Friday, 13 January 2017

When Jesus Met The Growling Man In A Cafe

Taken in the grounds of the superb Schoenstatt Shrine, Kearsley, Bolton

Today is a day of rebellion, a day of rule breaking, a day of saying "Actually that doesn't sound very fun and this blog is largely about enjoyment so I'm not sticking to plan."  Today is a day of looking at a writing prompt and saying "NO!"  Here's prompt 13:

The Letter Poem: Write a poem using words from a famous letter or a letter from your own collection.

I thought about this one.  Before Christmas I bought a book of letters written by women in the past 800 years.  And I browsed it looking for inspiration.  None came.

I think it's because I was having a problem with the limitations of this prompt and on this occasion was thinking, "Why?  What's the point?"  Picking words from a letter and rearranging them into a poem felt like more of an intellectual puzzle than a creative rush.  Don't get me wrong.  I haven't got anything against intellectual puzzles.  There are puzzles I love.   Puzzles I've been completely addicted to.  During my sudoku addiction phase there were quite a few occasions on which I beat Thomas Snyder, who was then world sudoku champion, in timed challenges.  In addition I can get on with the sort of intellectual wordplay needed for a prompt like this.  Tomorrow's prompt is similarly limiting.  I've already completed it, with some excitement, and as a one off thing found it both fascinating and exhilarating.  There's also a limited words exercise in one of my writing books that I'm greatly looking forward to completing.

It's just this prompt.  No inspiration.  No fun.  Perhaps one day I'll look at it again.  Just not today.  Today this prompt wouldn't lead to creativity or to flow or to pouring something out in my voice.  Perhaps it wouldn't be wise to stifle my voice just when I'm starting to learn to use words and when baby talk might start to make some sense.

Instead this:

Recently I've been attending writing workshops in a cafe in the city centre.  There was one yesterday.  Another today.  I want to share the results with you.  Yesterday we talked about Morning Pages and variations on them and between the discussions and smiles completed two pieces of free writing.  Very free.  Just splurge out the words.

In the first of these pieces we were told just to write whatever came.  It didn't matter whether it was Booker Prize winning material or whether we just wrote, "I don't know what to write," or "Words won't come," or "I can't stop thinking about lunch."  As it turned out there were some impressive splurge words on pages.  Hearing what others have written is as much of a joy as writing something and not being told that I should give up writing, go home, and devote myself to DVD box sets instead.

The second exercise was slightly different.  We had to choose another person and an occasion in their life.  We were then told to imagine that our person had just woken up on that day and was writing their morning pages.  Splurging out their ideas, their worries, joys, difficulties, and whatever else they might be writing about.  Another exercise, another impressive set of imagined splurges.

[Apologies to those of you who find the word 'splurge' to be as distasteful as you may find the word 'moist.']

Here, unedited, are the results of my free writing.  In both cases I think I could edit them into something good.  The first could become a poem.  In time it should.  Perhaps the first phrase could in itself be a writing prompt.

The Growling Man

The growling man has been extinguished, his fire and anger turned to nothingness.  But the silence remains.  It holds the love of the free and the burden of the pregnant pause, a promise of perpetual grandeur and a gap; a breath, a needed space before a new growling man is raised up to release his views on a flat horizon.
Silence is golden but noise is textured.  And he sings again, his melody a new life in the green field and white noise.  His daddy died.  He walks in sadness, teaching us to share, to be empathetic wanderers in his painful recollections.
His song is over and in the silence left behind he remains, our minds and hearts forever transformed in shared experience.
God love the growling, God love the contemplation.
God love the light and dark, the pain and release.
God love the life and the death.
God love the silence.
Yeah, God love the silence and from time to time extinguish me too.

