The Child And The Beach: A Story Of Encouragement

20170725 THE CHILD AND THE BEACH A STORY OF ENCOURAGEMENTI always like feedback from the articles that I write, and love constructive and encouraging words. Over the last few days it has been heart-warming to read comments and emails – responses that underline that ‘it starts with us’, ‘we can contribute to the fabric of the universe, we matter, you matter, matter matters, and then someone mentioned one of my favourite words (well, two words), that is, tukkun olam. I love the concept. It has many broad and deep meanings, but the one that is in my mind now is that of you and I ‘repairing’ or ‘completing’ the world. Wonderful.

With that in mind, and you know how I love stories, here’s a story I found and mentioned some time ago but it bears repeating because it is so true, so profound and yet so simple, and it is so encouraging.

The ancient Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids of old would have sat around the evening’s camp fire  and told stories to each other – the ‘telling place’. Some of these stories would be of their tribal history, great leaders and heroes of the past, perhaps for amusement, and sometimes the stories would be great cosmic stories of creation, and sometimes stories would contain a deep moral buried within and which the hearer would have to discern. Latter-day Celts, Celtic Christians and Druids still tell wonderful stories, and here’s a meaningful story just for you:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young child in the distance, seemingly playing.

As the man drew nearer he noticed that the child kept bending down, picking something up, and then running to the edge of the sea, and throwing it into the water. Time and again the child kept hurling things into the ocean and then ran back.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the child was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time the child would run to the water’s edge and throw them back into the sea.

The man asked the child what they were doing, and the child replied,” I am throwing these washed-up starfish back into the ocean, Mister, or else they will die through lack of oxygen.

“But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach alone, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly save them all.”

The child smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as they threw it back into the sea, gleefully shouted, “I know, but I can make a difference to this one.”

Little by little, in large and small ways, we can make a difference. Never give up doing good.

 

Enjoying The Journey One Step At A Time: Celtic Thought

20170721 ENJOYING THE JOURNEY ONE STEP AT A TIMESomeone once said that when we point the finger in judgement on others, there are three fingers pointing back. With that is mind, I sat on the covered porch at the back of the house today, having a mid-day snack and listening to the radio. The weather wasn’t too good today: the temperature’s had dropped, it was cloudy and raining. But, this is to be expected. It’s Wales.

Did you know that in this part of Wales it rains for about 330 days each year – albeit light drizzle and sometimes during the night and so it’s not noticeable, but it rains a lot. And I love it. We get our fair share of heat and sunshine, too, but at some point throughout a twenty-four hour period it will rain.

Listening to the radio, and as is common these days, it seemed doom and gloom was everywhere. I know there are many good things happening, and that if we just listen to the mass media our views can be skewed, and we can easily end up with ‘mean world’ syndrome – thinking that everything is horrid.

‘If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.’ (Rainer Maria Rilke)

As the radio newscaster talked about public borrowing, the rise in inflation, the rise in crime, and the uncertainties of ‘Brexit’, and the ineptitude of some politicians, my mind wandered as to possible solution. Ofcourse, the answer was for them to ‘sort themselves out’, ‘they’ should be more pro-active, ‘that group’ should desist, if only the government would do ‘this’ or ‘that’, and so my thoughts raced. The fault was them! Not me, ofcourse. At least that was one train of thought.

I came across an interesting story – and you know I love stories – and here’s one by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I’d like to share with you, and it’s one that made me sit up and think. It goes like this:

A scientist who ‘wrestled’ with some of the world’s toughest problems was resolute in finding the means to reduce them. He would spend so many, many days in his laboratory searching answers for the challenges that he was working on.

One day his seven year old son invaded his sanctuary wanting to help him with his work. The scientist, nervous by the interruption, asked his son to go play somewhere else. But, his son protested, and so his father thought of something that would keep the child busy.

Suddenly, he found just what he needed. A magazine with a map of the world on one of its pages.

With a pair of scissors he cut the map into pieces and together with a roll of tape gave it to his son telling him, “Since you like puzzles, I am going to give you the world all cut up for you to repair without anyone’s help.’

He calculated that it would take his son about 10 days to reconstruct the map.
However, after only a few hours, he heard his son’s voice calling him, “Daddy, Daddy I’ve finished.’

At first his father didn’t believe him. He thought that it would be impossible that at his age he was able to reconstruct a map of the world that he had never seen before. He looked at his son’s handiwork, and the pieces had, indeed, been put back in the right places.

How was that possible? How could a child do this? The father dumbfounded asked his child, “My child you did not see what the map looked like, so how did you do it?’

‘Daddy,’ the child answered,  ‘I didn’t know what the world looked like, but when you took out the map from the magazine to cut it, I saw that on the reverse side there was the figure of a man. So I turned the pieces over and step by step began to reconstruct the man that I had seen and did know. When I was able to reconstruct the man I then turned the page over and saw that I had fixed the world.’

