There was a time, as a very wee lad in Capel Curig, when I believed I was so brave and knowledgeable. I could navigate the distance between my grandmother’s house at the small stream at the furthest boundary of her garden. And, there it was, a rivulet I called ‘Bach ac yn gyflym’ [see here]. It means ‘small and fast’. Very apt. Very Welsh.
I thought of that watery boundary as almost the end of the world, and indeed it was then the end of my known world. And, such is a child’s imagination that I imagined that beyond it lay a wild place, full of dangerous animals, and half expected a lion to stroll by.
You’ll be pleased to know that as I grew up little by little, and so my boundaries changed, and widened. Some time later I ventured to step over the rivulet, and with my friends I ‘discovered’ Y Goeden Mellt [see here], a place to play together. This was our name for a most unusual, lone tree in a clearing, which seemingly had an ominous presence. It means ‘the lightning tree’, as we knew then that lone trees had an increased chance of being struck by lightning.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
And, ever outward, as a young explorer I strode even further into the Welsh countryside, and I and my friends then spent considerable time, still children, playing around a tree that seemingly was two trees that grew apart and then arched back to form a ‘door’. Yes, as children, with vivid imaginations we saw this as the door to other words, and named it Drws-i-fyd-arall [see here], the ‘door to another world’. Oh, the fun we had there.
As I grew so my knowledge of geography, boundaries and perception changed. My circle of geographical ‘comfortableness’ widened. I like the idea of the metaphor here of the circle – ancient Christians, Pagans, Druids and other cultures revered or understood the circle to be a representation of the eternal, immortality, the never-ending journey, a ‘finger’ pointing to the Mystery, and more.
And, so my boundaries widened, perhaps almost imperceptibly, until one day I reflected upon how I thought as a child I was knowledgeable and brave, but actually how limited I was. However, I would never disparaged that younger version of me even in my memory – we all have to start somewhere – but now I can see clearly (as that old song says).
But, my views today are different to then, and one would expect that. Fast-forward to the present, and very recently I found myself at the Festival of Mind, Body & Spirit (Wellbeing) Festival in London, where my new views came to the fore.
The Festival is a wonderful kaleidoscope of peoples and philosophies, a cacophony of rhythm and sound, bright lights, and a myriad of vying energies, and yes, to be honest, a rather large dose of money-orientated materialism – but it gets everywhere.
But, I love the Festival.
I had a long talk with a guy who held a Bible close. We talked, we laughed, we agreed on much, and yes, disagreed on a few things. We looked at verses in the Book and he interpreted them one way – the way I might have twenty years ago – and I shared how another (maybe a better) interpretation existed. I would like to share with you that he accepted my interpretation without question, but he didn’t.
I may not complete this last one
but I will give myself to it.
Oh, how I wished that, when I was his age, someone would have come up to me with a new, different and challenging interpretation, less materialistic view of the Book to ‘open my eyes’. As we concluded our discussion – and it was all very pleasant and cordial – I really wished, inwardly, that I was able to write to my younger self what I know now, and that his future self was doing the same for him, now.
And, now here’s the irony. I’m Tadhg Jonathan (and I’m happy for people to use one or both names, whichever is easiest), and as I wished him all the best and said, ‘I’m Tadhg Jonathan, and by the way, you are….?’, he replied, ‘Jonathan’!
As I walked away it struck me. In speaking to the guy with the same name as me, with similar views I held some twenty years ago, even if we wrote a letter to our younger self (or our future self wrote to us today), would we accept the content of that letter, or would the knowledge or wisdom contained therein be too odd, bizarre or unsettling for us? I don’t think I would have? Would you?
Life is a mystery that slowly unfolds. A series of enlarging boundaries. What I knew twenty years ago is different to what I know now, and I’m hoping it is the same for you. Because we move toward the edge of our current boundary filled with new ideas of knowledge and wisdom, only to see a further boundary of knowledge and wisdom in the distance urging us ever forward. We then realise that we may know more than twenty years ago, but at the next boundary we will look back at ourselves knowing we really only knew in part, and so it goes on and on and on.
It’s a never-ending journey, and perhaps each step of the way we’re given what is sufficient to us to spur us onward, and in some cases that knowledge, wisdom or experience is for us and no one else?
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
Perhaps the great mission we each have is to support those around us on their journey, realising that events in their life will, inevitably, be different from ours. ‘You cannot put an old head on new shoulders’, so the saying goes. Perhaps, then, our work (or part of it) is to ‘travel’ with those around us on their journey, encouraging them to experience things for themselves, realising that they will appreciate the assistance of encouragement, as we do from those further along the journey than us. Because, in the end, there are many things we don’t know. ‘…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25.40b, The Book).
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
There is a time, and for me it’s now (and it may be the same for you), when I realise that I know a lot, and the ‘biggest’ thing I know is that I, and you, have only just started out on our never-ending cosmic adventure, our journey to get ‘back home’, and for that we need each other because there is so much we don’t know. And as we peer into the distance, there, just there, can you see it, is another boundary urging us ever onward.
[The indented words, a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke]