity is grounded beyond your stuff. Place is of specific value ordained by an author god.

5.2.5 The virtual loses its addictive appeal, there is a god so we don't have to be, and there is nothing to fear and nothing to escape from in the physical world.

5.2.6 Beauty, truth and goodness are grounded in a transcendental signifier.

5.2.7 The gospel and its ending of fear makes community possible, it makes a unique oneness possible. The gospel demonstrates, requires and makes possible an integrated life. The gospel is the beginning of the gift economy which begets community. Further, a common centre makes community possible. A purpose to our differences makes community possible. I believe that the gospel correctly understood, enacted through intentional community, will bring truly good and redemptive architecture.

Means of judging the goodness of architecture:
- Is it good work? - was the piece and its constituent parts brought into being by individuals working in such a way that they would do it regardless, if they were unpaid? ~ as in CSL's 'Good Work'
- Is it alive? - does it operate to contribute and cooperate within its local ecosystem? Does its bring dignity to the humans building and inhabiting? Does it sustain a certain relational ecology – this rather than cancerously massive cells within an organism society. Who is glorified?
- What does it say? - does it speak a message of hope or cynicism, is it afraid, fearful architecture or is it joyful? Does it take a Sabbath, is there leisure painted on it, is it one seventh frivolous? What is its attitude to the ordinary? How does it relate to its elders?

What is argued for here is a paradigm shift, not merely at the level of the beliefs of those at the top who presently effect architecture, but a shift is the nature of the 'top' all together, like a mustard seed or a virus, a grass-roots movement (there is a tired phrase) from the ground up (and the clichés sparkle on the water) compelling other people by the joy of such a community, by the very presence of God among them demonstrated by their unity, to leave their consuming addictions (and puns as well, this letter must nearly be over).

The social critique must go deep enough, deeper than Ruskin's, deeper than Quinlan Terry's. There must be urgency, abandon and action not talk. There must be a clarity in our understanding of our physicality and of heaven and of 'need'. There needs to be a reassessment of place through family. There must be a commitment to the long haul in a specific place. We must effect an integrated life, food, building, education, and this by the spiritual disciplines. We will live by Unity Humility and Prayer.

6.0 - END -
I'm just throwing bullet points around now. If you are still reading and have anecdotes, refutations, illustrations, to put flesh on these bones, fire away.. I have tried to present the lens I see through, the problems of art in the world that motivate me towards a new way of seeing, and a new language for discussing goodness and necessity in buildings and life, I have called it 'architecture', as it were a qualitative term, one equally might use 'poetry' to name this language and form.

So concluding, in this letter and at lunch tables we are writing about writing, talking about talking, speculatively communing in discussion of communal possibilities as if the talk were an end in and of itself. It is as if this whole period at L'Abri as been an introduction, the preface to biography, the hypothesis of an experiment. And there is a certain irony in arguing on paper against paper architecture, in criticising criticism culture, and in asking using the medium of theory to propose a move away from theory. Irony, nay arrogance; here like every other brave opponent to modernity, I will be subverted by its empire unless I go beyond its city gates, this should read untriumphant as a suicide note, here in concluding should be offered the quickest directions to the known horizon of present possibility, that is the only humility.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

texting two chronicles

Come chroniclers, come chronicle chronicles with we. This is what unlimited texts was made for - 07729056452 xx

2Chr1-2 Peacetime is a gift. Skills are a gift. Collaborators are a gift. Wisdom is a gift. Wisdom. How is wisdom measured and scaled. Wise, wiser, wisest, what knowledge is sufficient to govern by.. Is wisdom's y-axis merely a capacity to project a greater number of chess moves? As applied to the desire that our rulers be environmentally wiser/wise futurecasters? Or, if the fear of the Lord is the beginning, then is seeking to open ourselves to a greater fearing the true necessary sufficient condition for a wise-wrought ecological future? .. Huram-abi. What is intended by introducing him as the son of a daughter of a daughter? In an age where men apprenticed men? So speculate the mother's role in nurturing a culture's culture-makers.

2Chr3-4 Temple building again. Winged creatures, pomegranates, bulls & interwoven chains...liberation, joy, strength, community? I don't know. How much symbolic nuance in design is lost across time & culture? .. Are there any universal symbols? All art is of a time and a place... So how do we create spaces designed to usher in worship that are inclusive? Is this the wrong question to ask? ..There's always a joy in discovering new symbolic meanings to things. Pomegranates anyone?

