the world that laughs for us….

And then, a DOG bit me!

Jacques Lacan was a French Psychoanalyst who posited that our unconscious is structured much like a language.”If the unconscious is structured like a language, Lacan argues, then the self is denied any point of reference to which to be “restored” following trauma or “identity crisis”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscious_mind#Lacan.27s_linguistic_unconscious).

Lacan would go on to talk about how what we desire will never be fulfilled. He refers to this unmet desire as the objet petit a; the presumption then is that desire lacks the very thing we think we desire. Hollywood, television adverts, grocery store aisles all play on this truth. Let’s take for example the beauty adverts that seem to prey on women.

Most of these adverts work on the premise that there is already a socially defined reality that informs us all what a women should and should not look like. Some women buy into this, in fact, there are few that don’t; on some unconscious level, we’re all measuring ourselves against some objective idea. It is our thoughts that help create what we believe about reality and ourselves.

When I was younger, I remember learning that matter is made of atoms, energy and particles. In the last few years quantum physics have merged with philosophy and are now positing that all that we see in front of it is not made of matter, but rather, thought. In the narrative documentary ‘What the Bleep do we know?” the content focuses on how and what defines our reality.
The Awful Truth, Day 4:  Could Be Working Harder

They conclude by the end that our thoughts bring things into reality. For example, a tree is only a tree because it has been socially constituted and agreed upon (thought of) as a tree. A moment sipping tea in the garden is never simply a moment sipping tea in the garden, it’s always both more and less than what it appears to be.

The world itself then is desire waiting to happen.

If the two points above are true about how we experience and interact with reality then how perceive the world and what we believe about matters more than we would like to think it would. This is why deconstruction is one of the most responsible acts we can all participate in. It seems the constituted world, well, a world mostly constituted by media, adverts, toys, and ‘stuff’ that world seems to be telling us how to think about what we think about it.

It’s like sitcoms that have canned laughter during what are meant to be funny moments, and we watch having enjoyed the show as if we have laughed ourselves.

Deconstructing ourselves will eventually lead to finding ourselves.

This is why the question is such a powerful thing.

america is gadhafi’s love child

all of this focus on gadhafi increases the longevity of war. in fact, i no longer think america has a global voice. especially in the case of gadhafi. if anything i think america has become nothing more than the perverse love-child of gadhafi and the media.

but its not just with gadhafi though, its the presumptions that inhabit america. and when i refer to america i do not refer to the individuals who populate the nation called america, but the shadow of america that represents itself, something other than america. its the system of america, the doppelganger. the evil underbelly that has somehow assumed its role as the universal father-figure who needs to run everything and walk with a big stick. the institution of america better said.

the more wars and globa disagreements america gets involved in the more obscene its reputation becomes and is received by the rest of the global competitors. the more gadhafi is pursued and the more blood that is let, the more america becomes the ultimate terrorist and tyrant. although gadhafi is and has participated in atrocious acts, the worst acts have come from western retaliation.

let’s use another example to strengthen that point. look at how reacted to saddam hussein, a known terrorist, what did america do, they reacted to a terrorist with terrorism (by hanging him publicly) – what did we do with osama, we killed him and some of his family. but the collateral damage was justified because he was brought to ‘justice’. this un-accountability of america has put the reputation of the world at stake. are we barbarians that we should need to destroy each other and find ways to justify it by using over-politicized rhetoric??

paul’s dislocated mirror

you’re are many members, but one body. – Paul

(soma) – body (which casts a shadow as distinguished from the shadow itself )

(heis) – but one (universal)

(melos) – parts, members (neutered)

In Lacan’s presentation of the mirror stage, the infant experiences his or her body as uncoordinated, vulnerable, and insufficient. This sense of frustration with physical limitations propels the infant toward identification with the (apparently) unified and stable imago of the mirror reflection or of the caregiver.

