Blog archive July 2004

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30.07.04 / 01 / sabbath

how does church frame rest? atm going to church competes with our need for rest and space. but sabbath was about rest, so how did they come to compete? god became another source of busyness, church became another place of work. sabbath had to come from other places.

wasn't the intention of sabbath to rest from work as a space for the spiritual to enter, to be perceived? how do we recover spiritual practices of rest, that escape the danger of prayer itself being work, full of achievements and imperatives?

how do we tweak old practices to refresh and be attractive against such distractions as tv? spiritual play-rest? what are the spaces we already use? the ipod on the tube. coffee shop. book. gameboy. perceptual spaces made by sound or focussing sight, working by exclusion and then filled with something else. [silence whether visual or aural is difficult against brain hunger and chatter]. little sabbaths? do we perceive god?

how does passive reception [of fill] move to active participation? is participation always prone to end up as work? how do we receive, and what? who?

29.07.04 / 02 / the eagle has landed

oh, and it's another job where the firm's reputation with a client rests on my performance in a difficult situation. i hoped to get out from that one.

at least the shorter commute [about an hour door-to-door] takes the edge off any overwork.

29.07.04 / 01 / the eagle has landed

work is about to get serious again. from tomorrow i work on a project called 'eagle' [just so someone can say "the eagle has landed" i suspect] which is some very urgent alterations to an office following on from the merger of two financial companies. it's going to be flat out through august. i am trying to book my greenbelt leave, but may have to be flexible about going for the full thursday to tuesday. it may end up as friday evening to monday night. we'll see.

hard to believe i've only been back at work a week.

22.07.04 / 01 / Norway

the first thing to say is that it never got dark. in bergen the sun set at 11pm and rose maybe 1 or 2am. but even in london it's not dark for the first hour after sunset. in bergen it simply became mildy gloomy, like a cloudy day. above the arctic circle the sun never set at all. the light became strange between 12pm and 1am - kind of sunset and dawn in one, pink clouds - and then it was normal day again. suprisingly i had no trouble sleeping. after a sunny start the trip was dogged by low cloud which was frustrating sometimes, hiding mountaintops and the midnight sun, but it didn't spoil the scenery.

i began and ended my trip in bergen, norway's second city. good shops, cafes, very scenic setting across hills and islands - a pleasant place to live i suspect. the central harbour has a fish market, and along one side the bryggen which is a unesco world heritage site and a tourist trap. despite the crowds the timber passages and galleries are worth a look.

bergen introduced me to the painted timber houses of norway, which are similar everywhere. there only seem to be about ten colours, as if the government were controlling it, but it's probably just the paint range available. all the colours harmonise, and walls are generally one colour with windows in a contrasting shade. in the far north this introduces a tumble of colour into a landscape that's mostly brown rock in summer and white snow in winter.

from bergen i took the hurtigrute coastal ferry north for six days, diverting down deep fjords, travelling among islands, calling at many ports, into the arctic and around the top of europe to kirkenes by the russian border. kirkenes is as far east as istanbul, and the voyage from bergen is some 2000km. from kirkenes i flew back via oslo to bergen for another night before flying home. the sailing schedule was such that we could get ashore to explore for an hour or two in various places.

the hurtigrute is as much cruise ship as ferry, and most of the several hundred passengers were aged between 60 and 85! maybe half were norwegian, but there were many other nationalities. my cabin was as good as any hotel room, and meals were provided in the ticket. it's a good job i like fish. fish starters followed by fish main course. the norwegian thing seems to be fish, pickles, pickled fish, yoghurt, eggs and cheese. they couldn't cook pasta, and i didn't see a tomato until the second-to-last day. there was reindeer served cold at lunch, i wish now i'd tried it.

my urge to make this northward trip began in the late 80s, when i tried to get as far away from london/work as possible within the british isles in a week's snap leave. this took me to orkney off the top of scotland. i stood on a harbour looking north and wondered about going further. i was fascinated by how much later the sun set, and wondered about it not setting. i went back to orkney about ten years ago, but i always knew that to continue i would have to go to norway.

the trip had two big moments for me. arrival at lofoten was one, a place i had wanted to visit for years after seeing the pictures in snowboarding magazines. lofoten is a chain of mountainous islands some 100km long, and so close together that they appear as one 'wall' which nevertheless has spectacular narrow passages through. the arctic circle was crossed invisibly that morning further down the coast, and nothing seemed different. the passage through the lofoten wall at midnight felt like the real passage into the arctic. beyond the high jagged peaks was the midnight sun, a wilder landscape and a different light. a silence descended on the ship.

and the northernmost point of the voyage. i didn't go on the excursion to nordkapp, which the guidebooks deprecate as a tourist trap. the coast may not go that far north again, but the ship does. it's only possible to be this far north without special equipment because of the gulf stream. this is north of alaska and canada. central siberia goes further, and the greenland ice cap. from norway one can visit svalbard another 1000km further north to see polar bears. apart from that there's just sea, then ice, then the pole.

it's strange to have been to these places and seen these things after 15 years of thinking about it. the far north doesn't seem so far away now. i know how to get there for a few days, which will happen, maybe when there's snow [and money!]. when i got back to london i was surprised by the dark - the 'light' summer nights don't seem light any more. the southern fjords are lovely, but for me the real thing is the wild barren landscape and seas of the arctic. i always seek out the empty and elemental.

20.07.04 / 01 / trinity and worship

like jonny i loved ten minutes on the trinity and worship from maggi dawn. it reminded me of the time i went to a charismatic youth rave event out of curiosity, and the worship leader was jumping about and yelling for god to be present, and i thought "he already is..."

19.07.04 / 01 / Norway photoblog

On the left you'll find a link to some photos of my Norway trip. This is just a quick selection out of the 200 or so I came back with [after editing them on the boat as I went along]. I'll blog more about the trip another night. Sadly I have to go to work in the morning :(

18.07.04 / 02 / New smallritual blog

so this is it, a proper blog at last instead of that old self-published homepage. now you can do your rss thing. there'll be a new small ritual site shortly too.

this seems a good moment to make clear some of my reasons behind smallritual the site and the blog. three or four years ago i was doing a lot of writing about alt worship, eg for ship of fools, and i began to feel like i was coming across as a greybeard theologian or some such church-leader-adviser type. whereas everything i do and say in that field is shaped by my life and interests in a very different set of cultural contexts, and [site and blog] attempts to show those wider contexts.

it's ended up being overrun by church-related stuff more than i intended, because that's where so much of my creativity goes. and it's all about life with god - how could it not be? but pictures of jellyfish and skate-clothing websites are an essential part of the argument - the writing about alt worship doesn't stand apart from such things, as if church could be hived off in a bubble. it's all church, even when it isn't. or 'church' exists as a space in which all these things can be looked at. the white room in which you put things to see what they're made of.

18.07.04 / 01 / New blog

This blog now continues HERE so adjust your links please. the new one is a proper blog and has rss too. soon there will be a new small ritual site also.

03.07.04 / 01

finally get away to norway tomorrow after nasty last-minute stress when the ticket agent messed up the flight ticketing. consequently instead of a nice two hour direct flight to bergen i go to amsterdam and wait ages for a connecting flight.

i was going to move this blog onto blogger or something updatable on the move, but it's now unlikely i'll be blogging anyway since i'll be on a boat for most of the trip. and if i come ashore i'll be looking round not heading straight for the nearest internet cafe! still, the rate i've been blogging no-one will notice a ten-day hiatus. there'll be some photos when i get back. and maybe a new small ritual site ready to roll.

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