Ofcourse, the ‘blaming others’ train of thought, so easy to do, decreased and another train of thought sprang to mind. If we want to change the world, if we want to ‘fix the world’, then we need to ‘reconstruct the man’ (or woman) – that is, we need to start with ourselves.

This is not to say that we berate ourselves, not to say we have to be tough on ourselves, but that gently, lovingly, progressively, slowly we see ourselves as ‘a work in progress’, and daily make positive changes to grow, mature and be transformed. We don’t need to wait until we’ve made it or are perfect, and so we can start right now (if we haven’t already done so). And, it needn’t be a chore. There is much to do that is a delight, and other things that only you can do. Yes, you have a calling (to do, or to discover), and once we’re on that ‘journey’ of making a change in our lives we’ll also find that we’re making changes in other peoples lives and making a difference in the world.

‘Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.’
Marianne Williamson

What kind of difference will depend on you and I, and the part of the world we live in. But, I do believe we start with ourselves, and then by what we plan to do a major change will take place in the world, bit by bit, one step at a time. And it doesn’t stop there. I do believe, even without our knowing it, almost by ‘osmosis’ our lifestyle will ‘rub off on others’ and by just living that lifestyle positive changes around us will happen.

Haven’t you even been in someone’s company and they’ve just exuded life and love even without saying a word? By them just being close, a positive effect is wrought. Haven’t you been to a church service, a Druid ritual or listened to a piece of music and been inspired to ‘do’ something or to ‘be’? Or, it could be for us to pause, periodically, or stop, or surrender, perhaps? These are glimpses of energy – ouranic energy – portals to the Other, and the Spirit flows, and opportunities that do a wonderful work in us ripple outward in observed and unobserved ways. But, it starts with us, doesn’t it? All of us!

‘Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ (Revelation 21:5, part. The Book)

So, as I sat on the porch listening to the radio the predominant thought was then, that it has to start with us, and bit by bit, one by one, slowly the world changes for the better. It sounds naïve, but what have we to lose. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

As the child in that story said: ‘When I was able to reconstruct the man (or woman) I then turned the page over and saw that I had fixed the world.’ A new, transformed world is coming. Indeed, it has already started growing within this one, and it starts with us. But, don’t beat yourself up. We’re a work in progress. Enjoy the journey.

Blessed Dawn: Book Of The Hours

20170720 BLESSED DAWN BOOK OF THE HOURSIt’s almost sunrise. To the east, from here in Capel Curig, sunrise will appear over some of the most scenic of north Welsh mountains of Carnedd y Cribau in a few moments. It’s almost the start of a new day. Nearly, but not quite yet. There’s a hush in the air. A sense of anticipation. All is still.

The sun’s rising is recounted in ancient Celtic and Druid stories of Lugh – dont forget the celebration of Lughnasadh, harvest celebration in about two weeks. Lugh, representing the sun would ‘die’ each evening some say, only to be ‘reborn’ each morning at sunrise. A quotidien resurrection. An opportunity to start afresh. A brand new day to do something positive, to change things, and to enjoy the moment.

There is something ‘magical’ about the dawn. It is a time when the night gives way to the oncoming new day, darkness gives way to light, and secrets and potential are ‘cracked’ open to reveal the glory and majesty of yet another day to enjoy. It’s easy to ‘roll over’ and miss sunrise, it’s possible to be so caught up in the fast pace of our society that we miss the new opportunities given to us each day, and probable that the pressures of the day will ‘crowd out’ this wonder time of spiritual encounter.

Today, the ‘slate is wiped clean’. ‘Seize the day’. Plattitudes? Yes, but nevertheless still ever-so true.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you;
don’t go back to sleep.

(Rumi)

And then the sun rises. Bright and new, yellow and fresh, dawn’s light floods into my eyes. A fresh start. A new beginning. Each sunrise is a call to our own daily resurrection. We rise in anticipation, and yet wonder what the day will unveil. For some it will be a happy day, for others a tough day, and for others a sad day – a mixture of these, and more. But, it will be a day like no other. Unique in ever way. Joyous? Joy is an attitude of mind they say, and so, at each sunrise choose joy, regardless of circumstances. The sun has risen.

And, then the day begins.
The son of Hyperion rises on the horizon
in all his brilliance, and
pierces the mist,
and heralds the start of a new day.
The Sun appears.
I find myself standing in awe, in praise of the Sun of righteousness.
Orans.

(Tadhg. Part of the poem: Gökotta [Revisited). Full poem can be viewed here).

Dawn provides us with ‘new’ time to do new things. At each dawn we can:

  • give praise out loud for the beauty of nature, for life itself
  • marvel at the fact that we are the consciousness of the Universe, able to look back on itself
  • revel in the love of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves
  • desire to make this as good a day as possible whether in praising others, working well, relaxing, listening to others, or experiencing loss, and keening
  • praise and mature by ‘going deep’ and entering silence, or with ritual etc

Ancient sacred text is says: Walk in wisdom…making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5 part. The Book). Truly words of wisdom. It is easy to ‘kill time’, to get so caught up on dwelling in the past, over-planning for the future, and the hustle-and-bustle of daily ‘pressures’ that we miss the present moment, are oblivious to current opportunities, and before we know it dusk approaches fast. No, use the time we have, and use it wisely.

