The Longest Day: An Encounter With Truth Through A BBC Soap Opera

20170621 THE LONGEST DAY BBC DOCTORSI have a confession to make: today, because I had left the tv on, I watched ‘Doctors’, the BBC soap opera.

It’s about a medical practice in a fictional town called Letherbridge (near Manchester), and each program, so I’m told, has a few sub-plots,  and today my interest was piqued.

I promise I won’t watch it again. Honest.

I wouldn’t normally watch it, but the fact that it opened with a druid enticed me to watch further. It is summer solstice today and this topical theme on ‘Doctors’ (entitled ‘The Longest Day’) required further ‘research’, and so I watched the program for the next thirty minutes.

So here’s the story: It opened with an older man talking to his teenage son in a forest clearing or large back garden, and it was clear that a ceremony was being prepared. See header photo – from the BBC episode. The older man was a druid by what he said and from the ‘tools’ and symbols and decorations around him.

He said that to complete the preparations he need to take something from the Church grounds! Cue sinister music, perhaps? Well, in some circumstances tv programs like this might do that, but not this time.

I have to go and get a key element for your initiation, if I can get it out of the Churchyard’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

But, what did he need? A skull? Some bones? Steal some Christian relics? It all sounded so mysterious.

Next we see this Druid in the Church building, and in comes dear Mrs Tembe. She is the doctors’ receptionist at the local practice, a devout church-goer, and a wise but sometimes too-straight-laced lady. She askes him, politely, what he’s doing there.

Trouble?

No trouble. But, a conversation ensues, and the scriptwriters have done their home-work, and a wonderfully informed and entertaining subplot unfolds. The Druid introduces himself and explains his path; dear Mrs Tembe listens intently, non-judgementally, and accepts the basket of organic fruit he brought to the Church as a gift. He explains the fact that some Druids are an amalgam of nature-based beliefs and Christianity or other beliefs.

The man continues and says that he’s noticed mistletoe growing in the Church yard and would like permission to take some for a ceremony, and Mrs Tembe agrees to ask the Vicar.

Had this been the product of scriptwriters who had encountered, perhaps, Dungeons and Dragons, or episodes of Hammer House of Horror, it might have been bones the Druid had wanted – because there are many sources that depart from the truth, and for the sake of an enticing tv fictional program some are happy to write scripts that mislead people about druidry. But, all our Druid friend wanted was permission to take a little holly. My first ‘happy feeling’ was the innocuous nature of the dear Druid’s request. Wonderful. No stealing. Nothing sinister. Just a simple request, and a gift to the Church of fruit, come what may.

I can offer you home-grown organic fruit and vegetable. It’s yours without or without the mistletoe’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

Shortly after this, when the program returns to that subplot, there’s dear Mrs Tembe in the forest or is it a large back garden, with a basket of mistletoe. A gift from the local Church. Wonderful.

Okay, she encounters the Druid with his son – the son’s mother is going to Canada that evening with that young man, and this has come like a bolt out of the blue to his father, the Druid, who is preparing that evening to welcome his son, officially, into the grove. Words fly. Again, Mrs Tembe excels – I’m sure she was in Dr Who for a program or two.

Mrs Tembe listens to the father talk about the aspirations he has for his son. My second ‘happy feeling’ was that the program showed the plight of a son ‘torn’ between his parted parents, and the youngster wanting to please both, but unable to do so. Mrs Tembe ‘rescues’ the situation by saying that the son, now grown up, must decide his own destiny and both parents must accept it.

‘…then you are going to have to trust him’, says Mrs Tembe. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

The scriptwriters sincerely captured the fact that people – whether Christian or Druid, or of some other faith (or none)  – have challenges, and particularly parents sometimes have to make tough choices. Mrs Tembe assisted the Druid guy to make a choice (and his parted wife, too) to let their son decide without any pressure. It should come as no shock to discover that Druids and Christians are human, too. And, being human is okay. This was my third ‘happy feeling’. Druids and Christians are human, too! And so, that subplot finishes.

‘You have taken a different path from the one I would have you take…I allowed my own selfish desire to cloud my judgement…Wishing you a safe journey and great joy in your new life…Blessings, your father’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

It may seem strange, but am I so pleased, that a soap opera program like ‘Doctors’ can be so informational and correct, contain a captivating and lively subplot, be so ‘human’, and show that a Druid- Christian commonality and dialogue – where one honours and accepts the path, the Way of the other – is possible. And, that was my fourth ‘happy feeling’.

‘And like me, he believes that this place has a great deal of power.’ Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

Obviously, the Truth can proceed even through soap operas.

Well done Mrs Tembe, played by Lorna Laidlaw (and I’m sure she was in Dr Who for a short while), and well done BBC soap department.

