Friday, November 21, 2008


In honour of René Magritte, born 110 years ago today.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Historic Moment

Can’t help but be excited by the election result. Congratulations Barack Obama, and congratulations America.
The world breathes a sigh of relief. I stayed up until about 3am to watch, when Ohio was announced for Obama and it was clear that he was going to win. Although I believe this is a hopeful development, of course Obama is not the messiah. He cannot possibly live up to the expectations and the huge desire for change. He will make mistakes, and compromises and much will remain the same. Their will be backlashes, and ‘I told you so’s and disappointments. But for now let's celebrate the historic moment that this is, and let's pray for Obama, and his incoming administration, and for the great nation of the USA.

Here is a list of some of the policies that I believe offer hope for the world - (from avaaz) ht: Peter Kirk

  • Reduce the US’s carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol

  • Withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and keep no permanent bases in the country

  • Establish a clear goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons across the globe

  • Close the Guantanamo Bay detention center

  • Double US aid to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 and accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculoses and Malaria

  • Open diplomatic talks with countries like Iran and Syria, to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions

  • De-politicize military intelligence to avoid ever repeating the kind of manipulation that led the US into Iraq

  • Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur

  • Only negotiate new trade agreements that contain labor and environmental protections

  • Invest $150 billion over ten years to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015

  • Let’s pray for wisdom and perseverance for Obama as he pursues these goals.


    I wish I could write. I don’t mean I wish I could write well, I mean I wish I could write. I go for long periods, as a glance at my blog would prove, when I don’t feel able to put any words out that might be worth reading. To say that I get ‘writer’s block’ would make it sound a bit grand because I am not in any sense a writer. The fact is though, that I find writing incredibly difficult. Or I should say, most of the time I find writing difficult. Now this is particularly a problem, given the path that I have chosen to follow (or been chosen to follow): training to be a vicar, and as part of that training, and with a view to teaching at some point in time, a particular academic route which involves not a small amount of writing. (I am currently pursuing an MPhil in New Testament studies, with aspirations to take it further and upgrade to a PhD).

    I do have a passion for study. I love reading, and I could read and read and read until the cows come home. I take copious amounts of notes, and stroke my chin, and ponder, and think, but when it comes to putting my fingers on the keyboard and opening up that blank document and actually beginning to put down my own thoughts, I almost invariably struggle. I say almost invariably because there are moments, all too rare, and usually last minute, driven by deadlines, when I can knuckle down and knock out a few thousand words. Come to think of it, I must have knocked out getting on for 100,000 words or so over the last 5 years or so. And, if I’m honest, for most of those words I have had pretty good feedback, reasonable grades etc. So why do I still find it so difficult?

    I think there are two main contributing factors. The first, and by far the biggest, is confidence. Or lack of. In the same way I often find it difficult to articulate myself in speaking, if I’m in a group I’m quite often likely to be one of the quieter members, I tend to have to think quite carefully about what I want to say, or write, rather than just ‘let it flow’. I still struggle with preaching, although I’ve done it many times, I always get incredibly nervous. I sweat over the preparation, struggle to focus on anything else for about a week before, and generally cack it until it’s delivered. I think there is something psychological which goes on where I become more concerned with the fact that I am supposed to come up with the words, than with focussing on just getting on with speaking or writing.

    The second main factor is lack of focus. Whether it’s blogs, email, websites, other books that I’m reading or whatever, there are always a million and one things which clamour for my attention. I know this is the same for everyone these days. We have a short attention span, or rather, we have a broad attention span. Writing takes focus, and it takes discipline, both of which I have in short supply. What can be done about this?

    One practice that has been recommended to me is ‘freewriting’. That is, just practising writing, for set amounts of time, not worrying too much about the content. The idea is that you can always go back and edit the content later, but that it is important to just get used to getting the words down. Like any discipline, a habit needs to be formed by regular, repetition of achievable tasks. It is apparently a well known problem for research students to do too much reading before they begin to write, and I have already fallen well into this trap. By practising ‘freewriting’ it is claimed that you can quite quickly develop your writing to the point where you can write 1000 words in an hour. They may not be the best 1000 words you can write, but that is not the point. Blogging would seem to be the ideal format to practice, if I wasn’t so concerned about what other people thought.

    The other thing that I clearly need to improve on is just blocking out periods of time dedicated to research and writing. I need to turn the phone off, turn off internet access, shut the study door, ensure peace and quiet, and get on with it. I need to train my brain to switch off about other responsibilities, like worship leading or sermon writing, and crack on with the main thing that I want to be giving my time to. Any thoughts on how I can improve on this?

    Anyway, that was a bit of a bash at ‘freewriting’, on the subject of writing. Maybe I’ll post it on my blog. Maybe I won’t. Now back to the election, or should I go to bed?