Archive for May, 2009

It must be love

the cross of CHRIST should teach us that the only alternative to violence is self-giving love, willingness to absorb violence in order to embrace the other in the knowledge that truth and justice have been, and will be upheld by GOD.

Exclusion and Embrace

Miroslav Volf

[only 10 pages left, honestly…]


Portadown is not exactly renowned for its night life. There are very few restaurants, no cinema, no theatre, no real music venues and no cafes that open at night. There are plenty of pubs, though they are more renowned for their bigotry and sectarianism than anything else.

McConvilles is nice cause it has lots of different types of Irish Whiskey that i never even knew existed, and even has its own brand that I’m yet to try. It’s also so old that it’s now a listed building and they won’t even so much as let them paint the snugs in case it ruins the atmosphere.

So it suits me and the amateur theologian nicely for a pint on occasion and a good old theological rant. There aren’t too many people i get to have a good old theological rant with  so i take the opportunity whenever i can get it.

My friends, as much as i love them, have little interest in reading books by dead people, and debating the finer aspects of soteriology,. They’re all too busy being decent, hard working, world changing, Christian people to get involved in all this abstract naval gazing.

But the world needs someone to sit in the pub and talk about it. Just imagine if there wasn’t…

We covered Volf’s theory on non-rememberance (onyl 40 pages to go…) to the liturgy of the anglicans, to vocation, to suffering and the state of the church. Not bad for a night’s work.

Criticism as inspiration

(via ruth gledhill in the times Saturday review)

“any preaching of the gospel which fails to constitute a scandal and affront to the political establishment is in my view effectively worthless”

Reason, faith and revolution: Reflections on the god debate

Terry Eagleton

Nice places to walk the dog – No. 6-9

Given 2 days off work and 15 episodes of Lost, I had to make the most of it.  I couldn’t quite face a full 12 hours solid watching Lost, so I split it with walking the dog and driving the Antrim Coast Road. Luckily seemed to have got the nicest day of the year so far for it too.

Having already been in Belfast in the morning I couldn’t quite face the whole coast road from Carrickfergus and all that. Instead I cut the corner and headed over the hills to Cushendun and let the dog out for a quick piddle and a paddle.




From there round the usual, windy, Torr Head Rd, and finally to somewhere I’ve managed to never have a dander round before. At the tail end of the Torr Head Rd is a wee turn off up a single track road over a few cattle grids and past a lot of sheep, lies Murlough bay.

The road becomes a track and ends up at what looks like the nicest wee holiday home in the world. At least it did when I was there.

I had come prepared with flask of hot water and some coffee and perched myself on the rocks over looking the Irish sea and watched the sun go down the ridge behind. I didn’t see a soul (I’ll not start on whether the dog has one…) which kind of made the whole experience so good.



I finished up with an old favorite – white park bay. Mainly cause it reminds me of one of my favorites from New Zealand.

It was also gloriously empty.



After all this activity, I watched Lost till 2am while the dog slept. Such a day.

If there was nothing to remember

I quite enjoy getting older. Amongst most people I know this seems a bit against the grain. Getting old is something to fear and not to talk about. Something to (ludicrously really…) avoid at all costs.

Perhaps it is the fact I still look about 16 years old, the fact that I await puberty and facial hair to make it’s appearance, the fact that my basal metabolic rate keeps me as a skinny wee bugger despite the beer and burgers (have to say I’m glad of the last one…)

There will come a time when I start forgetting things, that I stop getting smarter, and more importantly when I can’t run or climb trees. That will be a day to lament. But not yet.

As animals, we’re on the down slope from our late teens, on virtually every level, from nephrons to neurons, we’re on a (hopefully slow) gradual decline.

The thing that does bother me about getting older is memory.

There was a character called Brutha in a Terry Pratchet book i read as a kid (Small Gods) who had the odd talent of an eidetic memory. He just remembered things. Everywhere he’d ever been, everything he’d ever read. It was just there in front of his eyes when it needed recalled. He was always incredulous when other people said to him that they didn’t remember, as he just couldn’t quite grasp the concept of non-remembrance.

Now I have nowhere near a memory to that degree but I have a tendency to remember an awful lot of things. Mainly this is at work in patients. If I have seen someone before in work, I will remember where I have seen them and in which cubicle and what was wrong with them – though I will probably forgotten how I screwed up the diagnosis or something but maybe that’s just a selective memory.

Patients are how I remember medicine. They’re like a hook to hang your coat on. I only know lots about HSV type I encephalitis because of the guy we had in the corner bed of the unit in NZ who ended up as a bit of vegetable because of it. I remember his name, his wife, what they both did for a living, the son who was a dentist who I spoke to on the phone, where the lesions where on his MRI, the fact that the first PCR was negative, and the way he waved with a tiny bend at the right wrist cause nothing else in his arm worked.

