Monday, January 24, 2005

meeting wendell berry...

One of the highlites of my trip to London was meeting Wendell Berry in person, at a poetry-reading event. Wendell has been considered one of the most important living prophetic voices in America today. A farmer, poet, novelist, essayist, conservationist, former professor of English, Wendell Berry is probably one of the most eclectic, unique and iconoclastic person you will ever meet. I remember Brian McLaren recommending his writings to me, almost 3 years ago at an emergent event. Brian even read a Berry poem in one of the sessions. It was an unforgettable experience. Here's one of my personal favourites:
MANIFESTO : The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


What do dreams tell you, about your life, where you’re at perhaps, emotionally? In the space of this week alone, I’ve had 3 vivid ones… at least the ones I do remember…
The first one: I saw in the horizon, against the blue sunny sky, a hundred foot tsunami-like wave heading towards me and others... I frantically try to run away, knowing well that I won’t escape that imminent monster…

The second: I dreamt I had a friend who were buddies with the band members of Butterfingers (a Malaysian grunge band). I turned up for their gig just before the show starts… Suddenly they tell me that I had to stand in for their lead singer… I panicked as I realized I do not know the lyrics of their songs…Last I remember, I was trying to convince Loque, the lead guitarist, that I wasn’t up to the job, that I just don’t know the words… yet they insisted… As the music starts, I face the mic and crowd, fear clouding my thoughts…

3rd dream, just this afternoon: I was in Greece, visiting my old friend, Pandelis… I remember being in the hotel room, when the thought hit me that I was about to miss my return flight… The fear and tension was so heavy, as I think of ways to solve the problem… I try to call the airline to change my departure time…

They say dreams reveal the preoccupation of your subconscious… Is my body trying to say something? Am I stuck in a place where I feel there’s no way out? I wonder what Jung or Freud said about dreams...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

in God's country...

2005 is up and running... i just spent 2 weeks back in London, with a fine 3 days up in God's country, Dublin, Ireland, to be exact... had my first glass of Guinness in an Irish pub, surrounded by the friendliest people I've met for a long time... was hoping to bump into Bono and philosophize over a pint or two, but no such luck... i did get to see the Clarence hotel owned by the U2 bhoys. (let's hope they put the profits to good use, eh?!! :)

the day before i flew into Dublin, i was surfing the net randomly... came across this link: I decided to contact Damien Moran, one of the Irish Catholic Worker, an organization founded by Dorothy Day in New York City, famed for her houses of hospitality for the homeless and destitute. We decided to hook up...and lo and behold, I met him at 4.30pm in front of the Irish Aviation Authority(IAA), holding a peace vigil with his 2 colleagues. They are protesting against the fact that the IAA allows the U.S. Army to refuel and transport military personnel through Shannon Airport. According to their site 'The I.A.A. have permitted 360,000 U.S. troops to pass through Shannon Airport in the past 3 years. An average of 10,000 U.S. soldiers along with various munitions of war passing through Shannon each month, en route to the invasion, occupation & plunder of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. '

The last 15 minutes of the vigil was a time where we read out the names of those whose lives had been destroyed by the war in Iraq. We took turns reading 20 names plus each, remembering them and their families before the Lord in prayer... I read the names of Iraqi people who perished in the war, people with names, age, and homes.... mothers, infants as young as a year and a half, fathers, brothers... A sense of how the war has dehumanized and depersonalized human existence and livelihood. Today the Iraq War is just an abstract notion, propagandized by our media... we hardly blink our eyes or put a human face to our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq... and this includes our American brothers as well... The war on terrorism and ideological battles for freedom and democracy aside, why can't we see that no human life is expendable or 'sacrificeable': war is our modern-day practice of human sacrifice at the altars of Domination, Power, Mammon and Race.

These Irish friends that I made, Damien and Ciaran (a fantastic Aussie of Irish descent, banned from the USA for sabotaging/disarming a B-52 bomber during the first Gulf War) are a part of the ploughshares movement, inspired by the following text in Isaiah 2:4,5 :
4 He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. 5 O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the Lord.
Together with 3 other people, they are facing trial on March 7th for damaging a US warplane in Shannon Airport. As a middle-class, 'well-brought up' Christian Malaysian, my initial thoughts while conversing with them was ' Man...How can one be so irresponsible and disobey the laws of our country, face the possibility of having a criminal record, not to mention the time spent behind bars?!...' Then again, I am reminded of our O.T. prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos etc. who really did some far-out things, often imprisoned for their protestations against the injustice and militarism (ie trust in military power) of their times. What more if one is to speak of the crucified Nazarene in first century Palestine. My Irish friends are far more 'prophetic' than the whole lot of us, so-called 'responsible Christians'.

In prayer and solidarity with them as they face the Powers on March 7th 2005...