Essential Celt: What’s Your Level Of Spiritual Growth?

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Have you ever played one of these ‘answer a few questions’ games on the internet (usually on Facebook) and it will tell you what employment you had in a former life, or which where you should holiday next, and it gets even stranger, some will tell you what colour you are!

Playing a few of them is fun, but taking them seriously is to be avoided.

However, if I asked you what is your stage of spiritual development, that might be altogether more serious, and I think, much more useful, whatever faith-tribe you belong to!

So, what is your stage of spiritual development?

There are a number of good ‘tables’ and charts, and theories that outline spiritual maturity, but one of my most used is Fowler’s stages of faith/spirituality. What follows, then, is an outline, based loosely on Fowler’s work. And, it might be beneficial (bearing in mind this is only an outline),to ask yourself where you are on the following stages of the spiritual journey:

Stage 1: Subjectivzphoto11e faith: Adherence to the rules (but little or no understanding as to why) is the mark of this stage. Good experiences in life will encourage one to trust God/the Universe, but negative experiences will encourage one to distrust. God is seen as remote, and given to mood changes for no reason, even capriciousness. Those at this stage, the ‘beginners stage’ may ask, ‘Why does God have his favourites, and why aren’t I one of them?’ God is seen as a distant ‘mythic’ character. It is, as one would expect for someone just starting a spiritual journey, a naïve stage.

zphoto 22Stage 2: Literal faith: God is viewed in anthropomorphic terms. If the Bible says, ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms…'(Deut 33:27b) then God must surely have arms, and likely to have legs, and look like us.  God is ‘understood through stories told, and in experiences felt, and in the lives of the people they meet. Authority-figures welcomed by those at this stage. Literal stage. Most church members or faith-group members are at this stage, and encouragement is needed is to move onto stage 3.

zphoto 33Stage 3: Maturing faith: God is viewed as close(r), but maybe not too close. Respect for order is evident, and a liking for conformity prevails. It is the stage of an adult-maturity level of faith. However, conflicts with ones belief are likely to be ignored for fear of the spiritual consequences. Most local church pastors or faith-group leaders are, it is said, at this stage, as are most long-term adherents.

zphoto judderThe ‘Judder’: To progress above stage 3 requires some trauma to be overcome. This could be a loss of work with bad consequences, a major illness or something of that kind. Those who experience and overcome this ‘barrier’ move on to stage 4. Those who never experience such trauma or shy away from it, or don’t deal with it well, are likely to remain at stage 3.

zphoto 44Stage 4: Objective faith:  Outwardly, it may resemble stage 1. There is an observance to rules (well, some of them), but now there is some understanding as to what they really are, and what these observances and symbols mean.

At this stage, of which only a few reach, one is able to reflect, objectively, one ones own belief and hold questions ‘in tension’ without fear. This stage sometimes labelled the ‘second naivety’.

zphoto 55Stage 5: Non-literal faith: Resembling stage 2, outwardly, some of the unresolved questions are seemingly resolved at this stage, by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent “truth” that cannot be explained by any particular statement. Except love (everyone).

zphoto 66Stage 6: Mature faith: Resembling, outwardly, stage 3, this stage is the universal-love-everything stage. It is a stage marked by grace, peace, justice, and a spiritual calmness come what may.

So, there you have it. Where are you? What stage? Compared to, say five years ago have you matured? This is a rhetorical exercise, so please don’t post results publicly, though do please let me know what you think of this ‘adaption’ of Fowlers stages of spiritual progress. Also, do remember that this is an adaptation and only a brief outline. Something to enjoy and ponder upon, and as an encouragement to take the next step on your spiritual journey whatever your faith-tribe.

 

Celtic Thought For The Day #18: Who Do You Think You Are?

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In a world where we seem to be reduced to national insurance numbers, and computerised, digitised, we can sometimes feel ‘small’. It’s easy to lose sight of who we are, and what our purpose is.

We might read about valiant Celts – Boudicca for instance, is one of my favourites – and look back wistfully at those times of old, but then wonder where we fit in, today?

So, who are you? Really?  I mean, deep down ‘inside’, who are you? Rather mystical, eh? But, important!

According to the 2011 Australian census, some 65000 people believed they were Jedi Knights, at least that was their declared religion. However, that pales somewhat in comparison to the 2001 UK census, where 390000 people listed themselves as Jedi Knights. I feel the Force has weakened in the UK in the last few weeks!

