Remember that you are dust

This is the text from the homily I wrote for the imposition of ashes service tonight at the Church of the Epiphany and St. Mark in Parkdale.

Remember that you are dust and to dust you must return. These words are our ritual they are our words and we say them each year on this day as we draw the mark of our faith on our faces in the dust from the year before. They reveal the cyclical nature of our faith not only in jesus as Christians but also in our way of believing as anglicans. The Mark on our faces serves as a reminder of where we have been and And what is still to come. Its a day where we face foreword and backward at the same time…more on that in a moment. But first a note from TS Eliot The phrase “In my beginning is my end” from the beginning of the poem East Coker, Its a phrase that is at once paradoxical how can the end of something also exist in its beginning? In some ways tonights church service is the start of the church year and the end of the church year its a ritual of creation and death all together in one liturgical movement.

Ash Wednesday is an odd day in the church year. its a day that marks the beginning of the season of lent a great facing foreword to the resurrection and yet at the same time a sombre reflection on everything thats already happened up till now. Its difficult not to get caught up in the cyclical nature of it, the way we sort of speed through our story and arrive back at this place once again. We complete the cycle like a giant cosmic circle, the words from TS eliot’s four quartets guiding us ever onward – in my beginning is my end. We face the future which is also the past somehow looking in two directions at the same time. The ritual that we have come today to participate in: the imposition of ashes – puts the past on our faces as a mark of our faith, made of another mark from a year ago on palm Sunday. Now either this is just an extremely clever initiative from the green team or this is the ritual of cycle. We confirm our belief in god wearing the past and yet most determinetly facing the future.

This metaphor of cycle is carried through our year through the darkness of lent and the celebration of easter we continue as we always have: to recognize and celebrate the life of Jesus at work in all of us. Through Pentacost and Advent the cycle continues until throughly stuffed with the shrove Tuesday pancakes we arrive back at Ash Wednesday facing the past and at the same time confronting our future.

The Prophet Joel along with our appointed gospel for today both offer refelections on what is to come. Joel sees darkness and the imposition of a large scary army that will rise like a great light over the mountains almost like the rising sun completing a 24 hour orbital cycle of its own, while Matthew’s Gospel offers instructions on pennace and prayer the pathway to kingdom of god. Both Matthew and Joel offer visions of what is to come facing the past but at the same time facing the coming of the kingdom, in Matthews case the treasures of heaven and in Joel’s the certainty of death.

Death too plays an interesting role in todays service giving us something to confront in lent as christ confronts his own death in sacrifice. The ashes themselves are black as the coming darkness from Joel’s Prophecy. The ashes are the dust from our prayer they are the dust from which god made us and they are the dust to which we shall return at the end of our lives. The same dust from which God shaped and created the universe. We begin and end in Ashes, In my beginning is my end. The ashes act as a way for us to remember others who have returned to dust and at the same time acknowledge that we are all headed in that direction as well. Remember that you are dust and to dust you must return.

The idea of cycle is one that is clear in all of our practices as christians tonight when we place the ashes of last year’s palms on our faces we can contemplate the coming of the kingdom and of the year to come we also recognize that this is process we will repeat continuously for the rest of our lives. TS Eliot’s fixation with circles ends his cycle of poetry as well with these words

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

We begin as the universe began as dust that god shaped into existance and after our death we return to the dust from which we were created: another perfect cycle

Eliots own end to arrive after all the cycles of the christian year, of the solar seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, Birth, Life, Death and Ressurection, to arrive literally at the end of all our exploring in the same place where all things began and to know the place for the first time.

Amen.

“Used to be” with thanks to seth Godin

Used to be

This hotel used to be a bank.

That conference organizer used to be a travel agent.

This company used to make playing cards.

Perhaps you used to be hooked on keeping score, or used to be totally focused on avoiding the feeling of risk, or used to be the kind of person who needed to be picked…

“Used to be,” is not necessarily a mark of failure or even obsolescence. It’s more often a sign of bravery and progress.

If you were brave enough to leap, who would you choose to ‘used to be’?

Why I love Toronto

I was raised to hate Toronto; I had no idea why, but this is the collective opinion of western Canadians.   They suck and they know it.  After living on both sides of the country, in Vancouver, in Peterborough and in all places between I find my self a resident of the centre of the universe.  For the first time I’m getting a real sense of why Torontonions might have a sense of entitlement, its one great city.  I think the thing I like most about this place are its neighbourhoods – which means we’re paying homage to toronto’s brilliant city planners in the early days of the golden horseshoe.  I like how some if not all of Toronto’s neighbourhoods don’t even feel like they’re a part of the same city.  I live in Parkdale right next to Little Portugal and Roncesvale – I never get the sense of the wider city in my community. Unlike Vancouver I never get the feeling that I could get swallowed up  by the whole, as I take my dog out for her morning walk people say good morning from their porches, over their newspapers and morning coffees, Its like the almost microscopic town I grew up in.   

