On Good Friday

Stations of the Cross #5, "Simon of Cyrene carries the cross", Notre-Dame Basilica, Geneva.

Stations of the Cross #5, “Simon of Cyrene carries the cross”, Notre-Dame Basilica, Geneva.

On Good Friday I sat in church, watching and listening as most of the congregation followed the priest around the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The woman with the walking-frame, stoically devout, completed the circuit with the others, while her white-muzzled black dog hobbled back and forth up and down the nave, stopping to receive attention from some of those who, like me, had remained in their pews.

Meditations translated from the words of French poet Paul Claudel were spoken gently by a man known for his work as a broadcaster. Between the meditations, periods of silence were terminated by spells of difficult and discordant organ music – some strident, some morose – which I could have done without.

I had earlier told the woman who had welcomed me that my parents had been married in this church, and that I had been baptized here.

I will return to St Peter’s on Willis on Easter Day, looking forward to the Eucharistic ritual I have not shared in since Midnight Mass at Wellington Cathedral on Christmas Eve.


The tradition of moving around the Stations to commemorate the Passion of Christ began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is also observed in Lutheranism and Anglo-Catholicism. It is most commonly done during Lent, especially on Good Friday (from Wikipedia: Stations of the Cross).

Wikimedia Commons includes a page with links to images of twelve of the fourteen Stations of the Cross by sculptor Jean-Bernard Duseigneur. (This page gives his name as Jean-Baptiste Du Seigneur, and he is elsewhere known as Jehan Duseigneur; eg, on Paris Sculptures.) Born in Paris in 1808, Duseigneur studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1831 achieved renown when he exhibited Roland Furieux, often regarded as the first romantic sculpture (now in the Louvre). Soon afterwards he turned almost exclusively to the production of religious works (adapted from a brief article in Wikipedia).

PS – Easter Day: The old black dog, Emma, was there again today; she, like the other “regulars”, was wearing her name-tag. 


Killing our children

memorial for Joe and Jadin Bell

memorial for Joe and Jadin Bell : photo credit, Brendan McCampbell

Jadin Bell dreamed of being a cheerleader.

Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan had all been high school cheer-leaders. In their day, cheer-leading had been an all-male activity. Until as late as the 1950s, in fact, female cheer-leaders were banned.

“The reputation of having been a valiant cheer-leader,” wrote the editors of The Nation in 1911, “is one of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college. As a title to promotion in professional or public life, it ranks hardly second to that of having been a quarterback.” But, like so many other things, cheer-leading in America has changed since those days.

During his sophomore year at high school in La Grande, Oregon, Jadin successfully tried out for the cheer-leading team – the only boy to do so in recent memory. Jadin had hoped that cheer-leading would be a path to some measure of social acceptance in his broader community. It wasn’t.

On the afternoon of Saturday 19 January 2013, carrying a length of rope, the fifteen-year-old climbed onto his school’s playground equipment and hanged himself. A passer-by found him nine minutes later, but in that time all brain activity had shut down, and Jadin never regained consciousness. After ten days, his parents, Joe Bell and Lola Lathrop, decided to take him off life support, and Jadin died on 3 February 2013.

Jadin Bell’s suicide, in the words of Pauls Toutonghi, “became part of the nation’s ongoing dialogue about bullying,” (See Note 1/ below.)

In late April, Joe Bell set off on a walk across the country to share the story of his son’s death and raise awareness about bullying.

On 15 October, The New York Times published an item under the headline, Oregon Father’s Memorial Trek Across Country Ends in a Family’s Second Tragedy. On 9 October, Joe Bell’s life had “ended in an instant on a two-lane road in rural eastern Colorado. He was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer whose driver had apparently fallen asleep, the state police said.”

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year in America, 4,600 young people take their own lives,” Pauls Toutonghi tells us. “This number is astonishing in its bigness. Yet the shocking truth – the idea that the way we live, as a society, is killing thousands of our children each year – produces little disturbance in our collective consciousness. Maybe this is because each suicide feels so individualized.”

On National Coming Out Day (11 October 2013), Brendon McCampbell wrote: “I am queer. With the loving acceptance of my family and friends, I can unabashedly admit this. As a child, however, I struggled greatly with my sexuality. I was poisoned by our society to believe that there was something wrong with me. The truth is this: there is something wrong with our society. We need to accept, support, and love people regardless of sex, gender, race, shape, ability, religion, or politics. Today is National Coming Out Day, and I hope you accept everyone in your life. We need to live in a world where Jadin was accepted by his peers and lived happily with his father and family.” (Facebook, 11 October 2013)

In his posthumously-published autobiography, Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit (From My Life: Poetry and Truth), Goethe wrote that “suicide is an event of human nature which, whatever may be said and done with respect to it, demands the sympathy of every man, and in every epoch must be discussed anew.”



1/ Much of the information I have used in this post was adapted from Pauls Toutonghi’s heartfelt article – “They ripped him apart”: Searching for answers in the suicide of bullied teen Jadin Bell – published in Salon on 8 September 2013.

2/ Read about the passing of Joe Bell on Joe’s Walk for Change. Also see La Grande remembers Joe and Jadin Bell: ‘Stand up to a bully’ .

No third thing

… experiencing runs of bad luck is part of life’s rich pattern. The key thing is to see them for what they are: an entirely predictable consequence of unpredictability. (Robert Matthews, in Matt’s stats: Why disasters come in threes

Three sisters

Three sisters

This morning, I carelessly lit a votive candle and placed it on a lacquered cabinet. If I hadn’t (later in the morning) noticed a smell of burning, there might have been a fire.

This morning, I opened my front door carelessly, and a boisterous wind-gust slammed it on my finger. If I hadn’t been quick to pull my hand away, there might have been a bruise.