So, are we the product of evolution? More!

A mass of chemicals? More!

Mind and body and spirit (or are you ‘one’, and those are aspects of the real ‘you’)? More!

Loved by the Creator of All. Yes!

However you feel now right now, maybe a bit ‘washed-out’ after a long day at work, take heart from the words of Frederick Buechner who says, ‘You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.’

And, you are more than you appear to be. Juan Ramón Jiménez, put it rather succinctly and profoundly when he wrote:

I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

Celtic Thought For The Day #05: Be Authentic

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Having worked with clients from various spiritual backgrounds, I have  generally found them to be passionate about their beliefs, and, some, in wanting to relate to others, are reluctant to share for fear of what others might think.

A Kahlil Gibran story can encourage us:

He writes: You ask me how I became a madman? One day, I woke from a sleep and found all my masks were stolen – I ran maskless through the streets shouting, ‘The cursed thieves.’

People laughed at me;  some ran away in fear.

When I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, ‘Madman!.’

I looked up at him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun; I wanted my masks no more.  I cried, ‘Blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.’ Thus, I became a madman. [Adapted]

By not wearing a literal mask he became free; by not wearing a metaphorical mask we, too, become free. Though some may call us names – is that all they can do? – it’s really them that are ‘mad’, for still wearing their masks. Be free. Be bold. Be authentic.

The Voice…

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From an interrupted, shallow sleep I awoke early,
and walked into the night, as if called by a Voice deep within.

The Voice?
An elemental? An ancestor? My imagination? Bat kohl?

The air was cold and damp,
the darkness seemed to envelope me,
the trees ‘closed in’, and all was quiet.
Nothing stirred.
Nothing at all.
And with some trepidation,
into a forest clearing I slowly strode.

A fallen tree provided a seat,
and I sat, and waited.
The air felt ‘electric’ as though something would happen,
like a ‘silent storm’ approaching.
And I waited. And shivered.
Waited. And got damp.
Waited.
And then from within, or without,
almost undetectable, a quiet, loving, voice was heard.

The Voice.
Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:

“As above, so below,
there are things you should know.”

“Human words are powerful, they are a door,
your actions are effective, they are pure metaphor.”

“And so I speak of humanity’s cosmic task,
To be revealed, evidenced, enjoyed, without any mask.”

“And so, don’t just sit, but take heed and do,
these are worded-actions-prayers for many, and for you.”

“And so, again I say, as above, so below,
remember these things; they are things you should know.”

“Through prayer, does that which is unseen, unmanifest,
reveal itself and take form in the blessed.”

“And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, its a journey of intention.”

“And now, raise your hands in simple ‘surrender’,
and point both to Heaven, that domain of awesome splendour.”

“Widen your arms, and so scoop, and harvest
pure energy, pure ‘gold’, and be prepared to be feel blessed.”

“Draw in that power, by folding your arms like an ‘x’ on your chest,
and feel its benefits, its warmth; you’re at peace, at one, ‘at home’, at rest.”

“Then stretch forth your arms, and mould with your hands
as if a ball, that ‘globe-like’ power-blessing from the ouranic meadowlands.”

“With one foot leading, and with knees part bent,
sway back and forth, in preparation for that ‘goodness’ to be sent.”

“In your mind, name the loved-one, the recipient, the friend,
and in your heart, see them, imagine them, to that end.”

“‘Push’ with your hands, that power-blessing from you to them,
and sigh the sound of the ages, the ‘so be it’, the ‘amen’.”

“And then, your hands drop to your side,
power has gone out; but there is no lack,
for the power-blessing that went forth, also comes back,
in another way and at another time, and so you, too, are blessed.”

Having done everything as directed,
I stood there in awe.
The air was cold and yet I felt warm,
the night so dark but in my mind’s eye it seemed to glow.
The Voice had gone.

The Voice? An angel? The Deity? Awen?

The ‘Inner’ You [Part 2]

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Part 2: Today, we’re looking at how we often avoid meeting our ‘inner guide’, what we do and why we do that, with the aim of doing exactly the opposite – that is, within the next few minutes you’ll have some ways of actually meeting your ‘inner guide’.

Recap: Yesterday, we looked at the fact that you have an ‘inner guide’, a most valuable and under-used resource, and that we seem to alternate between being aware (and aware of our ‘inner guide’) and spiritual ‘sleeping’. If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, and they lead on to each other, so do check that first if you haven’t already read it, before continuing, by going to: The ‘Inner’ You [Part 1].

The Liminal Realm And The Imaginal: Right now, you have access to the liminal realm, and it starts in your thoughts, the imaginal realm.  The liminal realm is that ‘gap’ between here and there, a place of power and potential. In the mundane world, advertisers know of its potential, and that’s why we’re all bombarded with adverts for this and that. We ‘soak it up’, it ruminates in our imagination, and then suddenly we want a certain book, buy certain food or are interested in a new car.

‘If you don’t imagine, nothing ever happens at all.’
John Green (Paper Towns)

It can get a little bit complicated when we start talking about ego, super-ego, id, self and higher-self, but let’s start b concentrating on one thing – that you have an ‘inner guide’ who can assist you in many ways.

And, for the moment, let’s no worry about the difference between meditation and contemplation (and views and concepts and even the words they use will differ between people), so let’s just call it imagination or imaginal realm.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he is…
Sacred Text

So, we have an ‘inner guide’, and he or she is accessible through the imaginal realm – and we all encounter that when asleep, day-dreaming, or intentionally ‘visit’ it, and that will be tomorrow’s awesome theme.

Reason’s To Avoid The Imaginal Realm: The following are cited, essentially, to show the lengths we sometimes go to, to avoid the imaginal realm, in the hope that you will be encouraged to go ‘deep’ into that realm of power and potential. So, we avoid it because:

(1) We’re busy: We all live in a fast-paced culture, and everything wants our attention immediately. Therefore, some like this, which we might not see as essential, gets little or no ‘air time’, and so we don’t make time.

‘My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.’
Steve Jobs

(2) We get no encouragement. As children we might have been encouraged to use our imagination, and we probably had an -oh-so-lively one, at that. But, as adults we tend to down play it – and that’s one reason why I make a (fine) distinction between the imagination and the imaginal.

‘The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.’
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

(3) We don’t know the benefits. We live in an action-packed, flat-pack furniture, want it now, materialistic society, and we don’t know the benefits. Interestingly, several well-known and classical authors used their imaginations to meet (what they called) ‘the council’ of former authors that they would imagine, meet, ‘interview’, check out various ideas, and from whom they gained inspiration.

‘Everything you can imagine is real.’
Pablo Picasso

(4) We don’t know how to. Perhaps we’re just not sure how to encounter. Tomorrow’s theme will deal with that, but it’s simple, effective, and accessible to everyone.

(5) We fear. Some may have been told that to use the imagination in this way is wrong, that ‘things’ can enter your mind and cause problems. Some of my evangelical Christian friends that I see weekly, are fearful of this – and yet unknowingly use their imagination to tell me of a future holiday they’re planning, or how ‘creepy’ a movie was that they saw.

‘…perfect love drives out fear…
Sacred Text

Sadly, some gain their ‘knowledge’ and ‘theology’ from Buffy The Vampire Slayer – great tv (so I’m told), but ‘lousy theology’. Don’t fear your imagination. It’s a door, a limen, an access to great wonders. It’s liminal.

My encouragement to you today is, work towards making time each day, perhaps at the end of the day when you won’t be disturbed by anyone, and relax, and try entering that imaginal realm, if only for 10-15 minutes. [And, this is definitely, tomorrow’s theme].

You will get lots of encouragement from me (and, if you have any views or questions, do contact me). Finally, don’t fear the imagination. It is a wonderful, God-given ‘tool’, and through it we can enter the liminal realm – the door between here and there, of power and potential.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how you can access the liminal realm of the imagination, what to expect and how it can benefit you. Tomorrow, is subtitled: To boldly go…

The ‘Inner’ You [Part 1]

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Part 1: Have you ever had an inner conversation with yourself? Ever wanted to do something but ‘someone’ in your thoughts said otherwise? Have you ever been day-dreaming and suddenly you had a great thought, or some seemingly insoluble problem is suddenly solved?

In all probability you’ve had an encounter with your ‘inner guide’.

