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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, June 12, 2003
    Learning from Leunig
     
    This week's theme seems to be revisiting long-time valued sources of inspiration. I had a good
    Michael Leunig day today, as you have to from time to time to keep your sanity and perspective. It was my turn to host the 'clergy chapter' meeting and to share some of my 'recent reading'. Well, I'm constantly reading Leunig. Looking at the cartoon ducks and subtly breathing in his very refreshing worldview.

    Did a bit of the theology today. Found a good interview with him from the Melbourne Anglican saying many valuable things, among them, these which I happily quote without any more spin from me:
      One of the functions of my work is simply to try and speak for the voiceless ones, and there are many voiceless people. ... Individuals generally are voiceless in the face of this great onslaught which is modern society, with its vast media empire. For many people life isn't as dazzling, colourful and powerful as the mass media tells them it should be, so they take their own existence into themselves and hide. They have a voice which is quite often entirely oppressed and almost unknown to themselves.

      My work is often therapeutic because I often give expression to this inner voice. For example, I might make a small piece about a person oppressed and ground down by tiredness. This life is actually very exhausting. It doesn't give humans much time to contemplate anything. We are not resting ourselves and there is the feeling we have got to keep working and pushing really hard. So I draw the person running and running and running-for no apparent reason. And suddenly I find that I have touched on something that is perhaps universal.

      I think we are all the time separating humans from God. This is what so much of the media and entertainment industries are actually driven by, this is how they work. It is as if there is a strange perverse pleasure the individual gets by being separated from God. You go to a movie and you live out some kind of ego fantasy about what you are seeing on the screen and you never dare face up to the actual empty bleakness of your own life.

      [To put ourselves in touch with God], I think as Van Gogh said and St Francis would have said, we must find nature. Just to be in the presence of nature your feelings and 'little seedlings' start to awake. So if we disassociate ourselves from God we cut nature out, too. More and more we turn nature into a commodity, into eco-tourism. But we must integrate it into the way people live every day.