First impressions are everything

Hi There,  I know what your thinking, you don’t need advice more than that, you don’t need advice from a blog, right?, right.  I mean who does he think he is? Seth Godin?  Well let me tell you. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks…no scratch that, months looking for a job, it’s frustrating, it sucks but it’s lead me to one inescapable conclusion.  First Impressions are everything.  You’ve heard this before, but your first impression is in all likelihood the only thing that the person meeting is going to remember, everyone is different, whether it’s a firm handshake and a smile or your standing on a table putting peanut butter into your hair in an effort to make your self into a human sandwich, your first impression is probably going to be the only thing that anyone remembers, (especially with the peanut butter.)  As a rule I like to remind my self that my greeting whatever it may be is the thing that the person I just met is going to remember as they walk back to the other side of the room.  Sometimes you’re freaked out, you don’t know what to tell this person you’ve been staring at (in a non creepy way) for the last hour and you’ve thought about it in like 15 different ways: It might be just easier to say, Hi! I’m Philip.   

The Quest for the perfect cup

I’ve been in Vancouver for about 18 months and I still have yet to find a perfect cup, what does it take? actually quite a lot.  I’m not looking for the usual espresso with badly foamed milk no, in a city that is practically famous for its ardor for java I can’t be entirely remiss for thinking that it should be easy to find a nice cappucino but apparently this is is more difficult than one might have thought.  So far I’ve tracked down a few that make the grade but still the bad far out number the good, and who can fathom why? what makes a perfect cup? a nicely poured shot with the creama formed on the surface but not burned, the milk steamed but not frothy so that it blends into the espresso not hanging out at the surface like so much sludge.  The perfect cappucino should taste strongly of espresso and should be blended beautifully a perfect synthesis of flavor and art.  The winner right now is Bump ‘n Grind (located at Commercial and Venables) which presents a cappucino with which I can find very little to complain about the flavor of rich espresso meets hot milk in a fusion which is pretty perfect.  There are others such as Kafka’s in the Mount Pleasant or Elysium on 41st but thats only three surely to god there are more somewhere.  Vancouver has a reputation as a coffee city and yet it is puzzling that there are few good espresso houses.

where i’m at.

Its been a long time since I’ve updated this blog.  Leading me to conclude a number of things 1. I don’t have any readers.  2. I’m really really not very committed blogger and 3. I can’t really be all that good at this.  In response I think perhaps I should just do this for myself so that I can look back and capture my own mindset at a given time.  Right now I’m mostly finished my term at BCIT and I’m intellectually and mentally exhausted  from the kind of psychotic school work and social difference that I guess I was never fully conscious of when I was doing my undergrad.  I’m right on the edge of being done another bout of school and I’m not really sure how I feel about it unlike a lot of my burned out colleagues I find myself thirsty for more, not ready to dive into the ocean of nine to fives and kind of feeling like I could stay in school forever, just go back and do it again.  I’d love to go back to trent but at this point I could really go anywhere.  For me post secondary education gave me a reason to think for a living to read and write and feel.

why we write

I’ve been thinking about this for a while – we write not really for our audience just like we broadcast not really for others.  Writing espeically creative writing is a sort of self indulgence.  It makes me happy so I do it.  I write radio drama and radio copy because its the only place in the radio world where I can be creative as I want and incorporate alll the clever banter and eccentricity that I want.  But important there is that I am writing for me, my audience is not important because I’m writing for me.  A similar conversation with an old colleague lead him to remark that radio was essentially a very vain occupation – you think other

Whither the olympics?

I’ve got a problem with patriotism.  It’s not that I hate my country or myself or even other countries and I think the concept of organized sport is a good one in that it enables communities and creates unity.  My problem with the Olympics is not with the athletes, its not even the sports themselves and I’m not going to bore you dear reader with another prolonged diatribe about why I think dressage and other bourgois activities ought to be ousted from the ‘sanctity’ of the games themselves.  My problem is with Countries and more broadly with the relationship that exists between sport and Nationalism – though I’m not going to even attempt to unpack that in this entry because this is neither the time nor the place to go through it.  What concerns me is the mythology of the Olympics and the idea that sport is somehow sacred.  This concept that sport is sacred pervades every inch of the Olympic media, it creates the notion that the only way a nation can be taken seriously or even recognized as a ‘real’ country is if it has success in sports,  we are willing to look past reprehensible ethical records, environmental destruction, a staggering health system, a wheezing education system for success at the Olympics.  For the host country the games provide an opportunity to metaphorically stroke itself while millions drool in rapt fascination, no one ever bothers to ask what that country had to sacrifice to pay for the games or who that government had to step on to get the hundreds of facilities ready or who in the end pays for the games before and after they occur.  What is a country willing to sacrifice in order to save face in front of the world, In 2004 Greece sacrificed the perilous stability of  its economy to host the summer games, 1976 Montreal created a fiscal debt which would literally plague the city and the province of Quebec for literally four decades, so then you have ask was it really worth it? I mean What the fuck did the residents of Quebec actually get out of the olympics in Montreal.  Not a whole hell of a lot; a crumbling stadium and variety of venues built on the cheep by the kind of neo-conservitive planning agents who don’t think in terms of future eyesores but rather in terms of ‘glory.’  In short the Olympics have become pissing contest where countries compete not for the betterment of sport but rather a pissing contest of money, my only remaining questing is can we afford it?

off the Top Shelf

This is a phrase that is tossed about often to refer to things which are of a superior quality though what does it actually imply? To me the top shelf is a place where all the things I don’t need very often go to collect dust – if something is high quality and therefore of extraordinary use you would put it on the bottom shelf so that it could be accessed quickly and often.  Similarly in large box store retail situations products placed on the top shelves are out of reach or in storage if something is in high demand they are put in the middle where everyone can get it.  I always would rather buy something from the middle shelves that is fresh and new rather than the discarded dust from the top shelf.