***

I had a heart to heart talk with a good friend yesterday evening in my local ‘pub’ – the pub is a great British institution where beer (and now coffee, hooray) and good food is served, and my local has a roaring fire in the hearth, several comfortable sofas with coffee tables and a bookshelf, ‘stuffed’ with good books to read. It’s like a second living room! If you’re ever passing by, do drop in.

This friend was the same one, mentioned a short time ago, who had experience some trauma in her family, was a devout Christian and burst into uncontrollable tears, and was in a ‘slough of despond’,  living life ‘stuck in a rut’ or ‘running on two pistons and not four’, and yet she said she believed in the Good News. However, It seemed the Good News wasn’t good news for her.

In any spiritual belief, is it common for there to be a ‘mis-connect’ between what we know and believe?

With this friend, we were talking about my latest post about awareness and how, most of the time it is fleeting, and then we fall back into a spiritual sleep. And it occurred to me that much of what I wrote there might be of benefit to her, especially if expanded. So here goes:

Alternation: We alternate between being ‘awake’ or awareness, and slumber, and though we might want the former all the time and not the latter, it seems that we do alternate between the two. And, in some senses this is be welcomed.

If being aware means that we ‘live’ in the present and don’t concern ourselves with the past or the future, then to live in that state all the time, in this form, would be unworkable  For instance, you wouldn’t be able to review what foodstuff you had used, nor would you be able to plan for the future about what food to buy. You wouldn’t concern yourself about last year’s great holiday, so why plan to go back there, infact, you wouldn’t plan for the next holiday at all. You would be so engrossed in the ‘now’, that other people, your family, your job etc would seem unimportant. So, being ‘aware’ all the time, in this form, is unworkable, I believe.

We don’t need to beat ourselves up about alternating between awareness and spiritual sleep. It is to be expected. It is to be welcomed.

My friend, (several weeks ago) overcome by grief wailed a mournful noise in the pub, waved her arms about and burst into tears, and felt hope-less. Her response showed that ‘alternation’ was all she knew. Her understanding, it seems, was ‘head-knowledge only’, and that knowledge gave no solid foundation to the ‘storms of life’. There was a mis-connect!

Head knowledge is a good start, but it’s a bad place to stop.

Using the analogy of my car: my car monitors what it is doing. I’m told that my car, and indeed all modern cars, have ‘electronics’ in them that monitor performance and alert the driver to any problems eg oil, water, ‘timing’ etc.

[As an aside, do not go to the garage that I went to last year. A light on the car’s dashboard was lit up and I had no idea what it meant. And I don’t think the garage did, either, as they told me that the easiest solution was for them to remove the lightbulb!]

Inner Guide: Go deeper into the operating system of the car and there’s an electronic monitor. Go one or two ‘layers’ deeper into the human psyche, the human being, and there’s an ‘inner guide’ that you can experience. This ‘inner witness’ is a ‘deeper you’.

I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
the one who remains silent while I talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when I die.

Juan Ramón Jiménez

This  ‘inner guide’ is unruffled by external events, doesn’t get annoyed, doesn’t ‘alternate’. This ‘inner guide’ is ‘constant’, cool, calm and collected. The ‘inner guide’ doesn’t move closer to us at times or further away, but waits…as it ‘us’ the alternating, emotional, ‘movable’ self that moves. You are more complex than you realise.

This ‘inner guide’ is an aspect of you that you can experience, and it is just as ‘real’, if not more so than the external ‘you’ you see and which is caught in the throes of alternation, for a while.

Knowing that, when we ‘alternate’ can come back to re-establish contact with that ‘inner guide’ is an asset, so beneficial and comforting. Infact, we never lost contact  with that ‘inner guide’, but we just think we did, and act accordingly, and so probably felt/feel hopeless or upset by others in some way etc.

The ‘inner guide’ is the one who remains calm and silent while I talk, and forgives etc. ‘Joining’ with the ‘inner guide’ ‘balances’ us, and so there are benefits. Knowing that we have that inner resource at our disposal gives us another option to merely ‘alternating’ and responding to external events.

‘Then we will no longer be infants,tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind,’ as it says in sacred text.

Consequences: The abovementioned is, ofcourse, simplified, and I’ve aimed to illustrate that we have access to inner resources, especially an ‘inner guide’, and so don’t need to be governed by externals alone. And, that is a great benefit.