‘Dawn is ever the hope of men’ (J R R Tolkien).

Dawn is a time of celebration, a time to greet the new day. The following poem or liturgy, depending how you use it, is so approriate, and has been used by me on many ocassions as verbal liturgy or an unspsoken prayer.

Slowly comes the morning,
softly comes the dawn
slowly and softly – softly and slowly.
Dear gift of Dawn, you come with rays of light.
I call forth my joy to greet the dawn.
In the marrow of my bones, I rejoice.
From the centre of my soul I rejoice.
In my heart of hearts, I rejoice.
From the home of my body, I rejoice.
With all my being, I rejoice.
Dear Gift of Dawn, I rejoice.

(Macrina Wiederkehr)

And, as I gaze eastward the sun is well and truly risen. The sun and all of creation are in a state of praise. Indeed as other ancient text recorded: we shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: and the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into joyous singing, and all the trees of the field, with their branches raised heavenward, will clap their hands…and, yes, stones, even stones and rocks will sing. What better way to greet the sun and the dawn of new hope than with praise by humankind. And so, do mark a sunrise whenever you can, and mark that time with verbal praise, liturgy, a poem or ritual…or with the silent witness of your soul. Sunrises are beautiful, ‘magical’, God-given times. Draw near.

But, there’s more. Remember Rumi’s wise words: Your light is more magnificent than that of sunrise or sunset.’ Now, there’s something to ponder on.

 

Sacred Twilight: Book Of The Hours

20170719 SACRED TWILIGHT BOOK OF THE HOURS

My eyes scan the horizon of your goodness.
The incense of gratitude rises as an evening prayer.

(Macrina Wiedekehr)

To the west, in the distance, is one of my favourite haunts, a holy place to me – though, isn’t the whole Earth holy?. I can just about make out Glyder Fawr (pronounced ‘glider vor’). And, it is there, over Glyder Fawr, that the beautiful sun is now setting, becoming paler and seemingly less luminous as it does.

Sunset is so marvellous that even the sun itself watches it every day in the reflections of the infinite oceans!

(Meh e Murat Ildan)

But to me, after you have spent many times climbing Glyder Fawr to its ‘prehistoric monster, ‘spiny-looking” top; that’s what it reminds me of: a stegosaurus’ back – it is a holy place, and as I gaze at it from afar, so, too, is this a holy place (and, indeed, wherever you are is holy, too).

At this time of the day, twilight, a time of gloaming, ancient and present-day monks would attend vespers – monastic evening prayers. At the end of a busy day that they may have had, that you and I have had, this hour, the twilight hour, the sixth hour, sext, is a time of courage, recommitment, and passion.

Oh send out your light and your truth; left them lead me;
Let the, bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

(Psalm 43:3, The Book)

It is a time for each one of us to pause and remember who we are. As Celts, Celtic-Christians, Druidic-Christians, Druids etc, we are invited to reclaim our status of: The Cosmos made conscious, Caretaker of the Earth, And Temple of Divine Light.

So, this evening, here’s a few thing I gently thought about, and which you might want to gently consider one evening:

  • What was your greatest received blessing of the day?
  • Did you have an opportunity to bless another?
  • What one task can you smile about?
  • Was there anything that went unfinished (and which you can do tomorrow and so be blessed, then)?
  • What occurred today for which you are grateful?
  • How will you relax this evening – otium sanctum? How can you ensure you have a ‘sacred pause’?
  • Is there anyone you need to make peace with before the day finally ends?

Twilight is a special time of the day. The day is ending, night has not yet come; and we’re in that in-between time period, a ‘magical’ moment, the soul’s hour, a ‘thin place’ (Caol áit in Irish-Galeic, and pronounced ‘kweel awtch’). Here and now it feels as though anything can happen. At this hour ‘doors’ open to untold possibility and encounter. It is no wonder the ancients would gather together at this time to eat, to enjoy each other’s company and to hear the stories of those heroes of old.

As I drive home on a narrow curving road,
someone tailgates, itching to go faster,
not knowing he’s flesh and fragile.

Slowed by sadness and sick of pressure,
I pull onto the gravel shoulder, let him shoot by.
And on my right
catch sight of a great blue heron
standing tall and still in the aisle
made by two rows of towering trees.

Like a priest in feathered robes,
he bows his head three times
before an altar of mountain bluffs.
It’s dusk, and the moon, just rising,
illuminates his wings as they open in benediction
for evening flight.

His parting call:
‘Stay awake,
Holiness may spread its wings for you at any moment.’