For the second prompt I chose Jesus.  Heading to the top of the ladder of fame.  I couldn't help it.  A year after leaving church I still have a bit of a Jesus obsession.  I think I like him more now I don't believe in him, happier to be with him now I believe he isn't so special.  I'm much happier with this Jesus.  He's the kind of Jesus who would play on the swings with me and sing funny songs.  He's the kind of Jesus who would laugh.  He's human and that's what made him so brilliant.  That word "laugh" is very important to me.  The gospel writers didn't have that Jesus.  They removed him from his humanity so much that he never laughed and while he speaks of joy in the words ascribed to him he doesn't ever show himself to be joyful or excited.  It's hard to imagine that Jesus smiling at a picture of a cat or singing in the shower.  I much prefer the Jesus I've begun to learn about recently.

In John chapter 11 we read that when Jesus and his disciples heard that their friend Lazarus was sick Jesus stayed where he was for a couple of days before announcing that they would go to help after all and that Lazarus wasn't just sick but had died.  What I wrote was Jesus' morning pages on the day before heading to Bethany where, according to the text, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

This Jesus is rather earthier than expected.  He's not the Jesus of John 11 or the Jesus of Robert Powell's portrayal.  He's different from any Jesus I've encountered before and meeting him has come as a surprise.  I will warn you.  Some of you will call this blasphemy.  Maybe it it.  But this is a Jesus who struggles, who hurts, who has all the human problems we have.  This is a Jesus who gets grumpy and loves his food.  It's hard for this Jesus to do the right thing because he is just like us.  But because he is just like us he has more to teach us when he turns round and regularly does do the right thing.

I confess.  I added paragraph breaks, a couple of phrases, and half a sentence while typing up yesterday's words.

By God my back hurts.  That bed?  What kind of porcupine thing was that?  I'd have preferred the floor, not that lumpy old thing.  And the straw stank too but they made me have the bed.  Miriam said it.  "Ooh, you're Jesus. You have the bed.  You're special.  Deserve it."  Sod it.  Give me the floor woman.  Keep your bed dammit.  Hell, it's gonna be a hard day.  I bet Peter's still pissed at me.  Hope he doesn't call me a prick again.  It's not my fault Lazarus had to go and die on us is it?  What does he think I can do?  I haven't even told them the bad news and he said "Oy Jesus you prick.  Lazarus is your mate too.  Why aren't we there?  Selfish you are, staying here with the comfy bed and Miriam's cooking."

I suppose he's right.  We'd better go pay our respects soon and maybe I can pop in and help Lazarus too.  But dammit.  I'm knackered.  Need another day off.  Day of rest before traipsing across the country again.  They're going to be pissed though.  I mean.  I love my friend but they're so annoying.  Always expect me to take the lead and show off with some special tricks.  Yeah, I can do tricks but sometimes it would be nice to sit back and be normal.

Oh God my back.  Almost tempting to get moving right now if it means no argument about bedding tonight.  They'll all be awake soon too and be clamoring with questions.  "Jesus this and Jesus that" and can't they just shut up once in a while?  What are they thinking?  Not a lot.  Especially Peter.  He's always being a dumb ass.  A little bit twpsin that one but he means well.

Why don't I just say tonight, "No, I'm sleeping on the ground."  Sure I can convince them if I spiritual it up.  Make it a lesson in humility not a plea for a good night of sleep.  Thank God for Miriam.  Her breakfasts are to die for.  Her flat breads.  I'm gonna miss those.  Make the most of them and then I want to spend the day up on that hill disciples can just piss off and leave me alone.  If I say I need to pray they'll respect that of course.

Okay.  That's a plan.  And then tonight we'll talk and I'll tell them he's dead and say we'll leave for Bethany in the morning and I swear if Peter starts arguing after calling me a prick I'm gonna deck him.  Well I'm not but I'll want to hit him so hard he won't know won't know Bethany from Bethlehem.

Looks like the day's going to be good.  Poor Lazarus.  Didn't deserve to die young.  His family will be a mess and everyone will look at me to sort it.

I bet I can too.  I'll sort it, just you wait and see.

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