I cannot forget this. Not that I have sat down and tried. If I’m honest I’ve probably done the opposite. I have nurtured the memory. So that I will get it right if I see it again. If you’ve seen the bit in Heat where DeNiro and Pacino have the cup of coffee, and Pacino talks about all the dead people from the murders then you’ll get what I mean.

I have hundred of images, all arranged like little movies in my head, of all the patients I’ve ever seen (well a substantial proportion anyhow). I remember scans and faces and places better than their names but I remember them. I remember the dead ones better than the ones who got better.

I have kept a journal since I was 16 (when I first found unrequited love and my Dad found a sister he’d never known existed – true story…) and if I read it I will have a memory for every day.

I used to get worried when I was younger that at some point I would have gone through so many new experiences and new memories that perhaps my head might explode when it reached some pre-defined bursting point. Or have a “break-down” which was what grown ups used to call what happened to people who had trouble with their “nerves”.  Neither appears to have happened yet. And I need no one to facetiously point out that it is because I have an exceptionally big head.

In Life After GOD, one of the characters gets scared in his mid-twenties crisis, mainly because he fears that once you’ve been through your teenage years and fallen in love that there won’t be any new experiences.

What I’ve found is that there still are plenty of new experiences (though driving the volvo will never give me the same thrill I had driving my 950cc white 205 the day I passed my driving test), though these are increasingly displaced by memories. And all the new experiences you come to along the way are affected by same memories.

Even more disappointingly I have discovered that my memory has a predisposition towards pain, misery and suffering. I find it hard to look at a happy toddler and not picture a hospital bed some 70 years in the future.

This has perhaps not done me any favours when it came to recently losing my Dad.

[Well it’s not that I lost him, I’m pretty sure he’s still in that big hole we dug in the graveyard, we did put an awful lot of dirt on top just to make sure… Though I have lost one parent, I do still have one left, losing two would just be careless…

OK so I’m taking the piss out of death, partly because, as a family we’re again somewhat predisposed to do that, but perhaps more that if Christians can’t take the piss out of death then who can? (i think i want Spike Milligan’s “i told you i was ill” on my grave…)]

Sorry, back to the main thread. I think there is one somewhere.

The problem is that I remember everything. I wake up every day remembering all this stuff that happened. And I will carry it around with me for the rest of my life.

And this is nothing to do with how you deal or process the memory – an important issue in itself – I hold no anger or doubt or bitterness in my heart. I just have the memory.  And how do I deal with that?

In the Great Divorce, it goes on about how we can’t expect to take anything of Hell into Heaven. It just won’t let us. And it has this wonderful bit in it when it says

that heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory… and that is why at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to  blackness down there, the blessed will say “we have never lived anywhere except in heaven…”

Volf goes a step further in talking about the non-remembrance and even the forgetting of memory, that is required for the process of reconciliation (both of us to GOD and us to each other). With the obvious backing that GOD remembers our sins no more and hinted at in Revelation (quoting Isaiah) as “the first things have passed away“.

He talks of GOD remembering our sins for the purpose of forgetting them. Leading us to do the same he states:

…forgetting the suffering is better than remembering it, because wholeness is better than brokenness, the communion of love better than the distance of suspicion, harmony better than disharmony. We remember now in order that we may forget then; and we will forget then in order that we may love without reservation…

Not that he expects us to achieve all this before the dawn of the new age, but it at least should give us the right direction to walk towards.

It strikes me as it does the character in the great divorce following MacDonald’s words about heaven working backwards:

is that not very hard, Sir?

If only you could see yourself like I see you

Foy Vance attracts a certain kind of crowd. Mostly people i know it seems. The Lowly Knights do the same. Not that i’m complaining – it at least gives me an active social life that extends beyond facebook.

First off the – Spring and Airbrake has some serious structural issues with what looks like some fairly major supporting pillars right in front of the stage. If you’ve been there you’ll know you have to adopt the position leaning slightly to one side to to see either the lead singer or the drummer. Not that the rest of the band aren’t important – i love you all really, i just like a decent view.


Second – as handy as the iPhone is, it takes pretty crappy photos.

The Knights still pull off a fairly impressive show. I’m waiting hopefully for some new material if they ever get round to recording it.

Foy Vance gets all the applause simply for the quality of his musicianship. Not wanting to be offensive as I love the music scene in Belfast, but Foy Vance is on a whole different level when it comes to sheer talent. Though every time I see him he seems to have collected a few more DD3s to fill out the sound.


Top moment was Foy slagging off Skeeno’s piano. Not Skeeno, just his piano.

Makes me want to go into negotiations with Simy to buy his Lowden off him.

PS And a pleasure chatting with song of soul and FF amongst others when I was there.

PPS And have recorded the basis of a new song for those interested. Which may only be Transfarmer and Skeeno but hey…

Free Radicals

“the truly revolutionary character of JESUS’s proclamation lies precisely in the connection between the hope he gives to the oppressed and the radical change he requires of them.”

Miroslav Volf

Exclusion and Embrace


May 2009