(Patricia A. Lunetta (quoted in Pilgrim Walk by the Sea by Susanne Hassell))

At such a time as this, where and when ‘thin places’ occur, the veil between this world and the Other is ‘thin’, ‘thinner’ than before, and Earth and heaven touch. Glimpses of the Divine occur in a myriad of ways: the felt embrace of the Presence, an elemental or dryad spied out of the corner of your eye, something inexplicably alerts you to the glory of nature all around you, or some other glimpse of significance occurs externally or internally.

The Presence is here, with you now; and mysteriously, this time, twilight, is nature’s cool breath as she exhales love. It is time for you to inhale.

 

Learning To Breathe Under Water: Celtic Thoughts On Life

20170718 LEARNING TO BREATHE UNDER WATERI’m sitting in the garden again. The sun has just risen. It’s early. The day is fresh. I’m sitting at the garden table with a coffee in one hand and a book of poetry in the other hand.

Hush. The Presence is here.

My actions feel like a pre-ordained ritual and the book of poetry a time liturgy. Around me are ‘pews’ cunningly disguised as hedges and fences, and the ‘parishioners’ are trees and their branches are really hands raised heavenward in praise. Nature is my church. The Source of All is all around us. The God of Green Hope is gracious to all.

And, I thought deep thoughts as I sat at the garden table, and I read some ‘liturgy’.

There are times in life when things don’t run smoothly. We so often want the life-journey to be smooth and without any ‘judders’, and yet life is seldom like that. I do believe the aim is not to get to the end of this life without any cracks and dents. But maybe the aim is to have lived fully the hand that has been dealt us, and as we stand, one day, covered in scars, slightly scorched, and covered in band-aids, and to look That Which Is Larger Than Us in the eye and give thanks for the ride that involved love (and yes, because we loved there will be heartache too, maybe in proprtion to our love).

I build my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you,
not on the shifting sand.

Each one of us is different. Unique. What we experience, a facet of reality, will be different to the way it is experiened by everyone else. Our reactions will be different, too. The thing we have in common…is that we’re all so different. And, so our life is like a house by a storm-tossed sea that we inhabit…for now. We do our best, we make the most of things. And life is good.

And I built it on rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbours.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences,
respectful, keeping our distance
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.

We get familiar with the way things are, and yet if we’re honest, bit by bit we know things are changing. I find it easy to make new friends. I love it when their are new births to celebrate, new joys like new jobs that arise, or a handfasting or engagement, or wedding etc (whether it’s of a family member or close friend, or I’m the celebrant at such events).

Boundaries are wonderful things to hem in joy. But, I weep when a family member or close friend goes ‘home’, and passes through that boundary. Are we not all alike? Isn’t the beach a boundary between the land and sea, like a ‘gap’ between here and the Other, metaphorically, like the barrier between life and Life here-after, Heaven, the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress).

Always the fence of sand our barrier,
always the sand between.

And yet, life like sand in an hour-glass continues to flow. Time flows. Relentless. Make the most of each day. Life maybe built on solid rock, but sand around it flows. Tempus fugit.

And then one day
(and I still don’t know how it happened)
the sea came.
Without warning.
Without welcome even.

Life is never smooth. Unexpectedly there are ‘ups and downs’, life-traumas, ailments (and doesn’t it seems that when such things are witnessed in family and dear friends, and we look on, it is worse than it actually happening to us), the loss of family and dear friends and other ‘judders’ occur. Such events catch us by surprise.

This is life, isn’t it? For now.

Not sudden and swift,
but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.

And, as I sit here drinking the final gulp of coffee, thoughts continue to flow.

So many family and friends have it tough. Perhaps if they look at my life they will think the same. We each have life-trauma we keep covered, but it’s there, and it’s a mark of our ‘human-ness’. And yet, when we’re ‘going through it’, the last thing we want is an academic appraisal, someone to tell us that ‘they know’. It feels so personal. It is! How can anyone else know. We experience life differently, and react differently.

If this is ‘you’, then you’re not alone.

And I thought of flight, and I thought of drowning, and I thought of death.
But while I thought, the sea crept higher till it reached my door.
And I knew that there was neither flight nor death nor drowning.

When ‘judders’ occur, we change. When I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer about ten years ago (and by the grace of God and the NHS health-care system in the UK ‘defeated it) my motto was ‘business as usual’, but deep down I knew nothing would be the same.

We adapt.

That when the sea comes calling you stop being good neighbours,
Well acquainted, friendly from a distance neighbours.
And you give your house for a coral castle.

This maybe life for now. There is an ancient story about King Solomon wanting a ring that would make a happy man become sad if he looked at it, and a sad man happy. He sent a servant by the name of Beniah to look for it. He had a year in which to find it. Beniah travelled the globe, returning without it and with only one day to go. And yet. on that final day he found the ring in the local market. That evening he approached King Solomon. As soon as King Solomon read the inscription on the ring the smile vanished from his face. The jeweller had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.” At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things. Yes, everything changes.

And you learn to breathe under water.

We change.

