Ruach: Writings from the Breath of Creativity and Spirituality (Zoe Boyle ’15 and Marny Croot ’11-’12)

Zoe and Marny were part of the very first cohort of NEXT students at Whitley College in 2015. Now in just its third year, NEXT has had nine former KSR students undertake the course. As part of the course, Zoe and Marny contributed to a book of creative works called Ruach: Writings from the Breath of Creativity and Spirituality. We offer a piece from each of them here…

Zoe Boyle

Edith and Polly. What wonderful old ladies these two would have been. I almost want to name my children after them. I wonder what sort of people they would have been like. I wonder what sort of young girls they would have been like. Wondering is one of the most fun things to do, but all I truly know is that they are buried next to one another in the cemetery a block away from my house. To think that all of those names were people as taut and living as me and now they are names on a piece of stone, their bodies decomposed into the earth a long time ago. What is achievement if we are eventually buried in the ground alongside everyone else, with nothing to distinguish us to the future generations of wandering students that visit the cemetery on a sunny day?

After many hours of what felt like futile study, I decided that the thing that I would like most in that moment was to go for a walk. The sun was gorgeous and I was wearing a dress. I walked along with a slow pace, wondering if Sabbath is merely that moment where I slow my steps and become aware of Yahweh and time and my existence. I don’t do much wandering around Kew, but on this sunny afternoon I found nothing to improve on in the tree-adorned streets quiet with a buzz and lined with old Victorian houses. On the way to the cemetery, I found myself walking through a little hub where children were playing on the park, where some men were playing cricket and where a corner cafe was spilling out mums clad in gym gear and grandparents walking their dogs. In the beautiful weather, I marvelled at how the world has the capacity for such perfection. As I looked out onto the cricket field however, I knew that each man had their own struggles and that amongst the good inhabits the turmoil of the human condition. Besides peace and wholeness exists mental health and selfishness.

To those who wish to escape a homeland filled with horrors that are completely alien to us living here, yes this is a sort of heaven. But it is not quite heaven. Although this is a sort of utopia, people are still sobbing, families are still breaking down and many people are jumping off bridges to escape it. There is a Redeeming Spirit who is at work renewing everything again, but there has to be something that will wrench out the horrors that we carry inside of us.

We are not human unless we have free will. The ability to not believe in God or to consider that he is terrible, is perhaps the greatest blessing that we have. For I look down at the beautiful grass that softens my strides and see that if we were not full of sin, we would be perfect like the grass, but not any more distinct or volitional. I sort of liked the idea that us and Yahweh are propelling this world on an upward trajectory and eventually, altogether we will redeem everything. But I think that something needs to happen. There needs to be a sort of last book in the Narnia series or a Great Confrontation where we all have the opportunity to either scoop out the sludge that is poisoning us, or let it keep killing us. But there needs to be a time once and for all where we can get rid of it so that we can live in this heaven with the hell out of us.

So many names have gone before me. There are relatives that I don’t even know of that have brought about my existence. My ancestors had Irish accents and lived in tiny houses in large fields. In the cemetery down the road, there are so many relatives that have gone unvisited. Where are these people now? Where are their spirits? Can they see my fingers move and write the lines on this page? These are all people who you know and who you loved. Where are they now?

I’m sure parts of them have not died. I’m sure that their children use their same expressions and body language. The life that they have lived carries on through the people that they have loved. If someone has not loved, perhaps that is what death is. For the memory of them has disappeared along with their body in the earth. But these hundreds of people who plant their dead bodies in a garden of stones, are people who have shaped the world as I know it. Money, success and travel are all so insignificant when the only thing that they leave behind is the world that we now have. The earth is a great family heirloom. As one dies, another is born to inherit this great place that can either be destroyed or redeemed for the next.

May my life be like a tree instead of a gravestone. May my dead body fertilise something living. May this tree do what trees do. Breathing in the rubbish of a human’s exhale and breathing out their nutrients. All of us earthlings singing in the great, unending symphony the name of Yahweh. May I breathe well. May I devote my breath to the one who kissed it into me when I was created. May I adore him.

Edith and Polly, wherever you are. I breathe on your behalf.


Marny Croot

On Uluru and a Violent God

I arrived at you, amazed at your curves and your great breadth. It was a perfect day for visiting. Magnificent blues skies, a temperature that warmed the soul but not so much my skin.

The air was fresh.

Many clambered over your sacred back: they had not yet infiltrated your breath. Our feet trod in sacred dust all around you. I attempted to understand your spirit. I tried to walk barefoot but the soles of my feet were used to city living. Too soft, too sensitive and not enough walking in these places.  Maybe more than my feet was not yet ready to get to know you.

The stories connect with my head but they are so intricately connected with you. They spoke of how you were created and how each individual scar was formed. These stories were passed from old breath to new breath and as the old became new it was continued.

I spent time in your shade, I touched your rough, dry side as you curved gracefully around your self. You surprisingly held so much life. Water flowed all over you. Plants that could not grow within a days drive of you could grow where you dive into the depths of the earth. 

I was pious and did not desecrate your back with my unready feet, though this choice had come from a well educated mind not an understanding gut.

I read your stories and could only relate them to my idealistic understanding of the world.

They spoke of a people that were sustained by you.  There stories were tattooed onto your side for everyone to see. These testaments . A spear plunging through the skin, the muscle being ripped apart and bone splitting into a jigsaw puzzle. Blood pouring out onto an already red earth. Stories were whispered in your navel that my sex would never know. I would never be able to lead. A large history would be a mystery that I could never solve. My work would be chosen for me. The creatures that you spoke of were wild and were enough like my God to think that it was not him but some other.

Though I had seen you, felt your side and walked around you I had not seen your heart. I left feeling like you were decrepit, old and immoral.  I left with a stomach churning from the guilt of thinking so little of you.

Our pilgrimage was to witness your beauty and depth of spirit but I was no better than James Cook.

Yet my stories are filled with bloodshed. My God could easily be seen as a God that wanted war, one that helped his people annihilate many people groups. One that allowed polygamy, one that tested his people by nearly making them sacrifice their sons, one that stoned their sons and daughters if they were not obedient.

How did I see Yahweh as a God of love and mercy and see your culture as brutal and misogynistic?

Had I read your stories with a lens that I could not see and did not understand? A lens that walks by as a man goes without a home. A lens that allows me to live in a world where a third of all women will experience violence in her family dwelling. A lens where we locking people up for a lifetime it the best way to forgive and seek reconciliation. A lens in which I live in a world that was created off the invasion and near decimation of your people.

There is violence in my culture.

I had a right to feel guilty.

I had seen you but not seen myself.
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