Dreams to Reality at TEDxExeter 2016

Each year I summarise the posts I write for TEDxExeter on the theme of the annual conference. In 2016 it was “Dreams to Reality”; in 2015 it was “Taking the Long View” ; in 2014 it was “Ideas Without Frontiers”; in 2013, “Living the Questions”; and way back in the mists of time in 2012 it was “Sustainability and Our Interconnected World”. Here belatedly are my 2016 posts.

  1. Living the dream
    An introduction to the series… Once upon a time, the Old English dream meant “joy, mirth, noisy merriment” or “music”.
  2. First a dream
    “All we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now.”
  3. Dream succeeds dream
    In the UK, the dream of suffrage has been succeeded by the dream of full equality for women.
  4. “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”
    For Carl Jung, dreams were a window on the unconscious, enabling the dreamer to communicate with and come to know the unconscious, and tap into it as a source of creativity.
  5. Killing dreams
    Tread softly because you might be treading on others’ dreams… or your own.
  6. Dream world
    When you wish upon a star, you’re a few million lightyears late. That star is dead. Just like your dreams.
  7. “Einstein’s Dreams”
    In his dreams, Einstein imagines many possible worlds, set in the towns of his homeland, in the valleys of the Alps, on the banks of the River Aare
  8. Technicolor Dreamcoats
    What is your dream? Are you willing to let it upend your reality?
  9. Dreamtime
    Some individuals have forgotten the songlines. They have become alienated from the land and cannot bear too much reality.
  10. I have a dream
    Martin Luther King dreamed of a better world, and he had been to the mountaintop. And yet it wasn’t about the mountain, but about the view over the mountain to what lies ahead.
  11. Dream location
    How we can help shape the place we live, through local government and at the grass roots.
  12. Dream team
    Even in football, it is possible to have dreams of community, to play as a team instead of individual starlets.
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World Origami Day

I completely managed to miss Blog Action Day 2016 in October, but all was not lost, as I could mark World Origami Day on 11 November instead.

In modern times, origami has been used as a beacon of hope, with the tradition of folding one thousand cranes. Many fold cranes hoping for healing. Others fold them hoping for peace, so 11 November is a particularly apposite day.

Last year, I created the origami “Soul Cube” (2015) to help me reflect on my self and my activity in the world. Like many others, I have a powerful critical voice in my head, so I needed a way to access that deeper nurturing wise voice that speaks words I need to hear. This year, I offer it in the hope that others will find it fruitful.

You can download the images here and print it yourself, or contact me for a ready printed sheet. All instructions are included.

soul-cube-bothsides

Download outside image | Download inside image

1. Cut along the dotted lines
2. If you wish, decorate what will be the inside (yellow) or outside (blue)
3. Fold the square to create a cube
4. Breathe into the cube to inflate it
5. Sit with it in both hands for a time, and allow healing words and wisdom to surface from your unconscious into your conscious mind
6. On these strips of paper, write messages that your conscious mind needs to hear and remember
7. Roll up the messages and post them into the cube
8. Place the cube somewhere in view to help you remember

 

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Who has the wisdom?

I adapted the following from a sermon I gave on Sunday 18th October during the Sidmouth Science Festival.


The Book of Job is part of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, which also includes the Psalms and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs.

It describes the troubles visited by Satan upon Job to test his faith, Job’s lament, and speeches from three friends that are supposed to bring him comfort, but could be summarised as: “You must have sinned, and so brought all this upon yourself.”

Job stoutly defends himself, and asks God to vindicate him, after which a fourth friend, Elihu, gives a long speech criticising the other three for failing to answer Job, and Job for his complaints. And then in Chapter 38, God finally arrives in a whirlwind and delivers an amazing bravura rebuke, at which point Job relents and is restored.

Let’s take two verses:

Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
   or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
   Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
(Job 38:36-37, NRSV)

God’s speech does not come out of the blue; it all references earlier speeches. So when God asks “Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?” Elihu has already five times referred to clouds, for example asking Job: “Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of the one whose knowledge is perfect?”

The answer to these rhetorical questions is of course that only God has the wisdom. But what is wisdom? I am a bit of a nerd and like to look up the origin of words.