Life teaches us that when the wind blows; lean into the storm. When the sun burns, seek shadow. When it rains, seek the shelter of a mature tree. And, when we seem to be engulfed by water, up to and over our heads, we adapt, we really do – you do – we, metaphorically, learn to breathe underwater. It’s a times like that that we ‘step out’ of ‘normality’.

It is one of the reasons I believe that I am blessed with great friends who are latter-day Celts, Celtic Christians, Druidic Christians, Druids, Pagans and others, who ‘see’ life differently, share their buoying-up worldviews and beliefs with me, and I see life differently, anew, bigger than the life-trauma, bigger and brighter than anything previously imagined. As in says in ancient text: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

With no more coffee left, I had finished reading that poem – the liturgy for life. For all its difficult times, and whatever we’re going through right now life has a habit of reminding us that we’ve come this far, and to take heart for the rest of this wonderful journey, that we will make it through this ‘storm’.

And that barrier between life and Life here-after, Heaven, the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress), that event when this life ends is really just the beginning. Mae mwy – ‘there is more’, is my favourite Welsh phrase. Oh there is so much more. But, not just yet. Today, we live life to the full and seek joy – which is not dependant on felt events – and are blessed in doing so, whether we feel it or know it or not. Hush, the Presence is (t)here.

You are blessed.

(The poem read at the coffee table this morning, this life liturgy, was by Carole Bialock and is entitled ‘Learning to breathe under water’, and is used here interspersed through my writing as indented block-quotes)

Hymn For Gŵyl Awst 2017 (Harvest): Celtic Resources

20170717 HYMN FOR GWYL AWST HARVEST 2017I know it’s a little early (only by a few weeks), but I couldn’t resist but ‘air’ it now. On a few occasions in the recent past I’ve used ancient Gaelic tunes and re-wrote the words to express modern-yet-ancient Celtic, Celtic-Christian, Druidic-Christian, Druid etc liturgies and/or hymns.

And, today I’ve used another, wonderful ancient Irish-Gaelic tune as a hymn of gratitude for the four seasons, the four elements, and especially the bounty of the forthcoming harvest-time (though without the music it can still be used as liturgy).

The season of harvest, called Lammas by some, Lughnasadh by others, or Gŵyl Awst as I and my Welsh brethren call it, isn’t too far away, but whatever you call it please do mark the time with joy and gratitude, and some special event to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.

The tune that ‘fits’ the following words and a link to it, are at the base of the page.

HYMN FOR HARVEST

Lord of the harvest we come to you,
we thank you for the ripened grain
(for) the circle turning year by year.

Great provider of all humankind,
we thank you for the sun and wind,
the earth and all life-giving rain.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Nature once in vernal green enrobed,
gives up its bounty, gifts for all
(and) prepares to sleep as autumn comes.

On our table you supply our bread,
We share with all, for all to be fed,
And joy in our heart at what shall be.

Surely, surely, you are good,
The God of Green Hope, good to all.
The Sacred Three, The Three in One.

Inspired by: Lord of the Harvest, Hymn by Joseph Anstice, 1836

To the tune of Siuil a Ruin

‘Green hope’ a Romans 15:13, ‘The Message’, The Book, reference.

To get an idea of how the words above fit the tune Siuil a Ruin, please click the link below. That recording plays (a little preamble introduction and then) two verses followed by a chorus and this fits exactly the first two verses and chorus of the words above. You should then repeat the same tune just played for the next two verses and chorus in the words printed above.

However, after the link-music plays its first two verse and chorus it ‘departs’ a little and may not be helpful here. So, for the music to ‘fit’ the words above, please just listen to the recording’s first two verses and chorus (music), and repeat them. Simple! I hope. Any queries, please contact me (and yes, I might even sing it for you). The music link is here.

Harvest blessings to you and yours, Tadhg.

 

 

 

Consider The Oak & Be Wise: Celtic Thoughts On Being Human

20170713 CONSIDER THE OAK AND BE WISEThere are some splendid oak trees at the far end of the garden, here in Capel Curig, and it’s a delight on hot days like today to sit under one of them, with a good book, and a cup of coffee. Bliss.

I love trees, and especially these large, oak, so full-of-other-worldly wisdom. Wonderful and mighty, majestic oak trees.

Some way through my relaxing read I put the book down, and picked up a new, picked off-the-shop shelf, psychology magazine. I like to keep abreast of what’s going. As one would expect, sadly, many of the advertisements were telling me what I was missing and how a four part course would assist me to live life to the full, or how one new book would allow me to become individuated in ten easy steps, or how a trip half way around the world and to a certain mountain would allow a Divine encounter, and so it went on.

‘So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out…’ Matthew 24:26a, The Book

We live in a time when we’re saturated with ‘self-help’ books, and I even saw a course on how to read the Bible. With an inward, wry smile I answered that predicament by thinking one only has to pick up the Bible and read it. But, no! Reducing it to bite-size chunks, even though I could do that myself, was an indispensable and much-need book for your bookshelf, or so the advertisement said. And, they would sell it to you for a handsome price.

