Sophie Joans is a theatre-maker, comedian and producer, who hopes to make humans connect with each other through laughter and storytelling. Some of her notable performances include: The Flower Hunters (NAF 2021) and her ukulele stand-up comedy act which she has toured around the country. She founded @Scenes_on_Screens – a virtual theatre on Instagram in response to lockdown. She has recently joined the team of writers at The Regular Post, a satirical news show.
Phillip Dikotla is an incomparable stand-up comedian, with a boundless, thought-provoking, insightful, and laughter-lashing tongue. The funniest and most important upcoming comedy voice in South African comedy today with a background as a multiple award winning actor and writer.
Arlene Petersen is a local comedienne hailing from Lavender Hill who started her career as an MC, mostly at community church events. She has performed all around Cape Town and even in the Mother City Comedy Festival 2020 just before everything shut down. She has broadened her career by tapping into the acting, online entertainment and plus size modelling industry, and stand-up comedy has become a leg to stand on when auditioning for various industry opportunities. Not only is she funny, she can cook too. As a two time national TV cooking show champion she is convinced that food and laughter is the best medicine.
Neo Masiko was born in Johannesburg 22 years ago. He has always wanted to be a singer since the 3rd grade but sadly puberty had other plans. Neo graduated in April 2021 with a bachelor degree in live performance from afda. Turns out he is actually good at acting. His whole life he had known that he wanted to be an artist but didn’t know what type of artist he’d be. Neo loves music, comedy and drama and by drama he means the “real house wives “. Neo enjoys writing poetry and songs and one day he hopes to start a music career. All he wants is to heal people through art.
While referring to the story of Saul and David, biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, notes: “We do not know if we are dealing with … historical report, theological conviction, or literary strategy. Perhaps all these factors are operative.” This is worthy of remembering as we read scripture. In fact, it is worthy to remember regardless of what we are reading. Seldom is anything simply a historical report. Convictions, be they theological, ideological, cultural, or economic are most often lurking just beneath the surface. And all writing comes to us in some form or other and as they say, the medium is the message. So indeed “perhaps all these factors are operative” all the time in all writing. Part of our reading work is to understand how these three factors are rolled into one, and to discern the due emphasis of each.
Sunday past I referred to Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2016 novel, The Buried Giant. The reviews are so spectacularly varied, leaving us asking what this book is about!
Here are some of the reviews:
- “Lush and thrilling, rolling the gothic, fantastical, political, and philosophical into one.” —The New Republic
- “Devastating. … As emotionally ruinous an ending as any I’ve read in a very long time, and it made me circle back to the opening pages, to re-enter the strange mist of this sad and remarkable book.” —Mark O’Connell, Slate
- “Splendid. … The Buried Giant is a simple and powerful tale of love, aging and loss.” —The Wall Street Journal
- “A beautiful, heartbreaking book about the duty to remember and the urge to forget.” —The Guardian(London)
- “A novel of imaginative daring that, in its subtleties of tone, mood and reflection, could be the work of no other writer.
… In the manner of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Ishiguro has created a fantastical alternate reality in which, in spite of the extremity of its setting and because of its integrity and emotional truth, you believe unhesitatingly.” — Financial Times
- “Ishiguro is a deft gut-renovator of genres, bringing fresh life and feeling to hollowed-out conventions. … The love story at its center shimmers with a mythic and melancholy grace.” —Vulture
- “A literary tour de force so unassuming that you don’t realize until the last page that you’re reading a masterpiece.”
- “A profound meditation on trauma, memory, and the collective lies nations and groups create to expiate their guilt.”
—The Boston Globe
I invite you to read The Buried Giant to see for yourself, and don’t be surprised when you reach the end of the book that you discover that you were reading a totally different story to the one you thought you were reading. This new story may awaken you like a splash of cold water awakens a sleepy face in the early morning, or it may emerge slowly in the days and weeks after having long finished reading, like a bud stretching slowly toward summer.
Now why would it be any different with the Bible? The stories in the Bible are as multi-layered and therefore carry the potential to provoke as spectacularly varied insights and interpretations? All being worthy to the extent that they bring justice, healing, and freedom in the world. I am willing to wager that not one person who reads The Buried Giant will ask if it is true or not? As in, is it factual? As in, did it happen or not? Why? Because intuitively we know that truth is larger than fact. Some truth is so large it can only fit into fiction. With fiction we do not ask if it is true or not, but rather what truth is in the story? We ponder for days, months, even a lifetime, what this or that symbolises? Again, why would we think the Bible is any different?
A follow on from a few weeks back …
What can we do? We can fast and pray.
I know fasting and praying sounds like religious escapism, and of course it can be, but it can also be just the opposite. To fast and pray can be radical engagement with the world. Not least because we are part of this world. If we are attentive, we will see that what is happening outside in the street is taking place inside the corridors of our own heart. To clean the one is to make a difference to the other. Therefore, any healing and liberation within us, is healing and liberation of the world.
