Red Kokomo

moVe it

At the suggestion of local political figure Simon Lau, I watched the Brexit movie last night.  What?  Well, in the current political climate here, there almost isn't anything left that hasn't somehow been sucked into the 11-week long altercation between the Gahmen, and the people, including Rev G.  Predictably, FB worked out my political stance and fed me content I would want to consume, so I found myself clicking on to Simon Lau's talk show, and fascinated by the clear-headed-yet-fervent analysis of the then 7th week progress of the city-wide brawl, all done in Canto-vernacular that I did not always follow.  Nevertheless, hearing it in local tongue gave me a visceral connection, however loose, with the heartbeat of the movement of protest.  I have never worked so hard to read / listen/ understand, and hence to be somehow in vicarious touch with those interfacing with the police (as the arm of the Gahmen) in increasingly bellicose fashion, with a rising and mostly one-sided casualty count.  There are reports in English, and I consume those too, but often find it's the Canto news, opinion pieces or stories that convey the depth and intensity of feeling that is fueling the momentum of a protest that in its 3rd month is now, still, garnering fresh endorsement from large segments of professional and civic life.  Here's one from today.

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happy days

Arabelle Hope Koh

After an obligatory waiting period, the highly anticipated event of our daughter's birth took place on 12 March 2019, putting to an end JLK's status as monochild, and ushering in the era of 2under5.  Well, we could have made that more dramatic by saying 2under3 but in case matters escalate in the next 18 months, we'd have a  consistent denominator in the statistic.

Introducing Arabelle Hope, our 2nd-born child who is already variously being re-named as Baobao, Belliboo, and from JLK — lil Biscuit.  I was eating a noodle dinner near the hospital when AHK started down the home stretch of her emergence, prompting a frantic call from the labour ward and a dash back into the ward after staff had a) assured me it'd be a while still, b) reiterated visiting time was over, and c) requested I leave the ward until actual labour.

What a welcome surprise. Welcome to our world my love, which is now also your world.  We have loved you for such a long time and you landed smack in the centre of our fondest affection when you emerged from your watery home.  It was love at first sight for your DAD, in fact it was love even before that, but clapping eyes on you cemented in me such a palpable weight of adoration that I feel it has taken up permanent residence.  I hope you don't take advantage of this if ever it comes down to a battle of wills between us in your teenage years.  Or earlier.  hah!

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses,Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

This scripture may relate more to AHK's brother, but at her birth, I found in myself an impulse to offer something in gratitude to the Lord, and in response to the grace, beauty and miracle that had appeared in our lives.  No way we got this for nothing!!

Belliboo, you are a gift to us in all the best ways.  We give thanks for you and we love you to the moon, AND BACK!

flippin questions

the reFormed miNd

12 jan came and went in the usual fashion of a saturday and it wasn't until halfway through sunday that I realised, just by sitting on our hands and doing nothing, we'd let Jude's registration for the kindy across the street lapse.  That's right, despite my conniptions from interview day, they sent us an invitation for Jude to attend.  We were so set on not sending him to kindy, but maybe that was partly because we thought they didn't think very much of his performance at interview.  So when the letter arrived, the prospect of free child-care again reared its head, this time more concretely, and we weighed up the pros and cons all over again.  What we couldn't really get away from, is that 3yo is not quite classroom age for kids.  However "only lightly academic" this kindy claims to be, it's still within the framework of a classroom, prepping kids for the cutthroat world of Primary School.  Well, at the moment K and I are trying to foster some skills for Jude to start regulating his basic emotions — sadness, anger, excitement, disappointment etc.  If we have any success, it'll most likely be a better outcome than the dubious prize of surviving cutthroat PS.

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the finNish LiNe

Arguably the most successful franchise of the miniverse in the last 5 years has been the GoKids phenomenon.  Even 2 years ago, random strangers in the supermarket would know something about what it was — that's the measure of the impact it's had.  We frequently laud the example that it is, of the translation from revelation to action, to the Kingdom, and from there, to infinity and beyond.  Esther, who drives the whole proverbial GoKids bus, who you might say built the bus, strikes a chord with parents all over this fantasy island with her blogposts that underpin, expound on, and grease the wheels for the spectrum of events — play days, parties, seminars, parenting groups, associated with the GoKids brand.  The name of her blog in Canto is evocative, but translates rather prosaically to "The kids in my home don't attend kindy".  So what?  Right?  Well, it is a big deal here to say that.  Especially if you say it loudly.  In a way, just that title became the voice for a cohort of parents  who wanted to buck the system, but saw no other way.  So they came to the wilderness to see, and GoKids became a mild preoccupation of the miniverse.  K and I were briefly caught up in it, pre-Jude.     

