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.

 

 

Le Point Vierge: Regarding The Soul: Haiku #8

20170519 LE POINT VIERGE REGARDING THE SOUL HAIKU #8As you may know, I’m fascinated by the traditional haiku – those short Japanese poems consisting of three pithy lines; and the lines containing firstly five syllables, then seven, then five.

Below are a number of verses to a poem, with each verse being a haiku, and each (hopefully) seen as progressive, and saying something (albeit brief, and poetic) about our awesome, complex, mysterious ‘composition’ as humankind.

Flesh and blood yet flow
within our soul’s great embrace.
Animated dust?

‘Yet more!’, the sage says.
The soul, the immortal light,
is the precious ‘you’.

Where the soul resides,
time and timelessness exist
in a paradox.

There, le point vierge,
a meeting place of the soul,
Wondrous rendezvous.

The ‘go-between’ soul
encounters, there, the spirit,
always faced to God.

butterfly 111 animal-2028155_960_720In liminal space,
there we dance the dance of Love.
Graceful theosis.

Triune personhood,
as above, e’en so below.
You, mirrored Spirit.

 

20170519 LE POINT VIERGE REGARDING THE SOUL HAIKU #8