Ofcourse, people are different, and my friend had she known about her ‘inner guide’, might have acted differently, but there was part of me that was pleased she didn’t ‘bottle things up’, and hold it so tightly that it made her unhappy or ill. It also showed me that, perhaps, she was only operating at that ‘alternating’ and external level, and it was time to move up a level, to connect  to that ‘inner guide’ (or realise an already established (but unrealised or unused) connection).

But, not only do many not know about there ‘inner guide’, some of those that do know, give it a wide berth for various reasons.

Tomorrow: How we avoid ‘meeting’ our ‘inner guide’ – our ‘deeper’ self, and why we do that, and overcoming that, is the theme of part 2, tomorrow.

Part two is now up, so to go there, and continue reading, do click: The ‘Inner’ You [Part 2]

Meanwhile, do please drop me a message and let me know your experience(s).

The four elements

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We walk the earth, dust from dust,
sometimes blind to the road ahead.
And yet, in all that we do, in all the twists and turns that we take,
we can leave trails of hope wherever we go.

I walk, I run, I rest, I sleep, I pray.
I breathe.
In all that I do, breath is the gift of life from That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves.
Kabir once asked of his student, ‘What is God’,
and answered, ‘God is the breath within the breath.’

They laugh, they cry, they want, they thirst
and grasp for more and more.
In all that they do, they go through life so parched and needy,
little realising that they are standing knee-deep in a refreshing flowing river.

You and I have fire in our hearts, it is our soul-hearth.
In origin, it is the Spirit from above who dwells in each one of us.
This living Fire flares within, and in all that we are, it consumes all that is dross.
And, as a someone precious,
and forged under pressure in the furnace of the universe,
you are born again and again, as a holy, beautiful, and immortal diamond.

Poem: I see you…

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Early in the morning, I see you there.

Oh noble one, you stand so tall,
so majestic, so wonderful, and yet so alone.
You are, nevertheless, a constant on the landscape.

The weather changes and berates you, you bend in the wind,
you sway and bear scars of many years but you stand, still.
You are a veritable giant amongst others.

Physically, you grow;
soulishly, you mature;
spiritually, you remain.
You, of the Ancient Ones.

Thankful to the Holy One for my humble being,
I admire you for what you are, who you are.
So robust and yet so free.

And now in the evening, I bow to you.
Said the tree to the human.

Confessio #5

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One of my confessions is that…I am a key-dropper. And, you might be one, too? There are millions of key-droppers, all dropping keys! So, what is a key-dropper?

How about this:

Samuel was twenty-seven years old. An intelligent man, who had lost his way in life. He had left school at sixteen and gone to college, but spent the intervening years getting into trouble with the Police, and that was why he had been referred to me. He had a police record as long as your arm. Petty crimes, true, but eighteen of them – and as successive crimes had been committed before earlier crimes had been ‘spent’ or erased from his record, all those crimes remained current and on his record for another three years, and would need to be declared to any prospective employer.

To date, Samuel said he hadn’t done anything constructive in moving his adult life forward. And so, he sat in front of me – it was our first meeting – in despair. In short, we looked at aims, goals, looked at what he really wanted to do, how to get there, and we even looked at funding issues. With lots of encouragement and positivity, and realism, a plan of action was drawn up.

Turn your scars into stars.

For what he wanted to do – workwise – a university course was needed, and so I set about suggesting some good, local universities and provided him with their addresses and brief information. I also set some ‘homework’ which was for him to research more deeply those universities, and report back in three weeks time at our next meeting. He would then share his findings, and then decide what university would be best for him. He cheerfully accepted that, and seemed to walk out of the office much taller than when he had entered it an hour earlier. The outlook looked good.

Three weeks passed. Samuel sat in front of me, again, and we spoke. He eagerly spread a number of university prospectuses on the table, with one deliberately uppermost. Samuel was exuberant. He explained that he had sent off for and looked at several prospectuses, and decided which one would most benefit him. Infact, he had already had a university interview. The university had, indeed accepted him on a three year course, preceded with a ‘year zero’ course so that he would be ‘acclimatised’ to the academic life having done little in the intervening years (and I think, maybe to test his resolve), and had even talked to him about funding. ‘All ‘doable’’, he said.

Samuel quite rightly patted himself on the back. We scheduled some ‘encouraging’, longer-term meetings over the next year – just to keep in touch and build upon that good work, but his last question at that meeting was interesting. As he left the office, he asked me, ‘What role did you play in all this, Tadhg? I did it all by myself!”.

That’s the role of a key-dropper!

Ofcourse, I could have reminded Samuel that he had been ‘drifting’ (his words) for over eight years before that one meeting with me, and perhaps my role was to give him that much-needed information and encouragement of what could be. But I didn’t reply, but just shook his hand and encouraged him to come to our next meeting in a couple of months.

After all, I am a key-dropper.

A definition: A key-dropper, then, is someone who ‘releases’ someone from their (usually) self-imposed restrictions. It may not mean doing the work for them. Indeed, usually for them to succeed they need to work through it by themselves, but with encouragement. A key-dropper is someone who creates ‘space’ for someone to envision their future, gives them information and encouragement, and stays with that person through the good times and the not-so-good times ahead. I believe the work of the key-dropper is a ministry, a calling, a noble work, and one that is both rewarding and yet demanding.

Are you a key-dropper?

Hafiz, a Persian mystical poet, born some seven hundred years ago, and one of my favourites, wrote:

“The small man builds cages for everyone he knows.

While the sage, who has to duck his head when the moon is low, keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners”.

What are the rewards of a key-dropper?

The rewards are awesome. I am thankful to have been part of the life-journey of people who have gone from ‘zero to hero’; of young men who wanted to provide for a forthcoming birth and support their girlfriends, and did so by obtaining employment; of a young women who thought her education was ‘blocked’ by a ‘police caution’ but found the ‘door’ was infact open to her and she seized that opportunity; and joyful that I encouraged an eighty-year old lady (who had relied on her similarly-aged friends to read letters to her, as she was illiterate, but now found that many of her supportive friends had ‘passed on) to join an adult literacy course. She started on a literacy 101 course, and I sat with her through enrolment and the first class – which was just as well, as registration at the front desk (even for this course) meant reading forms and filling in application forms!). She flourished! And those are just a few accounts. The rewards are, indeed awesome, and heart-warming as at the end of each day I went home feeling that something good had gone out!

You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

What are the disbenefits?

Sadly, there are a few disbenefits. A key-dropper is an encourager, and some people flatly refused to rise to any challenge – through fear of failure, or perhaps even fear of success, or perhaps a failure of their ‘vision’ to ignite etc – but they remained in their rut, and that was frustrating. Many times I wanted to do more for them, but I knew that they had to show a positive response for it to work, and my role was to encourage (only). Key-droppers drop keys, but the recipient must unlock the door and walk through it.

You can take a horse to water, the saying says, but you can’t make it drink!

Sometimes, I felt a person could do better than, say, the janitorial work that they had settled for. But, janitorial work is a good, honest work and provided an income for that person and their family, and it would be wrong for me to put my ‘views’ of work and progression on to another person. Wrong, and probably arrogant. They were doing well! And so  I had to ‘pinch’ myself not to interfere. Something altogether too easy to do.

And then, there’s my ego. If I am honest, it sometimes hurt when someone would seize the opportunity and turn their life around, but walk away without saying ‘thankyou’.

And maybe, I’m revealing too much, and I hope you’ll not ‘unfriend me’, but on a few instances I felt rather envious of the opportunities some had had, and took, but I felt that I hadn’t had that opportunity. But, two things quickly sprang to mind in such circumstances: Firstly, if I really wanted that opportunity, I could go after it (and should take my own advice), and so I took some comfort there (knowing it as my ego talking); and secondly, it was the role of a key-dropper (and a mark of their success) to ‘propel’ people further, higher, and I took some comfort there.

That, after all, is the role of a key-dropper, and I consider myself blessed to be part of that work.

Are you a key-dropper?

It could be that your main ‘calling’ in life is to be a key-dropper, in which case you too, are blessed. I really do believe that the good we give out, comes back.

A blessing is the visible, perceptible, effective proximity of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It could be that your role in life isn’t that of a key-dropper – but some other work (after all, all work is noble), but in your work and other circumstances you will, occasionally, nevertheless find yourself in the role of a key-dropper, albeit temporarily. I would encourage you to seize that opportunity at that time, maybe for just one person, to drop the key so they can pick it up and open the door, to encourage them, even if it’s a kindly word; but in that respect you too, for a time, are a key-dropper, and you will be blessed.