Wisdom is Old English, an elision of wise and doom. Wise is related to wisse, used by Chaucer to mean show or teach. The Ancrene Wisse was an anonymous 13th century monastic rule or guidance. And then doom is about judgement – as in the Doom paintings you see in some churches with God above and saints going to heaven on one side and sinners to hell on the other.

So wisdom goes beyond knowledge, to the weighing up of knowledge, and the application of knowledge, experience, intuition.

Now science means knowledge, from the Latin scire to know, probably from the Greek σχίζειν/skhizein to split – think schizophrenia. That’s how science works; it divides big questions up into smaller, manageable and hopefully answerable questions. So we have lots of scientific disciplines, and very focused research projects. It’s not a bad thing, and science has been incredibly successful on its own terms.

But there comes a time when necessary to put it all back together again, to gain an understanding of the whole system, to realise that life is not just about knowledge, and to be humble about not having all the answers – to have wisdom.

Earlier I wrote that God is the one with the wisdom, so I appear to have contradicted myself and the Book of Job. But maybe we start to have some inklings of wisdom gifted to us when we recognise that we are not actually God.

The word scientist was coined relatively recently, in 1834. Before then a person who did science, a 14th century word, was known as a natural philosopher – from the Greek φιλία/philia love and σοφία/sophia wisdom, so a scientist used to be a lover of the wisdom of natural things. Wouldn’t it be great to rediscover that meaning – “a lover of the wisdom of natural things”?

Most of my discussion so far has been about what happens up in the head. But for me “the wisdom of natural things” encompasses not just the head, but the wholeness of a person. Our mind is not separate from our soul, emotions and feelings, or our body. We experience natural things most through our body, after all, and we are in the season of Seasonal Affective Disorder, when I for one feel lower and like hibernating.

I quoted earlier “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?” This verse is difficult Hebrew, and has been translated in wildly divergent ways. The New International Version has it: “Who gives the ibis wisdom or gives the rooster understanding?”

The words translated “in the inward parts” could literally mean “into the kidneys”. “Who has put wisdom into our kidneys?” Maybe we would say “heart” in our culture, but in any case, it is very physical language.

And God’s speech in Job is about physical phenomena, natural things: “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you?” or “Who provides for the raven its prey?”

Our inklings of human wisdom, gifted by God, are not just in our heads, but come from a combination of knowledge, intuition, and physical gut, and ultimately by listening deeply to and waiting intently upon God the source of all wisdom.

In my art practice “Particulart: The art of knitting, chemistry, and gentle protest”, I am trying to help people to approach science and environmental issues in a variety of ways: through data and head knowledge, numbers and words; but also through the visual aspects; through the tactility of the physical representation; through play; and through reflection and contemplation.

I can’t hide that I intensely dislike most of our current government’s policies. They are not listening to scientists and other concerned citizens over many issues. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is happening, human activity is causing it, and it is the greatest threat to our continued existence. But the Chancellor views the environment as ‘red tape’ holding back economic activity, and consciously or unconsciously chooses not to understand that all economic activity and indeed life is entirely dependent on having an environment.

We are playing at being God, pretending we have wisdom while we just have knowledge, and sometimes we ignore even that. To repeat what I wrote earlier: wisdom goes beyond knowledge, to the weighing up and application of knowledge, experience, and intuition. And maybe we start to have some inklings of wisdom gifted to us when we recognise that we are not actually God.

So let us pray that the negotiators at COP21 in Paris – even those from the UK – have the humility to listen deeply and the willingness to seek wisdom through knowledge, intuition and physical gut feeling, and become lovers of the wisdom of natural things.

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I will pour…

A short reflection I wrote for EcoChurch South West’s Carbon Fast 2015 – Day 7 – Wednesday. The overall theme is water.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. Isaiah 44:3

At the Greenbelt Festival in 2012, Kathy Galloway spoke for ten minutes on the topic “Is God… Scottish?” As a cloudburst deposited its soaking load on the festivalgoers outside, she reminded us of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, that God sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. In Scotland, she said, “the combination of the cold damp climate and Presbyterian cultural pessimism meant that rain is experienced as a curse”, and those who were affected by the floods in southwest England last year may well agree.

