The Shadow

Do you know what it’s like to have a shadow?
If you think it is so… well I’ll have you know;
That’s not the shadow of which I speak.

I know of a shadow so skinny and narrow,
Can’t have been cast by me, it’s far too shallow.
It has no eyes it has no head,
If it weren’t for the talking I’d think it were dead.
It’s definitely blind if I needed more proof
No eyes, and even less perception of the truth
It frankly fails to fit the mould,
Trying as hard as it might to hold
On to both feet where a shadow should connect,
It only touches my right and grasps for my left.

Shadows are not meant to be alive.
What on earth was I thinking?
To whisper in a shadows ear the words that it can never hear
Just to give it an illusion of life
And hope it would find another body.
But no, I have to put up with this shadow
It’s more rooted in reality than the dark twilight
where it should be.
And the appearance of mind?
No more than a philosophical zombie.
But still… Can it hurt me…?

This shadow imitates more than my actions;
Actions don’t hurt me, no no…
This shadow is more of a reflection;
Actions with signs of emotion, oh no…
It plagiarises my actions, It steals my words,
It adopts my taste in music, It deifies my ideal girls.

I wonder when this shadow will realise
The fact that it has it’s own pair of eyes
And stop trying to reconnect with mine.
I wonder if that will be a good thing
A clone of me being set free and going on it’s way
Not mature enough to handle what it holds in it’s head
It may very well know all that I know some day
But I’ve got experience on my side instead

Will it be good? To be me competing with myself and I.
My Shadow may not want to let go
Might make life a deadlier show.
I keep my actions and thoughts closer now;
The shadow trying hard to reflect
That which I came to expect
And planned all along.

“I am stubbornly me”
Oh really?
The evidence to the contrary
And the absolute irony
Can be seen by everyone,
Everyone, but you,
You, my shadow;
You. Roderigo.

Alex Herlihy – December 2009

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When a Devout Christian Attends a Rave and Takes MDMA

Flying From The Divine

1c70b053e5235ed30d1d567103b62807[1].jpgWe found ourselves among the magenta lights,
Swimming in the ocean of fireflies,
Dancing in the galaxy of vibrating embers.

A certain kind of bliss.
But not the blessed happiness.

I saw you sitting before me, sipping an ice cold rivet, slightly nodding your head as the band before us exploded with sound.
You were absolutely gorgeous.
I couldn’t avert my eyes for more than a few seconds before I was drawn back again to gaze upon your beautiful face and figure.
My masculine hesitation prevented me from saying anything, or perhaps it was simply the catastrophic chaos of the mosh and the violence and volume of the drums.
I suppressed my subtle longing to reach out and connect.

And then the gig was over.

I turned and talked with my new friend and flatmate, another lovely lady joining us in the conversation.
Eventually they ran off, and I was alone.

And then you returned, met me in the doorway, and said hello.
What on earth is happening?
The most beautiful girl at the party, confidently walking up and introducing herself to me?

My head was reeling, as the empathic amphetamines were beginning to overwhelm me.
It was easy to talk, and yet hard to converse.
I felt elevated, and yet unable to follow a train of thought to conclusion.
Nevertheless, we laughed, and we spoke, and we connected.

Danielle was your name, and Alex mine;
You study psychology, I study scripture;
You work on the street, I spin code on a screen;
You are drinking beer, I am drinking water;
Your heritage is chinese malaysian, mine is the british isles;
And both of us are true blue Aussies.

You ask why I’m drinking water.
I respond that I’m being very cautious tonight.
You immediately know what’s going on: you fully understand the nuances of the scene: Magnesium, Vitamin C, Alpha Lipoic Acid, 5-HTP.
I laugh and shake my head: “She knows!”

So I am here to find God in myself and God in the other, and experience the joy and bliss of connection.
Why are you here?

“This is my fourth beer in half an hour”
Laughing, I reel back in surprise.
“And I’ve dropped a cap too”
Smiling, I shake my head in shock.
What on earth are you running from?

But I don’t have the chance to ask, for the party whisks you away to the next conversation.

The night goes on and the love flows round.
People are dancing, people are stumbling,
people are pinging, people are munting.
Everyone is laughing, everyone is having fun.
The beat never changes for the entire night, but the crowd remains content.
And the whole time, I wonder, what are you running from?

I meet many people, all of them lost souls, finding consolation in the ephemerality of life.
Some lay beneath the blossom tree, gazing up at the flowers. Watching them float away and die.
Some take refuge in the absurdity of nihilism, and angrily proclaim the pointlessness of life.
No one here experiences salvation.
No one here understands the gospel.
No one here understands the power of Christ.
How sad.
How bittersweet.

