Friday, 29 November 2013

Sidestepping The Fight

Twice in one day! Seems a little excessive, but I found this in my inbox today, and though it worth passing on. It makes sense to me.

Thomas pokes his finger into the wound on the resurrected Jesus' chest with a look of disbelief on his face.

    Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (detail), c. 1601-1602, by Caravaggio   

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy

Seventh Theme: Reality is paradoxical and complementary. Non-dual thinking is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion (Goal).

Liberals Versus Conservatives

Meditation 21 of 52

At this time in history, the contemporary choice offered most Americans isbetween unstable correctness (liberals) and stable illusion (conservatives)!What a choice! It has little to do with real transformation in either case. How different from the radical traditionalism of T.S. Eliot: “You are not here to verify, instruct yourself, or inform curiosity or carry report. You are here to kneel . . . ” (Little Gidding)

There is a third way, and it probably is a way of “kneeling.” Most people would just call it “wisdom.” It demands a transformation of consciousness and a move beyond the dualistic win/lose mind of both liberals and conservatives. An authentic God encounter is the quickest and truest path to such wisdom, which is non-dual consciousness.

Neither expelling nor excluding (conservative temptation), nor perfect explaining (liberal temptation) is our task. True participation in God liberates us each from our control towers and for the compelling and overarching vision of the Reign of God—where there are no liberals or conservatives. Here, the paradoxes—life and death, success and failure, loyalty to what is and risk for what needs to be—do not fight with one another, but lie in an endless embrace. We must penetrate behind them both—into the Mystery that bears them both. This is contemplation in action.

Adapted from Contemplation in Action, pp. 27-30

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Stepping Into Presence

Every piece by an Oldie that begins, "When I was young" deserves to be by-passed, so I'm expecting the worst. However, what lies on my heart deserves an outing, albeit in a wheelchair. So here goes:

When I was young, I was certain that I knew how the world worked, what my place in it was going to be, and how to right its wrongs. Those were the heady days of passionate belief, blind faith and towering ego. I smile quietly to myself now, looking upon Mary the Younger with the same gentle compassion that I reserve for every other sinner. 

I might think that I played the game of life and lost. I am not rich, the great career I mapped out for myself ended in failure, only one of my poems has been  published, and ... And ... And...

By no means! Everyone of those little failures achieved a great work: the slaying of my ego. That is, the laying to rest of my false, invented self, that thought those things were important, and wasted years striving for them. 

I am thinking of the parallel life that I have that flows silently on beneath all the sound and fury of the striving self. The laughing child, that never stops playing in the woods, and invites me, moment by moment, to wonder at the Presence that is both  'me' and 'Other' within and beyond the boundaries of my consciousness. 

I don't understand what this is, that I am trying to explain, and I know that none of you can learn of it from me.  Neither caught nor taught, but discovered, uncovered, awakened: maybe in times of ecstasy, maybe in times of great pain. 

I think I used to call something  less than this, 'god,'  but so much less! 

I spend a lot of time with religious people, and would count myself among them, but I am aware that I am journeying away from the limited parameters of many of their beliefs, whilst at the same time admiring how deeply held they are, and how beautifully made manifest in work amongst the weak and vulnerable. 

It's the striving that marks the difference between them and me. I don't feel the need. I heard Jesus cry, 'It is finished!' from the cross, and believed him. You see, at that moment, the veil in the temple was torn in two. Everything that separated us from Union vanished, the river of life so eloquently described in the Apocolypse, now flows freely through the whole of Creation. Through me, through you. 

So, prayer. Not a begging of a diffident divinity for a hearing and a boon. No. Rather, stepping into the living Presence and source of life, and holding those who need it, in loving compassion in this place of great peace - until they have learned to come to it for themselves. The gift to them is not to say prayers for them, but to wait in silence and BE prayer in their stead. 

What I understand now, that I could not have appreciated, or even believed,  when I was young, is that I am not able to put the world to rights, it will right itself in time. That my place in this world, that which I have tried so poorly to explain, is gift and wonderful, and has nothing to do with wealth,  or  power, or success. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Lost For Words

Because Tony and I occasionally meet with members of the local council to discuss 'the homeless', I sometimes ask permission from some of the visitors to Gloucester City Mission Drop In Centre if I might write down their stories to be given in evidence ...

Jonathan is seething with anger. I might have turned from him and picked a softer target, had not Annie, another of our guests, nudged me and said, "Looks like he could do with some help." This is lighting the blue touch paper to a Type Two on the Enneagram, so rush in to 'help', I did.

J poured out hs life story. 

In 1987, Johnathan aged two, was taken to a courtroom and handed over to a social worker to be made ward of the state. he stayed in care for nineteen years. he is now twenty-six years old. 

during those nineteen years, Jonathan lived in thirteen Children's Homes, and was placed in seventy-eight different foster homes. Seventy-eight. 

Was there anyone in those nineteen years who dared to care enough to at least TRY to guarantee a stable home?