But in Palestine at the time of Jesus, rain was a blessing, a necessity for crops, livestock and people. In many parts of the world today, farmers rely on regular rainfall patterns, and are struggling as those patterns break down under climate change.

God created the world and declared it good. God is a God who blesses and who promises blessings. Let us open our hands and minds to receive those blessings with thanks and carefulness.

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Candlemas-ology

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ at the Temple, otherwise known as Candlemas. In the reading from Luke’s gospel, Simeon calls Jesus “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32; NRSV), hence presumably the practice in the western church of blessing the candles for use in the church throughout the year, and the name ‘Candlemas’.

Originally, the feast was a minor celebration. But in 541 AD, bubonic plague broke out in Constantinople, killing thousands. Emperor Justinian I, in consultation with the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the Eastern Empire, culminating in processions and a prayer service asking for deliverance on Candlemas in 542, whereupon the plague ceased. In thanksgiving, Justinian elevated the feast to a more solemn celebration.

Sometime in my first couple of years at the Met Office, I went to a lecture on dendrochronology-palaeoecology. Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings, which is then used to determine certain aspects of past ecologies. In areas where the climate is reasonably predictable, trees develop annual rings of different properties depending on weather, rain, temperature, soil acidity, plant nutrition, carbon dioxide concentration, and so on.

In 540 AD, there was a major eruption of the Rabaul caldera near Papua New Guinea, of roughly the same magnitude as Mount Pinatubo in 1991 or Krakatoa in 1883. These sort of events fling huge quantities of ash and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere (Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 pales into insignificance), and appear in the palaeoecology record as ash strata in ice cores and the narrow tree rings resulting from global cooling. The lecturer was relating the science to all sorts of historical events and art, the really fascinating stuff you can get to in science, but only after paying your dues by painstaking counting of gazillions of tree-rings to assemble large enough datasets. He considered the global cooling following the 540 eruption as one of the contributions to the outbreak of plague; cooling would have affected grain crops, leading to famine, greater trade in grain, and hence in rats and fleas, and reduced resistance to disease.

By 542, the atmosphere was recovering, the sun returning and harvests improving. The lecturer didn’t go as far as linking the return of the sun with Justinian’s establishment of the feast celebrating the light for revelation to the nations – that was something I realised after the lecture. Probably there was no such link, but I liked the idea.


This is a repost from my Mucknell Abbey blog. Well, it is Groundhog Day after all!

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Where have we put our treasure?

Following my article on fracking for Third Way, Operation Noah asked me to write a short piece for its Bright Now blog on divestment from fossil fuels. Here it is…


In a Resurgence article based on his latest book The Energy of Nations, Jeremy Leggett gives the history of four systemic risks in energy markets: climate change and the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground; the resulting carbon bubble in capital markets; corporate losses in US shale gas and oil production, which means the ‘boom’ may just be a bubble; and peak production of affordable oil.

Expanding on the second risk, he writes: ‘Over the next 10 years, spending [by the world’s 200 biggest gas and oil companies on expanding and developing their reserves] could exceed US$6 trillion, if things stay as they are. This is one very big bet the policymakers will do nothing about climate change. In the last year, key investors have balked at that bet. Major insurers and pension funds have curbed their investment in coal and oil.’ State pension funds in Norway and Sweden have said they would ‘withdraw from all fossil-fuel investments, for fear of assets being stranded’. Australian coal investments are under huge pressure, as China develops legislation to ban coal use. ‘Investors arguing that capital expenditure was too high and dividends were too low forced Shell to cancel all Arctic drilling in 2014.’ And hence, ‘Investors may increasingly be setting up future emissions reductions by default [for climate policymakers].’

So divestment makes sense in two ways: it works, and every divestment, however small, adds to the momentum; and it makes financial sense to join the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and the University of Glasgow and pull out before the crash!

It is not as though alternative investments aren’t available. I recently wrote an article for Third Way magazine about fracking, in which I argued ‘Even a cursory comparison with the renewables sector clearly shows that fracking is a distraction … A second “dash for gas” would lock the UK into a high-carbon future, and would divert investment away from cleaner renewables now.’ For individuals, the Which? Ethical Investments Guide and YourEthicalMoney.org provide independent information on green and ethical money, including investments, banking, pensions and insurance. And for those looking for a social return on their investment, there are plenty of opportunities to invest in community energy schemes – from Abingdon Hydro via REPOWERBalcombe to Zouch Solar, which I may have made up!

Some of the responses on Twitter to Glasgow University’s announcement are interesting. A couple argue that divesting is ‘futile symbolism’ unless the University also stops using fossil fuels, and I think they partly have a point.

In my fracking article, I concluded that the UK government’s keenness to promote fracking is about money and power: ‘[George] Osborne is hoping for a repeat of the North Sea oil bonanza, and there are strong links between the government and the fracking industry.’ But I also had to acknowledge our own culpability. ‘There is a disconnect between public opinion of fracking “in my back yard”, and our energy-hungry lifestyles … We are addicted to energy, and take it for granted.’

Money equals power, and giving the fossil fuel companies our money, whether as investment or payment for energy, means giving them power. I am happy to say that I bank with Co-op, buy my energy from Good Energy, and am at present car-free. But as a participant in the UK economy, I am still locked in to fossil fuels, and spending money on almost anything means oil production and carbon emissions.

The Christian Climate Action group asks What Would Jesus Divest?* But I asked ‘[W]here have we put our treasure, and thereby our heart?’ (Matthew 6:19-21) Do we see ourselves deep-down as consumers and individuals, or citizens and neighbours and members of the body of Christ seeking God’s Kingdom? After all, the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44) is not a pocket of shale gas to be exploited, but rather, as R. S. Thomas suggested in The Bright Field, ‘the eternity that awaits you’ … or perhaps we might say it is a ‘Bright Now’.

* It would perhaps be more accurate to ask what would the women providing for Jesus divest? See Luke 8:1-3.

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Sign of the Nazarene

Many of my Facebook friends have changed their profile picture to the Arabic letter N. It stands for ‘Nazarene’, or Christian. ISIS is drawing it on the houses of Christians in Iraq, to indicate who to target… much like the Nazi treatment of Jews.

The Islamic militants of ISIS have committed horrific acts: cutting a child in half, as described by Andrew White*, and the burying alive of 500 Yazidi women and children. It has been described as ethnic cleansing and genocide.

So why haven’t I changed my profile picture? After all, I did post this article of five things you can ACTUALLY do to help, and the fifth is to raise awareness on social media.

Initially, a few weeks ago, it was due to technical problems uploading the image. Then I was distracted. Now the worst interpretation is that it is vanity over not wanting to be seen as a johnny-come-lately.

But when I take the time to reflect on the events and actions in my mind’s eye, it is not for the suffering of the Iraqi Christians – terrible as it is – that my heart cries out. It is for the perpetrators.

I imagine a young man, with little education, desperate to belong, to fit in, to be respected. His only role models are the teachers who are brainwashing him. He has learnt about ‘them’ and ‘us’, to follow orders, to hate ‘them’, to enjoy killing and inflicting pain on ‘them’. And with every child that he kills, or family that he buries alive, his soul is shriveling. Empathy, compassion, and an understanding of his own humanity becomes further out of reach. He is losing himself. He is dying inside.

I cannot imagine doing what he has done, but then I have led a completely different, privileged life – educated, middle class, living in rich western country, a democracy with the rule of law, respect for minorities and human rights. Who knows how I might act if Britain descended into chaos? I have to believe that I share a common humanity with my imagined young man. There is the potential in me for doing harm, and there is the potential in him for doing good.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “pray for those who persecute you”. And he prayed for the soldiers who crucified him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.

Many people are praying for the persecuted, fewer for the persecutors. My brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted, and many of them will I am sure feel unable to pray for their persecutors, even though I am equally sure that many of the persecutors do not truly know what they are doing. So I suppose that in taking that upon myself, I am bearing some of their burden in some small way.

All of which is why I usually find myself praying for the perpetrators in any crime at least as much as the victims, and why it is the members of ISIS and similar groups who I am trying to hold in my heart before God.

And why I haven’t changed my profile picture… because for me it would be identifying with an ‘us’ against a ‘them’, and perpetuating ‘us-ness’ and ‘them-ness’. I choose instead to identify with, appeal to, and pray for our common humanity.

* Canon Andrew White is known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, and I am in awe of him.

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Living the Questions at TEDxExeter 2013

On 11 April, the day before TEDxExeter 2013, it was announced that Desmond Tutu was the latest winner of the Templeton Prize. The prize honours a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension. The citation includes the words:

His deep faith and commitment to prayer and worship provides the foundation for his message of love and forgiveness. He has created that message through extensive contemplation of such profound “Big Questions” as “Do we live in a moral universe?” and “What is humanity’s duty to reflect and live God’s purposes?”

There is a misconception that TED avoids or even forbids mention of religion, faith or God. That’s not the case. For example, Tom Honey spoke in 2005 on God and the Tsunami, and Billy Graham and Rick Warren have both spoken. (On the other side of the coin, so have Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Alain de Botton.)

The TEDx guidelines say that “Speakers must tell a story or argue for an idea. They may not use the TED stage to sell products, promote themselves or businesses. … TED is also not the right platform for talks with an inflammatory political or religious agenda, nor polarizing ‘us vs them’ language.” So that doesn’t appear to exclude sharing the Gospel, so long as it is done sensitively of course. In the context of “ideas worth spreading”, to rule that, say, a technological idea is worth spreading, whereas a faith-based idea is not, would be an erroneous value judgement. It is better to say that TED does not want to close down the questions.

There are several possible origins for the word ‘religion’.

One possibility, according to Cicero, is relegere ‘go through again, read again’. Another popular etymology connects it with religare ‘to bind fast’ (compare ‘rely’) or ‘bind together again’. Or there is religiens ‘careful’, the opposite of negligens. Its meaning has evolved over time. The sense of ‘a particular system of faith’ dates from about 1300, and the modern sense of ‘recognition of, obedience to, and worship of a higher, unseen power’ is from the 1530s.

Neither of these modern senses need imply certainty and rule out doubt. This is baggage that has been heaped up high by theists and atheists of a certain persuasion alike. In the spirit of Desmond Tutu, I want to go back to the etymological origins of ‘religion’, and ask a few questions. In the spirit of Living the Questions, I’m not expecting to answer them.

First, what is true freedom? It is not unfettered licence to indulge our every whim. Ask any good parent. Nor is it boundless choice, which only creates paralysis. Freedom to roam safely on Dartmoor requires proper equipment and clothing, and knowledge of the risks from weather and mire. Freedom requires some constraint. In terms of religion, it is not so much that we are ‘bound fast’ to God, but that God is ‘bound fast’ to us. That safety-net frees us to doubt, question and ‘read again’ and again and again.

‘Religion’ and ‘faith’ shouldn’t be used inter-changeably, but I’m going to quote Giles Fraser anyway: “what she [Margaret Thatcher] never appreciated was that faith is fundamentally bound up with doubt. Faith strains to imagine a world so much more expansive than the measure of our own minds and convictions. This is why faith is always a certain sort of loss, the failure to comprehend things in their totality.”

My second etymology-related question is: how can we be ‘bound together again’? My third, by way of answering my second, is: how best can we be ‘careful’ of the other?

A number of the talks at TEDxExeter 2013 were living these questions. Carrie Clarke’s talk about valuing people with dementia was a particular gem. It is difficult to face up to dementia because it means facing our own vulnerability. There is no cure, but we can still bring healing for people with dementia through strengthening their sense of belonging; shifting the focus from what they can’t do on to what they can do; and most importantly listening to them with an open heart – and hoping that when our time comes, someone will listen to us.

The talks from Jo Berry, Martha Wilkinson and Hazel Stuteley had complementary message. Hazel spoke of the power of listening to struggling communities, for what they say will bring them healing, as a way of connecting them with local agencies. Jo shared her dream that we can learn to see the humanity of everyone, and give dignity to all. Martha asked us to ponder: “What suffering are you walking past? And what are the gifts you would like to give to the world?”