With all of this comes, if we’re not careful, a general malaise, a feeling that we’re all  missing out, a feeling that everyone is getting on but we’re not, a feeling that something is missing and someone else has the answer…and it’s wrong. It is an advertisers delight, but an ‘assault’ on the individual.

‘Do not let the roles you play in life make you forget that you are human.’ (Roy T Bennett)

Ofcourse, we mature slowly and others may help, and other resources can assist. We can advance in a particular field, from being ‘new’ and a ‘novice’ to being ‘proficient’ and books and courses may assist, and that’s all good – but, where it counts the most, in your heart, your core, your bring, soul or spirit, you are what you are, and it’s good.

In the shade of that oak my mind ambled wonderfully. We’re already there, was the predominant thought.

What if those alchemists of old weren’t try to change a base metal, like lead, into gold. What if that’s a wrong interpretation, a modern parody that it way off the mark? What if those ancient alchemists were trying to turn it, or even their perception of it, to the essence of what was worth persevering – not something into gold bullion that would be worth a king’s ransom, but lead still, but an appreciation that in its own way lead is lead is lead and it is useful as lead, is of worth, is worthy? In that sense, lead is already ‘gold’ (or as valuable as lead is to lead, as gold is to gold.) Just different.

‘Life is a Long Journey between Human Being and Being Human. Let’s take at least one step each day to cover the distance.’ (Wordions)

Consider the oak tree that I’m sitting under – that was here before I was earth-born, and which will be here long after I go ‘home. It is a magnificent specimen. It doesn’t need a manual to be a tree, or a book on how to be a better tree, or a self-help course of ten steps to be an even better tree. It just is. And it does it well. It is beautiful in its oakiness’.

We may need manuals, books, classes for our work, our specialism or to enhance or increase our knowledge, but as regards our human-ness, you are where you are, you are what you are, and it’s alright.

The One who knows all secrets
is here, nearer
than your jugular vein.

(Rumi)

In the shade of that huge oak tree, I went back to my book and the psychology magazine fell to the ground, only for a few ants to crawl across it, and re-inforce the point: ants are ants are ants (‘Consider the ant and be wise…’, it says in ancient divine text), and that as human beings, humans are humans, and we have a status before the Source Of All that rests on our ‘humanness’ and not our knowledge-ability or intellect, our bank account etc.

Before the Giver Of Life a child stands foursquare and shoulder-to-shoulder alongside an adult, in integrity, worth and wonder. And, it’s enough.

‘You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.’ (Pema Chödrön)

 

Through A Glass Darkly: A Celtic Perspective

20170703 THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY PERSPECTIVEDoes Channel 4 tv station still use the ‘4’ logo that is made up of disparate parts that change the whole of the logo depending on how you view it? And, as the camera moves around it, the jumble of parts suddenly becomes the number ‘4’, but only for a second or two, and then it’s just a jumble again as the camera moves on.

‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.’ 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Book

Perspective is all important.

I once ‘accidently’ got into a discussion with someone who wanted to convince me that the sun and moon were the same size, because during a total eclipse the moon exactly covers the face of the sun. I talked to them about perspective, and that the sun is much larger than the moon but much further away, but to no avail. Perspective fail!

‘A group of blind men heard that a strange animal that they had never encountered before, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form.

Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, to know more about this strange animal’. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it.’ In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, ‘This being is like a thick snake’.

For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk.

Another blind man who had placed his hand upon its side said, ‘The elephant is a wall’. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope.

The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.’

Each had a different idea about what the elephant really looked like. None were actually wrong, but neither had any of them an idea of the totality of what an elephant looked like. (Ancient Indian parable.)

This morning – yes, I’m still in London – I was out in my little garden looking at a site in the distance that’s about to be developed, and I gave thanks that, for a short while, I can see the River Thames as it flows nearby. The view is wonderful. But, there is part of me that, right now, would prefer to gaze a the green-grey mountains of slate and granite of home, Wales.

But, what we see and how we relate to it, depends on us. Doesn’t it?

Someone with me in London might like the ‘buzz’ of the City, others might not like the noise. If in Wales, some (like me) might revel in the majestic beauty of nature, but others might not be able to ‘acclimatise’ to the much slower ‘country time’.

This got me thinking. How we ‘see’ things affects what we regard as them being ‘of value’. Perspective is very important.

If I look at a tree, and I have axe in my hand, and as a Druidic-Christian see the tree as an ‘ensouled’ being or as having the Creator’s stamp on it, or as a panentheists (as I am, just like the early Christians) believe that that tree ‘inhabits’ God, then I will regard it differently than if I just saw it as a materialist might, as kindling.

