Molly Bloom and Belfast

From the ikon event ‘Yes’ held on 10th February, 2013. By Jon Hatch.

My name is Jon, and I want to say ‘Yes’.

I first came to Belfast in 1991. At that time, city hall had a large banner across the dome that read ‘Belfast Says No’. I wasn’t as familiar with the details of Northern Ireland’s history, so I asked one of my hosts- who were East Belfast Presbyterians- what it meant. He said, ‘It’s about rejecting the Republic of Ireland’s interference in the running of Northern Ireland. How would you feel if a foreign country was being given a say in how your country was run?’ At the time, the answer didn’t make sense to me, as I didn’t see the Republic as a ‘foreign’ country, or not ‘foreign’ in the way that, say, France or China was foreign. Plus, I pointed out, in a globalised world most countries had some kind say into how other countries are run. I immediately got the feeling that this was the wrong answer to give…

I also wondered, was there anything to which Belfast  might say ‘yes’?

It made me think of the last bit of Ulysses, where Molly Bloom’s speech is punctuated by dozens of the word ‘yes’. The last word of that great novel is ‘yes’. Joyce felt that Ireland was filled with ‘No’. Irish Nationalism, Irish Unionism, Catholicism, Protestantism- to him, it all seemed to be saying ‘no’ to any number of things. He wanted life to be about saying ‘yes’.

I’ve worked in the field of peacemaking and conflict transformation in Belfast for over ten years now. I’ve always wanted my work to be about helping individuals and communities say ‘yes’- to examining their situation, to consciousness, to a view of life that said ‘yes’ to those that were different.

I still feel like I’m searching for ‘yes’ in Belfast. As I sat in my window last summer and watched the fires of Ardoyne, and even now as I watch the flag protests at Cambrai Street out the same window,  I still wonder:

How does Belfast say ‘yes’?


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The ‘Yes’ of Yes

From the ikon event ‘Yes’ held on 10th February, 2013. By Chris Fry.

Most of us have come this far on the negative.  It has served us well.  We have used its energy to purge and winnow, decimate and destroy, break up and shut up many, many, tired, tired, double-binding, constricting and restricting systems. We gathered the ‘no’ to our hearts like armour, forged it into weapons and chanted its name on dead-end streets until the fabric of those cul-de-sacs fractured and split open into bright new mornings that shimmered with hope and possibility.  We loved the ‘no’.

But this meeting is about what is left.

With your back to the torn cul-de-sac what do you see?

Now I think I want to know if I can say ‘yes’.  I want to know if there is anything left to say yes to.

I want to know if I can say yes to the ‘lack’ inside of me that can never be filled.  To a war that can never be won.  To a desire which turns me upside down and inside out and seeks only more and more and is never enough.  A desire that is never fulfilled and eats question after question with an insatiable lust and never gives up on itself, never rests, never wanes.

I want to know if I can say yes to the strange god of the bible who sets his own decay in motion and drags into death with him the suffocating deceptions of wholeness, completion, perfection and peace and comes alive in the smile of a small child and the eyes of an enemy.

I want to know if I can say yes to the new horizon that opens up when we stand together in the aftermath of the death of meaning and find in each other pieces of a fragmented and broken puzzle which never quite fit but make new pictures that dazzle and transfigure us, that inspire us to keep trying, keep moving, keep loving.

I want to know if I can say yes to the horrible beauty of the ‘other’ that brims up inside myself and in each and every other person that I come into contact with and can never be understood or forgiven or healed or categorised but can only be heard and elaborated and moved toward.

I want to know that I can say yes to singing the song of myself in the presence of mystery and ask for nothing but questions that bind me to life which is in the end a life with others.

I want to say ‘yes’….’yes’

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ikon yes

ikon yes

ikon yes

(click image for facebook event)

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January 12, 2013 · 7:17 pm

The Other Is The Other Is The Other – a liturgy

From an untitled event held in Belfast on 4th November, 2012. Written by Colletta Tracey. With both ‘The Others’ (on screen) and the attendees participating together, this was the closing liturgy of the evening.