PS: I’ve since found out the scriptwriter Was Tina Walker, so well done, Tina Walker, too.

‘When I finally stopped struggling, I guess it left room for something else’. Quote from ‘Doctors’, ‘The Longest Day’ episode.

PPS: In the story, the son actually decided to stay with his father and go through with the initiation ceremony.

Blessings At This Time Of Alban Hefin / Summer Solstice

20170620 SUMMER SOLSTICE BLESSINGS CARD

Sorry, there’s no article today, but if you clicked and arrived here,  then I wish a double blessing on you for checking this page, and because of the wonderful event of Alban Hefin (Welsh for ‘the light of the shore’) on 21 June 2017.

With deep gratitude.

And now at this time, may the blessing of the Blesséd Three be upon you and those whom you love. Love, Tadhg.

 

 

Hymn For Alban Hefin [Summer Solstice 2017]

20170621 ALBAN HEFIN 1111The Summer Solstice, known to the Druids of old in the Welsh language as ‘Alban Hefin’ (which means ‘the light of the shore’) is almost upon us.

And to celebrate Alban Hefin, this Wednesday, 21 June 2017 at 5.24pm (UK time), I’ve written a poem, and have set it to music –  using a well-known and (personally) much-loved, delightful old Gaelic tune called ‘She moved through the fair’ – and so as well as a poem, it’s also a hymn for Celtic Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids and others who might like to use it at the upcoming wonderful event of Alban Hefin.

The words are below, and so, at this stage it’s a poem or liturgy. But, I might find a way and be ‘brave’ enough to record it and sing it ready for tomorrow’s post. Meanwhile, the tune (though the unknown-to-me musician/singer breaks into singing at one point – singing the original song – can be found at here to give you an idea of the tune. )

So, happy Alban Hefin to you and yours, and here is ‘A Hymn For Alban Hefin 2017’

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Unresting, unheeding
in beauty you shine.
Full of health and vigour
poured out like new wine.
For all humankind
your riches bestow
from heaven above
to the Earth below.

All life you create
in the circle of love.
And we celebrate
your end-less gifts.
Laud and honour
for-ever be,
to you Bless-ed One,
For-ever Three.

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Tune: She moved through the fair
Words inspired by: Light’s Abode, Celestial Salem, attributed to Thomas á Kempis

The Art Of [Experiencing] The Presence: Celtic Thought

20290616 THE ART OF PRESENCEThere’s an ancient story of a man wandering in the desert, and though he had done this for many years, on this specific occasion he noticed something strange, something out of the ordinary, something that caught his attention like it had never done before. He saw a bush in the distance that was on fire, and yet it wasn’t being destroyed by that fire. He drew closer to look.

From that ancient story it looked as though an angel was responsible for that burning bush, but when the man went to investigate it seems, from the one who then spoke, that the angel deferred to a higher power, the Presence. One wonders for how long that angel had been trying to catch his attention – days, weeks, years? Nevertheless, the man went to investigate.

This old, old story goes on to tell us that the burning bush spoke to the man by name, and told him to remove his shoes because the ground he was standing on was, indeed, holy ground. He did so. He drew aside, and in silence and in the desert, and experienced the Presence.

There is another story, more recent about a woman called Catherine Doherty. Arriving in Canada as a Russian refugee and living in the poorest parts of Toronto, she spent almost all of her life seeking to encounter the Presence, the Source of All, God, in the desert. She wrote in her book, ‘Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence…’, that deserts (and the Russian name for desert is Poustinia, hence the title of her book), those times of silence and solitude are ‘not necessarily places but states of mind and heart’.

These deserts can be found in busy cities, in sparsely populated area, as well as in places where we live each day of our lives.  These deserts of encounter, where the Presence can be experience, can be ‘tiny pools of silence’. They can be anywhere.

But how do we achieve this silence?

How do we experience the Presence? She says, ‘By standing still!’. Catherine Doherty

However we define the Presence, that Mystery, That Which Is Bigger Than Us, that which some call God (and that’s a word that is much overused hence my search and usage of other words), the Elements or Elementals, the Spirit, that Presence is much needed. Not to experience the Presence is not to experience Life in all its fullness.

If perception is looking at something and understanding it from some way of, then encountering the Presence is all about experience, communion, one-ness with and the acceptance of a relationship with the Presence, initiated by the Presence, and which is always beneficial.

And, yet we can ‘distance’ ourselves from the Presence, from that Great Flow, The Spirit, call ‘it’ what you will.

We can ‘distance’ or remove ourselves from the experience of the Presence by being too busy – we all live such busy lives, after all, and some seemingly quantify their worth by a ‘crowded’ diary; by being too precise  – we can so want our words of liturgy and ritual to be word-perfect that we focus on the words rather than the encounter; by being analytical – to use our minds to objectively observe what is going on with the Presence at the time of the encounter  immediately puts us at some distance and we step outside of the basking of sacred-time, and step back into ordinary time; by ‘crowding out’ the Presence by an excess of words, especially if we have limited time and a shopping-list of prayers to recite; by ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’.