Having confessed, I feel better already.

Tadhg

 

PS: Samuel and the account mentioned above about is a slightly fictionalised name and event to safeguard anonymity, but based on a very real-life circumstance, and from a time when I was working for a not-for-profit organisation in London which sought to turn the lives of (ex-)offenders, (ex-)alcoholics and the unemployed around.

Who Do You Think You Are?

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One on my favourite tv programs is, ‘Who do you think you are?’. Each week different celebrities reveal the lives of their grandparents and great grandparents etc, and some times the celebrities are so emotional they are reduced to tears when the program’s host reveals that their forebears were so poor that they were confined to the workhouse and died young, or had mental health issues, poorly understood at the time, and were treated cruelly and ‘shut away’, or fell pregnant outside of marriage and were shunned.

But, it begs the question: who do you think you are? Who am I? Who are we? On a planet of eight billion people, in a scientific age which can be ‘number-crunchingly’ de-humanising and demeaning, and one that seems to be increasingly ‘tribal’, who are we?

What are little boys made of?  Snips and snails  and puppy-dogs’ tails.

When I was at school, and so we’re going back (only) a few years (cough, cough), in the science lesson one day we marvelled at the fact that each person is roughly: two ounces (56 g) of salt, 3lb (1.35 kg) of calcium or chalk, contains enough carbon to make 9000 pencils, phosphorus to make 20,000 match heads, enough fat for ten bars of soap, and sulphur to rid one dog of fleas.

But, it that all we are?

What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice.

My favourite Welsh phrase is mae mwy. It means ‘there is more’. Whether it’s apple pie, a great holiday or a party,  or an awesome, numinous experience of the Presence, we seemingly never want it to end. We always want there to be more.

Mae mwy. There is more.

As I sit here in an aptly named,  ‘Magic Café’ in London – and magic does really happen here: strangers become friends, friends become ‘soul-friends’, people take an interest in what book you’re reading, and those who seem sullen break out into a laugh: isn’t that alchemy at work, isn’t that magic? – I’m surrounded by a few regulars.

By the door is ‘the yatchsman’, which is my name for him as he wears boat shoes – those leather-like casual shoes with the ‘string’ running around them like a lateral line on a fish. There is the ‘journal lady’, so-called because she is always writing in a blank book or journal, and I’m sure at some point she’s probably written something like, ‘and then there’s that man reading even more books’ – and that would be me. If she wanted to add the word ‘handsome’ or ‘debonair’ to her prose I wouldn’t object!

I haven’t mentioned all the regulars, and though I know a few of their names, I prefer my quaint ‘nicknames’ for them, at least when I’m remembering them. Much more descriptive. Oh, and in comes yet another regular who always reads a tabloid newspaper and stays for only a very short time. I call her, ‘reads whilst moving her lips’. I hope you can guess why? But, is this all those people are? Is that all I am? Just a name?

Mae mwy. There is more.

Some have said we’re all ‘naked apes’ [‘thankyou’, Desmond Morris], just the result of blind chance and evolution [‘bless you’, Charles Darwin]. Other say we’re the descendants of aliens who landed a few thousand years ago. Still others believe that we are something altogether different.

Mae mwy. There is more.

Though suited to the Earth, and indeed something of the earth or soil is in us, we are more than just a conglomeration of carbon and other chemicals, and as regards outer space, perhaps we are stardust, but…

Mae mwy. There is more.

But, who do you think you are? Who am I? Sacred text, that I hold dear, informs me that we are all made in the Creator’s image, that ‘that which is larger than us’ cares for each one of us, and takes delight in all that we do, and declares that we are loved, unconditionally.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
hath had elsewhere its setting,
and cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
and not in utter nakedness,
but trailing clouds of glory do we come
from God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close…

William Wordsworth’s words, above, succinctly define our origin in Heaven, our nature now as the pinnacle of creation, and our destination which is to return to the beginning. Whilst we’re here, we are truly, yet invisibly, trailing clouds of glory and are having a marvellous effect (even if we don’t know it), but as time goes by, sadly, the prison-house begins to close and we forget our awesome, beloved and noble status. Have you forgotten?

Who are you? You are all this, and more. As one musical prophet of old said, ‘…you are fearfully and wonderfully made.’