Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Weird Wednesday - Pockets of Joy

Sometimes things happen in the strangest way.

We've had a hell of a lot of bushfires in Australia this spring-summer, which I'm sure you know about. Although my little village wasn't affected, quite a huge proportion of the area around me was burnt. I was really struggling with the loss of lives, the widespread destruction, the uselessness I felt, and the horror of it all.

I hate feeling like that, and I know I can spiral into negative thought loops that just drag me down and down and down. So I needed to do something to kick me out of that...and I thought it might help others too.

So I dug through some old photos and took some new ones, and began putting them on Facebook, and sometimes Instagram. I called them Pockets of Joy. Sometimes you can't find joy in everything, you've just got to find a tiny piece.

You know I take weird photos if you follow Wildlife Wednesday, and people seemed to enjoy that quirky view I sometimes pick up. I kept putting photos up, each day throughout January.

At some stage a few friends started saying I should make a book. That they'd buy it. Someone even said they'd buy copies for gifts.

And on the January long weekend, I remained at home (on fire watch) while family went away. I was planning on a huge writing weekend...yet, I found myself collating photos, creating a book. I spent 2 blissful days creating. I sent it to a couple of people, got some feedback, kept fiddling and creating.

It's been an absolute pleasure to create this. I love playing with the photos that make me smile. I've even enjoyed culling and swapping and changing book sizes and shape. I have draft after draft after draft. More feedback.

This is what I have so far...it's not the final product...just the latest draft. An A5 sized book that I hope I can print in an affordable way so Pockets of Joy is available for anyone to buy.

And maybe if it's not exorbitant, I can get extra copies and drop them down the coast into bushfire affected towns to give people a pick-me-up.

So...not the usual Cate thing...but not so weird either.

I'll let you know when it's available! And I'll show some sample pages. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday Story - Mary Magdalene Revealed

I've had this book, Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Watterson, sitting on my e-reader for quite some time. It can take ages for me to get through my To Be Read pile of physical and e-books! I'm so glad this book popped onto the "open and Read" portion of my brain.

This book feels like the missing link, for me, between religion and woo-woo, alternate spiritual practices. Let me try to explain.

Meggan Watterson's book explains how she interprets the Gospel Of Mary, one of the gnostic gospels that was discovered in the late nineteenth century, buried in Egypt. (You can find more info here).

I haven't read the Gospel itself, but I will need to.

According to Meggan Watterson's book, there were other teachings that Jesus Christ of Nazareth gave to his followers that are not included in the New Testament. The First Council of Nicea, held in 325CE, was a meeting of bishops who tried to find consensus for this fast-developing Christian religion. Many gospels were omitted from the Bible, and ordered destroyed but some monks who no doubt were as book-loving as me, could not destroy them, so buried them.

Why some were chosen and others weren't is subject to conjecture, as the reasons were not recorded (or have not been made known if they were). Looking at the Church now, the Catholic Church particularly, power may have been a major driver and so slanting the stories to give maximum control of the people to those 'in charge' was probably a reason.

Watterson is a theological scholar, with an interest in the Divine Feminine. So much of what she had searched for in the traditional Christian teachings, is what I've questioned throughout my life. My questions have been along these lines:
  • Why are women excluded from so much of the Church, when Jesus preached compassion (e.g. feeding masses with loaves and fishes) and equality (e.g. not casting stones)? 
  • Why is St Paul revered when he's so blatantly anti-women in so many of his letters, which always felt against the Jesus I thought I knew from the Gospels? 
  • Why was Peter the revered apostle, and first Pope, when he disowned Jesus three times?

I'm starting to get these answers reading this book. Answers to questions I've asked for 40 years LOL! I remember sitting with Fr T in his study, discussing Bible passages, and my incessant questioning had him chewing on the end of his pipe, sucking in deep breaths, and pausing as he framed an answer. I was in high school when he introduced me to his brother, also a priest but one who'd studied a lot of theology, and we had further discussions. This is years after I begged to be an altar boy, and scored becoming a reader instead (because girls were not allowed to serve on the altar - that has changed now!).

This book explains that Mary's descriptions of Jesus's teachings were about developing a deeper understanding about what love is, what self is, and that the world is a place to go deep into your heart and live in a way that tries to unite your humanity and your soul (or the spiritual).

And this then is the perfect link to paganism, so many Eastern religious teachings, the so-called New Age movement.

Religion is not a power game, a patriarchal system focussed on removing sin through suffering, punishment and penance.

It's truly about searching your inner being for flaws and trying to do better tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

It's about loving yourself, and loving everyone else. It's about seeing yourself as made from divine, therefore also divine, and trying to live to achieve that.

Religion has always felt like a power struggle for me, with so little focus on self and love - even though they were (for me anyway) the key messages of Jesus. This Gospel of Mary takes the power out of religion, and puts it back on self and love.

And truly, that feels like the real meaning of life.

Can I become the best person I can be? Can I love myself and others, fully?

Have you read this book?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday Soapbox - philosophies and world views

I listened today. I listened and puzzled and tried to understand. It's something that pisses me off about the world - and strangely enough, it's one of my faults! Funny how that's so often reflected. But anyway... I listened to Dad while he gave me his world view.

As I've become more annoyed with the world in general, I've come to see his world view (he's in his 70s, white male, conservative) as the 'bloody patriarchy' and 'conservative right' and old blokes who don't want their power structure to change.

For some reason, today I decided to listen and try to understand where he's coming from. There seems to be too many of his vintage with his view...and my Dad isn't a sexist, power hungry pig like I often see others.

Dad was a young man in the 1960s. His father was a staunch Labor man, working class, inner city fellow. This connection is important to understanding where my old man is coming from. Add to this, my Dad's work was sometimes privvy to things the average person on the street doesn't know and I don;t know much about that, but I often wonder how much he really knows! LOL

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Cold War was huge. In Australia, according to my grandfather, the "Red Terror" was spreading  and the fear of Russian spies infiltrating all of Australia's major areas of influence was causing concern to many/some/I'm not really sure. It's difficult to get a handle on this because it was all secret whispers. All subterfuge and secret reports and well, secret spy nature. Not that I'm making light of it by saying that, that's the reality (as far as I know it).

My grandfather was an active member of his local Labor party, and then something happened with the Communists that pushed the Labor party into right (conservative) and left (Communist sympathisers and Communists) factions. At least, that's my memory of the stories I've been told. My grandfather hated the left, and was firmly entrenched in the right...of the Labor party.

By the end of my grandfather's life, in the Hawke-Keating era, my grandfather was horrified by what he knew as the Labor party and was almost in tears as he said he wouldn't ever blame me if I ended up voting against his wishes. (He thought everyone in the whole wide extended family, including girlfriends/boyfriends of family members, followed his political views and voted the way he told us all we had to.)

My father comes from this background, grew up in this era, began work while this 'Red Terror' was gripping Australia (or my grandfather). What I see as Dad's conservative right wing politics, is his reaction to the huge influence of the Communist Left. He believes that the Communists are taking over, that the breakdown of society (e.g. attacks on religion, family, and government) are the Communist ways of causing anarchy so they can then take over the world.

He's as passionate about this beliefs as his father was about his.

I'm in this middle ground, where the Cold War was largely over when I became an adult and my understanding of Communist infiltration comes from spy novels. I don't have any memory of it being a feature in society.

When I look at society, I see Capitalism and Communism having many intersecting and overlapping modes of operation. Neither are the type of society in which I want to live.

I remember doing a survey once and my political learnings/views are of a party that is not yet formed but pulls out bits from many other parties LOL!!!! Which really doesn't surprise me at all.

I think we need to care about each other, and treat people respectfully. I don't like boxes and names and one-size-fits-all, I like individuality to be taken into account (and yes, I realise this is often impractical, but if we cared for people, it would be much easier!). I think we need to listen to those who are learned and educated in their fields (e.g. scientists, economists, doctors, etc) and make decisions based on facts. Again, I know that's not as easy as it sounds as people have differing views even within specialty study, but again, if we cared about each other and left egos and agendas at the door, I think we could discuss more rationally and come to better decisions about the way forward.

As to whether or not we're still fighting against Communism, I have absolutely no bloody idea. How would we know when so much of that happens behind closed doors and the general public are never told of security fears or indoctrination issues.

There are some world leaders and countries whose dominance is being asserted, and they are Communist countries. But again, there are other countries who have far right leanings who are also dominant. I don't know if that's proof that the fight exists, or are there other dogmas/ideologies at play?

Sometimes my head hurts trying to work out the simplest of questions, that seems to have many many more layers than I ever dreamed possible.

And then I go to a spiritual teaching where the message is to fix yourself, as that has a flow on effect through the world. And that doesn't make my head hurt. I can work on myself - that's a difficult enough process without trying to factor in how ever many billion people are in the world.

So, I'm looking at fixing myself. Making myself the best person I can be. And if that means I'm ignoring the world as it all falls to pieces, I'm sorry. I can't cope with anything more than me.

Does your head hurt with politics?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Story - The Wife and The Widow

Last year at StoryFest, I took my husband to a panel of crime writers because he reads crime and I wanted to show him what this writing world was about. He'd read 2 of the 3 panelists, who were Candace Fox and Michael Robotham. The third panelist was Christian White, who we hadn't heard of. By the end of the night, we wanted to read his books. He was a great speaker - humble, quick witted, relaxed, knowledgeable.

So, I bought both his books for Mr E for Christmas - The Nowhere Child, and The Wife and The Widow.

When Mr E reads a book, he puts it down and I say, "How was that?" and he replies, "Yeah, okay." That's pretty much the same regardless of what book he's read. I could spend a day talking about a book I've loved, and he gives maybe a few more words than 2...but not many! So when he finished The Nowhere Child, put it on the couch next to me and said, "Can you read this so we can talk about the ending?" I was on it. I put aside what I was reading and read it.

Then he was reading The Wife and The Widow, and he gasped and said, "Oh, I didn't pick that twist." Now, he never gives away anything when he's reading, so you can imagine how eagerly I needed to get my hands on that book - even though I was reading the other one! LOL.

So, The Nowhere Child stalled a few times for me. I'm a picky bitch when I read, and I've read a lot of crime/suspense for many years, so I'm probably very picky. The ending that totally through Mr E wasn't such a shock for me because one of the reasons I un-stalled at one point about halfway in, was because something triggered my mind and I began to unravel the plot. So, although it was good, I wanted better.

AND CHRISTIAN WHITE DELIVERED!

The Wife and The Widow had a much much tighter narrative. I commented on this to Mr E when I was about halfway through. He didn't respond (which is normal). But when I got to the plot twist, I gasped. I sat in that total stillness of OH MY GOD. My mind ran back over the very tight narrative and the clues were all there, but I didn't catch them...even though I knew there was a plot twist that blew Mr E's mind.

I was looking for it, waiting for it, expecting it - and it blew my mind.

If you're looking for a really good crime suspense story, The Wife and The Widow is brilliant, and I highly recommend it.

I can't wait to see what Christian White delivers next book.

Have you read this?