So, in London, as I gaze upon that building site, it could be just a mess, or I could see it as an opportunity to create a product or service that will serve people, and in this case, might actually improve the local environment and be wholesome (and holy). It is then something much more ‘noble’ that a mere a bricks and mortar development.  In Wales, perhaps it’s easier to appreciate nature, or could it be that there’s so ‘much’ of it (in its wild state, because nature also  ‘inhabits’ the cities, too) that its easy to be complacent and unappreciative? And so, we still need to looker (more) intently, perhaps?

And, what about when we talk theology or chat about spiritual things, or the deep and profound things of life? Are we so immersed in twenty-first materialism that we only glance at the surface? Don’t answer immediately, please, because those ‘spectacles of materialism’ have an uneasy way of slipping over our eyes even without our noticing.

I’ve been to two funerals recently. The first was unbelievable tough on me (and close family) to endure, the other was tough to endue, but our perspective on these major events of life change depending on how we look at those events. The materialist, attending that funeral, might see a box, a coffin, a casket and nothing more. Someone else might have a hope of more, of new life as one is ‘absorbed’ into the earth. Others, such as myself, even in grief, separation and tears might ‘see’ (in their mind’s eye) that person in heaven, also known as the Summerland or Caer Wydyr (in Welsh, the glass fortress), and might confuse others by talking of pre-life (which happens to be one of my favourite themes) and that we’re all ‘there’ now (but that later point is for another time)!

But, what does this all mean?

It means, perspective will be different to different people, depending on their (our) location, inbuilt views, learned views, expectations (limited or otherwise), ‘tribal views’, and once we accept a multiplicity of views – metaphorically peak over the edge – then our voyage of discovery really takes off. There’s always more!

‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’ John 16.12, The Book

So, be ‘open’! Step outside the cultural ‘norms’, move toward the edge – become an ‘edge-walker’ – have you ever noticed how all the interesting things, development, maturity and growth all happen at the ‘edges’? – and have a peak at a possible alternative, and maybe ‘more real’, viewpoint.

‘I live my life in widening circle that reach out across the world.  I may not ever complete the last one, but I give myself to it. I circle around God, that primordial tower. I have been circling for thousands of years, and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?’ (Rainer Maria Rilke)

There’s more. There is always more to experience, more to discover, more to understand (differently). More, that catches us by surprise and challenges ‘old’ limitations. There’s more. Mae mwy (in Welsh)

[Note: The painting in the ‘header’ in today’s article is called ‘Escaping criticism’, and was painted by Pere Borrell del Caso, 1835-1910, a Catalan painter. He was well-known for this kind of optical illusion style of painting which is called trompe l’oeil, French for ‘deceive the eye’.].

 

Sweet Surrender: Celtic Thought

20170627 SWEET SURRENDERI’m still in London, and today for some reason I was up before sunrise, but it was good to do.

‘Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori.
Love conquers all things, so we too shall yield to love.’ Virgil

At that time of the morning the air was clean (relatively), London traffic and noise hadn’t started, and I was alone with a cup of coffee in my tiny, but greatly appreciated garden, and alone with my thoughts – albeit a myriad of thoughts, some vying for dominance, some seemingly passing through.

‘Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.’ Lao Tzu

I’m not one to lose my temper, infact I’ve been described as being ‘quite Buddhist’ (and no disrespect to Buddhists, as I think that’s a compliment). On a few occasions I have been known to try and use reason and logic to present a case, but sometimes the other party are just not having it, and in such cases, inwardly, I declare, ‘I give in, I surrender’. Not in a nasty way, but that I’ve used all the resources I have at my disposal and there’s nothing more to be said . And so, in those cases I change tact and surrender. I quit talking, after all, what more can be said?

‘Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.’  Ann Landers

As I recounted those occasions, the word ‘surrender’ remained with me.

Have you ever been in the presence of someone you truly love, and when you first meet them, there’s that time of frantic, nervous conversation and of getting to know each other. Do they drink latte or skinny wet latte, espresso or double espresso, Americano, short or long macchiato, ristretto or even tea, amongst other things? These things are important. But, there comes a time, when just gazing into your lover’s eyes is enough, words only get in the way and you surrender to the moment of stillness.

There’s that word again. Surrender.

Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care
like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air.’ John Denver, song.

Surrender has got bad press over the years, at least it seemed to me as I continued to sip that ever-so-welcome cup of coffee this morning as the sun was about to rise. Surrender can seem like a cowards way out, a giving up when perhaps one shouldn’t, or taking the easy route. But, surrender is a wonderful word.

Those who frequent forests, who witness a sunrise at the beach, those who gaze upon lofty mountains in the distance, perform a ritual in a wood and appreciate all that is green and alive, those who look upon a new-born baby’s face or the face of a loved-one know no words to sum up those experiences. When you encounter That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves the only response is a holy and awesome surrender. The event is beyond words. Surrender is the only, and thankfully the most wonderfully appropriate response.

