29 November 2008

Should I or shouldn't I?

You just had to do it, didn't you?

Eddie has asked me and Susan to write something called 'Memoirs.' I say "something called 'memoirs'" rather than 'memoirs' because it is not at all clear to me what he (and Johnny, who seconded the motion) might have in mind.

Famous people (and sometimes infamous people) write books containing descriptions of, and commentary on, experiences they have had, often with other famous (or infamous) people. These are what I think of when I hear the word 'memoir.'

Perhaps he really means an autobiography. I am not famous - and I hope I am not infamous - nor have I ever known anyone famous nor the other thing.

I recall when I was in my early 20s wishing I had asked my grandparents more about their own lives. In part I was just interested in the times they lived in. My father's stepfather's mother - whom we called "Grandma Turner" - would have been born, by my calculation, in the 1850s. She would probably have been in her 30s or 40s before encountering a telephone, a motorcar, an electric light. My father's own mother - Grandma Lena - was born in 1886. In 1882 Robert Ford shot Jesse James in the back of the head. Stories of Jesse James sound extremely ancient to me, yet I knew Grandma Lena very well, indeed. Ancient history and family history are not so far apart.

Eddie craves what I craved - to know, to be part of the Whole of which his own parents are parts.

Yet it is a dangerous thing Eddie asks! He has asked John Jensen - the Person Who Has Never Learned How To Give A Short Answer To Any Question - to write on his favourite subject - himself.


I shall do so. I don't know, in advance, just what sort of structure these will take (even chaos is a sort of structure, I suppose). In order to spare hoi polloi, I will tag them with a label "Memoirs - Dad." My understanding is that this means you can instantly tell from the blog what category they are in. If you have any interest in the stuff I write, but none in hearing how, when I was eight years old, I and my brother built a 'fort' to defend ourselves against the 'other kids' from the other block - then you can skip those.

You have been warned!

Now Eddie appears as keen to hear from Susan, and I confess, I am, also. She - not being so totally wrapped up in herself as I am - is going to be a bit harder to get moving. She may feel that no one could be interested in ... whatever she would write about her life. But I will see if I can get her going on the thing.

In the meantime...

This will have to do for starters. I am about to eat lunch, then off to rehearsal.

What?! Another concert??!!

Yes. Next week-end - 6-7 December - we are playing Beethoven's 3rd Symphony ("The Eroica") - also some Mahler songs, a Wagner overture ("Die Meistersinger"), a short piece written for us.

But as soon as I can - almost certainly not for another week - I will start.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

22 November 2008


I do not tolerate silence readily.

I wonder why that is. Certainly it is not that I want sound around me. There are many who seem to go through life with their ears constantly filled with sound - music, mostly, but all sorts of sound, I suppose. I can't imagine doing such a thing, really. Indeed, I quite resent going into some public place and being bombarded by music.

I don't walk around with the mp3 player in my ear. When I am at home I do not turn the radio on, just to have something going on around me. But those who know me well know that I have my own form of avoiding the silence.

I am never without something to read.

I carry a book with me, or a magazine. Given a moment of inactivity and out it comes. I don't read rubbish. But ... I really think I dread the silence.

Perhaps it is stillness that I dislike - or fear. Attentive stillness is what I really mean, I suppose. My mind is never still. I go to prayer. I pray actively, that's ok. I pray for this or for that. Or I pray formal prayers.

But when I stop - when I wait, when I listen - I become very uncomfortable. Or I go almost into a state close to sleep - a kind of revery, that is not attentive silence.

Well, I don't know why, but I am sure that stilling that inner voice - without simply 'switching off' - is something I need to do.

Advent begins next Sunday, the time of waiting leading up to the Birth of God. It is a time of waiting - of being still - of listening to the silence:


09 November 2008

Busy busy busy - again!

Well, I was going to write something today, honest I was! Seiko from the office decided that she wanted a horn lesson.

Look, dear, I can play the horn; I know nothing about teaching!

But she came over anyway and she, Susan, and I had a lovely time, messing about with her horn and mine, and eating lunch together. I did then sit down to try to write something - the title was going to be "The Fear of the Lord," so perhaps it is as well that I failed :-)

But the next four weeks are going to be a bit on the crazy side.

This week Friday (the 14th of November) is Eddie and Eveline's 10th wedding anniversary. Sue and I will be going up there on the Friday to spend a couple of nights taking care of Robyn, Jonathan, and Julian, whilst Eddie and Ev go away for at least a couple of days' peace.

The following three week-ends are solid orchestra - concert on the 6th and 7th of December. We will be playing (amongst other things) Beethoven's 3rd symphony, the 'Eroica.'

But I may be a little incommunicado for a few weeks.

02 November 2008


A few years ago we met Robert Steele. Robert was, at the time, chairman of the parish council at Te Atatu Peninsula parish, north of Auckland, where Sue and I would attend Mass about once a month, on our way up to Parakai to see Eddie and Eveline.

We became quite fond of Robert and one day he said he would like to get to know us a bit. The end result was that he came down, one day, to Pukekohe (a long trip!) to visit our Wednesday evening Rosary group.

In the course of coming to know Robert, he told us that he had been a seminary student some twenty-plus years before, and, after working in the hotel industry or that time, had decided to seek to go on to finish and become a priest - would we pray for him.

Yesterday we went to his ordination.

This is the second priestly ordination Sue and I have attended. In it, the bishop, in speaking to the ordinand, asks, "Do you promise to obey me, and all my successors?"

There is much else in the ordination ritual that is jarring to modern sensibilities:

  • the ordinand prostrates himself - face flat on the floor, arms extended before himself. He has made himself what Aristotle describes the slave as being: a 'living tool.'
  • The ordinand's wrists are symbolically bound together with a cloth: "When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." (John 21:18)
  • The ordinand places his hands between the bishop's hands - very mediaeval - this is 'homage.' "I am your 'man' - homme - my hands are now your hands." Indeed, this is the origin of the western custom of raising joined hands in prayer.

Our society is dying for lack of authority.

Authority is not power. Power is useless without authority, for it does not know where to apply itself. Only authority - the legitimacy of command and of instruction - can direct power. And with authority, power is not often needed.

Once it was not very necessary to take care to lock one's front door. The voice of authority was received by men that said that stealing was wrong. In the case where this voice was flaunted, power had no uncertainty in its application. Now we install expensive alarm systems in our houses - and know even then that, if we have a break-in, the power, if it apprehends anyone, will be itself tied in knots for no one knows whether I have a right to my property, nor whether it is right to restrain and punish the one who attacks it.

Once it was not controversial to forbid abortion. The voice of authority was received by men that said that it was wrong to kill the innocent. When it did happen, power knew where to direct its force.

Once it was not necessary to argue about what constituted marriage, nor about its importance for society. Those who sought to ignore it by living together without marriage were deprived of social approval and of legal support - for all accepted the authority that said that adultery was wrong. In case of divorce, the partner who wished to defend the marriage had the support of power, because power knew where and how to apply its sanction.

Father Robert has accepted authority. He has accepted the authority of Jesus Christ, as exercised through Bishop Pat Dunn of Auckland. He has submitted himself to that authority and will know how and why to act - as a priest, as a pastor, as a judge. He is not confused. He has bound himself by unbreakable chains of his own forging to the foot of the Cross. By that binding, he is a free man.