Here we are. Bodies with spaces between. Together and alone.  Join with me, with everyone as we say the only sentence we can about ourselves and each other:

“We do not know”

To the strange, disturbing, physical presence of others we are so close to and yet can never understand. The slow-dawning reality that others are beyond our control, our rules, our lines, our categories.  We say the only words we can about each other:

“We do not know”

We delight in the dangerously beautiful knowledge of the presence of others which makes us so fragile by pulling us apart – aching to be known, and longing to hide. We confess our confusion of the other as we whisper:

“We do not know”

And we acknowledge those moments of intimacy, where others call us out of ourselves, we delight in shattering the barriers… and then recognise the reality that other lines, and classifications will replace them. Where we can look in the eyes of those we are closest to and say lovingly:

“We do not know”

Even as we look at our own reflections, we admit that we see through a glass, darkly. We marvel at the strangest other in our lives – our own selves – who we continually surprise and disgust, and delight. And we have hope for the future because we can say about ourselves:

“We do not know”

As we confront our fear of difference and our destructive desire for conformity and unity, we move towards being comfortable with the awkwardness of our division. Skins that mean we will always be separate and so life-givingly intertwined. And so we say to each other:

“We do not know”

Many of us are gathered here tonight because at one point or another, maybe yesterday, maybe today, we have been drawn to Jesus of Nazareth. We may have heard he had all the answers. We may have heard that he would make everything okay. We may have heard many things. But he asked some of his followers “who do you say that I am” and we find goodness and truth in this answer:

“We do not know”

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“Why . . . Nothing is certain when you’re about”

From an untitled event held in Belfast on 4th November, 2012. Written by Shirley McMillan (apologies to Samuel Beckett). Performed in three scenes by two characters playing a board game not entirely dissimilar to chess. Behind them was a screen on which ‘The Others’ interrupted the evening’s proceedings…

Scene 1

One:     God is now here
Two:     Do you remember the story?
One:     I don’t know.
Two:     Shall I tell it to you?
One:     I don’t know.
Two:     Two thieves, crucified at the same time as our Saviour. One—
One:     Our what?
Two:     Our Saviour. Two thieves.  One is supposed to have been saved, and the other . . .. damned.
One:     God is now here
Two:     God is nowhere
One:     Yes. God is now here.

Scene 2

One:     Ikon is now here
Two:     We came here yesterday.
One:     Ah no, there you’re mistaken.
Two:     What did we do yesterday?
One:     What did we do yesterday?!
Two:     Yes.
One:     Why . . . Nothing is certain when you’re about.
Two:     In my opinion we were here.
One:     Ikon is now here
Two:     Ikon is nowhere
One:     Yes. Ikon is now here

Scene 3

One:     We are now here
Two:     I can’t go on like this.
One:     That’s what you think.
Two:     If we parted? That might be better for us.
One:     We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless the other comes.
Two:     And if she comes?
One:     We’ll be saved.
Two:     Well? Shall we go?
One:     Yes, let’s go. We are now here
Two:     We are nowhere
One:     Yes. We are now here

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The Others (via Skype)

From an untitled event held in Belfast on 4th November, 2012. Photo by Ben Jones. ‘The Others’ appeared on screen to interrupt the evening’s proceedings and make connection with those attending through song, reflection, and liturgy. They were seen to perform a ritual of eating mirrors.

The Others - 04/11/12

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Welcome to all your other voices – a blessing

From an untitled event held in Belfast on 4th November, 2012. By Padraig O Tuama.


In the incarnation God was brought down to earth. And God became another kind of thing entirely. He became another. And actually, only with the invention of language did God become anything to us – god became a “he” or a “she” or a character.

And this God who is Another is always on the margins of some kind of new discovery, discovering God where God had not thought to be before. The incarnation is never ending really. Because there is always a new place to be, always a new skin to wear, always new bones to inhabit, always sweat and blood and mucus to be shed and dripped.

God is Another. And we are Another. It is probably easier to befriend the other than it is to befriend the Other you.

We will give you a little mirror. It is not to be eaten. It is small because you will only ever be able to see a bit of yourself. We are only ever a little bit of ourselves at any one time.

Hell is other people?
Hell is the other you?
Welcome to Hell.
Welcome to your limited language.
Welcome to all your other voices.
Welcome to the other.

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