2Chr5-6 Steadfastness. 5v13 6v42 Steadfastness is measured by unbroken promises over unbroken time. Knowing that steadfastness, trusting it now, risking on it forever is available by an immersion in a comprehensive history of God's dealing's with God's people where we find a long-suffering, long awaiting, long longing Lord who actively pursues us in love. So textably onwards OT.. 5v13 What of the cloudiness of a cloud prompts our meteorological God to manifest himself as such? Condensation an image of incarnation, the translucence of evaporated living water, the all-present God made visible in a winter day's breath. .. 6v22 – Praying the promises of God. If when famine, if when sin, if when defeat. This is how we define the relationship. We trust in anticipation. .. 5v18 Active verbs for inanimate sculptures is all a bit Indian in the Cupboard's Night at the Museum.

2Chr7-8 Fall facedown and other Redman lyrics, wanting here to follow his call to 'let us recognise what a sacred thing we do.' Remember remember the glory of God in the grind, the presence of a God good glorious & loving, dazzlingly present, present as we pray. Give me eyes to see, and give me faith to keep praying, for God here answers Solomon's prayer in kind, kindly. 8v11 not straightforward sexism but this wife of 1Ki11v1 an idolator.. This a picture of sin's segregating compartmentalising, things we don't bring to the temple. A holy life is an integrated life where all of us is brought into the holy place. God is not satisfied with less than all of us, even in times of Solomon's intimacy with God here.

2Chr9-10 v4 Is this sort of wisdom will available? Wisdom to leave you breathless? Or have we, as moderns, devised a worldview which pre-empts surprise and precludes wonder? 10V8 So we esteem youth still now and more, so we stratify demographically to the exclusion of wisdom. And turn we to reactive definitions of right yoking. 10v4 Had he? If Solomon heavily had, what force or cake or circus kept the peace in his time? Temples are built on the shoulders of a people dignified by compassionate words and good management? Given the chance, we, young restless Hebrews, choose weak future leaders who sell the farm. We resist yoking not so much for its weight, but for being ill reined by an ill reigner. Today, let's do hard things, dream big things, and collaborate well.

2Chr 11-12 The GNB says that Rehoboam desired was in order to 'restore his control' over the northern tribes. We know there's connection between attempts to control and rebellion against the true God... how do I try to control the universe, with subtlety and self-deception? Illusions of control come in different ways, whether warring, or as later in fortifying 'my' cities ('kept under his control') in trying to hoard or preserve what I think is mine. Attributing ultimate control or ownership to ourselves is always an illusion, for there are greater forces than me in this world: Shishaks may come to take everything away from you, & everything will still be God's. God comes with mercy justice mercy justice, and our response must be humility, turning control into ordering and ownership into stewardship. We know this in the abstract, but let us examine our hearts and our ways.

2Chr13-14 Onward Christian soldiers, boldly, but with appropriate boldness, appropriate to the God we worship, appropriate to his kingdom economy, an upsidedown economy. So, don't be living water resistant, rather be weak to be strong, for the prayerful weak powerfully win. When you trust not in your idols you are strong.

2Chr15-16 God is with you if you are with him. How do we know that God is with us? In our seeking he will be found. Our assurance then is not in our conviction that we have yet reached answers, but in our conviction that God has answers and our earnest seeking of him. God is with us in the seeking, God in the looking. This is a word in time. v7 be strong, be not discouraged. Be Not Discouraged. The work you do will be rewarded: let us trust God for this, and leave it to him. Loud oaths to the Lord, today would I declare publicly and plainly that I seek a God who is real. Re-covenant this morning, find the Methodist covenant prayer & make it in your heart. So doing relinquish your idols again, take delight in worshipping God even in a difficult place, and know His peace at every side. Ah. & let us keep on with it, unlike Asa who got it right to then get in wrong ... the Lord keeps watch over the whole world. He knows us. So let us persevere in our covenant, even today.

2Chr17-18 Here we are presented with a nation secure, secured by God for their faithfulness, for their faithfulness. It is a military and economic security. What would that look like here and now? And, at what point does Jehoshophat's militarisation go astray? .. If we are, in so far as we are, for the sake of argument, the faithful southern kingdom, what are the limits of alliance? What is the measure of a faithful collaboration, contrasted with mere politically expedient peace, a compromised household, hedged bets and vague boundaries? .. 18v14 And the use of irony, here uttered in contempt of his listeners. When we finish fasting irony, let us consider how to feast irony. I am speaking as a fool.

