Off to Soliton | Nomadic Faith | Spiritual Cartography | Vx ‘Suicide’


Mofokeng05AOff tomorrow to Ventura, CA, for the Solition Sessions. Big thanks to the generous guys there for offering to fly me over. What with being off there and other recent trips, it’s felt like a bit of a busy, travelling summer. But it was great to catch up properly with Nic the other night.

One of the things we got talking about was Ben Edson’s post about rites of passage and the ‘Vaux Suicide‘. He had rightly picked up on research linking high levels of adolescent male suicide with the lack of rites of passage. Denied any well-trodden paths into adulthood, they struggled to find their own way. Ben had then suggested that this might have some bearing on the lack of longevity in alt.worship groups, and that the Vaux suicide was a good case in point.

It’s a great thought, and may well hold some truth, but Nic and I both agreed that a better understanding would actually be to see our ending of Vaux as precisely such a rite of passage: to hold on to that manifestation would be to remain adolescent. This reminded me of the video I’d created for the very end of the last service before our ending meal – a piece that I suppose stands as a suicide note. Part of the text:

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Rowan Williams was recently asked: “Who are the new desert fathers?”

He replied: “There are the recent great figures like Thomas Merton and Bede Griffiths. They speak from the desert because they made themselves homeless by putting themselves on the edge of the life of conventional church and its habits. Both started out as safe Catholic converts and good monks; as they went on they became rather more shaky Catholics in the eyes of many, and very unusual monks.

“They became familiar with a desert landscape in which the external points of orientation were elusive. They had to find another kind of map.”

I suppose these Vaux services have been a kind of Spiritual cartography: an attempt to make a map, an imperfect representation of the landscape we have travelled. But this format of map has been getting less suited to representing the journey we are on. So we need to get rid of it. Remember: the service is the map. Destroy the map and the land still exists. The journey continues, and new maps are sought.

So our destruction was, in a way, the potlatch of our adolescent map. And a stepping out into a new desert. To become nomads for a time again.

Reflecting on this idea of nomads, Nic put me on to the work of Santu Mofokeng – see photo above – who documented the churches who met on trains in apartheid South Africa. It’s a beautiful image: the oppressive, unjust state; people gathering to worship and oppose that regime in temporary, shifting spaces under the radar of the authorities, melting away as the trains arrive. Mofokeng went on to document churches meeting in caves and under motorways – article [ here ] – the faith of nomads, people without permanent spaces.

So the journey continues, and the maps change. Soliton – Greenbelt – Beyond. All are imperfect attempts to understand a landscape that turns more complex and beautiful, but leads none-the-less inexorably onwards to the City to come. See you on the road.


2 responses to “Off to Soliton | Nomadic Faith | Spiritual Cartography | Vx ‘Suicide’”

  1. Thanks for the comments on my site Kester…moving house means that blogging and responding to post dies not get prioritised!
    I understand death as a right of passage and so yes, Vaux’s suicide was a rite of passage. However, I’d like to think that there are less painful ways to go through rites of pasage.
    I’m also pleased to hear that, on one level, the suicide of vaux failed and was perhaps more of an attempted suicide? The community continues, albeit, informally and without the large scale public events…but it continues – next time do the job properly!!!

  2. Baudrillard’s take on the Borges tale and a 1:1 map that covered the kingdom:
    “The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.”
    Maps are a bit dodgy. I prefer the notion of Vaux as a tent rather than a map, an ‘Interzone’ rather than a model– Vaux, Greenbelt, whatever; a series of ‘ands’ and ‘becomings’.
    Have fun in the states – California Uber Alles