lyef & thymes

Monday, June 27, 2005

A new class of thinkers and dreamers

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats, January 1919

This poem is an indictment against trends of thought that were just beginning at this point in history, as Humanity watched the Great War destroy their sense of supremacy over everything. People had started to believe that the human mind was all-powerful in its ability to reason and solve any problem we may have. The first stanza refers to how far out our reason has gone, in a vortex, like a falcon in an ever widening circle, until we are so far from the middle that we cannot hear the voice of the falconer, until we cannot find our center.

And his warning that the center cannot hold is a warning that as the great thinkers go further and further out, those more common people who tend towards the center will suffer the most for it. In the final line Yeats seems to hearken back to the idea that things may get pretty bad, and then when we really need saving, we will in fact be saved.

This post isn't really about this poem, as much as it is about the center, modern life as affected (or not affected) by post-modern thought, and what I am seeing as a post-post-modern in a modern town.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending two graduation ceremonies in my area. One was for the graduating students of St. Stephen High School, and the other for the graduates of Sir James Dunn Academy in St. Andrews, a neighboring town.
I attended secondary school in Toronto, which is a very post-modern, secular, tolerant, multi-cultural city. But in some ways (that I only discovered this weekend) the small towns I live in and around kick Toronto's butt.

To begin with, the towns host a week of events for graduates, really boosting the morale of the students, and filling them with a sense of accomplishment. The whole town comes out to a reception prior to their prom, where the kids are all dressed up and all the local folk ooh and ahh at the dresses and suits. Then there is a Baccalaureate service (that's a CHURCH service) that nearly all of the grads attend.

At the grad ceremonies there is always an Anglican minister present who begins the ceremony with prayer, and I was stunned as the whole auditorium bowed their heads and donned pious expressions. The prayer ended in "and we ask this in the name of Jesus who is the Christ". I tell you I was floored. This kind of thing is strictly forbidden in Canada. Nationwide there is a by-law banning prayer from any type of platform in schools, but here it was, an integral part of the most important event of the school year.

In Sir James Dunn Academy there were only 35 graduates, due to the small size of the town it is in. These students had been at this school since grade 6, and every one of them was a personal success story for the teachers. 100% of the students at this school graduate, and they have such a strong relationship with their teachers that most of the grads received a hug from one teacher or another at some point. Again, this is forbidden in our schools, but here it was fine. You might think these schools just let these things slip in and don't tell anyone, but the minister of Education was present at each of these ceremonies, and he sure didn't seem to mind.

The last thing that I found really remarkable was the chit-chat during the ceremonies. Old ladies would remark "oh doesn't she look just like her mother!" or "glad that one turned himself around at the end." There is a strong connectedness in the place I live now. And history. Each person holds some sort of place in the bigger story that is going on around them. They are their parents kids, and their legacy is intertwined with everyone else's.

It is a post-post-modern world, where most people are doing their best to cling to their own chunk of stability with the secret knowledge that the centre of it all cannot hold. But somehow there are still those who cling to what few things were really great about modernity. Namely relational community, faith in the ability of "a higher power" to keep this all together, and in the story we are telling with our lives.

When asked how this world, and how our human story is going to pan out, how this is all going to end, I think the answer is simple. Jesus is going to return to save us. I observe trends in history, philosophy, culture, and religion, and I don't see the world vastly improving itself as people believed it was in the scientific revolution. I see that we desperately need saving, and the good news is that the God who made us, and loves us, happens to be in the saving business.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Travel log, star date 6-17

I have been to England and back, and would like at this time to address my most recent vacation.

I had a really great time in the U.K.. I travelled around England and Wales more than I had expected, and the travel expenses added up, but I'll get through. Along the way there were many fine adventures, and I will pin-point a few of them here.

Early in the trip Mark and I, and a few others, travelled to Cardiff, Wales, to watch a football match. The Sheffield Wednesday were playing in their biggest match in over a decade as they played for a chance to be promoted up to the championship league. If you don't have a good understanding of English football then I would liken it to this: Imagine if a triple-A Baseball team won their league championship, and was then bumped up to the Major leagues.

