Tag Archives: desire

November 12: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xii – ‘Violence against violence.’


For Jesus, non-violence is at the heart of his message, in which we are called to love – even our enemies. This was so threatening to the Roman and Jewish authorities that they eliminated Jesus, hoping his way would die with him. But the message was more enduring. However, early catechesis missed out on the dynamic power of life fully lived even to death. Missing the significance of life resulted in death being seen as the primary constituent for redemption. This led to the notion of redemptive violence: salvation coming through the cross, by the one made perfect through suffering even to the last drop of blood in obedience.

My desires are in imitation of the desires of others. My “I” depends entirely on those who surround me. If I recognise my dependence on other for my desiring, I will be at peace with this other. But as soon as I insist my desire is original I am in conflict with the other. Someone appears wearing a new fashion; someone I like and admire: I’d like to be like. I buy the same item – others comment on my doing this in imitation I reply yes I like what he’s wearing. However, by far the majority of us would resent the implication – insisting my desire has nothing to do with him. The world of advertising seeks to seduce us by showing someone/thing attractive – if you buy X you can be like Y!

We all desire through the eyes of another. The promising protégé soon experiences alienation from the teacher when the latter fears his standing is being eclipsed by this brighter student – and wonders what has happened – what have I done wrong to merit this reaction? Friends have become rivals.

In an attempt to patch things up we seek for a common scapegoat – this would never have happened if he’d never come here – get rid of him and all will be well again. Having achieved this, we experience a kind of peace – but not real peace. It is peace based on deceit, and the covered-up rivalry will emerge eventually, leading to an eventual exclusion of somebody else, to restore such peace.

In this scenario we have to establish 3 things to maintain peace: 1. forbid all sorts of behaviour that would disturb the peace and lead to conflict; 2. repeat where possible the original exclusion or expulsion, which led to our peace, which consists of ritual actions ending in the immolation of a victim – originally human, later animal; 3. and tell the story of how we were visited by the gods and founded a people – so giving birth to myth.

So, social exclusion is a violent form of protection against violence, made possible by murder – disguised through being ritualised. This universally accepted way is a blind justification of what we are actually doing – cultivating a belief in the guilt of the innocent victim. Cultivating such blindness is the only way to resolve conflict and to avoid social self-destruction [it is good that one person die…].

There is only one way this can be challenged. When someone with an entirely different perception, one not dependent on such a lie, comes to the group and points it out. The Jewish story is a long, slow discovery of the innocence of the victim. Look to the foundation of human culture – Cain and Abel – so too with Romulus and Remus – the two brothers who fight about who is the founder of Rome. They organise a competition to see who has received the blessing of the gods. Remus sees some birds, Romulus sees some more impressive birds. In the fight that ensues Romulus kills Remus and becomes the founder of Rome. Remus was accused of impiety towards the gods and for that reason Romulus was right to kill him.

So too with Cain and Abel [Genesis] – the same thing happens – Cain kills Abel; but there is a difference of interpretation: God says to Cain – where is your brother? A – His blood cries out to me! This declares that the murder is no more than that; a sordid crime, and God is on the side of the victim.




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5 April: We who are made brave and afraid.

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God … Counts every tree, Makes every leaf.

Lent is a chance to sort ourselves out – a little at least. But as the first verse of Radclyffe Hall’s poem asks, ‘What can we do?’ I can remember understanding, from an early age, that there was a competitive edge to Lent: who could perform the most penances, collect the most pennies for the missions …WRONG!  the second verse reminds us to seek God in it all. Let’s not lose sight of that quest this Lent.




We who are made
Brave yet afraid,
Happy yet sad,
Good and yet bad,
Sane and yet mad,
What can we do?
Turmoil and strife,
Passion and life,
Love and desire,
Can these inspire
Spiritual fire?
How can we live?
Stumbling feet,
Tasks incomplete,
Longings that kill
Even the will,
Left to fulfil,
How can we die?