Ofcourse, in one very real sense removing or distancing ourselves from the Presence is impossible – because the Presence is ubiquitous and is always close at hand – but we can remove ourselves from the knowledge and experience of the Presence by focussing on what really isn’t important at all.

Why do we do that?

We might fear the Presence and so don’t want to draw close, or we might not fully understand the loving and invitational presence of the Presence, we might be too busy (and if so, please find time to slow and stop occasionally), we might not realise the importance of ritual and prayer (that puts us in a position of being receptive), or (and this is true of some ‘old hands’, mature and ‘holy people’) some may not really want to draw close to the Presence because their lives may be changed (and even if for the better, it can be worrying for some to have Someone Else in the ‘driving seat’). And so, some may prefer an ‘arms length’ approach, to be in control of the ‘on-off’ button, and in such cases may actually be angry and upset with those that point to a closer communion.

Yes, it’s good to encourage greater communion in others, but if you do, be aware that there will some well-meaning people (even using Bible verses) to counter your good works and declare you to be a heretic. But, I can sense that you’re a principled, determined and passionate-for-the-truth sort of person, and that that wouldn’t stop you.

‘All I did was light candles.
Did God find me or did I find God?
Hush!
The time for words is past’.

(Barbara Brown Taylor)

So, how do we encounter the Presence.

Well, liturgy, prayer and ritual are some ways to put us in a position of being receptive to the always-there Presence, but they are ‘doorways’ to step through and enter that ‘inner sanctum’ of sacred-space. They are ‘tools’ to usher us into an awareness of the ‘Divine Ubiquitousness’.

There are many other ways to encounter the Presence (eg music, art, works of service, a numinous event, a tragic event, a loving event, a huge surprise etc) But the encounter of Presence always leads to silence, perhaps perceived in (inner) darkness (‘luminous darkness’), and without analytical thought. It is experience that takes place in time-out-of-time, without words, is a state or mind and being, and it is only after the experience, as we look back analytically, that we ‘remember’ being in the presence of the Presence. This is one of the purposes and uses of the Caim.

‘Your hand opens and closes,
opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralysed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birds’ wings.’

(Rumi)

 

The Art Of Being Awake: Celtic Thought

20170615 THE ART OF BEING AWAKEIt’s 6.30am on a bright, sunny, wonderful London morning, and I’m sitting at my garden table, coffee in front of me, and I’ve just splashed a little cream on top of it. The sun is still low in the sky and the world is ‘fresh’. The cream on the coffee swirls around, effortlessly forming a galaxy-like spiral shape. Interestingly, did you know that the word galaxy comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘milky’, and the English name for our galaxy – that smoke-like veil that stretches across the sky when there are no artificial lights about and especially when one is nearer the equator – is the milky way! Milky just like the pattern on my coffee. And, that got me thinking.

‘Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.’ Red Haircrow

Apparently, the UK’s Astronomer Royal believes that all of us, indeed everything that we see around us in the created universe, is part of a sophisticated computer program run by aliens. According to him we all ‘apps’ or sub-routines in the program, and are ‘asleep’ to true reality. True! When I say ‘true’ I mean that’s what he believes, not that we are, necessarily, part of an alien’s computer program.

But it make you think about…..awareness…sleep…illusion…reality, doesn’t it?

There’s an ancient story of a young man who, part of a dysfunctional family, decided to do his share of cheating, and got what he wanted. However, he had to avoid his (now) angry older brother who had been cheated out of his inheritance – the older brother was, allegedly, of a size and stature to dismember his younger brother if he so wanted, and he probably wanted to do just that. So, the younger one, quite wisely, fled the scene.

Some time later in the day, tired from running he looked around for a make-shift pillow. The locale was quite ordinary looking, but he noticed a flat stone that would be an ideal pillow. He lad his head upon it, and fell asleep.

‘Therefore it says: “Awake you, the one sleeping…’, Ephesians 5:14a, The Book

He started to dream, a most vivid and real-type of dream. In his dream he saw a huge ladder fixed between earth and heaven, with celestial beings of some description ascending it, and descending it. Whether it was minutes or hours later, the young man awoke. His blurry eyes once again scanned the terrain, and it didn’t look any different. However, the dream had made a difference, and he declared, ‘God is in this place, and I didn’t even realise it’.

Yes, one man had to fall asleep to really wake up to reality!

The Lady Julian lived about some 650 years ago and was the recipient of several visions. She recorded them, and of one of them she wrote. ‘And in this [God] showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand… And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ Creation in her hand? She was awake for that ‘showing’ to a different view of reality.

There’s another story of a young man, one of his kind – we know that because his name is an anagram of ‘one’! You’ve probably seen the movie. In the movie, Morpheus (also the Greek god of dreams) declares to this young man, that, ‘The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Yes, Neo was living in a dream-world, and had to wake up to reality.

‘Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. Jessamyn West

Are we asleep? I mean, are we asleep?

I don’t want to suggest that this reality we find ourselves in, is a mere illusion and inconsequential, because then I would be concerned that some may erroneously believe that they don’t need to be responsible for their actions toward other people, nature or the universe. And, we do!

But there is a sense in that we are ‘asleep’.

It could be the kind of ‘rote living’. Years ago I used to travel the London Underground system quite a lot – hop on this train, walk through that tunnel, down the escalator and turn right, jump of that train and I’d reach my destination. And yet, for part of that regular journey, as I reflected say as I was boarding the last train for that journey, I’d have no memory of some of the tunnels and escalators taken. It was if I was asleep. Maybe you’ve encountered the same on a regular train trip or car journey?

Or, it could be that we’re asleep when it comes to looking at what’s happening around us. We can be so focussed on (what many call) the mundane, the material or human-event world around us, that we fail to ‘see’ a greater universe, a greater Universal Power at work. Using different ‘eyes’ we can catch glimpses, And then maybe it’s gone from our perception – but we know it’s there, we can ‘feel’ it, we can remember it, and can take heart from that encounter (until the next encounter).

‘Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.’ Werner Heisenberg,

And, there’s more. Even for those that have had glimpses of awareness, of being awake, there is a pertinent question that just begs to be asked: If we were asleep and have woken up, have we (1) unwittingly fallen asleep again, or (2) are there greater degrees of awareness yet to be experienced and so we shouldn’t be complacent or proud. This is not to unnerve you (or me) or cause any anxiety, but a gentle reminder to us that we live in a most splendid mysterious universe, at that at the heart of it is The Mystery . So, there could be, and I’ll go out on a limb, and declare that there is more. Even when we believe we’re awake, there’s more. Mae mwy.

‘The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!’

Rumi

The Art Of Encountering: Celtic Thought

20170614 THE ART OF ENCOUNTERINGAnd so there I was last evening, sitting in my little inner-city garden – some would call it a yard, but this is Fulham – with a lit candle on the garden table. The sun was now below the horizon, the sky was cloudless and a most wonderful deep, deep blue. Even a few swallows could be seen darting overhead, near the bridge.

All was fairly quiet. Peaceful. Lovely.

With my eyes closed, I said some silent prayers to send light, energy, well-well-wishes for family, friends, and, yes, for those who will be reading this, like you. And, then I stopped. Quite abruptly.

‘During each encounter, ask yourself: How does this incident bring greater awareness into my life?’ Azim Jamal & Brian Tracy

As I sat there, at that garden table, now with thoughts racing, I wondered at how easy it is to engage with people when they look like us, speak like us, have the same views as us or come form the same tribe as us. That’s encountering, I guess some would say. But, it shouldn’t stop there, I’m saying to myself, too. There’s more. Mae mwy.

What about the ones who don’t look like us, don’t sound like us, and who are marginalised and sometimes dehumanised? What about them? Ofcourse, they must be included. Yes? Isn’t that the meaning of philoxia? [Philo, an ancient Greek word for love, xenai meaning stranger].

Sometimes, it’s not until we’re the excluded ones, not until we are the strangers that the penny drops, and we realise how awful such distancing can be.

‘You shall love the stranger first of all because you know what it is to be a stranger yourself. Second of all, you shall love the stranger because the stranger shows you God [the Source of All, The Great Spirit]’, Barbara Brown Taylor

When travelling I sometimes like to visit churches on a Sunday, and though I’m a mature person, not easily ‘thrown’ and very inclusive and chatty, it is often the case, sadly, that I’ll worship alone even when the building has dozens of worshippers in it, and afterward drink coffee alone, surrounded by others who are obviously of the ‘in’ tribe. Not always the case, but it is sometimes the case. To them, I’m guessing it felt like I was an ‘it’. They were persons (an ‘I’) and it felt like I was regarded by them as less than a person. An ‘it’.

Being in an I-It relationship is no real relationship at all. A jug of water is an ‘it’. Apple peel is an ‘it’. A paving stone is an ‘it’. And, ‘it’ can be ignored and discarded.