Three football clubs at the top of their league go up, and the three worst go down. Sheffield had once been a top team, but had been relegated down two leagues in the last few years. This game was a game to decide who would go up, so it was a big deal.
Sheffield won the match in an exciting fashion, taking the lead, losing the lead, trailing, tying it up late, and winning in extra time. Very moving, very dramatic. Many men were weeping with joy.

After Wales, Mark and I went to London where we attended a Patty Griffin concert, then had a day to roam the city. The concert was fabulous, and her voice is incredible. Incredible!!! Then on the day off we went to two free (but very impressive) national art galleries where we saw some Van Gogh, Cezanne, Warhol, Picasso. It was really great. Then we drank Moosehead at a Canadian Pub for $8.00 a bottle.

Spent some quality time in Leeds, re-emersing myself in British culture, checking out some gigs, playing at a gig as the opening act, and attending Mark's church which is on the cusp of doing something really awesome with the people of Leeds. It started a few years ago as a New Frontiers plant with a handful of people meeting in whatever venue they could rent. Now it has just purchased a building and has a few hundred members. It's on the grow, and God is actively present in their meetings. They have a pretty neat prophetic gifting where people get scripture verses, bring them forward and read them, and they have tended to be link in interesting ways.

I also went to Holy Island, which is a small island in the North of England where the Northumbria Community is based. It is a Celtic Christian community for people around the world who abide by a daily Celtic Office (prayer liturgy). Spent two days there with my friend Joel, and a family called the Raine family. Andy, Anna and their kids Joel and Martha. It was my favorite time of the whole trip I would say. We walked the beaches, had cookouts, drank ice cold guinness, played guitar, met some locals and befriended them (easy to do in a small English community).

I finally got home having spent $450 more than planned, but feeling refreshed, and ready to get back to life in Canada. All around it was a beautiful trip, and I feel more hopeful that there is an exciting life ahead of me as a result of my travels.

Blessings, talk to you again soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Blog Marketing?!?

I have a good friend who is at the forefront of Blogging. He has inadvertently led me to this point where I am considering, just this once, using my blog as a marketing tool. We'll see what happens.

I am currently seated at my desk in the office of St. Stephen's University. This school has been in existence since 1972, and has seen it's graduates go on to study at Oxford, write speeches for the Liberal party of Canada, intern in the Whitehouse, become CBC reporters, and to do a host of other interesting things. I didn't get as far away as the rest after graduating, but I don't mind.

This particular University is more like a community than an institution. We cook together, clean together, eat together, sleep under the same roof with each other, and essentially do life together. Along the way students study Western Civilization through the classic Literature of the last 3000 years up to today, through the most important philosophies of the last 3000 years, through studying the History of the west from the Greeks til today, and finally by travelling the world together in order to see the world they have been studying.

I have lived in a number of different social contexts in my life, and I have never found a place quite like SSU. People here genuine love each other and care for each other. When people are down someone intuitively comes along and picks them up. If someone is going through a hard time with school work, or in their faith in God, people will pray with them and encourage them. When people disagree, or even fight in our community, the desire for understanding and solidarity wins out in the end. In fact, the things about people that initially serve to induce conflict at SSU often eventually come to be the most endearing things about individuals. Through living together and studying together, and essentially being put through the proverbial mill together, healing comes to broken people who can look at each others differences with love and appreciation rather than with hurt and judgement.

Why am I telling you about this? Well you've probably figured it out by now, and if you haven't, maybe University isn't for you (wink). I encourage you to thionk about a Bachelor of Arts, or Master of Arts, or if you already have one, a Master's in Ministry at SSU. For character formation and faith building, for a deepening and unfolding love for God's creation, and for an education that exposes you to the most important developments in Art, Literature, and Philosophy in the last 3000 years, there is no other school quite like this one. While that's likely true about any school, what I really mean is that St. Stephen's University is significantly different from the rest. Here there is an uncommon fusion of academics and discipleship that is not found in other Universities, or in Bible Colleges. SSU is a place where students appreciate and engage their culture and history rather than reject it completely, but is also a place with an Ethos all it's own.

Feel free to visit anytime and see for yourself.