Sunday, October 06, 2013

These days the church

These days
The church
Does not own a person's soul,
Or invent his salvation,
Or control his passage
To heaven.

That fashion has passed.

These days
Do-it-yourself spirituality
Is the norm,
And persons are doing it
For themselves.

A modern,


Might choose
A little bit of yoga here,
A little bit of organic vine tomato there,
A little bit of eucharist here,
A little bit of labyrinth there,
A little bit of meditation here,
A little bit of faerie lore there,
A little bit of prayer breakfast here,
A little bit of tree hugging there,
A little bit of affirmation here,
A little bit of church jumble sale there,
A little bit of Harry Potter here,
A little bit of colour breathing there,
A little bit of peace vigil here,
A little bit of dolphin music there,
A little bit of crop circle walking here,
A little bit of organ recital there,
A little bit of contemplation here,
A little bit of dreamwork there,
A little bit of Rhineland mystic here,
A little bit of Sufism there,
A little bit of flower-arranging here,
A little bit of anti-globalisation march there,
A little bit of benediction here,
A little bit of Help-Africa lunch there,
A little bit of holy water here,
A little bit of heritage there.

There is a rich smorgasbord
Of personal choice
And variegated
Spiritual preference

Something will suit
And no size fits all.

The church,
Among others,
Still has a walk-on part
To play,
Except that it isn't asked
To walk on much,
These days,
And certainly not on water.

The church,
Among others,
Has a new mission:
It has a walk-off part
To play.

When you're on the stage,
And the acoustic isn't working,
And there's nothing in the script
For you to say,
And there's no-one in the audience,
You walk off.

You walk off
And you hang up your costume
For the last time.

The pantomime is over.

These days
Everyone is a priest,
Or no-one is.

And there is no felt need
For stipended creeps
In fancy dress.

Although, in certain conditions,
An out-of-work actor
In priest-costume
Can be useful
At children's parties,
Trad-style weddings,
And trad-style funerals.

And chaplains of a sort
Are still required
By educational foundations
With awkward trust deeds,
Providing that the chaplains
In question
Wear jeans,
And are educated,
Syncretistically networked,
Wiccans or Methodists.

Popes don't like this
Type of stuff, of course.
It doesn't suit them.
Nor does Opus Dei.
It doesn't suit them, either.

But who cares
What the wrinklies think?

These days
The church
Is a thing
Of the past;
Yesterday's bad idea;
A transient historical phenomenon
Left behind
And lying lost
On the library shelves.

These days
The church
Is the forgotten fashion
Of a few;
The idle plaything
Of a diminishing chapter
Of tenured scholars
Mining antiquity
For erudite curiosities.

Which is not to say
That the church can't be
Jolly interesting sometimes,
If you like history
And you are prepared

To suspend your disbelief.


Why is church so serious?

More Norfolk koans

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Saturday, October 05, 2013

The libraries do not fool us
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Picture: The libraries do not fool us.

Silence can be very noisy
To start with,
If you don't know how
To stay quiet inside.

If you choose silence
Rather than words,
Which is a good idea
If you are good at words
And read a lot of them
For pleasure,
And speak a lot of them
For effect
Or because it is your job
To be a professional loudmouth
Like a priest,
Or a pandar,
Or a politician,
Or a journalist,
Or a teacher,
Or a lawyer,
Or an aspiring human being,
With a maw which vomits vocab
For reasons of personal insecurity
Or glamour –
Choosing silence rather than words
Is a good idea
For such persons as these.

Silence is eloquent,
But in a way which doesn't use words.

Silence is efficacious
Because it gets things done
Without those same things
Getting mixed up
In badly deployed words.

Picture: The libraries do not fool us.

And silence is veridical
In that it promotes
The apprehension of truth
Without subverting that same truth
In a muddled mash
Of daintily spewed verbiage,
If you know what I mean.

I mean –
If you know what I mean
Skip this bit –
I mean that truth
Cannot be poured into words;
The function of words is to disable truth.

Think of any dogma
Or creed
Or catechism
Or systematic theology,
Or, on the other hand,
May be don't think
Of that sort of stuff at all,
If you want to stay free
And light
And truthful.

For goodness sake,
And creeds
And catechisms
And systematic theologies
Don't even tell us about yesterday's
Illusions of truth,
Let alone today's.

The point is
That truth cannot be accumulated,
And repetition is not truth.

That's what words try to do:
Words try to accumulate stuff called truth
And repeat stuff called truth
And assert stuff called truth
Until it bores everyone to death.
Picture: The libraries do not fool us.

But real truth doesn't bore everyone to death;
Real truth excites everyone to life.

All this sounds like a phoney mantram,
Of course,
But that's because it's built of words,
Or it may be because
It's just plain wrong,
If there is such a thing as wrong –
And who decides that?
Who decides what is wrong?
And who decides who decides?
The guy with the most pints
At the bar beside you?
The priest with the most altar boys
Under his cassock?

Call me a spiritual fascist
If you must,
But truth cannot be accumulated.

What is accumulated
Is always being destroyed;
It decays inexorably
As life moves on
And leaves it behind
Dumped on the dungheap,
With the thought of returning later,

And language mutates
And words fail to contain
Because truth is too slippery
And changing
For words to hold.

Truth can never decay
Because it is only found
In the present moment,
In a fleeting microdot
Of personally experienced
Or tears.

A second's tears
Contain more truth
Than a century's libraries.

A splash on a page
Is closer to the heart of God
Than the word it smudges.

Picture: The libraries do not fool us.

And repetition is not truth, either.
Repetition is a lie.

Repetition is pile of stuff
In a locked boxroom
Without boxes
Or key.

Truth is different:
Truth is a state of being
Which arises
When the mind
And its house-elf, the word,
Ceases to constrain
The veridical perception
Of what only exists
In that pre-verbal domain called

Words are history.
Words are then.
Words seek to disable truth
By lexical distraction.
Picture: The libraries do not fool us. The Name of the Rose.

But we are alert.
And we are confident to claim that
The libraries do not fool us
And that they cannot be used
Against us
By the ancient
Of dust and deception.

Picture: The libraries do not fool us.

Picture: The libraries do not fool us. St Benedict statue at Norwich, England.