“The propositional exactitude of a certain absence”

the whole notion of church predominantly stems from the notion that we all have a participatory role to play. we each have something to both give and gain. something to leave and something to take. in the west, the idea of church is quite heavily driven by identity. for example, some go to charismatic gatherings because this expression seems to fit for them ideologically. others visit in small houses with candles and guitars because they crave intimacy with the divine.

neither one excludes the other, although the manner in which we guard and defend each expression would make others think so. we defend our understanding and ideas over that which might be beneficial to each other as whole. we would rather demonstrate our allegiance to the belief in something that projects itself to be a community at the risk of the greater community.

the jungian notion of the shadow claims that “the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts.”* by over-asserting our individualism not only do we deny the idea of what it means to be the body of christ, we deny the very weaknesses we are meant to claim about ourselves. we hide our weaknesses when we seek the ‘perfect’ church. but why do we seek the perfect church if it does not exist? what drives us to seek out the whole self when in reality we are disjointed? we are plural. i think it is in the mis-recongnition of wholeness where the church has been lost for centuries.

wholeness is plurality.

wholeness is disjointed. it is not that one is different from the other or even that one needs the other. the ancient sage wisdom of the ying and the yang does not stand in true form here because individuality is not the opposite of the body, individuality is the very body itself. but when we embrace one over the other we become the ‘body’ we were never meant to be. notice the word paul uses for body and how it is defined. it is a shadow created by something that is not itself. the shadow is the other. the shadow is the defining factor, or in the case lacan’s mirror.

Kat1

the body is the issue here. the body is the problem not the goal. the body isn’t represented by wholeness, the body hides the reality of dislocation. the body creates another shadow that is not the true nature of what we now call church. the body, remember, is not wholeness it is the facade of wholeness. it is the promise of something that can never come, not because it is impossible, but because as we earlier discovered it is in our disjointedness that we are already whole.

also notice that paul uses a neutered term here when he refers to parts or members. neutered. no gender. christ is a genderless entity. jesus was male. its important to remember in the ancient world that the term christ was used quite widely and wasnt as scarce as we would like to think. many would have used it. jesus’ last name was not christ. it was a title. a description. but the description does not define the gender of the title. christ the title held itself as a genderless descriptor.

this notion flies in the very face of fundamentalist paradigms that claim certain rules either about gender or sexuality. those that spend their time searching through libraries creating perverse theology centered around injunctions seek to engender more meaning to the christ descriptor than itself claims to be aligned with. to be a part of the genderless community is to claim freedom for all of those who might lie within the undefined cracks. i am very hesistant to use the postmodern term ‘other’ here because that would assume that this other resides outside of this disjointed body we claim as whole. and if it is ‘whole’ then it also includes everybody.

notice the next term paul uses here. the word for one. it’s universal. not specific. not tribal. it applies to the whole of not just the audience who would have heard/read this letter, but because of the circulated nature of such a letter it would have included a variegated number of listeners. this ‘specific universality’ i claim is a microcosm for the world in its entirety. to be the church is to include responsibility for each other, including ecosystems, animals, economies, beliefs and etc. but this goes beyond taking care of the poor and other social justice practices, sometimes these practices are the very things keeping us from fully embracing every one that we might not be comfortable with.

i think the redemption of the church lies in: (1) eradicating its current master signifiers and (2) redefining them. for most there are certain ideas that define the church, or communities and what it is centered around and what makes them tick. i think these are all the wrong questions. we need to push them beyond them all and began looking at other possibilities – in the end, the full eradication of any master-signifier (the word/idea that gives ultimate (whole) meaning to ideas) – (ex: the church is meant to be ‘perfect’) should be the goal. for me this is why the death and resurrection is so important. it is the cycle/direction that the church, ideology and even life is meant to take.

the church cannot be self-referential. otherwise it becomes valued only through itself. it must point to a reality beyond itself. this is the ultimate weakness of any master-signifier it can only end in and of itself. the church for centuries has only led to itself. this is why there is an aggressive exclusive kernel that still remains yet attractive even within the rhetoric of the new movements within. because those within it have become institutionalized no matter how much structure they might kick against. to redeem the church is to redeem the world. i think this is why jesus spent so much time talking/critiquing/praying for the church because once it got itself sorted out, the world (which according to paul is the church) would by relationship itself be sorted out.

Dave Hopwood’s New Book: Rebel Yell – A Book on Psalms

31 Psalms – Rebel Yell [Billy Idol]

My friend and author Dave Hopwood has a new book out, here are some excerpts on his new book – check it out. Follow his blog here: http://www.davehopwood.blogspot.com

Over the years a lot of teenagers have made compilation CD’s.