Then, this weekend past, Jude went for an interview for a spot in a kindergarten across the street from us.  As much as the whole idea of interviewing 2 year-olds is ludicrous, we thought the proximity of what could just amount to free child-care for a few hours a day might be worth a punt.

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flippin questions

wHat the yaNks said

In the festive atmosphere, under so blue a sky, walking arm in arm with strangers up the slight grade, Mimi sees. For her entire life, unwittingly, she has complied with her parents’ first shared principle: Make no noise in this world. She, Carmen, Amelia – all three Ma girls. Don’t stand out; you have no right. No one owes you a thing. Keep small, vote mainstream, and nod like it all makes sense. Yet here she is, asking for trouble. Acting like what she does might matter. – Richard Powers “The Overstory”

This little quote was the first bit of literature in a long time to poke my mind beyond the staples of pre-packaged TV drama and pulp [kindle] fiction that has come to characterize down-time in my present digital age. It is a story about trees. It starts out sounding like that anyway. But it progresses to being a collection of stories about people, that revolves around trees. Doesn’t sound very interesting, when you put it like that, but I have found it astonishing to read because the plight of trees can be construed, quite convincingly, as being identical to the plight of slave children, trafficked sex slaves, endangered animals and farmed animals, except for the descending level of intrinsic rights we imbue on each of those classes of entity, with trees coming out at the bottom. We may have different feelings about each of those groups in that arbitrary list, but in each case, the thing that remains the same is the attitude of the exploiter / consumer.

The Kohs have recently returned from a brief visit to Oz, which, for the trivial purposes of continuity we shall call Furlough 18, although the reasons for it not really qualifying are pretty much the same as last time, i.e. Furlough 17.  In fact the experience of furlough- brushes with church, the normalized life, the brevity of interface with erstwhile friends and family, felt thematically also the same as last time, except this time we pretty much skipped straight to family time.  Jude, in his function as (temporarily) the only grandchild, seemed to bring everyone together, including the KohFrat! The last time Jason, Jerome and I spent time together was something like 2012. Of course, having K and Jude, and Erin, made it feel like this generation’s extended family. Yay. Then of course there was K’s side of the extended family, and happily again, the Leungs. If we were to paint Furlough 18 as a family furlough, the Marshalls, Crosbys and Douglases would become honorary members.

The news and media snippets streaming out of Amreeka, including posts from my unlikely trump-faithful primary school form teacher, are a recipe for despair. It is inconceivable to half the world at least, how the state of public discourse, national policy and general priorities in that country came to the pass that it is at now. Peter Harris, founder of A Rocha, speaking to American interviewers about something seemingly malapropos yet fundamentally related, says:

the exceptionalism of your context is something that fascinates me… now you won’t find a Christian who’ll argue with the fact that smoking increases your chance of lung cancer dramatically. Why is it, when the science is so much more solid on climate change, Christians are disposed to argue with the science, even though none of them are scientists?... what’s going on here? There’s almost a definite line – the poorer the country, the more climate change is central to what the church is talking about and grappling with. In poorer countries, irregular rainfall, violent climate events, heat waves which are becoming extreme – these are impacting peoples’ lives very directly. In wealthier countries,  people live at a mediated relationship with their environment, so it is possible to be completely oblivious to all of this.

Bringing it back to the big picture of what is wrong, with the environment, with Amreeka, with Christianity in Amreeka, with Christianity because it is in Amreeka, Harris says:

the analysis of what’s wrong, for the Christian, is much more profound than saying we haven’t got money for conservation. Or we don’t have good legislation. Or the science is complicated. The biblical  analysis from all the prophets, is that a broken relationship to God will destroy the environment. It is a widespread ecological problem, if we do not have a restored relationship with God.  So what we are seeing globally, in religious terms, is the export of consumerism as a religion; the idea that the more you have, the happier you will be, and that is ecologically toxic.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So poetic, and so lofty.  Yet it might be that the perceived unalienable (really?) right to the last, destroys the right to the first 2.  How comfortable would I be then, to remain a consumer?  To be beholden to corporations, however benign the enthralment?  What would I do, however little it might seem to matter?

In other news, we are now expecting the end of Jude's monopoly on inherited genetic material, sometime in the tail end of March 2019.  More next time, on the world Jude and his koh-heir will inherit, this side of the New Earth. 


whaT stoPs U

in remembrance of William Douglas, the original Ichiban.

I first met Will in a tutorial of our 1st year Earth Systems class. It followed an impressive opening lecture that set this planet in its galactic and universal context, which in turn set the context for our entire year-long course, exploring at a cursory level (for tertiary study anyway) the various systems that comprise Earth’s planetary aparatus, and those of its populations. I picked the first seat in the room that was empty and it was the one next to Will. Following instructions to pair up for our assigned tasks, we made our introductions and got down to work.  Will, being socially and administratively speaking, on the front foot, worked out what needed to be done and made gentle, solicitous suggestions for how to get there. I, still not really sure where to fit in with the whole Geography decision, was happy to have someone drive.

From that first tentative partnership, there appeared to mushroom a tacit agreement hereafter to more or less get through Earth Systems, and all consequent Geography courses, together. For that first year, which in fact was the 2nd year at university for us [having both languished in the Commerce Faculty for the year prior], our social lives hardly coincided. We didn’t meet outside of class time, and yet, in class, we almost seemed inseparable. Geography time was Will time. Mostly we talked Geography, but when we weren’t, Will would sometimes narrate snippets of the goings-on at his hall of residence and campus life in general which I found facsinating for his curious and particular (even then), for lack of a better word, world view. Like everyone else who arrived at college, free of parental supervision and surrounded by others similarly liberated, Will reveled in college social life, but disdained some of its well-established predilections. What? You don’t drink coffee? Dude, everyone drinks coffee. How else to get through all nighters or the morning after, whatever it is you spent all night doing? Well, not Will. Some would construe this as contrarian, but I found out it was part of an esoteric brand of integrity that Will possessed, whereby he held himself intellectually accountable for every position he held. Being Will, he held a definite position on a range of topics, of which coffee was one, and not drinking it, his position.

I think Will enjoyed Earth Systems as much as I did. That is, it was interesting for the scope of information and styles of transmission [each new term a different academic would tag into the teaching spot with their sphere of expertise], without too much being asked of us. With the odd field trip thrown in for increased social stakes, Earth Systems mostly felt, in its own way, like an auxilary of our time there, while other interests and the lingering novelty of university life captured our main attention.

Halfway through 2nd year Geography, our modus operandi having run unchanged with the new academic year, Will floundered in the semester exams for our subject, and decided to cut his losses, dropping Geography altogether. I’d just got a pass. It was somewhat of a shock to both of us. That 1st year belief that paying sub-par attention to words and concepts being levelled at us would be sufficient to later on re-assembling those words to impressive utility in an exam or essay had proved, well, sub-par.  It was a kindred folly, that, but one formed from a) having pulled it off before, and b) for both of us, being accustomed to having a kind of intellectual crutch that often exempted us from overly strenuous academic effort. Certainly that was an accurate narrative of my University career so far.

Hence, we lost our common academic ground- Will consolidating his bets on English, while I pulled out of History to gun for, despite the current poor showing, a Geography major.  I would see Will now and again when I visited my friends at B&G, and we would, per the social staple of university, sometimes have a coffee. That’s right, sometime in the interim, Will had shifted his paradigms and come to embrace coffee.  I never asked why, or if I did I don’t remember and can’t now say, but without recalling the specific details of our first coffee, I remember having a very erudite conversation about the beverage we were consuming and thinking: “that’s a lot of things Will suddenly knows about it, more than I ever cared to find out”.