However, just to even things up, I did have to laugh, inwardly, when at one particular church service some time ago, a person came up close and sat next to me, explained everything, absolutely everything that was going on and in great detail (although I knew the Anglican form of service very well), found the hymn for me each time (yes, I know the hymn book is arranged numerically for ease of use and the numbers are up there on the board), and then found the Bible passage for me (even though I’ve been a Christian for over forty years), but I felt welcomed, at that’s the point. To that person I was a person. Not an ‘it’, but a ‘thou’ (a ‘you’, a person approachable in some kind of relationship). They were an ‘I’ and I was a ‘thou’ from there viewpoint. From mine I was the ‘I’ and they were the ‘Thou’, and there was the relationship, the bonding,  and it worked.

Another reason I stopped praying as I sat in my little inner-city garden was that my prayer had turned into a mere shopping-list of wants, albeit for other people, but in some way I wasn’t encountering them, even spiritually. I had turned these good people into ‘its’.

‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’, ironically said #6 in the old tv series ‘The Prisoner’.

How many times have we sat in a glade or a church building and communed with the elements, elementals, angels, or God, participated in a ritual without meaning it deeply, and unknowingly distanced ourselves by doing things by rote, and regarding one or all of the aforementioned as an ‘it’, instead of focussing on the relationship between us and them, and so forging an ‘I’ to ‘thou’ (I to another ‘person’) bond? How many times have we prayed a shopping-list of prayers or conducted a ritual and speedily worked through it, only to feel a little ‘hollow’ at the end and have to acknowledge that we had been a bit glib and superficial. That we had accepted the ‘liminoid’ rather than the liminal. Sometimes that happens, doesn’t it?

Still sitting at my garden table, with rampant thoughts now subsiding, I encouraged myself to move into the ‘le point vierge’ (the virgin point), liminal space, sacred-space, that area deep within each one of us where, in silence, we can come closer to others (in an I-Thou) relationship, and indeed into such a relationship with the Other. Isn’t that what the Caim is about?

Martin Buber wrote that we may address existence in two ways: (1) The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. Or (2), The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds.

Ofcourse, if the other person is a ‘person’ then I should imagine none of us would have a problem in being able to relate.  If the other is the Source of All, that which some call God, an angel or elemental etc then, even then,  if we have the right mind-set and are ‘open’ then we can encounter deeply.

But, what about an animal? A tree? An insect? A star? Ofcourse, that is up to you to work through, depending on your theology. I must profess to finding it easier to forming an ‘I-Thou’ relationship with another person or God, than, say a tree. But, I can’t end this here. Nevertheless, in some profound way the tree, and all of creation is still more than an ‘it’. So much, much more! And so I do try to regard them, too, as part on an ‘I-Thou’ relationship. After all, I am a panentheist (like most Christians are (or were), and some Druids and others. Please note that I’m not a pantheist (but some of my best friends are pantheists), but am proud to declare that I am a panentheist).

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’. Acts 17:28, The Book.

Still, in my garden, it is now late evening. A cup of hot chocolate sits on the table – a ‘reward’ to myself and a great way to end the evening. I have now finished sending well-wishes, light, prayers, energy and positivity to others, and feel power has, indeed, gone out. And it feels good. It took some time to move into an ‘I-Thou’ relationship tonight, to move into that ‘inner sanctum’, to encounter, especially but not only when people are some geographical distance away, but that exquisite task, nay privilege, was accomplished, and it is so worth it. This is my encouragement to you, to encounter.

Relationship. Bonded. Oneness. Sameness. Achieved. Deep, deep satisfaction.

Encountering, then, is a soul-to-soul connectedness, a oneing, a relationship, rather than just proximity or geographical location, and it embraces the whole of creation.

The Art Of Physicality: Celtic Thought

20170613 THE ART OF PHYSICALITY

‘My name is known: God and King. I am most in majesty, in whom no beginning may be and no end. Highest in potency I am, and have been ever. I have made stars and planets in their courses to go. I have made a moon for the night and a sun to light the day also. I have made earth where trees and grasses spring, beasts and fowl, both great and small, all thrive and have my liking. I have made all of nothing for man’s sustentation. And of this pleasant garden that I have mostly goodly planted I will make him gardener for his own recreation.’ Godspell prologue.

The development company near where I live in London, sponsored by the big banks, felled trees, bulldozed the earth and flattened everything in sight. To watch them skilfully and easily go about their business was thought-provoking to say the least. They had a job to do and they got on with it.

Their ‘theology’ allowed them to do this willy-nilly, and they did so with an ‘evangelical’ fervour.

Why, is this so important?

One of the trees at the far end of my garden at Ty Gwyn was dead. It had started to decay, and was more of a hazard now. It needed felling. Because of its size a tree feller was needed and he skilfully cut it up piece by piece, but not before I had spoken a few words to the tree (before he had arrived). I know to many people, saying a few words to a tree is nonsensical, but there were several reasons for doing so: the tree was alive (at one time) and I wanted to acknowledge that – as a Druid I value trees and what they embody, as a Christian I accept that the Logos is ubiquitous; I also wanted to remind myself that this tree was alive well before I was born and was probably double my age when it died; I also wanted to mark this change in the garden.