So far this morning, there is no third thing. Before long, of course, there will be the next thing. Life being what it is, there is always the next thing – whether fortunate or unfortunate.

Perhaps the “rule of threes” helps divide the ongoing stream of mishaps, misadventures, miseries and demises into manageable chunks.

When a light-bulb blows, I tend to buy three … after replacing the old one from the ample stock I already have in the cupboard under the sink.

To end, here – courtesy of Wikipedia’s Rule of three (writing) – is a nice little Latin motto “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete).


Thanks to The Book of Threes, which reports that “The ancient Native American technique of growing Corn, Beans, and Squash together in an arrangement called the Three Sisters is the ultimate in companion planting and helps increase harvests, naturally!” 

For readers who suspect a veiled Monty Python reference, here’s a link to the Comfy Chair / Sound Quiz from “Another Monty Python Record”.  

The taste of clouds

"I am Forbidden" – cover

“I am Forbidden” – cover

On the crest of the Pont des Arts, they leaned over the bridge’s railing and turned up their palms for the first drops of rain. The sky unleashed itself and they whirled as they had as children, arms stretched wide as their tongues searched their lips for the taste of clouds. (Anouk Markovits, in I am Forbidden [p138]) 

As I read I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits – pen and paper always at the ready – the text drew me, deeper and deeper, into a profound experience. There is much to share … but not all at once.

Anouk Markovits was raised a Hasidic Jew in France, but at 19 she fled her community to avoid an arranged marriage. She went on to get a master’s degree in architecture and a PhD in romance studies. “I Am Forbidden,” her first novel in English, centers on two Hasidic sisters: one who leaves, and one who stays, shunning modernity. (from a review published in The New York Times (15 May 2012)

There’s a succinct synopsis on GoodReads, and a review with links to related material on The Telegraph.


Markovits, Anouk. 2012. I am forbidden. London: Hogarth

Always inside

The work is always inside you.
This knot does not get untied
by listening to the stories of other people.

The well inside your house
is better water
than the river that runs through town.

(Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, translated by Coleman Barks from The Big Red Book, p474)

Ironically, the apartment in which I am currently living (so glad it’s temporary) has begun to drive me out into the city early each day — because I am finding the apartment claustrophobic. It’s like living in a storage unit. And the residual paint fumes make me feel like I can’t even breathe properly.

I’ve even developed a reluctance to get into the bath.

All the major habits of the past decade have been disrupted. Nothing is set up to my liking. I’m without a hifi system, my computer has died, and I don’t even have a TV to distract me.

So I’ve taken to riding the buses and getting to know the suburbs.

But the real journey is going on within.

So I was glad to have been reminded, today, that “The work is always inside you. / This knot does not get untied / by listening to the stories of other people.”

Bread and lilies

Packing my Bibles and prayer-books into a box before leaving for work this morning — I’m moving house next week — I uncover something a friend gave me, years ago … Saints : enrich your life with their wisdom.

Rather than pack it with the other items, I slip it into a pocket of my coat.

At work, I open the tiny book at random … St Germaine of Pibrac (patron saint of the disabled). “One day her stepmother accused her of stealing bread for the poor, whereupon Germaine opened her apron and flowers fell to the floor.”

Pressing the play button on the iPod, I glance at the little screen … the album is “Tourist” by St Germain, and the first track “Rose rouge”.

And all the while, that lovely Chinese proverb is dancing through my thoughts: “If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a lily.”

I first heard a Scotsman utter those words in a pub, around 1972, and have subsequently discovered a number of variants, including: “When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.”

Doing a bit of internet research, today, I find that more than one restaurant has called itself “Bread and Lily”; and there’s the famous “White Lily” brand of flour.

Flying in the face of the old proverb’s wisdom, there’s an economics blog calling itself The Bread or the Lily, which explains that “Scarcity of means to satisfy ends of varying importance is an almost ubiquitous condition of human behaviour,” and seems to insist that we choose between the two, rather than finding a way to achieve balance.

There’s one solution to such dilemmas: “The loaf of bread on my table … and the lily in my hand don’t make much sense unless I bought them both to share with you … (Gitanjali, Secular Speculations – 443)

PS: If the phrase, “bread and roses” is on your mind, the Wikipedia article of that name is worthwhile.

Imagine Peace




Imagine all the people living life in peace. (John Lennon)

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. (Yoko Ono)

Thanks to Donna Fleischer’s Word Pond blog for bringing the Imagine Peace website to my attention.

The main item of interest here is SURVIVING JAPAN — Japan after the Tsunami — by Chris Noland, but, along the way, I was captivated by the Yoko Ono quote and started digging for its original source. Take a look … on the Beatle Links Forum.  

Three figures

three figures (22 Apr 2011)

three figures (22 Apr 2011)


Followers of |A Twisted Pair| (the blog of “the other”) will have read something about a Good Friday photo-shoot. This image, three figures — for some, a “found Stabat Mater Dolorosa”, perhaps — stands in strong contrast to the abstract minimalism of cubes (a three-shot slide-show) on |A Twisted Pair|.

Whistle-blower is a street preacher

That defiant whistle-blower had somehow seemed familiar. Today it all became clear: his stalwart (and silent) wife stood by him today as he blew his thin, sad songs.

And she was the clue; I had several times seen her, plainly dressed and stony faced, standing beside him as he gestured with his Bible and shouted at the passers-by – alternately railing against sinners and advertising the power of evil.

No love. No joy. No peace. Not so much as a smile from either of them.

On those occasions, I had restrained myself from stopping to remind him that St Paul had determined to preach only Christ crucified. Today, I had the urge to suggest that at least he might play something cheerful.