MAGAZINE NO. 149 [ August 2020 ]
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
BIOPHONY by Lisa Sideris 5
TEARS OF THE MOTHER by Rod Pattenden 11
LEADERSHIP AND SOLITUDE FOR TRANSITIONAL TIMES by Stephen Pickard 14
BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE ART OF BIBLICAL FICTION by Victor Branson 19
COVID-19 AND THE CALL TO BAPTISM: A FUNERAL DIRECTOR’S RESPONSE by Lee-Ann Wein 25
TEN MOURNERS by Rita Glennon 28
LISTEN TO THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR WOUNDS: LIVING IN A WOUNDED AND WOUNDING WORLD by Phillip Carter 29
TIME FOR A LISTENING HEART by Noël Davis 36
JOHN BARTON’S ‘A HISTORY OF THE BIBLE: THE BOOK AND ITS FAITHS’ reviewed by Don Meadows 37
EREMOS INFORMATION AND MEMBERSHIP 42
TRIBUTES TO FRANCES MACKAY appear as a special addendum to this issue
One of the most compelling books I’ve read this year is Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth. It’s the ‘biography’ of a novel, perhaps the most influential novel written in the 20th century – George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four.
Part One of Lynskey’s book deals with its author and the context in which the novel was conceived and written. But Part Two really took my attention. Here, Lynskey explores the ways in which Nineteen Eighty Four has been appropriated in the seventy years since its creation, both the left and the right claiming Orwell as one of their own. He analyses the ways in which perception of the novel’s emphases have also changed; during the Cold War, Orwell’s savage condemnation of totalitarianism was regarded as its centre, but attention has gravitated in the 21st century to Orwell’s most chilling observation, that truth has become infinitely malleable, and that the notion of objective fact has been consigned to history.
As Karl Rove, adviser to George W Bush, infamously gloated to The New York Times in 2003: ‘[our administration has nothing to fear from] the reality-based community… who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality’.
We see it daily in social media – my narrative is as good as yours, no matter how ill-conceived and absurd it may seem. We see it in ‘cancel culture’, where voices we don’t like are bullied into silence. We see it in Donald Trump’s vast machinery of lies, or the rise of populist bullies like Vladimir Putin or Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. The world of ‘alternative facts’ has become the hallmark of the age.
Until, perhaps, this year.
In 2020, Covid-19 has re-shaped our collective delusion that we can arbitrarily decide what’s true and what’s not. As President Trump pretends the virus doesn’t exist, the pandemic is decimating his countrymen and women, taking with it the American economy and, in all likelihood, his re-election prospects. Bolsonaro’s bellicose bluster that the virus is ‘just a little flu’ is daily belied by spiralling infection, hospitalisation and death rates. China’s attempts to cover their tracks about the virus’s origins are leaving boot-prints in the mud. All over the world, health systems have found themselves on the brink of collapse.
Reality, it seems, is reasserting itself.
We’ve all tried to look the other way. As I write, investigations are taking place into flagrant breaches of social distancing at parties in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, and everyone has seen footage of those gun-totin’ protestors in the USA proclaiming their right to freedom (as if they could shoot the virus dead), Trump’s shockingly irresponsible Tulsa rally and riots in Serbia protesting continued lockdown conditions. All the while, as we desperately try to reclaim a life no longer available to us, the virus continues its unstoppable march across the globe.
This is the world into which this issue of EREMOS is born. Our contributors, each in their own way, line up firmly on the side of reality. Lisa Sideris, in her vivid and perceptive portrait of the sounds of the environment in the 21st century, notes the way nature is reasserting itself as we fall into lockdown – what’s bad for us may be a lifeline for the planet. In an article which should be essential reading for ‘leaders’ such as Trump, Stephen Pickard envisages a concept of real leadership in a crisis-driven world. Lee-Ann Wein reflects on her experience as a funeral director at a time when no more than ten mourners may stand in grief by the grave of a loved one, and she finds unexpected beauty there.
Philp Carter calls on us to see our wounds as a source of strength and depth, rather than trials to survive. Rod Pattenden, in discussion of Rebekah Pryor’s arresting artwork, ‘Saltcellars’, reminds us that pain and wisdom are part of the same whole. And Victor Branson looks unflinchingly at our sacred texts, acknowledging the mythical nature of much of the Old Testament, regardless of how ‘real’ many would like it to be.
This is the first issue of EREMOS which I’ve overseen as editor, and it’s been quite exhilarating to gather these outstanding articles together. It’s also been wonderful but a little daunting to read the many heart-felt and richly deserved tributes to my predecessor, Frances Mackay, whose diligence and insight have moulded the magazine into such a highly respected contribution to spiritual life in Australia.
Frances, you’ve left me very big shoes to fill.
I hope these articles will sustain you in some small way as we continue our isolation together. Happy reading!