Sunday, 27 May 2012

Thursday, 24 May 2012

found flowers: 003

thanking the skips of Vauxhall.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

found flowers: 002

these things you throw away.

texting lamentations

Lamentexting, tough words for tough times, briefly. 07729056452

Lam1-2 Lamentations has 3v21-24 at its centre, the rest of the poetry builds to or builds from. There are so many degrees of abstraction between this lament and my own, but letting it speak its impact comes like bruises after bruises. Sitting with one this morning who has had devastation upon devastation. Lamentations, hard to capture what tragedy feels like, how it is like drowning, like the world shifting and falling. The mind turns away from our own 1v9 shame, and v18 guilt, it is too much. And how much more pain upon pain, devastation upon devastation. It is not so much that this pain cannot be rationalised under some response to the problem of evil, but that devastation enters your guts and your eyes, changes your sense of touch and sight, it changes the way we pray, the way we orient ourselves. Pray that I always journey towards mercy, and find God in painful places. Pray hard for those who have suffered devastation upon devastation, pray hard for ones in lament. Pray for devastated communities, war-torn, living with brokenness upon brokenness. Jesus, oh break in on devastation.

Lam3-4 (1) Know that you have permission to lament (2) Lament towards Jesus (3) Lament against irony (4) Lament in Hope. (1) The outpouring at Diana's death was a lament in lieu. So many have had their permission to grieve withheld by notions of 'normal'. But the world is not as it should be, do not allow statistical notions of average to keep us from a sensitivity to brokenness. So, counselling and ways we can, by listening, free people from expectations to present themselves as not-broken. So, also, collective structural platforms for lament. The A to Z acrostic of Lamentations is a deliberate, premeditated exercise in the truth, and therapeutic good, of lament. (2) Jesus died for sins we committed, omitted, had committed against us. Jesus died for our shame v59-63. We can be unashamed – blameless shameless beloved. Lamenting names our shames and offers them to Jesus. (3) Lamenting against irony. An ironic disposition is a salve for hurt unlamented, a mask for a despondency which knows not the hope of 3v22. The humour of cruel irony is a releasing of pressure from that tank of unlamented brokenness, a sharing in an unsaid contract which suspects that there is nowhere to take our lament. (4) By contrast, we can lament, in no mere social-realist endless dead-end of Mike Leigh's widows 1v1 – rather, we have a Sovereign v37-39, who is our portion v24, who hears us v56 and whose mercy surpasses the judgement we deserve for our infinite sinfulness v42. Lamenting is an expression of hope from a low place, a looking up. v21 Actively call to mind, so to Hope. Through Pr13v21 to 1Cor13v7. We need hope, we need to actively call to mind his mercies, so to have Hope for all things lamentable.

Lam5 Pray for mercy. Mercy is real, grace is substantial. So Christianised I in my socialisation it is necessary to come to mercy grace again and again with new eyes. These are not just ideas, they can be seen with the eyes & felt in the gut as pain & evil can. Goodness is a mystery, but we cannot disbelieve it, as one on Sunday betrayed, though we may not be able to give the necessary and sufficient conditions of goodness, we can identify it when we see it, as Acts14v17 God fills the heart with joy, Rom1v20 God is to be found, even in your lament. We cannot but know good and evil when we taste them, this is what makes us rejoicing & lamenting creatures. Goodness, grace & mercy the greater mystery, and where there is mercy, God shows her face. We can see mercy, wherever there is Is61 beauty from ashes, where flowers are given a kitchen rather than a skip, where the abused child forgives her parents taste & see, and continue to believe in v21 restoration, and in the God who authors this restoration. Believe in mercy, pray for mercy, mercy is more than a good idea, it is as real as your lament, and it Jm2v13 will triumph. Mercy is not flimsy, mercy is our new paradigm, mercy grace can be our own words and way, beyond what we could be, left to our own devices, not playing to the tune of the world's wisdom. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you for new mornings, new mercies. Thank you for remaking us each day, thank you that your mercy is so substantial.

Monday, 7 May 2012

200words: cutty sark

“Your cords hang loose; they cannot hold the mast firm in its place or keep the sail spread out. Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided; even the lame will take the prey.” Isaiah 33v23

The new Cutty Sark has been received grumpily, and it is a sitting duck for dull derision, fish in a barrel for such criticism. Journalistic maritime melancholy abounds in this formerly nautical nation and it will not be the first time the anxious press have vented their English identity crisis unduly at white elephants and beached whales in the Greenwich vicinity. And so with only half hearted trepidation I travelled the happy clickity clack of the DLR to find this “Concorde-of-its-day”. True, it is ignobly static, stolidly glooped like a brass signet ring into a waxy bubble of faceted would-be curves, entangled in its own net of over-engineered panels. A crushing defeat for the former cutting edge clipper, like an insect, belly up on fly paper. But look at the bold brass batoning and gang planking! Quiver that muscular hull! I'm on Red Rackham's Unicorn, I'm on the Dawn Treader, I am danger, I am abroad, I have salt wind tearing through my hair, I am a child and London is my playground in the Cutty Sark of my mind's eye. However, if you are an adult and you actually want to go inside, that will be £12.

writing about architecture: book

Jacques Ellul – The Meaning of the City

What is a city? What does a city mean for you? How do you define the city-ness of a city? By what scale do you measure urbanity? Where does it begin and what is its essence? What thin, red, necessary and sufficient conditions delineate the metropole? And then, what of the city's allure? If the city qua city is centralised dwelling, what magnetises that node? What central suction, what centripetal affection drew you hence? Why are you here on the Holloway Road? A job? For what? To hide? From whom? As a means? To an end? Are you here under duress? On pilgrimage? By accident? For asylum? To profit? Or plunder? The city promises much for these, while it is yet a mystery. What is a city? How do you consider it? All of you who love to hate to love London, how do you construe its sprawl as the subject of such affection? Can you speak of the city's totality except by deference to myth and metaphor? For surely the city as an independent and unified entity exists only as an abstraction, as a mirage, as power play, as a spirit? The infinity of London's diversity resists reduction and in this way I have never met a complete 'Londoner' and accordingly there is no such simple thing as London. And yet we ally ourselves to her, we march under her banner, we trade in her name, we defend and are defended by the brand of an unknowable London. Why is this and what is a city? Dear urban creatures, do not be ignorant of your own reasons for being and being here, do not avoid to question the meaning with which you invest this city.

The city has a particular meaning for Jacques Ellul. He writes of these feelings quite plainly, damningly, but plainly and these meditations form the thrust of his book The Meaning of the City. The book is hugely problematic, but it is precisely in the problematic nature of this work that it rewards rereading and earnest discussion. There are three major points which he helpfully makes plain: the personal nature of the urban phenomenon, an apocalyptic reading of the urban end game, and, relatedly, an explicit disjunction between human and divine roles in redeeming the city.

Ellul argues that the city is no mere impersonal product of inert extension and technique multiplied to accommodate a density of human bodies on a centralised network for the advancement of economic efficiency. The city is not primarily a technical phenomenon, it will not be fixed by tinkering, the eager queue of architects, planners, hygienists and economists will modify the device in vain and certainly the psychogeographers and social scientists' efforts to reinterpret the city are inadequate. That happy city we all want cannot be re-engineered because it has already failed at the level of its motive force: the metropolis was fashioned for a purpose, conceived as a machine for hiding in, born as an organism bent on self-defence. In expressing this, Ellul helpfully invigorates inquiry into the human desires and supposed needs which founded the city; and by speaking of these desires he establishes that this urban mode of dwelling is not inevitable. The city is a personal force, a moral phenomenon open to criticism, open to being other than London is.

By such a critique he would rattle the negligent and speak urgently needed restraint to those holding a faith that urbanisation is an unequivocal good in the project of progress. However, for the antiurbanist Ellul, the desires which motivate the city are only and always depraved, and so the city is only and always bound for apocalypse. In prejudicially bringing an apocalyptic reading to his source texts Ellul promotes a fatalism which is ruinous to any effort to motivate action towards the improvement of the city. If the discussion of a meaning to the city was opened up by qualifying the urban phenomenon as moral and personal, it is firmly closed by this disempowering fatalism.

In 2012 we live in a crescendo of apocalyptic enthralment, conspicuously in the language of some among the environmental movement, and by extension in the massively popular brand of disaster cinema. The apocalypse is attractive because it excuses responsibility to care for the city now. Into this mêlée, The Meaning of the City is useful for the lengths to which it pushes the logic of a philosophy which is behind the appeal of these visions. If at first he establishes the city as morally personal, and second he advances the city as subject to judgement apocalyptically, the third point of his theology which I believe to be instructive to our own time is his resolution to the urban problem: the New Jerusalem. Ellul fans the flames of learnt helplessness in his conclusion by forging a disjunction between the human project and divine action. This is not Christianity, neither is this sustainable, but it is a widely held hope amongst those who suffer the city. If environmentalism was going to declare heresies it would do well to address apocalyptic antiurbanism.