Where are the elect in this place?
Where are the ones who walk in the light?
Perhaps this is my mission field.

A night concluded in the blink of an eye.
I’m back home, lying in bed.
Thinking back to the people and the party,
And especially you, that most gorgeous girl.

What were you running from?
I may never know.
But then again, I plan to return once more.
I plan to carry the light of Christ into that dark place;
To shine and illuminate;
To preach and proclaim;
To save this abandoned nihilistic hedonistic mass.

I don’t know what you were running from, but I know what you are searching for:
You are searching for the love that never dies;
The bliss that always endures;
The divinity that satisfies all longing;
The salvific rest of the Savior;
The warm embrace of Christ.

You don’t believe it’s possible, but I know it’s true, and I will embrace this descent into Hell to convince you of it.
I will not abandon you to the illusionary pleasures, but introduce you to the source of all life and love.

What were you running from?
I don’t know, but whatever it was, I want you to know: there IS meaning in life.
Take my hand and i will show you;
Follow me and I will give you rest.

God beckons, and he is waiting to wrap you up in an eternal embrace of ecstatic bliss, so let us ascend to heaven and enjoy the divine feast that has been prepared for us.
There is a seat at the table of the lord with your name on it, and I will not rest until you have taken your place at the supper of the lamb.

Whatever you may be running from, run to God,
And you will experience the ecstasy beyond ecstasy,
The life beyond life,
And the love beyond all love.

Run to God, and you will become one with the infinite beauty;
United to the hidden aesthetic truth,
Forever soaring beyond the sun and the myriad stars.

Alex Roberts, 2018

Dao De Jing 道德經 Chapter One – A Translation from Classical Chinese to English by Bishop Roberts (OP, SJ)

Commentary

As is well known among scholars, the Greek word λογος is untranslatable into almost any other language. But curiously it can be translated into Chinese, as that all important word, dào 道. The philosophical similarities between Lao Tzu’sdào 道 and the λογος are far too numerous and significant to be ignored. This is why I took great pleasure in translating this first chapter of the 道德經 into Greek. Where most translations stumble on how to translate the crucial word dào 道, the Greek language conveniently supplies a term that is almost exactly equivalent in meaning. The really marvellous thing is that both the mythical Lao Tzu and the Greek philosopher Hereclitus both lived at roughly the same period of history (approx 5th century BC), but on opposite sides of the planet. Despite being totally isolated and cut off from each other, and speaking fundamentally different languages, they both managed to penetrate the mysteries of the cosmos and discover the same fundamental principle that permeates it.

This 道/λογος equivalence also comes to play in Chinese translations of the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Where most translations have to settle for translating λογος as some variation of “Holy/Living Word”, Chinese translations have the privilege of an almost directly equivalent word that they can employ: dào 道. Unfortunately many modern Chinese translations (Including the official Catholic one – the Studium Biblicum Version) have begun to jettison this beautiful translation, in favour of Chinese terminology which is not so loaded with traditional Taoist connotations (For example the SBG translates λογος as 聖言, literaly “Holy Word”). I cannot speak to the motivations of the translators, but to me such a move seems to be driven by a desire to separate and distinguish Christianity from other faiths, cultures and traditions. To me it comes across as anti-ecumenical, fundamentalist, and bigoted. Why insist on a watered down translation like that, when a perfectly good direct translation exists?

Please comment on my translation! I am trying to improve my Greek, Latin, and Classical Chinese skills and would appreciate any and all feedback. Thank you!

English Translation

The Tao that can be Told is not the Eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the Eternal name.

Without name: the origin of heaven and earth
With name: the mother of all things

Therefore

Never desire, in order to behold its ineffable essence;
Always desire, in order to behold its manifest aspects.

Both these things are the same – arche and teleos – but under different names.
Together, they are the mystery of qualia.
Indeed, the mystery of mysteries;
A doorway into infinite bliss.

Latin and Greek Translations

(of the first two sentences)

Divinitas quod potest describi divinitas aeterna non est.
Nomina possunt nominarier, sed nomen aeternum non potest.

´ο λογος τουτον μπορώ λεγεται, ´ο αιωνιος λογος μυ εστι.
´ο νομος τουτον μπορω νομεται, ´ο αιωνιος νομος  μυ εστι.