‘How dear the woods are! You beautiful trees! I love every one of you as a friend.’ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Why, is this so important?

It is heart-breaking sometimes that the ‘development company’-style of regarding the environment can be embraced by some people (and some of them are people of faith). There are a number of reasons for this, I believe.

Perhaps, some take to heart the imperative in the first book of the Book where humankind is commanded to, ‘…fill the earth, and subdue it…’, Genesis 1:28b. How words are interpreted and make it into print, and how they are defined depends on the reader. And those that subdue the earth have a ‘development company’-like attitude. Rip! Strip! Flatten! Bulldoze!

If we’re commanded to subdue the earth, then why not? Except, that ‘steward’ is a better and more accurate word. If one acts as steward to the earth then one has a responsibility to care for it. And, it is my firm belief, backed up by research, that ‘steward’ is a more appropriate translation of that word in that Genesis verse.

I love my garden. Even in the city, I adore city parks. I saw a tree on a street corner, and a branch had been caught by a high-sided vehicle and ripped off. Not completely, but almost. My heart sank. I had to inform the local borough council. Trees are wonderful. Nature is beautiful. We’d be poorer without them.

But, some prefer ‘subdue’, as it’s easier to rip than plant, easier to flatten than build, easier to be reckless than accept responsibility. And maybe, some have been led to think that that’s the way it’s always been. It hasn’t.

‘A wrong concept misleads the understanding; a wrong deed degrades the whole man, and may eventually demolish the structure of the human ego.’ Muhammad Iqbal

Why, is this so important?

It’s important because the physical world matters. There is no Plan(et) B as an alternative. For Druids, like me, the forest is all important. A place to remind ourselves where we come from, what life in all its green-ness is all about (do check out Revelation 4:3 in the Book), where we are going, and a place to meditate deeply and commune. Nature is important. Ofcourse, this is not the sole preserve of Druids, and those of other faiths have a deep reverence of nature, too. After all, for Christians, like me, it all started in a garden! And, what’s more…it was ‘good’!

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ John Muir

There are some who ‘distance’ themselves from this physicality and the body, too, as though it were inferior. I once had a conversation with a pastor who was shocked by a news broadcast that talked of a political figure who may (or may not) have ‘sexed’ up a document to make it more appealing to the electorate. I agreed with him about the distastefulness of the alleged fact, only to be corrected by him as he said I had misunderstood him. His anger wasn’t at that awful re-writing of facts, but at the word ‘sex’ in the term used by the reporters, who talked about ‘sexxed-up’ document!

Why, is this so important?

Much of some peoples dislike of the word sex being used in a sentence, or perhaps even talking about sex, or the notion of procreation, is based on the understanding that it is ‘dirty’, or base or something inferior. It hasn’t always been this way.

Quick history lesson follows. Please don’t ‘switch off’. Augustine was a Manichaean, and they had some strange ideas about sex and the body, thinking that both were somewhat inferior and distasteful. Over a short period of time the (then) Pope had made it awkward and then dangerous to be anything but a Christian. Setting aside that that may have been a wrong move by the Pope, it had the effect of an over-night transformation by Augustine, who converted to Christianity. Well done Augustine. Just like that. Amazing. He was safe from persecution, and was now zealous in spreading the new faith. I apologise for upsetting some, but not all of what he preached was Christian. Old Manichaean ways die slowly, and sometimes not at all. The low esteem that the body and sex was held in, was what Augustine preached. And those that came after him adopted those Manichaean ways thinking they were, and are Christian views; and many today, think it has always been that way. It hasn’t.

‘Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.’ (Songs of Solomon 4:5). Interestingly, I’m told no part of the Book should be esteemed higher than any other…and yet, I’ve never heard a sermon on anything from the wonderful love poetry of the Songs Of Solomon.

Why, is this so important?

Because nature is good. The physical world is good. Humankind in body-form is good. Genesis and nature inform us of this. And those who demean nature, disregard the physical world and downgrade humanity’s physical form are missing out on what the Incarnation was, and is, all about.

So, I said ‘thank you’ to that faithful tree. It had to go. I know I won’t have convinced many that talking to a tree in this way isn’t a sign of me being feeble-minded, but bear with me. It focussed my attention on nature. It reminded me of Original Blessing. It led me to think of how easy it is to destroy, and that when that is necessary, absolutely necessary, we should do so slowly, considerately and reluctantly. And, it gave me time to pause. It encouraged me to plant.

‘What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. Chris Maser

And so I’ve planted two more trees in its stead, and I feel happier already.