Pulling the lens back to a wider angle, Kester Brewin spoke about turning the agenda away from purely private gain back towards public benefit; we need a new community of pirates committed to defending the commons. Alongside this, Stewart Wallis argued that we need to change and manage markets. Markets make a good servant, a poor master and a disastrous religion. Unfortunately, markets are currently our religions, but they are human creations, and humans can control them. So finally, Peter Owen-Jones believes passionately that the militarised industrialised complexes that we call countries, and religions that do not uphold the dignity of all life on this planet are not fit for purpose. What type of planet and society are we leaving our children?

When I blogged on questions before the event, I mostly avoided explicit mention of religion or faith. But now, on my own blog, I can append two quotations from Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, which say what I really wanted to say.

Appended to Who am I?, an excerpt from New Seeds of Contemplation:

There is an irreducible opposition between the deep, transcendent self that awakens only in contemplation, and the superficial, external self which we commonly identify with the first person singular. We must remember that this superficial ‘I’ is not our real self. It is our ‘individuality’ and our ’empirical self’ but it is not truly the hidden and mysterious person in whom we subsist before the eyes of God. The ‘I’ that works in the world, thinks about itself, observes its own reactions and talks about itself is not the true ‘I’ that has been united to God in Christ. It is at best the vesture, the mask, the disguise of that mysterious and unknown ‘self’ whom most of us never discover until we die.

Appended to What do you want to be when you grow up?, which is really about our attitude to time, an excerpt from Thomas Merton, Monk: A Monastic Tribute:

One of the best things for me when I went to the hermitage was being attentive to the times of the day: when the birds began to sing, and the deer came out of the morning fog, and the sun came up … The reason why we don’t take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving. This is a real sickness. Today time is a commodity, and for each one of us time is mortgaged … We are threatened by a chain reaction: overwork – overstimulation – overcompensation – overkill. And yet … Christ has freed us. We must approach the whole idea of time in a new way. We are free to love. And you must get free from all imaginary claims. We live in the fullness of time. Every moment is God’s own good time, his kairos. The whole thing boils down to giving ourselves in prayer a chance to realize that we have what we seek. We don’t have to rush after it.”

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Hoping against hope

My post for #Advent 12 on the Parkology blog on the theme of hope.

Today is the feast day of St John of the Cross, Spanish mystic and poet. He is best known for “The Dark Night of the Soul”, which describes the difficulties met by the soul in seeking union with God. Here’s an English version of his poem “Tras de un amoroso lance”, which beautifully captures a number of types of hope: the initial optimism leading to seeming success; the ‘nearly there’ hope; the ‘shot in the dark’ hope; the hope in the face of despair; and the willed hope – hope is achieved by hoping.

Full of hope I climbed the day
while hunting the game of love,
and soared so high, high above
that I at last caught my prey.

In order to seize the game
– the divine love in the sky –
I had to fly so high, high
I floated unseen and became
lost in that dangerous day;
and so my flight fell short of
height — yet so high was my love
that I at last caught my prey.

Dazzled and stunned by light
as I rose nearer the sun,
my greatest conquest was won
in the very black of night.
Yet since love opened my way
I leapt dark, blindly above
and was so high, near my love,
that at last I caught my prey.

In this most exalted quest
the higher I began to soar
the lower I felt — more sore
and broken and depressed.
I said: None can seize the prey!
and groveled so low, so low
that high, higher did I go,
and at last I caught my prey.

By strange reckoning I saw
a thousand flights in one flight;
for hope of heavenly light
is achieved by hoping now.
I hoped only for this way
and was right to wait for love,
and climbed so high, high above
that at last I caught my prey.

St John of the Cross
English version by Willis Barnstone

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Watching for the Kingfisher

The Parkology group is posting (mostly) daily during Advent, focusing on ‘What gives you hope?’ Here is what I posted for #Advent 3. The poem is from Ann Lewin’s book “Watching for the Kingfisher“. I see she has also recently published “Come Emmanuel: Approaching Advent, Living with Christmas.

Prayer is like watching for the Kingfisher.
All you can do is
Be where he is likely to appear, and
Wait.
Often, nothing much happens;
 There is space, silence and Expectancy.
No visible sign, only the Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But sometimes, when you’ve almost
Stopped expecting it,
A flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.

Ann Lewin, “Disclosure”

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