The details are fuzzy now, but somewhere in that time where we stopped being Geography siamese twins, it came up that Will was part of the University water polo team. I was looking for something extra curricular to occupy spare time and so we started driving out South to the aquatic centre every Friday evening. For months and months, Will sat in my car with a stereo playing the same cassette tape that would switch off every 3 minutes because someone in the car’s past had triggered the anti-theft device and nobody remembered the password. Every 3 minutes, dial the knob off, and back on, to keep listening to the same tape that’d been on since whenever. Who’d steal a tape deck? Well, back in the day… It’d occurred to Will and I later that if we’d been systematic enough about it, for the number of times we’d turned it off and on, we could have punched in enough 4-digit passcode guesses to have gotten it. We would have. Except no one could be bothered to keep a track, and anyway, it was alright for it to be what it was. Most people found it a pain, I didn’t much care, Will probably thought it was a cool existential quirk to differentiate it from other car experiences.

When we’d been at Uni long enough for the revolving vista of Ps, Cs, Ds, and the very occasional HD to seem like the wheels in a hamster cage, changes started coming harder and faster. Or at least the months and years seem to start blending indeterminately. I know these things happened, but am close to ignorant now on the order. We both went on separate European adventures, I resumed and finished some mandatory military time in Singapore, Will finally moved out of college [precipitated I think by a burgeoning love affair, which would in time transition into marriage, with Oona], I graduated and moved away from Canberra for work, and then back again and then permanently to Sydney.

In those transitional days, somehow despite the looming realities of life after undergrad studies, and long after we’d both finished with the water polo team, we’d still be meeting up every now and again, especially when we happened to be in the same city. It was around this time that I started hearing from Will little well-plumbed notions of what it was like [although it never explicitly came out like that] to be in love. For him, the talking point was never the emotional phenomenon of it, although he doubtless had a cogent thesis for that as well. Rather, he spoke about how being with Oona entailed changes to his way of life, and further, how happily he was willing to make those changes, knowing what he was getting in return.  Here was Will, known for having definite views on the world, at times even seeming a bristle brush of views, now softening around the edges, and affording the world a glimpse of his other, gentle, affectionate self.   They weren’t exactly easy times for Will. Having not hurtled into an established career path like others in our cohort and hence absent attendant comforts and securities, he nonetheless possessed an underlying contentment in his days from his relationship with Oona.

One day, on one of Will’s trip up to Sydney, usually on the back of a trip up to Wollongong to see Oona’s family, he presented me with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, from duty free. He raved about the most useful item in his luggage while travelling Europe - a carrier bag for claymore mines someone had smuggled out from the due-for-destruction heap in the military. I’d converted it for carrying small items around campus and it’d somehow gone into Will’s possession. I’d bet though, that the far greater satisfaction he derived from it, apart from its utility and “perfect size for wallet and sunnies”, was the fact that probably no one else in Europe was walking around with a bonafide bomb bag.

After he told me that, Will then also told me he was soon getting married and asked me to be the best man at his wedding. His pitch as I remember it, and I have always remembered it, surprised me greatly. He said, that everyone else [by this I supposed he meant his other male friends] had come and gone, while we had kept up our friendship. Well, for all my incredulity, it was probably as close to a sentimental statement as I had ever heard from him.

After he asked that and I had happily agreed, he also, slightly sheepishly, asked if I would double up as photographer. I don’t remember when it was he said this, but his pronouncement that he wouldn’t have posed for anyone else met with a similar amount of skepticism, although I said yes to that as well. I found out later, and part of that discovery was his blasé attitude to the photo-taking session at their wedding, completely at odds with wedding parties everywhere, that Will had an almost-acute aversion to camera lenses. He did though, as promised, pose dutifully for all the couple shots.

Wedding Day came. I drove down early in the morning from Sydney as part of a frenetic weekend of activity, having to leave mid-afternoon before all the festivities had concluded, to get back for the next event. In retrospect, it was ill-conceived of me, the best man, to only have so little time with the groom on game day. I don’t think I discharged all of my duties to Will, especially all the parts about taking the load of the day off him. I did perform though , the one traditional duty he had already excused me from – the best man’s speech. The only things I remember about it are that Will was duly and truly surprised when I stood up at the reception to deliver it, that I dropped some high-sounding platitudes about love which seemed to go down alright, and that I bungled the toast when I asked everyone to stay seated, since the cultural instinct was to get to your feet for the toast. Well, we got through. I saw yet another side of Will that day, or you might say it was the side already unfolding, when I stood next to him with Oona coming down the aisle. Will allowed that moment to overwhelm him, so he could give his very honest emotional expression, to what his girl walking down the aisle meant for him. To wit, all the things that love can do to you. And should.

After the wedding, distance continued to keep us out of the loop of each others’ lives.  Will was cardinally unimpressed with the then-exponentially expanding technology for conversely shrinking the world i.e. internet, and mobiles and then internet on mobiles. Hence, distance was left alone – unaltered, unshrunk, bridged only by the occasional trip I made to Canberra or he to Sydney. We may have exchanged 3 emails in all of our 20-year friendship, and he only condescended to mobile technology well after we’d graduated from University, and even then he kept his phone at arm’s length.  A luddite, and probably quite happy about it.

My move to Hong Kong ended the relative proximity of Sydney – Canberra, so the occasional face time either way became just the one visit in 2008 [furlough 08], where I interfaced for the first time with Will as a father [to 2-yr old Hamish]. It seemed like an innocuous event, a brief reunion, but when we met up the next time, 8 years later, both of us were trotting out minute details of what happened that day with relish. I like to think he cherished having been able to share with me the happy and incomparable estate of possessing a family, and I very much loved sharing in it.

The intervening 8 years were veritably distant ones for our friendship. We lost almost all contact and got immersed in what were our admittedly very different worlds. I moved further out into China sometime in those years. But I came to Canberra in 2017 [furlough 17] with wife and child in tow, and fortuitously, struck communications gold by successfully reaching Oona and Will. We rocked up to the Douglas house for an afternoon.  I was a new father then, revelling in it, and kept getting struck with the thought – Will’s been at this for a decade now! He’s done the school thing, the discipline thing, the PTA thing, etc. I itched to be where he was.

For all the differences in the shapes of our lives - our aspirations, challenges, choices, work - for a couple of hours, it seemed the only thing that mattered was that Will and I were there with our wives and our children and we were together. Later, it would seem like my being back in Hong Kong reverted our friendship to the out-of-mindedness of distance, but while we were at Will’s home, it felt like, without any effort on either of our parts, just by dint of us both being family men, our friendship had grown, upon contact, into a new and very comfortable dimension. I loved it, the thought gave me a buzz the whole time I was in the country and after.

April 2017 was the last time I saw Will. Thinking about him now, is what stops me in the middle of whatever I'm doing.

you got mail yaaay

liFe in Dminor

I came across an instance of feline roadkill on the weekend. It was on the main drag that brings traffic to and past our part of the world, and Sunday road etiquette being in place, i.e. not the usual asinine cutthroat protocol, traffic was mindfully pulling wide around said carcass. I admit I was surprised, space being at the crushing premium that it is on the Fantasy Island. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to relieve that mangled corpse from any prospect of further indignity, and fetching a handy bit of debris from a nearby bin, swept it two feet to kerbside. Seeing it up close, I understood a bit more of the word visceral. All day long, something inside felt displaced, almost like part of gravity losing its hold, leaving me slightly untethered, although not completely unhinged. No, can’t have that. Not the least of the reasons for this… mild misalignment was the thought, bouncing inside my head like a caged canary, that the violently dead cat had coloring that bore some resemblance to our erstwhile pet, MaoZedong, who’d wandered off one night months ago, and failed to return. What if what if what if. For all the breezy stylised violence we watch on less and less make-believe TV, real violence, when it happens, is not a channel you can switch off. I can’t, at any rate. I’m just waiting for the commercial break to come on.

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you got mail yaaay

minutiae fades into main event

We’re coming up to the 11th anniversary of our departure from Sydney and the Known Life, and so I’d thought I’d warm up to the blogpost for that day with a little round-up of all the happenings since last post. Hopefully, bucking the radioactive half-life trend of this web log will somehow revive it to the point where I’m back to starting the blog with “This week…”, rather than “coming up to the anniversary”. 