It used to be mix tapes, now its playlists I guess. But the scenario is the same, you fancy someone, you want to impress them and give them something at the same time, so you throw together 31 songs you love and attempt to make them love them too.
Well, this is a kind of literary equivalent.
Of Biblical songs.

When I first picked up Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs I almost didn’t buy it. I was basically put off by the fact that I only knew two of the 31, Reasons to be Cheerful and Thunder Road. (Sorry Nick, I’m a musical philistine and you could probably write a haunting sequel about the appalling albums in my CD collection.) However Nick won me over, in fact wins me over, every time I pick up and re-read this delicious book. He has made me buy some of the songs he describes in it, it’s that powerful. I may not have heard many of the songs he describes, but he makes me wish I had, and he makes me wish I loved them in the way he does.

Can I make you love the psalms, and lots of other bits of the Bible? I doubt it. The Bible’s a lot harder to get into than a three-minute pop song. But little bite-size chunks can set your day on fire, and maybe one or two of them will stay forever and become your raison d’être. As the story of Ezekiel cooking with cow dung and Jeremiah burying his underpants have become with me. I like to think I’m a different person because I read those stories and saw myself in them.

So I hope that you will find yourself in some of these writings, in the psalms and the songs and the stories that go with them. The Bible could be thought of as a great album – a triple album I guess, or maybe even an entire back catalogue, certainly a huge collection of songs that take you on the epic journey of your life. Through anger, pleasure, hatred, war, doubt, confusion, laughter, parties, practical joking, loneliness, friendship, comfort, hope and wrestling. May you find one or two of the steps for your journey in the land of these 31 psalms.

I have also attributed a pop song to each chapter and I’ve tried my best to pick songs which I think give another angle on the psalm, but in the case of the book title I’ve failed miserably. Rebel Yell is little more than a raucous love song, the cry of a girl who wants more, more, more from Billy Idol. (Formerly of Generation X if you know your punk bands.) But the song title just leapt out at me as perfect for a Biblical book that is full of angst, questions, honesty and truth.

The psalms aren’t all protest songs, but many are, and they all crave for the justice of God to dominate this world. At a stretch you could say that the more you get to know God, the more you crave of him in your life. It’s tenuous though I’ll admit. I’ll try and do better for the rest of the book.

‘In the midnight hour, she cries more, more, more.
With a rebel yell, more, more, more.’

Top 4 other possible titles for this book:

4. Reasons to Be Cheerful [Ian Dury and the Blockheads] – too much of an exaggeration. Two thirds of the psalms actually feature complaint and anguish. Plus there’s absolutely no mention whatsoever of Indiana Jones, Alan Partridge, Guinness or Yorkshire pudding with onion gravy. So not enough reasons to be cheerful at all.
3. I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing [The New Seekers] – too cheesy. Way, way, way too cheesy. So cheesy it’s off the cheese scale by a cheesy mile.
2. Sex and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll [Ian Dury, again] – too untrue. The psalms may well have been done in the style of Elvis, but there’s barely any sex (though I intend to find some) and certainly no class A substances.
1. Why, Why, Why Delilah? [Tom Jones] – too weird. It’s a great song but it’s the wrong book. Delilah’s that hair cutting-dame who knocked about with Samson and gave him a number one cut while he was sleeping. Not a good idea. Never cut anyone’s hair while they are asleep. Or bleach it either. Nowadays Samson would have sued.

Track 23: Psalm 44 – Song for Whoever [The Beautiful South]

11 You have treated us like sheep waiting to be slaughtered;
you have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold us – your precious people—for a pittance.
You valued us at nothing at all.
13 You have caused all our neighbors to mock us.
We are an object of scorn and derision to the nations around us.
14 You have made us the butt of their jokes;
we are scorned by the whole world.

The Beautiful South was a very rare pop group indeed – sugar sweet tunes and bitterly ironic lyrics. They sang with dark humour about the trials of life. Their big number one song I Need A Little Time was all about a guy using that phrase as an excuse to take a break from one girl so he could go running around with all the others.

Their song Manchester celebrates that city with this wry chorus:
‘As you dry your clothes once again upon the radiator,
What makes Britain great makes Manchester yet greater.’

Their very name was ironic. They loved the glorious north, not the beautiful south. They were having a laugh. In a previous incarnation as the Housemartins they released an album entitled Hull 4 London 0. Get the message?

