What Are You Missing? Looking Beyond: Physical Metaphors

20190802 WHAT ARE YOU MISSING LOOKING BEYOND PHYSICAL METAPHORS

Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you really see? What is seen that is actually ‘pointing’ to that which is unseen and beyond? Puzzled? Here is an explanation of facts, from imagination, and from my journal of yesteryear and more recently.

’There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

We are surrounded by metaphors, physical metaphors, that point to something beyond, above or below. Such metaphors are glimpses that challenge, inspire or instruct if we allow them, but to do that we first need to be aware of them.

There is a mountain not far from Capel Curig, that, like the rest of Wales, is complete with myth and magic, rumour and a whole host of legends that invite the brave, or perhaps repel the timid. Glyder Fawr is just one such place. It is part of several peaks. How many? Well the ‘set’ is called Tryfan (and therein lies the clue, as Tryfan is Welsh for ‘three peaks’). As regards a wonderful and profound climb some time ago – see here.

There are myths in Wales about giants on mountains, dragons in mountains, water-horses in lakes and rivers, and other elementals that live deep in the ground. We all knew they were myths, and many, even in Wales, laugh at such superstitions, but deep in our minds, and I’m thinking of myself and friends of yesteryear, we weren’t so sure that those myths should be disregarded, well at least not totally.

‘I was born with the ability to see in metaphor. This has been my inborn way of relating to the living Oneness of things. From an early age, the world has spoken to me in this way. The analogous relationship of things has called, not in words, but in a silent language that has sow shown me, however briefly, the web of connection [of] everything.’ Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen

Perhaps, these myths were not to be taken literally, and they were metaphorical, and ‘poetically’ warned passers-by, or perhaps they were to be taken literally? As children we loved the not knowing, and as I and my friends grew older there was always that lurking possibility that maybe there was something ‘behind’ them. Exactly, what physical metaphors purport to ‘show’.

At the base of Glyder Fawr is a rocky crevice – about ten feet wide, thirty feet long, and deep, very deep. As teenagers when would hike and have adventures, this was the place to go. Forever and a day, for as long as I can remember, and certainly as early teenagers, at the base of Glyder Fawr, we called that breach in the ground Uffern.

As young teens we avoided that pit in the ground, but as we grew a little older, a lot braver, more adventurous and somewhat stronger the ‘terror’ of Uffern (which is the Welsh word for hell) grew smaller, until one day a few of us, well-versed in abseiling, and belaying by then, tackled that void.

We climbed down into Uffern, climbed into Hell. With a lot of laughing and some seriousness, we were encountering then, though we didn’t know it at the time, a physical metaphor.

Physical metaphors, which may include outdoor adventure, nature observation, ritual or anything that is challenging and physical (as in tangible, solid, observable) are excellent tools for making change in each of us, and to awaken us to what is beyond.

Physical metaphors can interrupt our habitual patterns of behaviour, place us in an awkward and challenging situation and thereby open us up to new ways of thinking and doing things. In such situations our limitations and objections (of ‘Yes, but….) cease to have any power over us. People discover they must discard old, useless behaviour and replace it with something fresh, empowering and creative. Physical metaphors make us go, ‘wow’ in awe and wonder.

‘Communion is a ceremony based around food and drink…. In the Lord’s Supper, it is as if we are enacting a physical metaphor. The physical act of eating and drinking is very much like the spiritual realities it represents’. Ron Julian, Communion Metaphor, Gutenberg College.

I’m back at Uffern.  I’m older. This time alone, this time as an adult (and a mature, agewise, one at that) and it is probably the hottest day of the year. And I’ve climbed down to the base of the crevice. It’s silent, unusually so, except for the occasional drip of water that hits the small, two inch high pool of water that has collected beneath my feet. I’m alone (or am I?). It’s awesome, its wonderful, it is an amazing place. It’s rocky, damp, deep, cramped and full of jagged rocks, but it is bliss.

I can now ‘unpack’ the meaning of this physical metaphor, which to me ‘speaks’ of overcoming my teenage fears of this pit in the ground, my wariness that it could be a link between ‘our world’ and that of elementals. To be honest, I think it might be a doorway, but I now don’t fear those elementals, but see them as fellow occupants of this wonderful planet. And if I’m wrong and they don’t exist then they will not be present to hear what I’ve just spoken to them, and no one will ever know that I’ve even spoken to them (or tried), except now I’ve confess to you. So, you know. But, I’m amongst friends.

I’ve also discovered that the Earth holds a depth of meaning (no pun intended) that is only discovered if we are bold enough to step out of our comfort zone, to take risks and dare to do. I’ve also found that, perhaps, we are surrounded by a multitude of physical metaphors (in rural places as well as in built-up places) and each of them can be prompts to each one of us from Beyond to encourage to ‘see’ behind the visible.

‘We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.’ Marcel Proust

At the base of Uffern I can relax and reflect on deep spirituality, to look at life that contains physical metaphors which anchor us to the world beyond, just as the gears of a car connect and change our foot actions into chemical-air-petrol formulations of a different order to propel the car. Connectedness.

What we see and do has actions far beyond the physical, and its for that reason I so love and cherish, and encourage liturgy, ritual and prayer and blessings, of observing and doing, of acknowledging that our seemingly small actions may have consequences (of a positive nature) far beyond our reckoning.

At the base of Uffern I have just enough time, before the light fades, to take some photographs of the amazing rocky strata that was formed and dishevelled during the last ice age, knowing that only a few have ventured to the base of Uffern, and so many have missed its beauty, and might otherwise have encountered an elemental. Ofcourse, I can’t tell you that I’ve seen one, by with eyes beyond eyes I believe I have, and from that I know the power of the imagination.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

And now it’s time to climb out of Uffern. I have to admit the climb up is a lot more arduous that it looks, it takes a lot longer climbing up than scaling down, and I’m not as young as I used to be, but it was worth it.

Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you really see? A burning bush? The voice of the Source of All? An encounter with an angel, the fae, an elemental in the form of a physical metaphor? Take a look around. What is seen that is actually ‘pointing’ to that which is unseen and beyond?

 

 

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.