Commentary on Mark, 11 January 2021
The latest update to my Markan commentary is here.
(Updated November 24 2021)
School Girls, 14 May 2022
It's a pleasant stroll along some creek paths and backstreets to my favourite Indian spice shop. We needed more of their excellent basmati rice, and that's how I came to be walking past a playground in a creek reserve just after school today. Two Catholic school girls, long hair, skirts well below the knees, where goofing around on one of those multi-person swings that send you in sometimes unexpected directions depending on which way your friends are moving. It happened as I was walking past and the sudden sideways spin provoked a pair of half terrified - half delighted squawks from the two girls. Except that one of those squawks sounded like it was modulated by a Y chromosome. They froze as they saw me, the taller one seeming to steel herself. This, more than her body morphology, suggested my intuition she was transgender was correct. I nodded and said "G'day" as I walked past, and both of them visibly relaxed.
Two sweet kids having fun on a swing. If a suburban Catholic school can accommodate this child, what on earth is the Prime Minister's problem with transgender kids?
I spent the last kilometre wondering what it would have been like as a child to have been accepted for who I was, instead of having to fit into what the district considered appropriate for males or risk having the shit beaten out of me. One of my friends told me that by the time they had worked out who they were—what was going on—"it was too late to transition." I didn't understand why that was, but now I think I understand some of it. I am so enculturated as a male that it seems impossible to be anything else. But I am not male. I scrape along most of the time, but sometimes it's like the over-wet winter I shoved my bare feet into my Dad's rubber boots to clear up some mud. My feet were blistered and my legs ached because everything was the wrong shape. I didn't fit. That's how I feel about me, sometimes; I don't match the shape I'm supposed to wear, and it doesn't seem possible to change. I'm stuck inside myself where I don't fit, and can't get out. And I grieve for what might have been.
I'd spotted a short cut to get back into the creek, and I took this on the way back. It took me closer to the two girls, still chatting. I smiled at the taller girl who gave me a radiant smile in return.
The Prime Minister wants you to hate her. He wants you to pretend that all our problems are caused by sweet kids who are trying to sort themselves out. He can't get away with anti-gay and anti-lesbian dog whistles anymore, and it's getting electorally risky to pick on Muslim folk, because they have enough votes to cause him trouble. So he sacrifices the trans kids to the mob so that the mob won't go for him and hold him responsible for his appalling* government. He dresses it up in a veneer of religion, a religion which is a perversion and a betrayal of the Christ who would rather die than let people be excluded by the elites.
Andrew Prior (May 2022)
*Mike Carlton called them "the most corrupt, incompetent government in our history"
The biggest gum on the farm had been a remnant tree even before the whites began to devastate the land. There would have been a Nukunu name for that one tree. He would walk past it on his endless "walks around the sheep" despite its standing on the roughest slope of the ridge. He walked behind it one afternoon, intending his customary turn up past along the west boundary, and met a red kangaroo circling the scrub in the opposite direction. They stood face to face, roo to man, for long moments, tall as each other.
His wife asked him what he had done then. "Well, I turned around and went where I was going, and he turned around and went where he was going." Dry humour which hid the less comfortable facts of the matter.
It seemed to him that after the first moment of surprise they had stood looking at each other for a very long time. Something timeless had happened, a meeting with another face of himself: solitary, powerful, dangerous. And a curious fellow feeling, although who knew what the roo made of it all.
The big reds come south in the dry years, using the ranges for cover, and making short trips out to the paddocks to get water from the sheep troughs. Or travel along the Rocky or the Broughton, lying low under scrubby cover during the day.
Why had it been there in the last few yards of scrub on the range with nothing but open paddocks beyond? "That tree pulled us both in, lost as each other. What sort of kangaroo stands there face to face, and just looks at you?"
He lay down in the scrub and wept.
Wept for tall trees and lost boys, and griefs he could not name.
And all the dark beauty of life which causes so much pain.
And kept on walking, but never saw the kangaroo again.
Revelation is an intuition
the world is not as we thought it to be;
a glimpse of difference;
a moment of insight one might easily miss,
which fades and is fast forgotten unless practiced
and proved to be a new truth... Read on >>>>
In 1989 I had the privilege of working with an astute and generous psychiatrist. In one of our sessions he suddenly asked, "Have you ever thought that you'd rather have been born as a woman?" I have no recollection that I had ever thought that to myself, but it seemed so obvious that I replied, "Well, of course. But there's not much I can do about that, is there?" And went on with whatever I'd been talking about. Wisely, I think, he let it go. At that moment I had more pressing issues to manage.
I have always related much more easily to women. I've had few male friends, and those relationships have always been a little at arm's length. Once or twice, I have sensed that another man and I have both longed for something deeper and more intimate, but had no idea how to proceed. I am at ease with female friends. Female parishioners have typically confided in me in a way few males have done. I have been able to listen to those woman, and perhaps even help them, with an ease I have never had with men... Read on >>>>
Theologically, what dog is the Prime Minister whistling up when he supports this bill which singles out trans people yet again?
The world’s oldest religion is the religion of the scapegoat. It is the religion where human beings “solve” violence between them by ganging up on one individual who is then killed. The death of the scapegoat creates unity, the murder is all against one, after all, and for a while the violence ceases. It is thought that not only did this practice enable early humans to survive their all against all violence, but the refinement of the practice, and careful repetition, created the first religions. As the theologian James Alison wrote, “We didn't invent sacrifice, sacrifice invented us.” Concilium 2013(4)
One of the first great advances in religion was the ritual sacrifice of animals instead of the sacrifice of humans. Put bluntly, it doesn’t create as much blow-back!
Nonetheless, humans are still sacrificed. We know that a Prime Minister can create at least a temporary peace and unity by sacrificing a cabinet minister or two to calm a scandal. Of course even that is a problem, because he can’t actually kill them, so they can pay him back later! ... Read on >>>>
Everyone is a hero. Only the shape of our heroism differs.
The Persecuted Hero always has to be wronged. All of life, all of their mental landscape, all of their inner talk, is centred around this. This is their being, their identity. Kind, loving, responsible—they may be all these, and honest and ethical to a fault, but that is all lived within the mental landscape of the persecuted hero. Not visible today? Wait until the pressures of tomorrow, and a reversion to their basic self, and we will see. Their internal dialogue will shift back to the language of the persecuted one.
It is so natural, so much a part of them, that they are mostly unaware of it. It's something like the way we don't really see the screen on which a movie is being projected. It takes a long time to understand that our particular kind of hero is there all the time, as the screen on which we play out our lives. It is not just present on our bad days.
Despite all their good qualities, the persecuted hero is living for themselves. Wronged, persecuted, they are nonetheless the hero. They will persist despite the pressures that seek to destroy them. They are the hero who, in the end, is right and true.
This mental landscape allows them to survive. It is the reason they are alive, why they survived childhood or some other trauma. But it is also burden. It has to be maintained. There has to be a struggle. Happiness can only be fleeting, for happiness delegitimises their reality if it lasts too long. If they are happy, much less peaceful, it means their whole world is wrong. So, they are always tired. Always on the edges of things. Never quite able to trust, or be loved. Always sabotaging themselves at some level, and reshaping reality back to the perception that they are being persecuted.
The beginning of conversion is to recognise this selfishness. All of us must see that our illness, whatever it is, is some kind of misplacing of ourselves as the centre of Creation, as the Hero. We all play a role. Perhaps this is not such a surprising statement. What is harder to accept is that the role plays us. Conversion is to become aware that the dynamic of the Persecuted Hero, or whatever role we have adopted or been given, drives us, and seeks to determine us. Conversion begins as we recognise that our mental image of reality is not merely an accidental landscape to life, but a driving force which subverts true joy.
True conversion is a real heroism, for the petty hero recognises and confesses how much they are at the mercy of the life they have imagined. Such a person owns that perhaps, at base, they do not want to be healed. They wish, rather, to remain at the centre of life, only without the pain that this requires. True conversion is to let go of the self. Only then can there be healing, a healing process which will be life-long... Read on >>>>
On my old commute home from work there is a fast track section of secondary road that was always good for burning out a day's frustrations, not to mention enjoying a flat out sprint. But you have to be first away from the lights, or you will end up crawling behind vehicles threading parked cars and negotiating the speed bumps and roundabouts. I stopped at the lights one afternoon, two back from the front. The car in front of me was turning left, which was good, and the next vehicle was another bike.