Little have we
Bond and yet free,
Strong and yet weak,
Proud and yet meek,
Save but to seek
God in it all.
God with His hands
Holds all the lands;
Rules every sea,
Sets the winds free,
Counts every tree,
Makes every leaf.
Then shall we fear?
He placed us here.
If God commands
God understands,
Ponders, and plans;
Knowing it all.



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20 February, Inter-galactic Exploration, XXIII: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! part 2.

‘Well,’ said Ajax after Will and Abel had taken themselves back to the railway station. ‘What do you make of that story?’
‘I liked Callum,’ said Alfie, ‘but he seemed a bit aggressive to start with.’
‘So, my friends,’ aked T. ‘Which was the real Callum? “Nasty piece of work” or “you made my day”?’
‘I guess if someone expects you to be a nasty piece of work, that’s what they’ll see, but I smelt anger coming out of him,’ said Alfie. ‘That was before we heard about him at school.’
‘And what if Will had been stealing you? Surely he’d have been righteously angry on my behalf?’
‘But you would not want Will beaten up by an angry law enforcer,’ countered Ajax.
‘He was never going to be touched by Callum, except for that handshake. Once Callum knew the dogs were OK, then Will was OK. And when Callum recognised Will he stopped being a cop and became just a human being. Mind, I might get Sergeant Callum to have a word about the way Will lets Abel stuff you with treats when you have perfectly balanced K9Krunchees in the bowls here.’
‘Leave Abel alone,’said Alfie. ‘K9Krunchees are better than certain other scientific foods we all remember. Adequate but incomplete, the old six foods and four drinks, but K9Krunchees seem to give me an appetite for more interesting things that you couldn’t sniff out in your human disguise.’

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1 December, Jacopone da Todi 5. Eternity lies within You.


There are obstacles within us to a more loving range of encounters. The frequent longings felt in our five senses to own this, do that impressive feat, travel to some famous sight or other, are all capable of misleading us. We forget the peace so greatly needed in our hearts. We place other goals and satisfactions in its place. Jacopone, in his poem, The Five Senses, reminds himself of the flat and tasteless reality of a world in which only physical experience is taken seriously.

“Each of the five senses argues heatedly

That his is the most short-lived joy,

That his delights fade fastest away.

The first to speak is Hearing.

‘The contest is over,’ he announces.

‘The sound I just heard is no more –

It touched the ear and vanished.

You can’t deny that.’

‘Hold on,’ argues Sight, ‘I am the winner.

When I closed my eyes just now

I blotted out all shapes and colours.

How short-lived the vision!

Can there be any doubt who has won this contest?’

…. Consider the risks of the game carefully:

For the one move you’re intent on making,

You appear willing to give up your soul.

My soul, eternity lies in you,

And eternal are the joys you seek.

The senses and their delights do not last.

Climb up to God: in happiness that knows no end,

In infinite joy, He will give you fulfilment.”


Our inner flowing mirror of light and wonder has its strength through the companionship of prayer. Even if our practice of prayer is a ruin.


Chris D.

October 2016.

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August 12: Trivial Solutions to Human Passions

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Our cosy routines are put in danger, but  we convince ourselves that right will be on our side because we are mighty and might generally proves itself right. Whether with flag in hand on horseback, or with horsepower under the bonnet, the agreed standards of civic protection will favour us, God or no God.  Here is Godfrey de Bouillon again.

We have an army to keep unwelcome passions of others supervised and checked, we imagine, as if there were no rival claims to protection at work in other cultures of the world.

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But what are the unexamined passions of consumer indulgence which provide our confidence? Are they the moderated passions of the best adults, or a splurge of childish cravings? A quick phone call and all the luxuries of the world are ours.

We are like baby kings, and the fact that we cannot observe the labourers abroad who provide the goodies does not disturb our sleep.

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These three images, all from Brussels, seem to me to pinpoint the unhealthy mixture of a tradition of power, resources of control, and the fascination of gaining our own advantages, and satisfying our tastes, which underpins so much modern existence. We don’t believe that we are in any position to prevent the fallout from this heady combination. But we do have the freedom to seek for a spiritual basis to our friendships and ways of living.