 

 

The Art Of Perception: Celtic Thought

20170612 THE ART OF PERCEPTION 1There is a particular time in the Spring at Ty Gwyn where I live, near Capel Curig, back home in Wales, when the sunrise on the lawn is just right to ‘play’ upon the dew on the grass and light it up like a carpet of deep gold. It’s almost as if the grass is ablaze, alight like an electric fire as the sunlight grazes of the dew. And then a few minutes later, it’s gone. When my grandchildren visit I encourage patience in them to look out for it, and it’s worth it, it truly is – well, at least I think so. I’m not too sure about them.

‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it’, says Shug Avery, one of the wise women in Alice Walker’s book, The Colour Purple.

Drygrange Bridge over the River Tweed in Scotland is a place where I have to stop and pay attention. The Scottish border is some 40km behind me, at that point, as I drive north, but for me Scotland starts at Drygrange Bridge. The scenary there opens up, vast and wild, and when driving north, there is the exquisite River Tweed below, and to the left an awesome valley and the beautiful Leaderfoot Viaduct. Whenever I can, I stop the car, and spend a few minutes gazing at the scenery in awe. Words are not needed here. Indeed, they would be useless in that moment. At that moment the invisible has become visible. Do you think there is a connection between journeying, new places and perception? The unfamiliar enthrals us?

Ofcourse, the art of paying attention requires an unhurried attitude, and that’s even more difficult in our fast-paced world, today. But, it’s worth cultivating. It requires a different timescale, and a commitment to deeper perception.

Find an awesome scene and just gaze at it. Fumble for the camera, draw an outline sketch or speak into a vioce recorder about it, and the moment has gone. It’s happened to me when I’ve reached for the camera and adjusted the settings. Missed it. And what’s more, I’ve relegated myself to that of a mere observer, when I should have just gazed and basked in the glory of the event, and so would have been part of it. I-thou became I-it, sadly. Distanced!

‘…seek, and you will find…’, Matthew 7.7b

Deep perception can be practiced. It’s an acknowledgement of the other, and a surrendering, too, of analytical thought. It is about entering into the moment not as one subservient, and not as master of the moment, but as co-participant.

Paying attention is reward in itself.

As regards paying attention, the author Barbara Brown Taylor writes: ‘From behind the veils of my dark [sunglass] lenses, I study the particular human beings sitting around me [ on the subway train]: the girl with the fussy baby, the guy with the house paint all over his jeans, the couple holding hands, the teenager keeping time with both knees while he listens to music so loud it leaks from his headphones. Every one of these people had come from somewhere and is going somewhere, the same way I am. While I am sitting here thinking I am at the centre of this subway scene and they are on the edges, they are sitting there at the centre of their own scenes with me on their edges’. From her book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.

If a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual happening, then many events can rightly be regarded as a sacrament, in the widest sense of the word. What we see, the food we eat and savour – we do take our time and savour it, right? Ofcourse, we need reminding as the world’s pace closes in and we gobble our food, or eat on the way to work. I know there are occassions when that might be necessary, but do – and I’m reminding myself, too – do find the time to savour food, delight in scenary, works of art and music, and to slow down and appreciate those wonderful and yet mundane (as if anything is really mundane) moments that we might miss, otherwise, and pass them right by.

In paying attention the inivisble and spiritual realm is glimpsed in this realm, at least for those that look.

‘The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.’ Marcel Proust

The Coimimeadh & You: Celtic Thoughts When Out Jogging

20170609 THE COIMIMEADH WHEN OUT JOGGING 1Thoughts from earlier today: I’m in London. It’s early, probably about 6.30am and I’m out jogging. Well, walking now as I’ve done my stint for the day. I’m walking back home. The weather is mild, a little cool, grey cloud overhead, and it’s threatening to rain. There are few people out and out, but there are a few.

Strangers?

Have you ever noticed that when people are not in a rush, perhaps when you pass them first thing in the morning, such as I’m doing now, that there is a ‘connection’. They are more willing to look you in the eye, albeit momentarily, as you pass them by. A friendly nod of the head, perhaps a verbalised greeting and eye contact ensues. This happens a lot in this part of London – I like to think of the city as a friendly place – but there’s a deeper looking into each others soul – if that’s what it is – when passing by, unhurried, early in the morning.

Recognition?

‘When we can look into each others eyes, however briefly, without any agendas or scheme of desire or need, something indescribable and essential takes makes us more than we…’ Mark Nepo

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it’s as if I know them from some other place or time, but don’t know where and when. Odd. There’s something familiar about them. And then it’s gone as we pass each other by.

Could it be that that recognition that I see, and presumably they see in me, and I’m sure the same applies to you, is something deep and profound. It certainly feels like it.

‘Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.’  Rhonda Byrne

Could it be that in some way I am ‘seeing’ myself in them, and they see themselves in me. Do we ‘see’ ourselves in others. Not just the human condition reflected back, not just separateness, not just another human being passing you and me by, but a genuine soul-connectedness. Perhaps a recognition that is soul-to-soul, deep within, and/or of having even one-soul such as, say, at the centre of a wheel’s hub and waking up to that commonality or oneness?

‘Each time you say hello to a stranger, your heart acknowledges over and over again that we are all family.’ (Suzy Kassem)

Could it be, allied to that soul-to-soul link, that each one of us has another! Yes, you are not just one! That you have something like a spiritual doppelganger. There’s an unusual and wonderful reference to this in the Book (see Acts 12:15, The Book).

‘The angel seeing us is watching through each other’s eyes.

To ancient (Irish) Celts and Druids this mysterious being, this other-us, is the coimimeadh [pronounced koym-imah]. In the late 17th century, Reverend Robert Kirk wrote about the coimimeadh (literally the ‘co-traveller’), and wrote that it is part of you (your soul), who walks beside you, generally, but sometimes can even go walk-about (in which case you, too, can be bi-locational).

Have you ever felt another presence nearby? An elemental in the forest? An angel? Your (own) coimimeadh? Who knows?

Could it be, and I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m amongst friends, so here goes, could it be that that person and I have, indeed, met before? Yes, I’ll nail my colours to the mast and declare that I’m a firm advocate of not only accepting the existence of the life hereafter, but also of pre-life. Perhaps, that’s where I know them from. Perhaps all the people in your (earthly) life and mine, all those that we fleetingly ‘see’ deeply in the early morning (or in similar settings) are friends from that realm of pre-existence? And, they have been put here as your companions to assist each you on our journey back home, and you for them?

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..’ Jeremiah 1.5a

Meanwhile, I’m almost back home, and the person passing me right now has quickened their pace and is looking down. Perhaps, they’re not someone I met in pre-life, perhaps not a coimimeadh, perhaps not my soul-reflection or an angel as no deep connected is felt. Perhaps they aren’t soul-open?. Or, perhaps I’ve got it completely wrong.

Now time for a shower, and to make myself look presentable again.

‘My soul is not asleep. It is awake, wide awake. It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches, its eyes wide open far-off things, and listens at the shores of the great silence.’ (Antonio Machado)

But, in any case, it’s only good manners to be polite, and smile and greet strangers, first thing in the morning (and at other times), isn’t it? As it says somewhere, ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.’

But, what do you think?

Hiaku #9: Mundānus? Or, ‘The Man In The Window’

20170608 HAIKU 9 MUNDANUSAs you know I really like the traditional haiku – short poems consisting of three lines, and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five.

Here’s some recent haiku penned by yours truly with you in mind, preceded by a brief introduction.

My late dad used to look forward to our thrice-weekly visit to a local café, and if he could, he would always choose a table by one of the large windows that overlooked a busy main road. Talking, supping coffee, reading on his kindle or gazing out of the café window and watching people, buses and cars going by, he loved the simple things in life, and lived life to the full. He referred to himself, jokingly, as the man in the…well, best to read the haiku, below.

Watching the world pass.
Enthralled by its pace. The ‘man
in the window’, laughs.

Whatever work we do, we provide something unique in the universe that only we can do in our own inimitable way. There are no sacred or mundane tasks. All are the same in the sight of the Universe, the Source of All. All are creative outpourings, albeit using the broadest, but no less true, definition of that word.

Artist. Mechanic.
Office worker. Musician.
Love ‘solidified’.

And, one of the most arduous tasks, that is greatly appreciated by me when I’m in Fulham (in London) – and liked by others, I’m sure – around autumn time, is the tough work of the ‘road sweepers’, who clear the pavement so diligently of fallen leaves – a ‘slide’ hazard, when wet, to the elderly etc.

Remembering Fall.
Great workers go unnoticed?
Until now. Much loved.

What we do, and that can be outworked in a myriad of ways, has an effect whether we see the result or not, or even whether we know it or not. Be encouraged. It is easy to fall into comparing our work with others, but our creative work, service work, Christian prayers, Light-worker energy-sending, Druid rituals, liturgy or time spent in listening to others etc, and/or appreciating wonders of nature around us,  are all equally magnificent, of worth and greatly valued. If it seems no one notices, rest assured that the Source of All notices, and blessings will come back to you, albeit in different ways, a thousand-fold.

Words of love, actions,
thoughts, ritual, liturgy.
All have great meaning.

And, my final haiku for today, a blessing to you for reading this, is below:

You are greatly loved.
The Source of All sings to you
and those whom you love.

Blessings, Tadhg

 

[Apologies for the misspelling of the word haiku. Ooops. To err is human.]