We heal and liberate the world from where we are. One place where we all are, is who we are. In our own life we carry more responsibility than anyone else to engage the principalities and powers within us, because these principalities and powers carry our name. “Naming, unmasking, and engaging” these powers is our lifelong liberation struggle. These principalities and powers are the stubborn patterns of self-deception and comfortable self-centeredness within us. They constantly confuse death with life and good with evil. As we come to realise that patient persistence together with fierce determination is demanded of us in the struggle within, so we realise no less is demanded of us to bring life-giving transformation to our communities, country, and world.
Through prayer and fasting we gain sharper insight into our own demons. We are moved to make the ancient confession our own, “that I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” [Rom 7:19]. In this we admit we are complicit with all that needs changing in the world. Complicit even regarding all we are opposed to in the world, and that we want to change. Knowing we are not innocent; our fierce determination is transformed by humility into a merciful determination. We therefore address the principalities and powers with love and in truth trusting that regardless of whether our ends are ever achieved, the very means we have employed make for a more beautiful, just, and peaceful world.
Fasting and praying, in the sense that I refer to here has nothing to do with trying to get God to act, change, wake up or be moved in any way. The One who loves the world with “an everlasting love” does not need changing, and nor does the One who “neither sleeps nor slumbers” need to be woken up. It is you and I that need to wake up, change and act differently, and therefore we fast and pray.
To fast is to voluntarily go with less.
It is to taste a tiny morsel of hunger.
To voluntarily feel a fraction of the hunger of the hungry.
To be moved into the slightest of solidarities with the poor and marginalised.
To have our conscience pricked as much as our stomach pinched.
To go with less to have more to share.
To carry within us an everlasting hunger and thirst for justice … that those who have much do not have too much and those who have little do not have too little.
To attain the blessedness of a world where all have enough.
If we cannot bring ourselves to go without food for a day, or in the very least to intentionally miss a meal, then let even this be our teacher. Not for guilt’s sake, but for truth’s sake. What grace and truth lies buried in us not fasting? Surely if we are not willing to embrace the irritable discomfort of missing a single meal, then we can begin to understand the deepening despair and growing rage of those who miss multiple meals without choice? Therefore, let even our reluctance to fast move us to hunger for justice.
What is it to pray? I never stop asking myself this question. I wonder some days whether this question itself, is not a type of praying “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I could forward you a booklist of those who I have found wise in matters prayer, but they will not satisfy. Indeed, they are not meant to satisfy and we best fear if they do. Their insights may enlighten us, but they will not nourish us. They are gifted with words to speak of these things that lie beyond words, but when it comes to prayer, we cannot live by the words of others alone. At best their wisdom may awaken a hunger within us to prepare our own meal of prayerfulness. Their answers cannot be our answers. Yet, their answers can be where our questions are birthed and is this not the most hope-filled gift of any author or teacher?
“Prayer is being present to the presence of God.” I remember highlighting these words in a book, the name of which I have long since forgotten. Aaah that’s it, I thought. I have the answer. Yet, this answer soon spawned questions: “What does it mean to be present?” “What is God’s presence?” These questions, however, were not looking for answers as much as they were inviting me into a practice of my own. A place to discover and describe prayer for myself. Simply put: the meaning of prayer will not be decided outside of a practice of prayer.
From within the limits of my own practice I have discovered that:
To pray is to be present to the presence of Love and Truth.
This Love and Truth is the Real Reality of all that is.
This presence of Love and Truth is within me and beyond me.
To pray is to be drawn within myself.
To pray is to be drawn out of myself.
To be present is to take up a posture of attentiveness.
Attentiveness as focus and openness.
Attentiveness as longing and surrender.
Attentiveness as grief and gratitude.
Attentiveness as aching desperately for transformation and of accepting myself as I am and the world as it is. With wonder.
Attentiveness is ultimately a posture of vulnerability.
To pray is to become vulnerable to Love and Truth.
This is what I hope for when I sit in silence. This is my prayer for my prayers.
In these draining days of lockdown, filled with grief and loss and change, I encourage you to deepen your own practice. Your own embodied practice of fasting and praying, even if they are known to you by a different name. A practice that you discover for yourself and can describe in your mother’s tongue. A practice that grounds you in Love and sets you free by Truth. A practice that becomes a life sustaining reservoir from which you can draw strength to remain open and vulnerable. A practice that makes you brave because it fills you with love. A love that casts out fear.
Hear the words of John Wesley. They are words that nourish a hunger within me to begin … and to begin again and again.
“Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises … whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.”
Bishop Yvette Moses of MCSA and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa raised this banner today to call for an end to the “violence of poverty” by providing a basic income grant for all. The reference to Leviticus 23:22 refers to the instruction: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
SABC Interview with Bishop Yvette Moses and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.