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May 23, 2016: Personhood I.


What does it mean to be a person?  Why ask the question, first of all?  We ask because if we look at this question more closely, we might come to understand some important things about our existence and about our human dignity and lay claim to it more fully.

Karol Wojtyla can help us here.  Long before he became Pope John Paul II, he wrote what would later be published in the book, Love and Responsibility,

Because a person possesses free will, he is his own master….  This characteristic feature of a person goes with another distinctive attribute: not capable of transmission: not transferable.   The point here is not that a person is a unique and unrepeatable entity, for this can be said just as well of any other entity – of an animal, a plant, a stone.  The incommunicable [aspect] in a person is intrinsic to that person’s inner self, to the power of self-determination, free will.  No one else can want for me.  No one can substitute his act of will for mine.  It does sometimes happen that someone very much wants me to want what he wants.  This is the moment when the impassable frontier between him and me, which is drawn by free will, becomes most obvious.  I may not want that which he wants me to want – and in this precisely I am incommunicable.  I am and I must be, independent in my actions.

So, we have returned to the idea of freedom, an idea looked at in previous posts, and which is at the heart of any discussion of the dignity of the human person. Wojtyla is not, it seems to me, talking about freedom in its cosmic breadth here, but in its personal depth.  He is saying that we are “not capable of transmission” because located within us, in the centre of our interiority, is our free will, and this freedom is an aspect of our specific individuality.  Granted, human freedom, in order to be fully realised, requires the grace of God, yet there is still a sense, as Wojtyla indicates here, that our freedom and individuality is something that just goes with the human package.  It is part of our makeup, and gives us our very existence as persons.


Saint Therese lived freedom in its cosmic breadth in the convent at Liseux but at the same time in God’s company. WT, Picture Editor.

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May 19: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: IV


Cliftonville by night … once upon a time


After the incident at the animal shelter, followed by an after dark foray into a rough part of Margate called Cliftonville where hope was discovered (in certain circumstances) to exist as a kind of moral chameleon driven before the winds of many different sorts of desires, ‘T’ reckoned that it might be a good idea to take a break. The Ossyrian mission had already uncovered a wealth of knowledge regarding the complexities of human behaviour, so much so that each newly discovered ‘fact’ seemed to raise a hundred more questions. That the species possessed what the Director, in his far away office in the diplomatic wing of the Inter-Galactic HDQ, had called vitality seemed, now, like a tame understatement. By Ossyrian standards the people of Earth, even when at rest, seemed…well…to somehow have solved the riddle of perpetual motion!

‘Let’s go up to London and see some of the sights,’ ‘T’ suggested and was met with immediate enthusiastic agreement by the pair of Chihuahuas. Hopping the fast train to St. Pancras Station, the trio happily watched the countryside roll by for an hour and a half before pulling into the busy North London transit hub. A sweaty tube ride several stops south brought them to the historic Westminster area of the city dominated by the great landmarks of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s and the Tower of London. ‘Hey, ‘T’,’ Alfie signalled, ‘can we check out Westminster Abbey? I want to see the place where the Prince and his good looking university sweetheart got married.’ ‘Sure, Alfie, no problem,’ ‘T’ replied, ‘if I’m not mistaken it’s just around that corner.’ But there was a problem; dogs, even cute, unobtrusive Chihuahuas, were not allowed into the historic place of worship. ‘I’m confused,’ an acutely disappointed Alfie grumbled, ‘Do they think that dogs don’t believe in God?’ ‘T’, as mystified as the canines, could think of no reply.

‘You know what, guys?’ Ajax’s irrepressible thought waves always brought a smile to ‘T’s homely face.  I’ve got a hankering to ride on the London Eye and get a bird’s eye view of the city.’ ‘Birds??!’ Alfie chimed in, ‘Where?’ He loved chasing birds on the beach back at Margate. But the Eye was also closed to any and all Chihuahuas. ‘Discrimination is just plain wrong, ‘T’,’ his strident thought was laden with hurt agitation. ‘I know, Alfie, I know,’ was all ‘T’ could think of to say. In the end the situation was, however, beautifully salvaged by a leisurely walk along the pavement on the south bank of the Thames followed by burgers and more chips purchased by ‘T’ at an upscale McDonald’s tucked away in one of the many mini-malls that had been converted from Victorian Era dockyards and warehouses, and eaten under a golden afternoon sun on a grass verge overlooking the silty river.

