The Answer to How Create a Book with Your Child is "Do It"

A friend, Danielle Esler writes a blog devoted to journeys (of all types but frequently the holiday travel types) with parents and children. When she heard about Togethimals, she asked me to write a little about the motiviation and how Natahsa and I made the book come together. 

Here is just a little of what I wrote:

Your home grown creations may not be children’s literary masterpieces (then again, they might). But the beauty of “having a go” at publishing – at lots of things really – is that it promotes a sense of agency for you and for your child. It connects you with what is going on for your child in the process of play. It reminds you and them what we all know somewhere deep – trial and error is good, the “perfection” of the professional product is not the only story!

You can read the full blog entry here.

What Can We Do to Encourage All Age Playfulness?

When my daughter began to bring me colouring in "assignments" to complete the fun we had in the process got us thinking. The result of all of that thinking is "Togethimals" a small daughter/daddy collaboration that has now been unleashed on the World. Some quotes from the website that help explain the concept:

In a world that sometimes seems obsessed with “getting to grown-up” Togethimals is here to honour childhood imagination and the things that adults and children can learn together through it. This book, brought about through a daughter and daddy collaboration is unique not only because of its cross-age creators but also because its readers - adults and children alike - are invited to keep reinventing the story for themselves, because the surplus from its sales doesn’t go to the creators but to making the world a little better for children and adults alike and because children and adults are involved in the process of deciding where the surplus funds go and learning how philanthropy works – together

At a time when colouring in books for adults were becoming very popular, Natasha started drawing pictures of "two different animals together" and giving them to Adrian to colour in and name. The colouring in was relaxing and exploratory for Adrian and the conversations about what these "together animals" were called became more and more interesting - a real chance for a very meaningful cross-generational discussion. 

So we put a book together - "Togethimals" - not too overproduced, fairly homely.... Our aim was to help improve interaction and conversation. It was not to make money. So what if people bought the book and a surplus was generated? If that happened, maybe that surplus could help address a societal issue and create a way to involve all generations in it? Maybe this little book could be a daughter and daddy social enterprise of sorts? 

This looks set to be a fun, little, exploratory journey for us. We hope you, the reader, might like to journey along with us whether it be by buying the book, contributing otherwise to the Fund or participating in who-knows-what-other-activities might eventuate.  

Town Park

I don't think I've ever woken up one morning and written a poem. It's a long time since I've written any poetry, such as it is, really. Then I attended a conference and the next morning this was in my mind:

Town Park

A fence goes up around the town park.
The Bugle sounds a tone of reason: riff raff.
I tended to agree.
Here even the pitch harshness is contained with pretty terra-cotta
And ferals unsettling pristine mulch must be improved or removed.

Until my own encounter. Indirect at first.
A nice young man with wild hair projected images into the stifling windowlessness of the hotel ballroom.
What was outside, came beside and then inside.

Mr Mayor tear down that fence.

A Minor Memoir of Faith Part V

Continuing excerpts from my contribution to the book entitled New Life: Rediscovering Faith:

The second way in which progressive Christianity alerted me to paradigm two faith, was through its concentration on historical Jesus research. Obviously this type of research has helped me look beyond the simple faith statements of paradigm one, as I have just explored. But it also has served a broader purpose in that it has reorientated my understanding of the way of Jesus, aligning that concept with the paradigm two understanding of belonging, behaviour and belief. 

I have come to understand the way of Jesus through the Hebrew term derek. And I have come to understand derek, in the context of Jesus’ life, to mean that which I cannot, not do. Another way to understand that would be the way I respond when I can truly listen to the holy whispers; the messengers in the relationship between my life and the whole source of life. 

To me this is quite an open concept. I am aware of evidence that Jesus was a committed practitioner of his Jewish faith. But I don’t interpret his derek as a set of rote, prescribed practices that everyone must follow regardless of context. Indeed, historical Jesus research has given me a stronger insight into how he resisted legalistic religious and political impulses, built relationships across demographic boundaries to understand other ways, and spoke about connection to source as being in the Basileia of God (a term often translated simplistically as kingdom of God, but which is actually in feminine form and hence suggests an exploration of our connection to source rather than a slavish dedication to Old Father God.)

So this idea of derek connotes for me the paradigm two definitions of belonging, behaviour and belief. It feels to me like Jesus favoured the practice of making space for people to find their own orientation to source (rather than having that dictated by patriarchal religious or political systems).   

With this understanding, my views about essential religious practice are obviously quite liberal – some may even say anarchic. And I tend to resist answering the question “Do I follow in the way of Jesus?” According to what I have written here, my answer could be a resounding “yes.” But I find that people often have a fairly set idea of belief and practice in their mind when they ask that question, and I know that doesn’t fit me. I remember someone once telling me that unless one took part in regular recitation of The Jesus Prayer, one could not consider oneself as living in the way of Jesus. Now we could have a significant academic argument about Jesus’ own relationship to that prayer. But a more fundamental response is that I think Jesus’ way was more about essence (finding the authentic connection to source for our context) rather than prescription. Perhaps my favourite quote in support of this comes from Canadian academic David Galston ,

“We simply have to learn to admit and understand that we are all human. No one knows the answer. There is no correct way to follow the teaching of ….Jesus and no correct way to do church with ….Jesus.”

“Jesus taken seriously is the permission to break the habit of Christianity. So go forward and be habit breaking.”

Which brings me back to where we started; with an address entitled “The Power of Vulnerability” and a question as to why such a challenging topic would generate a popular movement? As I read some of the reactions to that presentation it occurs to me that people – particularly western people – are looking for a circuit breaker from a current of rigidity, perfectionism, expected clarity and certainty. We are cottoning on, it seems, to the fact that these expectations are superficially imposed and don’t represent our authentic relationship to the whole. People are finding various ways to save their real lives by discarding an old paradigm of control. Progressive Christian thinking has been one of those ways for me; in fact it has been one of the most significant ways I have been able to shift paradigms. And in that way it really has been a life saver.