Irony is powerful yet subtle. Most people may miss the joke, while others might be deeply offended by it.

Jesus and the prophets made plenty of room for irony and satire. When Elijah had a showdown with a load of rogue prophets he taunted them with this, ‘Where’s your god then? Why isn’t he showing up for you? Maybe he’s having a bathroom break!’

When Jesus was asked whether to pay taxes to Caesar (a thinly veiled trap by his enemies) Jesus asked if anyone had a coin on them and he must have smiled ironically when the Pharisees pulled one out. Here were the ‘devout’ Pharisees carrying an image of a roman emperor in their pocket. Gotcha! Their law said they weren’t supposed to carry an image of anyone around with them. Ha!

John was using hyperbole when he claimed in his blog that all the books in the world couldn’t contain everything Jesus had done. Well of course they could. You might need a lot of books or a very big industrial-sized Kindle but you could manage it. He’s exaggerating to make a point about how incredible this Messiah is.

Song for Whoever talks of using people. Making a fast buck out of pretending to love others. Reminds me of that old saying, ‘God made things to be used and people to be loved, yet we often get it the other way round.’

I could, for the third time in this book, have drawn on psalm 139 – how we are uniquely made and valued by God. We are not pawns in a giant game of online chess. We are not just useful marketing toys, or money-making machines. Though you can be made to feel that way quite easily by individual people or huge multinational companies.

However, I came across this psalm – one off the album by the Sons of Korah. And these guys are not happy. They feel like they have been used. They’ve been told the old stories about the great times in the past when God came through, when the Red Sea scarpered and the mountains did a runner. God spoke and everyone sat up and took notice. But not now. Now they feel overlooked and dumped.

This could almost be the story of some of the 30 and 40-year-olds in the UK. I have in recent years met many parents and grandparents who have faithfully served God over the years, yet their children and grandchildren have not inherited the faith. They have been told the stories of old about the God who made everything and sets people free – but the kids don’t see it that way. They don’t get it. They’re like the Sons of Korah. Wondering where their God is, and why they feel adrift in the way they do. This postmodern generation has left many people stuck on the sidelines wondering.

The context here could well be people who are in a mess and they pray and don’t get the answers they want. Maybe Israel is surrounded by the bad guys and God won’t just turn up and nuke them and dash their children against the rocks. They pray and wait and watch the tumbleweed roll by. Not a lot of satire in this psalm just the raw guts of prayer spilled like angry vomit as they rant at the sky.

‘Where are you God? Why have you forsaken us?’
They feel like dumb animals hanging around waiting for the kill. Helpless. Lost. Not exactly about to break out with a chorus of ‘Our God is an awesome God.’ This is another psalm with the cat with the baseball bat scenario.

‘Wake up God! Get down here now! You’re late for the world!’
They thought they were special but now they feel overlooked. Left on the pile. They had been promised that God knew them by name. But something’s gone wrong. He seems to have forgotten.

It’s easy to want to jump to God’s defence here and explain why the people have landed up in this confused state. But that might just diffuse the power of this psalm. I know that Israel lost the plot many times, and I know that they thought they were doing what God wanted but had in fact misread the brief. They got caught up with being special rather than being servants. That could be what this is about. Maybe.

Whatever. This song is here in the Good Book for us. For those bad days we all have when life does not turn out the way we predicted or expected. And for those days when we feel used, lost or let down.

‘Oh Shirley, Oh Deborah, Oh Julie, Oh Jane.
I wrote so many songs about you I forget your name.
Oh Cathy, Oh Alison, Oh Phillipa, Oh Sue.
You made me so much money, I wrote this song for you.’

Top 3 ways we get used:

3. As consumers – buy buy baby. You know it makes sense. It’s the best a man can get, and you’re worth it, cause it does exactly what it says on the tin.
2. As viewers – you need the news and you need it now. Keep watching – don’t change channel, don’t switch off, don’t stop till you get enough i.e. sometime never.
1. By companies who want your friends. I’ve just been generously offered extra internet storage space if I enrol you and you and you with them. And you. And you. And you over there. And you at the back. And you on the toilet. And if you enrol me with some other company you can probably get 20 tons of free cat food.

(Feel free to tell all your friends to buy my book.)