Original Classical Chinese Text

道可道非常道。
名可名非常名。
無名,天地之始﹔
有名,萬物之母。

常無,欲以觀其妙;
常有,欲以觀其徼。
此兩者,同出而異名,同謂之玄。
玄之又玄,眾妙之門。

Hanyu Pinyin Mandarin Romanisation

dào kě dào fēi cháng dào
míng kě míng fēi cháng míng
wú míng tiān dì zhī shǐ
yǒu míng wàn wù zhī mǔ

cháng wú yù yǐ guàn qí miào
cháng yǒu yù yǐ guàn qí jiǎo
cǐ liǎng zhě tóng chū ér yì míng tóng wèi zhī xuán
xuán zhī yòu xuán zhòng miào zhī mén

Trains

hornsbyplatform5_03[1].jpgFrom Heat to Hiding, Hibernation to Hallucination.
Waking up under the school library and Walking home under lightning.
Through my strange world, I find myself here.
Where is this? This is here.
A bridge lies to the left and a tunnel ends at my right.
Where is here? My house if I can believe my fingers
Before me are a million windows, behind me is a great sea of stairs
But… this is more of a train station.

Look left, Déjà vu. Look right, Jamais vu.

To the left is a person I have never met, yet feel like I have known forever.
He is only a memory, but so strong that I can see him standing beside me.
In fact, so strong that I see night where there should be day,
His fingers gently linked with another, eyes rising to make contact-
A flash of light. He is me.

To the right, at the end of a long, wide tunnel, stands a person I thought I knew.
By hair that shines brilliantly against God’s colourblind masterpiece, I recognise her,
but distance murders her into a mere image that is foreign to my experience.
Her face fades faster and faster behind the light growing ever brighter as she turns-
A shadow so bright. Who is she?

Look left, Déjà vu. Look right, Jamais vu.
Look forward, to the trains
The trains leave the station, no pattern, but with a growing sense of order
An increasingly ominous feeling, that makes me want to look behind.
The more this feeling strengthens, the greater the urgency to turn behind
The trains are leaving faster
I shiver.
To turn behind you must first turn to the side.
The trains are disappearing in greater numbers
To turn behind, you mean to make a choice.
Right or left, Tick tock
The tracks are growing invisible –
Left or right, Tick tock
– Beneath the blue streaks of lightning that the trains have become.
I shake.
The trains are running out.
Turn behind.
Light is running out.
Turn behind.
Time is running out.
Turn behind!
As the clocks prepare to strike, as the judge’s hammer drops, as the last train leaves in a flash of brightness to paint the sky white, as the sun begins to fall towards the horizon, as the shape of a mushroom cloud forms at the end of the tracks; With the whole world falling on its knees –

I turn.
And find myself here.

Alex Herlihy – November 2009

O What a Wonderful Woman

11188301_992465680764810_852338263089643008_n.jpgMy heart is on fire,
for the first time in years.
But no rollercoasters
Nor butterflies this time

Just a warm armchair
Pulled up by a fire
Where we can sit, cuddle
and stare into the flames.

I am so happy and content with you;
The most beautiful girl
To ever have caught my attention.
Peaceful, Gentle, Quiet, Lovely.

Your virtues fly past the moon
Your loveliness singing between the stars
I am deeply attracted to you
So joyous that you have fallen into my life

I’m not worried this time around.
Not scared that you will abandon me
Not terrified that you will abuse me
Not horrified that you will betray me.

And I know that you are afraid,
So rest in my confidence
I have enough for us both
It will carry us onwards in hope.

I adore you and I trust you,
and I pray that you’ll trust me
As together we catch the little foxes
Frolicking in the vineyard of our love

Be my salvation and I’ll be yours
As we reflect Christ and church
The marriage of good and evil
An epektasis of light and dark.

Let us hold hands and ascend to the eschaton
Our souls dancing and spirits mingling
Rising, rushing through the empyrean
with kisses and smiles, hugs and cuddles.

May God bless us with consonance and grace
Showering us with blessings.
May he lead us to the divine joy,
and a laughter that never ends

Alex Roberts – 2019

“Why Don’t You Have Facebook?”

Business-Does-Not-Need-Facebook-Page[1]Would you like to know the real reason why
I don’t have a smart phone,
I don’t use facebook,
I rarely send emails,
I avoid internet communication almost entirely?

It’s because everyone is talking to everyone else at once.
And no-one knows who anyone else is talking to.
And no-one knows what anyone else is talking about.

I can be having different, separate, deep, meaningful conversations with many people on many topics at the same time.
There is no commitment online: It is possible to jump from one chat to the next so easily.