Some time ago I wrote:

Wonder sees beyond the physical world,
with eyes beyond eyes.
Wonder makes us still and tremble in awe
as we consider our lowliness and humility of heart.
Wonder is never small, never a dim light and never disappoints.
It can be fleeting, momentary, even fragile, but it is never meaningless.
It is the sun rising above the horizon as the cool wind blows.
It is a flock of birds making huge circles in the sky as they prepare to migrate.
It is the friendly hand extended by a stranger when we stumble.
It is a baby’s innocent smile, a lover’s kiss, a kindly word or deed.
It is the knowing, empathetic, tearful glance when words fail.
It is the unexpected,
the daily synchronicities of the Creator we so often ignore in our busy-ness.
Wonder is the Creator’s gift to us to declare who He is,
what He is doing, and how He loves us.
And, as we observe and so participate in wonder,
it is His way of including us in the cosmic dance of creation.

That which can arrest us, jar us out of our only-seeing-the mundane world around us – and don’t feel too bad about that, as I do believe we are ‘amphibians’, that is aware sometimes of the numinous, but at other times unaware (and when at work or driving etc those may be good times to be unaware of the numinous) – can occur at any time.

‘Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.’ Eckhart Tolle

As I sat there with just a little coffee left in the cup I was pleased with the thought of ‘surrender’ rattling around in my mind. If you encounter the numinous today, my encouragement to you is not to analyse it, not to verbalise it, not to objectify it – in each of those responses we ‘step out’ of the moment – but to surrender. Surrender, enjoy and bask in the love of the Lover of All, whoever that Love is manifested.

‘When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.’ Lao Tzu

____________

Yesterday, the photo link to the article ‘Be Of Good Cheer: Words Of Encouragement For You’ may not have taken you to the article, but rather to just a photo store. Apologies. If you thought there was no article yesterday, it can be accessed and read here. Blessings, Tadhg

Beauty Beyond Beauty: Celtic Thought

20170623 BEAUTY BEYOND BEAUTYGo into any art gallery or museum and you will see priceless objects. Some of them contemporary to us today, and some, especially from antiquity, can seem to us out of place, unusual or just odd, but, nevertheless, there is some special captivating quality that defies explanation, and which draws us closer.

Which one of us isn’t enthralled to see the Celtic and Druid patterns on rocks of old, on tors and other places, or early pagan  petroglyphs on hillsides or early Christian drawings in the Roman catacombs?

Look closely and there’s usually a story to tell, a certain significance in the symbolism and/or something which warms our hearts. Some element of beauty abounds, however we define that word.

‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ Confucius

Beauty can be glimpsed everywhere. Such as, the first time a baby recognises mum and dad’s face (and sometimes the baby does a ‘double take’ roll of the head to focus) is beautiful, as is a murmuration of starlings swirling overhead which can sometimes almost seem to incorporate the observer in the patterns they make, an ancient and noble tree seen is a wonderful sight, or an awesome sunrise or sunset is seen, or for me, the distant mountains as seen from Capel Curig in Wales quickens the heart, or when a plot twist or description in a book or in a poem is noticed and taken to heart, or deeply moving music. Beauty is everywhere.

‘Devotional singing induces in you a desire for experiencing the truth, to glimpse the beauty that is God, to taste the bliss that is the Self. It encourages man to dive into himself and be genuinely his real Self’. Sai Baba.

Whether it is before our eyes, a temporary event, the luminous truth ‘flashing like a kingfisher’, something at our peripheral vision, something heard or something sensed alone, beauty comes in many guises, indeed in many disguises.

But, is that it?

John Pritchard, in his book ‘Encountering the beyond in the everyday: Something more’, talks about beauty, and surmises there is more. There is a surface beauty – which is beautiful and not to be diminished, but there is even more.

Ah, ‘there is more’ is my favourite Welsh phrase – mae mwy!

‘The book or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them [alone]; it was not in them, it only came through them…They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited’. Eveyln Waugh.

Beautiful works of art, artefacts, musical pieces or awesome events are, indeed, beautiful, but there’s more. Such beauty comes to us from beyond. Beauty (from) beyond beauty.

This storehouse of all that is good and holy and beautiful, this ‘Beyondness’ is known to some as Heaven. Others call it the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it would be called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). The latter is my favourite, but I do confess to being a wee bit biased.

So, though you might only see an old tree, something mundane but which catches your attention and sparks something deep within your soul, or you might gaze when you gaze upon a wonderful work of art or hear music which lets your spirt soar, then, and in those circumstances you’ve caught a glimpse of the which is Beyond.

And, it’s not that you just caught a glimpse of Beyondness at a distance, rather, you have In some way been ‘flooded’, ‘immersed’, momentarily caught in the interactive two-way Flow between object and observer, and ‘incorporated’ in that beauty from Beyond.

It may not be able to be captured and stored; play the musical piece again and it may not have the same effect – such glimpses can never be artificially reproduced – but you can content yourself with knowing that you have witnessed a glimpse (and been part of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves) of that which comes from Beyond, knowing that in another way, at some time in the future you may be so blessed again, if you have eyes to see!

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
and daub their natural faces unaware.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)