The last 3 months or so have more or less pivoted on the biggest ticket event on the miniverse calendar for 2017, which was more or less a refrain of the previous year’s Jubilee celebrations, on a different scale. In Nov, the miniverse village hosted over 20 international musicians who joined their voices and instruments to a week of sustained and intense focus on worship and seeking the Father. If it hadn’t been my 11th year here, I might have counted as an international muso. Hah. I later learned that my monitor buddy was a Beatles affiliate and responsible for a barely-perceptible splash of profanity on the studio recording of Hey Jude. 

Here we are, arrived at Anniversary Day. This post took a bit longer to write than I expected! So nevermind all the this-week-last-week minutiae – here’s to 11 years on a Grand Day Out. I heard today from the Lady JP that a good lot of missionaries expect that their lives are going to be all suffering and hardship, that they mostly look it, and that this is probably a misconception on their part of who their Father is and what He purposes for them. Titles at the Mish and Santa Luka aside, to the extent that I retain any semblance of a missionary, I like to think that this isn’t so true for me. But then, part of the call on all believers is also the call to suffer, not for its sake, but for the sake of the lost. So being a missionary must then be about answering that call, and wouldn’t then suffering be a reasonable expectation? 

K and I stumbled on Enneagrams recently. Yeah I know right? What’s that? Well without trying to explain it, one of the things that people who talk about enneagrams say is that it gives them a lot more compassion for relating to people, because you start to understand why they behave a certain way and lose some of the expectation that everyone should behave in some particular set way. The flip side of this discovery is HAH! – I’m not going to feel particularly inadequate or embarrassed the next time I am not as motivated, or excited or pro-active as I am expected to be. Oh what a feeling!

The Koh household hasn’t bought or cooked any meat in the last 3 weeks or so. 

I thought that was worth its own line. This, following a viewing of a couple of docos exposing the detriment to first the environment, then our health, of animal agriculture / meat consumption. We’re not vegan yet, or even bona fide vegetarian – eating meat at our meals out, but I guess it’s a start. It might even be a transition. We’ll see. Eating meat is a pretty entrenched habit – both of us come from cultures that have been pretty locked into that consumption regimen for a very long time. But I guess the last decade or so has seen a rise in the stick-it-to-the-man Documentary exposing conspiracy / decay / decadence, and they tend to be both convincing and convicting. But for all the inconvenient truths that have been shed, and how convinced we are that they are, in fact, true, how much of the decay have we managed to turn around? Does the truth set us free? Maybe not, if the dollars and lobby groups are stacked against it. Or so it looks like anyway. I asked one of my mainland charges this week about something called WC Pay, which is kinda China’s version of ApplePay. I asked if he ever considered that using this app lets his government in on to even more of his private life. So I assumed. His answer : They already know everything I do, there’s no getting around it. Much better to have the convenience of WCPay. 


Well, Happy Aussie Day everyone!


a jAr of diSSonance

"I might as well say this, too.  It hurt us all something dreadful that he left that way he did.  We knew there was judgment in it, and whatever we might say for ourselves, for our reasonableness and our good intentions, we knew they were trivial by his lights, and that made them a little bit trivial by our lights.  He took so much away with him when he left. "  - Marilynne Robinson 'Gilead'

This little sentence, out of Gilead, bounced around in my head quite a lot in the last 2 weeks.  My family-in-law have elicited some little internal storms for K and I recently, to do with a long-thought out, and anticipated sojourn, cut short for quite inexplicable reasons.  Or rather, they were explicable but distressing, and in the very mysterious way that the subconscious works, the emotions evoked by our familial events gained a kind of equivalence to those evoked by the above quote.   How do I say it?  Our Namesake sister came, she disdained our way of life and our miniverse, she left ahead of time.  She never meant any of it, of course, but it stuck nevertheless, and our lives felt slightly trivial by her lights.

Into this mix were, as there always are, a host of other exacerbating, rather than mitigating, factors, not least of which was the discovery of some unwritten but very much imposed stipulations on our acommodation, that jarred dissonantly with our concept of The Family Home.  Probably it would do the same to your concept of it too, if you're the sort of person who would be reading this.  No doubt Namesake felt it as well.  So I find myself now with only a dwindling attachment to the premises we occupy, and a concurrent itch to be acquitted of it and its unwelcome caveats.

