Category Archives: Gift and Grace

Hold Nothing in Reserve


They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

A few years ago I read the Gospel of Mark with some friends. We moved slowly and carefully through the text, often spending a whole evening on just a few lines. One passage that struck me was the ‘feeding of the 5000’. In that story Mark describes the miracle of the fishes and loaves in which Jesus turns a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish into food for 5,000. At the end of the story Mark says, ‘They ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up the twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over’.

Those twelve basketfuls of leftover bread troubled me. I recall badgering my fellow readers about it. Why the excess? God knows the hairs numbered on your head, why not stop with food sufficient to feed the 5,000? Why create more than was needed? What would happen to those extra pieces of bread? Would they be eaten the next day or would they go to waste? What could this excess mean? Was it a symbol of luxury, a Gallilean potlatch?

My naive questions, generously accommodated by my friends, bellied a genuine concern about wasteful excess. But what I didn’t realise then was that the feeding of the multitudes isn’t a story about consumption. It is a story about what is given. It is a story about the abundance of a love sufficient to cover us all, a love that isn’t limited by number, a love available to any who might come.

‘Here, my brother, my sister, come and sit with us. We have food enough for you’. Continue reading Hold Nothing in Reserve

Thank you

I didn’t know what I was going to say to you today. Only on the train, on the way in here, did it become clear. I realised that I’d been given the very thing that had to be said.

Absent-mindedly driving to work yesterday, I stopped at traffic lights. Waiting to cross the road were a mother with a toddler in a stroller. The child was turning around to engage the mother and something about the intensity of their moment shook me from my half-life. I saw them: I saw how alive they were. For them, everything in the world was unfolding from this moment together, whereas for me it was only the empty time between leaving home and arriving at work. At the corner of Darley and King Streets, Newtown, at 11.10am on Thursday 2/11/17, two worlds touched, one a half-world of befores and laters and the other a vital moment of here and now.

What came to mind, unsought, was Pieter Bruegels’s painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, and Auden’s poem about it, Musée des Beaux-Arts. These two have been constant reference points in my adult life. When I got my first academic job, at Macquarie University in 1984, the first and almost only decoration in my office was a print of the painting, with Auden’s poem glued to its back. Somewhat pompously, perhaps, it was to remind me of the role of sociologists: to witness the suffering that would otherwise go unnoticed. In 1989, the picture came with me to my office at UNSW, and it stayed for decades, until the foxing became too embarrassing.

(Wikipedia) Continue reading Thank you

Belonging in Anghiari: Giuseppe Dini

While I was staying in Anghiari at Christmas time, 2016-17, I began conducting interviews with people who live in the town. Some were conducted in Italian, some in English. They will all be published in both languages.

Belonging in Anghiari: Giuseppe Dini

 For many years now Giuseppe has been hosting visitors to Anghiari. I have known him since my first stay in the town, in 2003. On a spring morning, after a long trip from Australia, I was met by him at the train station in Arezzo. From that first visit, whenever I’ve needed help with one thing or another, Giuseppe has been there! So, when I set out on this project of interviewing people who live in Anghiari, he gave me assistance and encouragement. I interviewed Giuseppe in the apartment in which I stay, owned by a Canadian, and managed by him. The interview was conducted in English, and Mirella Alessio transcribed it and translated this edited version into Italian.

I was born about 4 km from Anghiari, in a country house named ‘la Rocchetta’, very close to villa Barbolana. Until I was 9, I had never been to the village of Anghiari, because, naturally, there wasn’t a car, nothing … and so for me the world was only my country house and the houses around it. I couldn’t imagine how big the world was. When I was 9, my family had to move from that country house to another one, close to Anghiari. With a car then, and some furniture, we moved, and that was the first time that I saw Anghiari. And then I said ‘Wow how big is the world’!Giuseppe Continue reading Belonging in Anghiari: Giuseppe Dini

Belonging in Anghiari: Armida Kim

While I was staying in Anghiari at Christmas time, 2016-17, I began conducting interviews with people who live in the town. Some were conducted in Italian, some in English. They will all be posted in both languages.

Belonging in Anghiari: Armida Kim

 Cinzia and her daughters, Armida and Margherita, run the restaurant ‘Talozzi’ located in the heart of Anghiari. When I was invited to lunch there, Armida carefully explained dishes to me, how they had been prepared and the provenance of various ingredients. After the meal, I interviewed her and her mother. The interview with Armida was conducted in English, and was transcribed by Mirella Alessio who translated this edited version into Italian.