If there is a pause in your typing… are you talking to someone else?
I have to tell myself “You’re just thinking” or “You’re just feeling overwhelmed”
But I have no way of knowing this to be true!
I can’t see your body language
I can’t read your facial expressions
I can’t connect with the soul reflected in your eyes.
This makes it harder for me to trust.
A digital wall between us
This plants seeds of suspicion and jealousy.
Thorns that grow up and choke my heart

But real life communication is not like this.
In the real world, when there is a pause in the conversation I can easily tell whether the other person is thinking carefully or if they are distracted by something else.
In the real world, if the person I’m talking to walks away to talk to someone else, I know, and I can walk away and talk to someone else too.
In the real world, it isn’t possible to become emotionally invested in a conversation which has already evaporated.

So now I go back and look over the whole Discussion.
Suddenly it looks very different.
Those moments where you weren’t saying anything begin to seem incredibly ambiguous:
What were you really doing while I poured my heart out into that chatbox?
Were you thinking about how to respond?
Were you struck down by emotion?
Or were you just talking to someone else,
and reading a random internet article…

I’m not saying give up technology for my sake.
The fact that I feel jealous and suspicious is not your fault.
My emotional responses are my own problem to deal with.
But I refuse to suck it up, desensitize, stop caring or push my feelings down.
So how do I deal with them?

Life is better offline

Alex Herlihy – 2014

The Riddle of the Universe

space-960x460[1].jpgI sublimate all that I hear, smell and feel.
Savour that taste which I see is not real,
Believe that by this, it all comes together
As Identity for now and forever.
The choices I make, the best I can be,
Both to myself and society,
Life, the universe and all are the same,
For I have met God, and absurd is his name.

And now my head is spinning round;
I fly up only to come plummeting down.
For the final Zenith of Absurdity
Is only a proud ode to Insanity.
As I fall under the gaze of eternity
I look back, and there’s nothing to see
Where is the truth? The Light? The life?
I’m cornered by sin, surrounded by strife

To dive down into deepest despair
Nothing makes sense, I’m gasping for air
Pulled down by my pride

A bible story
A man in the desert, Tempted by Satan
What does it mean?

Faith

Alex Herlihy – 2014

I will miss you

I will miss you.
How annoying is it? How human is it? How honest is it? How wonderful? How sickenly, illogically sentimental…
You are leaving. And I will miss you
A sad song plays
I will miss you, Even though we rarely spoke, Even though sometimes I avoided your gaze, your questions, your conversation.
And for a time we were at odds with each other
Jealousy, Contempt, Lust, Judgement
All corrupting my heart and mind, destroying the relationship we should have had.
And yet I will miss you regardless,
Our honesty has blossomed in these last days
Strange how when the end is in sight the barriers come down
I wanted to love you when I first met you, but I was lost and confused in my self-centeredness
I wanted to hate you when I couldn’t find my way into your heart
The eve of a new year. I fell a little bit in love with you that night.
The realisation that soon you will just be a memory was sobering.
Why do I feel such a sense of loss? such an emptyness?
Why did we have to connect right when we are tearing away from each other?
Our emotions might actually be more rational then they seem,
But I am still confused by the fact that…
You have left
and I miss you.

Alex Herlihy – 2014

12173_10153834955405375_141281355_n.jpg

Sailing

3275322890_54d4aae6b2_b[1].jpgI find it hard to ignore, out at sea
The amazing line at infinity
Dancing there, water dance, fields of blue, blue fields, symphony.
endless in all directions
always a line, flat, distinct, but attempts at focusing, always undefined, foggy, as the swell, rises and falls, man high swell, meter high swell.
Back to earth, the spray, sunburn, Australian cliffs and beaches and land. company mood shift. peaceful

The words I spoke in no way resembled the vivid, intense images floating through my mind, but I must have told a good story regardless; the two boys sat mesmerised before me, waiting with eager anticipation for the next chapter to arrive.

I have seen geometrical infinity
and I’m not merely espousing poetry.
I have stood and store out at that long colourless line,
where the sky meets the sea.
I’m still not being poetic.
For that is the definition of infinity
The long long long line,
where the sky meets the sea

Alex Herlihy – 2011

Dark Nostalgia

dark-dream-christiano-torres[1].jpg

Did you dream about me?
That’s all I am to most people now.
No address. No phone. No facebook.
Dimly remembered.
I recognise people from long long ago everyday and when they see me
It is strange strained stares that I draw. Stares that say
“Who are you?”
“How do I know you?”
“Why do I recognise you?”

I am dark nostalgia
Someone who sat before you and shared your torture,
Someone who knows how to speak your language,
Someone who remembers where you live, the bus you caught, the school you attended
Yet you still can’t quite place that presence of the past in the present.

And yet my face draws dazed recollections into your eyes
Your gaze swiftly averted
Fluttered heart breaking
You don’t remember me
The only explanation
You never knew me
The final answer
Did you dream…
One last hope –
About me?

Alex Herlihy – 2011