When the relaxed group of one bespectacled middle aged man and two frisky Chihuahuas arrived back in Margate, being late Spring, the sun was still fairly high in the sky. ‘How about one last walk – maybe up to that convenience store on the Canterbury Road where they sell those amazing sesame seed coated candies?’ ‘T’ beamed. ‘YES!!!!!!’ came the instantaneous reply as the Chihuahuas never seemed to tire of walks around town where the near-infinite number of different smells deposited by other dogs on pavement, post, and plant (well, actually, on just about anything and everything) kept them up to date on all of the fascinating happenings in canine society; not part of the study, strictly speaking, but deeply interesting nevertheless.

‘What the…?!!!’ Alfie’s shocked exclamation was followed by a snort as he spit some brownish-green down from his mouth. As was often the case, the wind was blowing briskly in Margate and what had briefly blown straight into the surprised Chihuahua’s open mouth was a living ball of brownish-green down peppered by almost-black spots; something like a rotund avian version of a leopard. The downy ball, crowned with a small beak and two beady eyes, was supported by stalk-like legs with enormous webbed feet. ‘T’ quickly scooped it up and, smiling, proclaimed, ‘It’s a baby seagull…and it must have fallen out of its nest!’

‘Can we put it back?’ Ajax asked, ‘I mean the pavement next to the busy Canterbury Road can’t be a very safe place for a baby seagull.’ ‘I don’t think so,’ ‘T’ beamed, ‘For one thing, we don’t know where its nest is…and if we did its mother probably wouldn’t accept it back.’ ‘But ‘T’,’ Alfie interrupted, ‘we have to do something. We can’t just leave it to die.’ ‘I have an idea,’ ‘T’ signalled enigmatically, ‘Follow me!!’

Five minutes later the trio, with ‘T’ tenderly cupping the contented baby seagull arrived at the train station parking lot where they hailed a taxi. ‘We’re headed to the pet store at Westwood Cross,’ he said to the driver and, with a lazy fart of exhaust, they were on their way. ‘T’ knew that the enormous pet and supply store at the sprawling mall also housed veterinarian offices and was confident that the kindly vets would care for the orphaned seagull chick. When the human, two Chihuahuas, and one baby gull arrived they were indeed advised that they could safely handover the bemused chick and that all would be well.

+   +   +

Three days after the incident involving the young gull Ajax noticed that ‘T’ looked a bit pale and had been much more taciturn than was usual. When questioned, ‘T’ heaved a huge sigh and tried to explain. ‘I phoned the vets this morning to see how our orphan bird was doing…and they informed me that it had been euthanized within minutes of being handed over.’ ‘Oh, no….’ Ajax’s thought trailed off. ‘But why?’ ‘No real reason, really,’ ‘T’s clipped response hinted at confusion and more than a little anger. ‘When I asked, all that they were able to say was that the clinic had been exceptionally busy that day and, besides, Margate had lots of gulls…’ Both dogs sat, trembling, on their haunches looking up at the Director in his human disguise. ‘Sometimes hope, though resilient, can also be a fragile thing,’ he sighed again, ‘because, by its very nature, it is as ethereal as a promise…and promises are sometimes broken.’

(to be continued)


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April 5: Station II – Jesus came and walked with them.

Jesus came and walked with them,

but their eyes were held and they did not recognise him… [14-18]


Notice what is happening here. These two disciples are totally absorbed in what they’re talking about when they suddenly become aware of someone walking alongside them. They have no idea who this stranger is, and if we are to be with them —and learn with them—it is important that we don’t know either. It’s enough to notice the effect it has on them: they stop talking, and when he asks them what they’ve been talking about, ‘the two stood still, looking sad’. That simple question, asked by a stranger, stops them in their tracks and takes them to a new level of awareness—behind all their words there is a deep sadness, which shows in their faces.