The rider was a slight young woman whose kit exactly matched the frame of her bike. The colours perfectly offset her skin tones and hair. The clothes were not the usual skin tight lycra, but fitted so well that I wondered it they had been custom made. Bike and rider together made a beautiful unit.
Despite my age, I can still leave most people behind from a standing start. It's about being able to cleat in without looking, and being in the right gear. So I figured that once the car had turned off, I would be able to pass the young woman before we were fully across the intersection, and I'd be in front position.
The car turned left pretty smartly, and I powered forward... and was almost left behind. All sorts of competitive instincts get triggered by something like this, so I pulled into the sweet spot behind her and waited for the right moment—there's a slight bend—where I could push past and leave her behind. At the bend I caught a glimpse of her from the side. She was riding "in the tops," and still breathing through her nose. At somewhere over 40kph she was barely trying! And there was no way I was getting past. I wondered if Anna Meares' little sister was training in Adelaide... Read on >>>>
Wendy and I were doing that left-right by dead-reckoning thing through the back streets as we worked our way across to Marion Road this morning, when I suddenly recognised the street we had entered. Thirty two years ago, a hearse left the Plympton Park church, heading directly away from the cemetery. It lead the cortege past the deceased person’s house, and we all slowed down in an act of tribute that remains one of my more poignant funeral memories.
The dear old woman had known she was dying, and was at peace about it as anyone can be. She’d told her Elder, with wry pleasure, that her last act on this earth would be “to give Andrew an easy funeral for his first one.”
When the day came, I received a breakfast phone call from the Elder. The family were all there. Could I come up? I raced up on my noisy old motor bike, and found that a couple of police, and the funeral directors, were still in attendance. The cop at the gate wouldn’t let me in. He went in and told the funeral director that some disreputable looking bloke was outside claiming to be the minister. Ian Milne, from Alfred James and Sons said, “Hairy bugger on a motorbike? Yeah, he's my Mum’s minster, too. You can let him in.” ... Read on >>>>
Earlier this week I was in Parkholme and wanted to go down to an address to the southwest. In a car I'd have gone down Marion Road to Sturt Road, and finally headed west. It's different on a bike; I headed west immediately, crossed the Sturt Drain via a footbridge, and followed a rat-run through the back streets, that was both safer and faster. Except... part way along the route I had mapped out, I realised my GPS was malfunctioning. It was telling me that north was what I knew to be due south, and that I was heading east, and not west.... Stay with me through the sudden change of direction which follows.
One of my very favourite people has written of our recent past
The professional bigots of the world, whose very livelihoods depend on the attention of those in whom they provoke fear of The Other, decided that the L, the G, and the B just weren’t cutting it as a unifying enemy. Denigrating them wasn’t working as well as it had, people were getting too okay with people loving whoever they damn well pleased (the audacity). So a new spectre was summoned.
Now the fight du jour wasn’t whether non-hetero people should be allowed to work in schools, or have a consenting relationship with another adult. Sure, there were holdouts, who couldn’t let that bigotry go. But now, there was a new scary. They’d not been as visible, people weren’t as comfortable with them, or as familiar, so it was much easier to incite fear, then hatred. They’d even take just enough uncertainty that a well placed “for the children” could sway any argument. Trans people were perverts, deviants, monsters, predators... Read on >>>>
I was asked to fill in while a colleague was on leave. The congregation had two minsters, and the other minister was mentoring a young theological student who was doing supervised field experience. This other minister asked me if the student could be part of the children's segment for one of the Sunday services I was leading.
The Old Testament reading for that week concerned Deborah, Judge of Israel, and Barak, a military leader the story makes clear was a little lacking in faith and courage. The young woman and I decided to act out the story in a largely improvised sketch in front of the children, expecting the usual 20 or 30 kids ranging from toddler age to 15 or so.
It didn't go quite as I expected... Read on >>>>
A bunch of teachers and parents took a bus load of school kids to Adelaide. After the long, dusty trip down the old Stuart Highway, we boarded the train up to Mt Lofty station. The kids were chattering away with the kind of racket only a bus load of happy and tired kids can create, when everything went black, and the clatter of the train turned into a roar. The shock silenced every conversation in the carriage. Then someone remembered: “We’ve read about this in books. This is a tunnel!” And there was an eruption of laughter, and relief!