No. I doubt he was an easy child. He wanted his own family. Lost, bereaved, confused, angry, I expect he made every adult and institution pay for his sense of emptiness and loss. .

He married, a son was born that lived just two days. His wife left. His fractured and unwanted life fell apart.

It doesn't get any better. When I hear people sounding off about 'benefit scroungers', I don't respond. If you haven't heard this for yourself, how could you comprehend it?

Saturday, 9 November 2013


Further into The QI Book of the Dead, 76%, and something struck me with the usual OMG gasp of recognition of the blindingly obvious. 

I retweet those cosy and comforting 140 characters of encouragement I am pleased to receive  with a passing, 'Aw, that's nice' without much thought to how true this particular sliver of wisdom might be.  ( If 'true' is even the right word.) My own, though perhaps not my VERY own, insight into the inner working  of the human soul:

 (Altogether now!!!)

"You can believe what you like and get away with it." 

Is resoundingly vindicated  in the section  I am currently reading on the after- life convictions of some of our dearly departed that are so far out as to be - well, very far out indeed. 

Nikola Tesla. Great bloke, phenomenal mind, nutty as a fruit cake, invented stuff the which of, you couldn't be doing without, and generally got himself robbed of the benefits. Believed he was in communication with aliens, and had a, platonic,  love affair with a pigeon. This guy could see and work in three dimensions and solve complex mathematical puzzles before the challenger had finished writing them down. I forgive him the pigeon. He got electricity to work. 

Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, a  gentle peace-loving Christian sect that threw themselves about ( in the Spirit, that is) and got themselves persecuted in the process, for making too much noise. Ann took herself and her followers off to New York State, back before the Statue of Liberty was up, knocked on someone's door, took over the house, and shook away for a couple of hundred years when not making astoundingly good furniture. 

Ann had the most show- stopping visions of Hell, which appeared to be populated by people who insisted on having sex. (Whilst alive...) Shakers didn't. A practice that pretty much put paid to Shaking as a means of grace once Ann (thought by some to be Jesus) died and was no longer around to hold the reins, and get converts. The Shakers voted in1965 not to admit more members, and there are now just three of them left.

You see? You really CAN believe the most extraordinary things and be good, kind, and/or  a genius. 

LOTS of famous people have. Let's give it a go! 

I wondered what grandiose, whacky, amazing, worldview I could come up with, with attendant lifestyle,  if I really put my mind to it. I gave it a lot of thought. No aliens, Messiahs, pigeons, shaking, or sexual abstinence: those slots, thankfully, are taken. 

I haven't decided where I'm going with this yet, but I have divined that with a bit more imagination life could be a whole lot more interesting!

On second thoughts, my life as it is, is often as interesting as I want it to be, so perhaps I'll just finish The Book of the Dead and let my fantasy- life return to normal. MY normal, that is.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Screwing Up The Future

I am reading, and enjoying, 'The QI Book Of The Dead' and have made a startling discovery. Many of Britain's great achievers failed in school. I should, by rights, give chapter and verse, but can't because I have clean forgotten the details. To maintain credibility, I will go back and look, and add the names in due course.

I have run from British politics because they make me mad. You might remember this, but it bears repeating if only to ensure that I do... . 

However, certain bits of information filter down to my depths, and as my antennae are, through habit, attuned to education, I am currently watching with a kind of dumbstruck incredulity, the nation's attitude to equipping the next generation for the uncertainty that the future holds. I hear that A Levels are, yet again, judged incapable of delivering the Holy Grail, and resits are to be curtailed to ... to ... Do what, precisely? 

Does ANYBODY question the annual prize-fighting over 'standards' in education? How can they always be falling but never hit bottom? Are our children REALLY less well educated than the Finns? 

You know something? I don't care. I've nothing against the Finns, they are good at passing tests and they founded Nokia. What's not to like? It's what we English are are up to that's got my goat.  I hate what our system does to kids. Are, the competition for University places, the assumption that an academic education is superior, the unconscionable stress kids are placed under to achieve, REALLY the best we can do? 

Open your eyes. The University merry-go-round is a market like any other. Do you REALLY think that 'standards' would be an issue if there were more places than students? 

Disaffection amongst young people, graduates with no prospects of jobs, a poorly educated and unemployable underclass, are the result of the god-awful win/lose, pass/fail mentality that continues to be touted as the ONLY way to prepare our children for the rest of their lives. It's unfair, sure, but worse - it's wasteful. 

I taught the 'proper' Baccalaureate for a while. Not the 'get a minimum number of subjects' travesty that the DoE peddles, but the real thing. Student questions formed part of the Programme of Study, as did mandatory inclusion of the elements of the Learner Profile - 'Principled', 'Open-minded' and 'Risk -taking' to name but three. The outcomes of the REAL  Bac are measured  both in academic achievement, and in what the students produced as a result of their learning that benefited the community. 

I call that REAL education.  And surely, in a global market, an international education, and a practising meritocracy, is exactly what our  young people need? Maybe fewer of the truly intelligent will drop out? 

Interested? Take a look: