I was recently fortunate enough to spend some time on the Isle of Iona. Here’s one reflection as I look back: I’m on the beach, near the water’s edge, and I’m looking out to sea. Grey clouds hang in the sky, and there’s a gale blowing in. There’s no one about, no one except a few squeaking seagulls flying high above me. And, it’s wonderful.
The sun is hidden by thick clouds so much so, that it is impossible to locate its position. The sea air is salt-filled and damp. The air is cold, crisp, and fresh. Mighty waves crash loudly against nearby rocks with ferocious and unbridled power. It is nature wild and rugged, and it’s beautiful.
I’m alone. I’m standing on the Machair, (pronounced ‘makker’), the ‘raised beach’ on the westward side of the Isle of Iona – which is part of Scotland’s remote islands of the Inner Hebrides.
Yesterday when I was here my thoughts were calm, my mind quiet. Not so today. Thoughts come and go as I ponder on priorities. Any yet, it seems right to let the thoughts come and go, to let them surface and not to stifle them.
‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ William James
There are two thousand acres of island behind me, and a population of less than one hundred and fifty souls. In front of me there is nothing but sea. Just open water, wind-swept turbulent ocean. There is nothing for two thousand miles – I expected it to be more – until one encounters Nain, a town on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, which has a population about 1400 people. Each with different priorities to the small community here, and both Nain and Iona with different priorities to those who live in cities, and different priorities to me and you. Connected, but seprate, and each of our priorities all equally important.
That’s the main thought that runs endlessly around in my mind, as I stand on this isolated beach. What really is important? What actually lasts?
Right now, some of my friends in response to those questions, I think, would say action is important. I do believe, sometimes, that that is so. Others would say prayer or ritual is important, and I do believe there are occasions when that is right. Others would tell me that right doctrine is all important, and that less than that displeases God. Doctrine and what we believe may be important, at times, but right here, right now all of the aforementioned seems relevant to me. Right now the wind blows where it wishes, and another voice, underneath the murmur of the wind, whispers to my spirit albeit with great clarity.
‘The end of all my labours has come. All that I have written appears to be as much as straw after the things that have been revealed to me.’ Thomas Aquinas
It is a disconcerting fact to know that what I think is important, may not actually be important. That what I think pleases God, elementals or Spirit maybe not actually please God, the elementals or Spirit, and that others may be closer to the Source than me or you. To my embarrassment, in the past, I have put myself in a position of believing I knew the truth as though it was all-important, only to realise that I knew very little. None of us do, in cosmic terms, know that much. And the comforting thing is: we’re not expected to. Knowledge will take us so far; wisdom will take us much further. Bu, there’s more.
The idea that at the end of time we all face an intelligence test, a right doctrine test or some other rest, to ensure that we’ve been on the right track is an error. What then is our priority for now?
What should our priority be? However we interpret it, however we work it out in our daily life, at home, at school, at work etc, whatever we do, there is an underlying priority and ‘force’ that seeks primacy. Yes, we can still work hard, pray, write and recite liturgy and doctrine etc, but what is our priority on the cosmic scale? There’s more!
Whatever we do love should surely be its foundation. Anything less than that, just makes us a hardworker, a liturgist, a ceremonialist, and probably condemnatory others, as though we have the monopoly on what is right and wrong. The wind blows where it wishes, and it is for me to understand that. I am not the door-keeper admitting others that conform to my doctrine; rather the Source, the Wind, Spirit is the one who ‘admits’, and the Source is inclusive and welcoming to all. The Wind blows where it wishes. I do believe the Wind is blowing in your life.
‘The power of Love, a force from above, cleaning my soul…’. Gabrielle Aplin
What is my priority? To keep up with the Wind, or rather the One who rides on the back of the wind. And not to keep up as if to exert myself in some frantic way, but rather to hold out my arms, as I stand on this windswept beach, as though my arms were mighty sails on a boat, and to revel in the knowledge that wherever the Wind blows is where I want to be. Isn’t that the same for you? And the depth of care for each one of us behind the Wind is love. Love.
The wind has picked up on this beach, and the storm comes ever closer. I might like to think I am in control, but the weather doesn’t obey me, and the Source is not at my behest, either. It is easy to fall into thinking that. The Wind blows where it wishes. And, so far as is practicable (as we all have commitments to honour) what a joy to be known as Windswept – to allow ourselves to be blown about by the Wind, the Spirit and to enjoy the journey, to know Love and extend love to others. How we work that out is for each one of us to work on, as it will be different depending on events that present themselves to us – but when opportunity to be open to the Spirit occurs, to experience Love and to pass love on, we will know.
Suddenly my priorities don’t seem that important. Another voice can be heard under the murmur of the wind, and it calls to me, it calls to you, wherever you are. I am on a windswept beach on Iona, but there is no distance between each one of us – we’re all connected – and no distance of separation for the Wind, for the wind blows where it wishes.
‘The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.’ Victor Hugo