That brief glimpse into what they are feeling, takes them to the heart of what is troubling them; it’s not about the surface detail of all the terrible things that have happened, but about what it all means…or does it mean anything? The stranger’s question strikes home in this way, and for a moment they can only stop talking and be silently aware of the weight of their feelings. It is an invitation to them to tell him what they have been talking about, but he will help them to do that in a deeper way, as they re-live the experience and register its personal emotional impact.

What is this like for us today?

What if a stranger came, clearly interested in what we’re talking about but apparently knowing nothing about what’s been happening—or not happening—in the Church? How would we react/respond?

  • Would we be like these two disciples? They were astonished that anyone could fail to know ‘what has been happening in Jerusalem these past few days’. But before that they are suddenly aware of what they’re feeling—what really matters is not what has happened in Jerusalem but how deeply they have been affected by it: sad, angry, confused, near despair… ‘Where is God?’That may be a place where we can stop too. Before saying any more about what has happened, or what it is that ‘makes us’ sad or angry, or whatever, in the Church: let the stranger’s question put us in touch with ourselves.
  • Where am I in this story [of what is happening in the Church]?
  • And what has happened, or is happening in me, as the story unfolds?
  • Why does it bother me so much? Why does it ‘weigh’ on me in the way it does?


Milestone, Forth ad Clyde Canal, MMB.



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Advent hitch hiking reflection 3



Advent is not only about hoping…it is also about waiting for hope’s fulfilment. Our culture seems to have little patience with what cannot be immediately grasped. This is old news and the weary litany is far too familiar; charge cards, cheap ugly buildings, drive through churches, drug abuse, sex as sport and countless other flash fires of immature desires terrified by limits. The awful irony is that desire has no limits and was not originally intended to. I have fallen into the trap many times. I possess a terrible hunger in the depth of my being and the endurance of that hunger scandalizes my humanity. I am convinced, on some primal level, that it would not only make me feel better to be filled but that it is also somehow my right. This is only partly true and, in its fractured state, is very dangerous. It takes a question to establish some perspective; filled with what? In the starving delirium induced by unfulfilled desires I might hastily fill myself with many things.

A hitch hiker begins a journey. He is impatient to reach his destination and filled with the pleasant anticipation of journey’s end. The day seems to be lucky as he is picked up very quickly and taken many miles. While sitting in someone else’s car he watches the world fly by and rejoices in the fulfilment of his purpose. That particular ride comes to an end all too soon and he is dropped off in a desolate spot of unfriendly faces and little traffic. He begins to wait. At first the waiting is agreeable. It soon becomes an ordeal as he begins to endure an assault upon his fragile hope. The sun is too hot and his view is taken up by the uncompromising dreariness of shimmering asphalt. His social isolation under the hard sky awakens a gnawing loneliness and he becomes weak with a hunger he can’t name. He tries to understand the origin of his suffering and begins to silently curse the drivers who look away from him. His heart, far from being empty, is filled with violence and misery.

Waiting is an uncompromising companion and her company is difficult to accept. Is it possible to cherish such a tenacious embrace? Her conversation tends toward subtlety but her faithfulness is beyond reproach. She is not unsympathetic though she can be very demanding. Above all, she is honest. Waiting, when she is feeling sociable, travels with a companion named Discernment who is also rather serious in temperament, but not quite so taciturn. Together they patiently reveal a truth all the more startling in that it comes from such a prosaic pair. Desire, they insist, is Holy. Deeply felt desire is the perpetual reminder of what it really means to be human. It represents a memory so ancient it exists on the outer perimeter of articulation. Desire remembers a time when we were not hungry and weeps. Waiting stands ready, with clear eyes and a steady heart, to take the tear- blinded traveller firmly by the hand. She assures him that he is not alone. She understands, when he is consumed by doubt, where it is he wants to go, and she promises to remain with him until, at last, he arrives. TJH

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