[…] It gave her shivers even thinking about it, but she loved the rainforest in the daytime, she loved the wildness it spoke of; she felt at home there, way more at home than she felt in the structure of a city, there was something untamed and much more primal within her that she had always known, that she connected to. It made sense to her when she first saw Malaysia—its capital, where her mother grew up— was gritty, it wasn’t beautiful, it was living. It was a vast landscape, her motherland: of beaches, crystal clear water, jungle, mountains, tropical climate, sweet fruit, coconuts, humidity and chaos. It was her, it was within her. She never knew to fit in with the pale whiteness that had taken over London of late, the city she knew was eclectic, it made her sad but resigned to see it lose its colour, to see it stream from its face. Rather than reviving it she knew her energy was better off spent activating in areas that were excited to be alive, living and active. She would use her sword there.
— Jennifer Weng Han
A little something in honour of Malaysia’s historic election last week. A lot more where this came from. This isn’t autobiography, c’est tout. Xo —JM
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
I went to sleep last night with such a disquiet in my spirit and when I woke this morning the heaviness on my heart just continued to grow. I am sure many of you reading this feel similarly, I live in London, and have a close friend who lives on the doorstep of the attacks that occurred here last night (he is thankfully safe and well) and so these events are particularly upsetting for me on a personal note. However, across the world just this weekend alone, 37 fellow brothers and sisters died in a human-led disaster wrought on a casino in Manila, reportedly due to debt and addiction, Al Jazeera is reporting that civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq by US-led coalition attacks are horrifically higher than official numbers have suggested (not forgetting that each of these ‘numbers’ is a life with a story and interwoven with so many others’), these three cases are deeply depressing and disheartening and yet they still barely scratch the surface of human suffering caused by other humans in this very moment.
As my phone lit up and buzzed last night with messages from some of my closest girlfriends speaking of fear, deep sadness and empathy for the situation happening in our city and I woke this morning feeling anxiety about even leaving my house and going to church in central London, something I do every week, I realised I had to arrest my thinking: “We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 Amplified). Take your thoughts captive.
I was talking to one of my best friends en route to church (via voice note lol that’s kind of our thing) and she was essentially asking me how I can believe and trust in a God that seems to protect some but not others (the victims of the attack). I am not saying I have all the answers at all and this is not about to turn into a preach or some apologetics argument, but I basically said to her that we as humans need to recognise our own agency and capacity for perpetrating love and evil towards and against each other. As a church we always pray for global events, over global leaders and of course on such a sombre morning over our own city where some of the congregation had friends in hospital who were injured last night. On a personal level, I have been praying fervently for a while now for interception in the hearts of the perpetrators, in no way diminishing prayer for the victims and their families, but the real solution we need is prevention, not cure. We do not live in a vacuum, who is to say what motivates people to commit such horrific acts against fellow humans who they do not know? Who have been dehumanised to a target in their minds and become happy to sacrifice their own lives for what is perceived to be a higher cause? I have seen with my own eyes systemic racism rob young people of hope for a better future in a society where they are already underprivileged in one of the cities I have lived in, I am not saying this justifies actions, but I am saying we need to look at and address the root cause of what incites us to act in every single area of our lives.
Wherever there is a void or a lack, as humans we will fill it with something. This works on a primal level with lust to a deeper spiritual level, there is a desire for ‘something more’ inherent in our design. This is why I pray and will continue to for the heart of those who are contemplating or in the midst of planning acts of terror against their fellow generation to turn (I say generation here in the sense of everyone alive right now, breathing in and out the same atmosphere on this planet, all 7 billion of us). As I was worshipping this morning, singing with my fellow lovers of God and humanity louder and more joyfully than we even do usually (which was so beautiful to witness) I was asking God for words, words directly from His Spirit to mine. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” is what I heard. I looked it up (thank you Google) and there I have lighting up my screen Jesus, the man himself (for this purpose any personal beliefs about who he is are not relevant) and he is PREACHING (said with hair flick) as only he could. He’s a funny guy, the things he said were equally profound and perplexing, sometimes he would explain them in more depth and other times leave us to still be pondering them some 2000 years later. He is there, in front of “a large crowd” of men and women, from all over, and one of the many things he said essentially translates to that phrase we love to toss about in our everyday [speak from the heart, write from the heart, say what’s on your heart]: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). In other translations from the Hebrew it reads: For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. So I’m taking this space to speak life into being, “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates” (Hebrews 4:12).
Whatever we are full of and allow to speak into our minds and hearts, whether it be your Twitter feed, your closest friend, your Instagram audience or even the most well-meaning relative, will be the place which we operate from, react and act from. As I write this new terror plots are being hatched (not to be dramatic but just to be real), bombs are being built, atrocities are taking place and hatred is sinking deeper in the hearts of some. All I know to be true and stand upon is that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and that not one of us is called to act from a spirit of fear or timidity but that in actuality we have the choice to harness the real Spirit of power, love and self-control (or sound mind) that we have been given (2 Timothy 1:7). None of us know when our earthly lives, or those we love, will come to an end, but we all know that our days are numbered. It makes me so sad, it literally has made me weep to read of and see unfold the theft of life, attempts to spread fear, violence and heartbreak that we inflict upon each other. We cannot let fear cast out love in the face of such brutality. I don’t understand much to be honest, I think the older one gets the more you realise you really don’t know much about life you know (the real essence of it), but I do know that there is nothing new under the sun and that evil and human atrocity ain’t a new phenomenon. I grew up with my mum telling me stories that her mum had told her, about Chinese women and their unborn babies being killed, stomachs, uteruses and unborn children ripped out in the name of war, land and earthly “power”. My mum arrived in this country in the midst of fleeing from the terror that was perpetuating her home at the time. However, as darkness creeps closer in our neighbourhoods it is integral that we guard our hearts and incite those in our community to guard theirs.
Maybe these are just words to you, but hey, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, so here are my thoughts, broken and poured out as a living sacrifice, or as David once said: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45:1). I felt compelled to share a few things that had been impressed upon my spirit. Let’s not only care and remain vigilant, offering practical and spiritual assurance when it is on our doorstep, let’s pray without ceasing, intercepting where we can, and damn it, let’s be better human beings to one another in the little and large, full stop.
Let’s love harder, hold faith above the storm and: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life”, everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).
Another key Proverb to remember and allow to take root: Words kill, words give life; they’re poison or fruit–you choose (18:21).
To blog or not to blog? That is the modern Shakespeare’s dilemma. Fashion blogging is a pretty oversaturated market these days. Many people who follow fashion are aware of that, however the ‘style with substance’ concept is about more than images and more to do with collusion of the aesthetic with the soulful. I remember reading up on Garance Doré’s street-style capturing origins, one of the most highly-respected and brilliant street photographers out there, along with her long-standing creative partner The Satorialist’s Scott Schuman. She spoke of how she was capturing various stylish people outside fashion week shows, from what I remember there was one particular girl in Russia who she wanted to capture and therefore asked her what was in her beautiful Céline bag: “Oh, nothing” she replied. The cavernous expanse of well-crafted leather was useless and merely a prop. This anecdote resonated with me and clearly Garance also as she shared in an interview on how she needs to feel a human connection with her subject in order to capture them in all their authentic glory. This is what is behind ‘style with substance’, it’s about the people who wear their bags to death and are not worn by that peacock-feather creation which is wonderful if it empowers you but not if it has power over you. I love people’s stories, and it can be that the objects we carry and love and live in and within are visual, textural and visceral signs of those moments. Purchasing a stunning Céline bag just for show at the shows is to be honest, rather sad and a comment on so many things. High fashion, fashion as art is not about the image, but rather the layers of motivation and inspiration behind the image. It is the same as any other artistic form. If it is diluted and corrupted and soulless it is so obvious. Fashion is political. It has the ability to be divisive, subversive and intrusive. Many will remember that fabulously acted scene by Meryl Streep when she pulls up Anne Hathaway’s character on her deriding of fashion as irrelevant. Lo and behold! Fashion is a huge global economic force whether we like it or not. It also holds psychological, social and political weight. It is important to be aware of it rather than ignoring the powerful undercurrent which it possesses.
It is almost too easy to side-line the industry as superficial and without real value. However there is danger in dismissing it too quickly as frivolous, meaningless and vacuous. It is certainly the most commodified art form in terms of its commercial appeal to various markets which belies its surface perception. The industry’s image needs to be re-examined. Within the tiny collection of islands that make up the UK the fashion industry is the second biggest employer. Touching upon huge issues and topics such as ‘fast-fashion’, the cult of the disposable that neoliberalism can encourage and the result of this too often being sweatshops shall be covered in later posts. All that’s opaque is that the impact, reach and influence of fashion extends far beyond just an image. Heidegger, the philosopher, spoke on how science and technology are not intrinsically bad but that it is the intent behind a machine that warrants it to be destructive or creative. When something becomes mechanic it is easy to contaminate the original purpose. Similarly the intent behind a piece of haute couture, the pure elixir from which the entire industry extends is expressed as art and becomes less pure the further away from the source it runs. Design is so much more than a product or an object but about disciplined technicality, generational craftsmanship, quality and inspiration. Designing is the root of the industry and the axis on which it all spins. Image is not the pursuit but the aftershock.
Let’s go back to the beginning, the Genesis if you will. For me, wandering through an art supplies shop with every shade of oil, acrylic and brushes in all widths and hair types evokes the same rush as when I chill in a fabric store (easy high), the feel of a gauze, tulle or silk and the potential in the many hues of oil paint are so exciting to me in their raw potential. Pre-fall, Resort and Cruise collections on top of Autumn/Winter, S/S are the prerogative of the fashion greats with established investors and something to say. The fashion calendar blurs at light speed. Yet to be honest it’s all about that braided tweed cuff fabricated in the middle of the French countryside by Madame Pouzieux, a woman who was the only living person to know the design and loom-work technique that her and Gabrielle (being Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel) worked on to trim the iconic suit jacket. Some may fall for the gloss, the glamour and everything associated with it, but really the reason it is iconic is because of the craftsmanship behind it, the graft and the intricacy. Haute couture is ethanol. Magazines, blogging and editorial are at best champagne and come after; high-street edits and high-end ready-to-wear all come after.