 I was born in Sansepolcro in 1993, and for the first few months of my life, my mum and I stayed here, in Anghiari, with my grandparents. Then we moved to Milan where my dad was working. After 3 years we came back. Until I was 16-17, we lived in the centre, in the most ancient part of Anghiari, where my grandparents lived, and then we moved to the countryside.armida 4

 I went to elementary and middle schools in Anghiari, but, then, for high school, I went to a school of art in Sansepolcro that specialised in textiles. And now I am now doing a 3 year European Bachelor of Science in Design in Sansepolcro. Actually … there is a funny thing here, because when I finished high school I won a prize to a University in Torino to study fashion design. I don’t quite know why I didn’t go…. I am very different from my family because they moved a lot, and… actually, I wanted to stay here. Also, the topic that I am studying is very important in this area. Continue reading Belonging in Anghiari: Armida Kim

Belonging in Anghiari: Cinzia Talozzi

While I was staying in Anghiari at Christmas time, 2016-17, I began conducting interviews with people who live in the town. Some were conducted in Italian, some in English. They will all be posted in both languages. Here are two new posts – interviews with mother, Cinzia, and daughter, Armida.

Il senso di appartenenza ad Anghiari: Cinzia Talozzi

Con le figlie Armida e Margherita, Cinzia gestisce il suo ristorante che si trova nel cuore di Anghiari, al confine tra la città medievale e quella rinascimentale. Mi ha invitato da “Talozzi” e dopo un pranzo squisito che mi aveva preparato lei, l’ho intervistata insieme ad Armida. L’intervista con Cinzia, condotta in italiano, è stata trascritta e tradotta in inglese da Mirella Alessio e questa ne è una versione editata.

La mia è una storia particolare perché la mia famiglia non è di Anghiari… Comunque, io sono nata in un piccolo paese in provincia di Siena, che si chiama Buonconvento, un paese interessante, antico, dove si produce un vino ottimo, siamo vicino a Montalcino, al Brunello.20170108_124057_resized

Mio padre faceva il daziere, il daziere era l’esattore delle tasse. Nel 1969 fa un avanzamento di carriera e diventa direttore e viene a dirigere l’ufficio del dazio che era proprio qua, in Anghiari. Quindi io a 9 anni vengo trasferita qua con tutta la mia famiglia: la mia mamma, il mio babbo, la mia sorella e io.

Continue reading Belonging in Anghiari: Cinzia Talozzi


They ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised’ (Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses).

I rode home last night through a bracing wind. It was coming up from the harbour when I crossed the bridge. The sun had just set behind the city buildings and the water was dark. Deep and blue, but only just.

The road leading up to Observatory Hill was dark too and the lights on passing bikes were bright in that darkness. It was hard to see and I was frightened, a little. Or tentative. The coming night held an animal grace that I did not. Elemental. And yet, there I was, riding in that alien beauty.

The Writing Life – Homage to Annie Dillard


I found that things became a lot easier when I no longer expected to win. You abandon your masterpiece and sink into the real masterpiece  (Leonard Cohen)


In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard talks about an American writer who has written a dozen major books over six decades. A book, she says, can take years to write. But this writer wrote one of his books, ‘a perfect novel, in three months. He still speaks of it, with awe, almost whispering. Who wants to offend the spirit that hands out such books’? (Dillard, The Writing Life, 13).

She describes the heroism it takes to write a book. The impossibility of the task and the humility required to meet it. ‘Courage utterly opposes the bold hope that this is such fine stuff that the work needs it, or the world. Courage, exhausted, stands on bare reality: this writing weakens the work. You must demolish the work and start over’ (Dillard, The Writing Life, 4).

The book, finally completed, conceived in your mind and constructed through your efforts doesn’t belong you. It never has. It came to you through an act of grace, unmerited. That it came to you at all is still a mystery. All you remember is the struggle, the awful daily struggle to find the words, the unease which remained with you from beginning to end: Can I do it? Can it be done? It was horrible. It almost killed you. It did, in fact, kill you and what was left in the wake of that devastation was the work, for which you are grateful. Continue reading The Writing Life – Homage to Annie Dillard

Sun, and fire


Yesterday, after days of very bleak weather, there was sun. Everyone I ran into, in shops, in the piazza, in the bar, said, ‘oggi c’è il sole!’ People were out and about, even if not pausing for long in the piazza, as the temperature was still well below zero. It was very likely to be the last day of sun before I left Anghiari, so I decided to go for a walk. (The weather has precluded the possibility of walking for some days now.) Continue reading Sun, and fire

Dialogue in class

Towards the end of my teaching session last year I experimented with a dialogue in one of my classes. We had read Bohm earlier in the session and although most of the students expressed disagreement with him, they seemed really interested in the ideas. When it came time to discuss their relationship to their research projects (how they were feeling about their research practices and work habits, their topics, the ethics involved in doing their research) I decided to run the class like a dialogue group. I explained what we were going to do. They would each have a turn offering something about their current relationship to their projects; together we would draw out connections and extensions between everyone’s comments and write them up on the board; then the dialogue would begin. Continue reading Dialogue in class