Except that one of the adults sat bent forward, eyes shut, in terror. They were subjected to another 3 trips up and back to our campsite, and the tunnel remained a horror. On the last trip, with the good will of the train driver, and the help of friends, they stood in the little cab at the very front of the train, watched the hole in the hill coming, and managed to keep their eyes open until we reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
I have always admired that person, but it took me years to understand that, on this last journey down the hill, I witnessed an act of utter courage. I began to understand what was going on when I met my version of that tunnel three or four years later.... Read on >>>>
Felix was a big old cat who'd been on the farm nearly as long as me. We found him asleep on the bonnet of the ute one afternoon as we piled in to go down to Uncle Des' farm, a couple of miles away. He ignored us. "He'll get off," Dad said. Felix stayed where he was until we rumbled over the grid out onto the track. Then, instead of jumping off, he hopped over the roof and curled up in the back of the ute.
There are two things to note about those old FE Holden utes. The first is that by 1965, they were old. It took half a mile before we'd chugged up to 50mph down near Flavel's gate. The second is that there was a bit of a ledge where the door bulged out from the glass in the window. Felix knew about this, and when it became too windy for comfort in the back, he walked along this bulge with the intention of coming in the window behind Dad's back. This is where my sister and I saw him, just as he discovered that, for some unaccountable reason, Dad had the window shut... Read on >>>
When I was about ten, my Christmas Day was brought to a stunned physical halt by a wave of feelings which took me years to articulate. It was as though a congenital melancholy had forced its way into my attention. It bubbled up every few months for years, a kind of sub-clinical depression, which I finally understood as an inability to see any point to life. Some instinct kept me walking and running, which probably prevented my being overwhelmed. And for my final three years at university, I rode a pushbike, often hundreds of kilometres a week, and this seemed to drive the whole agony underground.
About a decade after that first onslaught, I stopped taking the direct route from my university college out to the Waite Institute. Instead, I would ride up Greenhill Road each morning, speed down from Mt Lofty to the Crafers exit on the new freeway, and then ride down the freeway to The Waite. This involved a short climb out of Crafers, after which I was on competitive terms with the rush-hour traffic. I used to count the number of cars I could pass between the Eagle on the Hill, still a pub in those days, and the Old Tollgate at the bottom. My record stood at 24 cars.
I raced into the Devil’s Elbow one morning, a well-deserved name, holding way above the recommended speed, with cars all around me, and both the front and back wheel began to aquaplane. I was... Read on >>>>
I’ve been bedding in a new bike or, more correctly, bedding myself in after going back to drop bars after 12 years riding flat bar bikes. I’d done 80 or 90km at a time and was now concerned to see how my back stood up to longer distances, and how the new bike handled gravel.
The first trip included a gravel loop out from Angaston through the high country to the east, coming back into the bottom end of the Barossa near Lyndoch... Read on >>>>
When the frame on my Blade4 died in early 2017, its replacement was sitting on the floor of the local bike shop: a beautiful Scott Sub 30. The Sub30 has also succumbed to long miles on the road. Replacement was not so easy this time. Steel frame bikes are scarce due to Covid shortages. Eventually, I visited a shop in Adelaide to inspect a very expensive Curve Kevin, which was not my first choice owing to its carbon forks. I discovered a Bombtrack Arise Tour next to it, even though their website said none were in stock. I bought it on the spot! ... Read on >>>>
This site is about celebrating life. My own life is too busy; my work is almost designed to keep me from reflection and enjoyment. In the busyness and competition of life, it is hard, especially for men, to be honest about fears and feelings. All this works against celebrating and enjoying life except in a most shallow fashion. So here, I seek to be unbusy.
One Man's Web has grown haphazardly, reflecting the interests of friends and myself. You will find abandoned blind alleys, ideas we no longer adhere to, things we never believed but "hung out there" to see what would happen. There are areas where I am remain passionate, but can't keep up; the area on Australia's refugees is one.
If you find some enjoyment or challenge here, I am glad. Celebrate life!