I am aware of a certain tang of bitterness creeping into the tasting notes of this miniverse brew - well, life, like coffee, is richer for complexities.   So we say, except of course, just this minute, the result feels nothing like enrichment.  Quite the opposite.  However now, one thing that is providing some welcome enrichment, is going through Gilead again.  It moved me endlessly the first time, and it is effortlessly doing so again- the prosaic popshots hitting home with a double whammy as I reflexively think of JLK and I in the same achingly honest, rich, steeped-in-faith yet humble voice of the Rev John Ames.  Recommended for all fathers.  Here is a sample :

"I'd never have believed I'd see a wife of mine doting on a child of mine.  It still amazes me every time I think of it.  I'm writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you've done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God's grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle.  You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind.  If only I had the words to tell you... You're just a nice-looking boy, a bit slight, well scrubbed and well-mannered.  All that is fine, but it's your existence I love you for, mainly.  Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined.  I'm about to put on imperishability... While you read this, I am imperishable, somehow more alive than I have ever been, in the strength of my youth, with dear ones beside me.  You read the dreams of an anxious, fuddled old man, and I live in a light better than any dream of mine..."

I've mentioned before that I lived my first 3 years on the Fantasy Island using only the 1 Oz bank account.  And then, suddenly I had 9.  Well, this week, exercising the faculties of my various miniverse titles, I wrangled words with a Fantaisle multi-national bank, who, as beefy boofhead corporations do, were behaving rather imperiously toward our meek and mild miniverse companies.  So far they seem to be mildly confounded by my Big Words but I don't know how this will end for me [big banks have lawyers who know more Big Words than me], and by implication, for the miniverse.  Unlike the last time I used Big Words, it takes more to stare Big Bank down.  It was perhaps slightly reckless, but I thought - hey they probably depend on people like me thinking it'd be reckless to protest, in order to get their haughty way.  So i chose reckless.  Better than feckless, at any rate, which is how I would have felt otherwise.

So many conniptions, all together, yet life goes on.
just him

falSe or misLeading dicHotomies

I recently heard the Lady JP say of a gospel passage somewhere, that it was about there being 2 ways to live.  Aside from there being a million ways to reduce the entirety of the universe to only 2 categories, that particular phrase of course was the calling card of every evangelical evangelist along the southeastern seaboard a couple of decades back, complete with self-titled and illustrated tracts to hand out on street corners, or at your local church’s beer-tasting night. 2 Waaaays To Live

Well anyway, in that instance the split was the classic - way of the world, or way of the Kingdom?  It got me to thinking about Furlough 17, and in some ways every furlough before that.  I arrive always in Oz as an outsider to a way of life that I have already left. This time was no different, although it came with a novel desire to be on the inside.  The kind of things I’d left behind like a 35 hour work week, steady pay, disposable income, leisure time, all started to take on a certain brightness since it seemed that those were the things that would lead to a stable and somewhat comfortable family life.  Who wouldn’t want that?    In every place that we went, I pictured Jude, K and myself living out an alternate life; days lived at cruise speed and being quietly drenched by sun and sea on the Sunshine Coast,
suburban existence surrounded by ship shape facilities and services in the Nation’s Capital, or perhaps a reinstatement to NSW bureaucracy and the Kohs blithely rubbing elbows with the Inner West fringe folk, although more and more I felt drawn away from places where the lost gather.
Ah, the shiny-ness of it all- a yearning for greener pastures, or at least a different one.  When furlough drew to a close though, the brightness of the Australian Dream dulled, as the extrapolation of my fantasies led predictably to where they had before, a decade ago.   Then what?  There are many answers to that question, none of which I have really explored.  For now the easier thing seems to remain.  But then, who said easy was good?  We often say the opposite, in fact.  Or I do.

K sent a book my way this week.  It opens with a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer thus: 

“The Pauline question of whether circumcision is a condition of justification seems to me in present day terms to be whether religion is a condition of salvation.”

That is a brilliant way to put it.  No, we do not require religion for salvation, although I wouldn’t have said that salvation was the end game, not that we would need religion for whatever the end game turns out to be, either.   But for someone who’s been in the miniverse for 10 years, is doing the same old same old, somehow tantamount to religion?  If so, is it time for something OUTSIDE, even if it isn’t the Aussie Dream?