2Chr19-20 God knows our mixed motives, he sees our good and our bad, our secret wrongs and our unknown courageousnesses. Let us, acknowledging this, be drawn out of ourselves towards holiness, like Jehoshaphat. Jeho stands within Solomon's 2Chr6 prayer for the temple, holding onto his heritage and tradition and the faith of those beyond and before him. .. The battle belongs to God and not you: do we really know this humility? What does it mean to march out with singing, approaching new work and new study with such a different approach, method and motivation from those proscribed expectations? v37 Shipwrecks, seriously. The fruit of unholy alliances. So seek first the kingdom of God, for we are not to be so.

1Chr21-22 Is there nothing good here? Just bad kings doing bad things? 21v7 is the lamp of grace, presumed upon in every other verse while sin abounds. We don't have to join that deathly carnival we see around us, we don't have to perpetuate the mess we inherit, because of that promised lamp. That lamp enjoyed by being a torch passed on: how can we be Jehoshaphats' shelter from the storm to that which Joash's God has put in our life?

2Chr23-24 Brought out of dark places to be given a crown and a text, an identity and a way to live, a value and values. Why do so many of these kings forget who they are, forget who God is, after periods of faithfulness? Resoluteness is hard, steadfastness is hard, for circumstances will change. I want to end well, so let us practice these disciplines.

2Chr25-26 Oh Azariah, you and whose army? .. 25v14 Reminds me of JJohn's anecdote about a good-luck rabbit's-foot, “the rabbit wasn't lucky..” The psychology of superstition is bizarre, but such is all works-righteousness: we imitate strivers and their striving, we join those bandwagons, because, you know, at least it's something.. This in environmental thoughts left over from Melancholia: the strange comfort we find in indulging and endorsing the defeated and deafeatist philosophies of a dying world. Come now, go, act, be strong for battle, for God has power to help. There is a God. He does have power. He is willing your help, if only we will.

2Chr27-28 As we continue to contrast getting it right & getting it wrong, picturing Jotham in happy settlements in the woods. Ahaz's unfaithfulness strikes me as such hard work, all that energy burning sacrifices to Gods we know will not save us. God have mercy on my misplaced energy. And mercy justice, this is why – we live in a flood of mercy, our 'guilt is already great' but God makes a way so we can make a mercy way for others. The forgiven take no prisoners of their own, they have balm and donkeys to give.

2Chr29-30 After the best 41 sleep ever.. v20's 'rose early' appears at critical junctions throughout the bible, and it is its own reward, for any of us who grabbed 6am front row seats for last week's Indian summer sunrises. As bright-eyed spiritual toddlers let us seek He. .. The discipline of celebration is alright aye. Working backwards, let us reverse engineer our lives accordingly. As last night, when heat was displayed, we took naan bread, broke it and gave it to..Let's talk about the problem with communion wafer-thin wafers.. Having established a Godly feasting paradigm, let us develop contexts for consensus 20v23, still working backwards, then let us be about spiritual spring cleaning, which comes from recognising failures in the areas of Lamps and Doors. What lamps are out, what doors are off in our lives, what areas of darkness, what wrong openesses. So Lamp/Door Convictions -> Sacrificial Spring Cleanings -> Convivial Consensus -> Right Feasting. Let's let's.

2Chr31-32 Confusedly, on money, giving, receiving, blessing, storing-up. Asking from an unabstracted place at present what it means to trust God for provision without sliding into a destructive prosperity theology. To be taken from this .. give first to God, focus your primary energy on your giving-away. Teach me wisdom in this walk, God. Building storehouses here given a seal of approval. If we are not to simply build bigger and bigger barns for no end, what do Godly storehouses look like? Godly saving? Made holy by a vision and intention for wealth's distribution? The ways of the world will come with doubts and discouragement, but have confidence. Surely this God of yours can save you.

2Chr33-34 Manasseh for us: humble yourself for a happily ever after. Amon: or not. Josiah: the youth of kings and catwalk models, elected by discontented and revolutionary generations for their image of a new hope? And impressionability? .. Now, happy 34v12-13 Robin Evan's “Problem with Numbers” essay surveys some of the oft-made analogies of music and architecture: parallels in rhythm, abstraction, proportion and paper notation. It is a comparison of practice and performance which is missing. But imagine this scene, bow-ties on building sites, whistling work, polyphonic screeding, harmonic housing, oh hear the strings rising.

2Chr35-36 A tradition of laments v25 for a fallen Jerusalem, fallen protagonists, fallings away. We are part of this story, where at times everything of value seems burned to the ground. But this is the story, from Ecc3v4-5 to Matt5v4 to Rev21v4, we are in the middle of this story, in our stories, towards a rebuilt temple, a resurrection Sunday and a new Jerusalem. Yes.