Sunday, 26 February 2017

Magical wisdom

My wife Isabel has given me an inspired birthday present of a pocket-book collection of words from the Iranian writer Hafez -  full of beautifully wry aphorisms!
It was rumored that, when young, Hafez he met the author of The Conference of the Birds, a delightful and deeply symbolic parable around all the species of birds deciding who was to be king.(The final conclusion was that, through letting go and becoming empty, they could all as one become the king.) There is something magical about writers and story-tellers who can combine the deepest mysteries with buffoonery - which Hafez exhibits wildly! 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Fa di me uno strumento della tua pace

For a some time the words "O Segnore, fa di me uno strumento della tua pace"   (O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace) have lain at the back of me mind, and they have some times taken a passionate voice when I happened to be in a church with nobody around! But I'd forgotten where the words came from.
I've just discovered that they are by St Francis of Assisi. There's an English translations of the full poem, accompanied by a gentle flowing tune ... like a lullaby. But Francis was surely no baby: you have to be tough to revolutionise the church as he did!
I'm wondering where my tune came from.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A wonderful walk today from Southampton to Eastleigh along the Itchen Way: sun and clouds and a cool air. It's a regular of mine -  an old friend that always gives the odd surprise: a bird calling a single peal of notes with descending pitch (what was it?!!); the sudden changes of environment from scattered remnants of trees over the stream, to the edge of neat grazing land ... I recalled an older friend (from circle dancing) whom I once encountered on a nearby path, and whom, much later, saw in the distance walking the other way alongside the Itchen river. She may well be no more now.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The items discussed in the last few blogs, and the writings I am reading for the Christian discussion group I belong to, are all based on what actions arise from various creeds. That's an important practical, factor - but the drive behind it is the vision of the greater world that is revealed by religion and by experience. And this includes a lot of things on this blog about revelations of aspects of the earth and sky that we are given just by walking with our eyes open. The amazing Being of the whole living cosmos, from the growing of the trees to the galaxies and the stars, ultimately enfolds all these things that inspire me. And its pure being-ness is what I call God.
Yesterday, for my birthday, Isabel gave me a pocket-collection of sayings of Hafez (received with much pleasure!) It was interesting to compare it with the writings of Rumi, some 100 years before, with which I was more familiar. Rumi is positive, inspiring; Hafez struggles among difficult social times. I'd like to live with Rumi, but the current times grimly point to Hafez.
Maybe it's time I came back to my Christian home, which I think encompasses the two.

P.S. These struggles with words are essential - indeed, they are a defining aspect of the human - but my heart draws me to the wholeness of the land and all that it supports.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

 After the rather gloomy blog earlier today, life has got better, meeting a couple of friends in the course of taking my stint for stewarding in St Michael's church, welcoming stray tourists and people looking for rest or prayer. And I read the first entry on the little book of translated poems by Hafez that my wife cave for my birthday:

   "A black mole graced hes face;
         he stripped, and shone 
     Incomparable in splendor as the moon;
     He was so slim his heart was visible,
     As if clear water sluiced a granite stone"

His writing is surely the most compact of all poetry - each poem steadily unfolds as you gaze into it.
    or should I say "Allahu Akbar"?

While chatting in the church we noted the variations in our practice, she attending Quakers and I the Anglican church in which we were sitting, both of us appreciating the value of the ancient building. My own practice is more ambiguous than hers (some might call mine hypocritical!). In this church we use version of the Anglican Mass where the congregation says "we believe in ..." instead of the traditional "I believe" - a nice let-out that allows me to appreciate the intentions of the writers without actually lying! And while the Islamic spirituality of Hafez is very different from that of Christianity, at the silent depth they are one.

I've been adding lots of clever and/or inspiring ideas on this blog ... but events of today force me, at least this once, to "get real".
My brain is chopped up by Alzheimer's syndrome, and some times I find myself in a state of ghastly chaos - as it was this morning. At such times I can understand how it is for people who decide to "end it all". Life is a balancing act, and we (that is, I) learn to balance well. But today the balance wobbled. But my wife reminded me that today was my birthday (I'd completely forgotten), and she gave me a little volume of translations of poems by Hafez, the most wonderful of all writers. Life is glorious!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

I find myself thinking "is 'god' unnecessary?". I don't mean "can we live without God?", since, by definition, the absence of God entails the absence of everything including ourselves. My musing turns around the question of whether the baggage that has encrusted around this word is now so irrelevant that we ought to start rethinking it. (Excuse my very mixed metaphors!). In biblical times the universe would probably be thought of as about a few million km at the very most; whereas the most distant astronomical object now found by science is at a distance of 10000000000000000000000 km (I might have missed a few 0s). As pronounced in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the galaxy": "Space is big .. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space". Along side this, Christians like myself read on the very first line of our scriptures "In the beginning God created the the heavens [i.e. all of it] and the earth";  and in the gospels and the letters there are enumerable repetitions that equate the Jewish God of creation in the Torah with the person that Jesus called "My Father". I know that we have been regularly told for the last 2000 odd years that this is a "mystery" (so shut up). At this point there comes to me that famous line from Wittgenstein at the end of his Tractatus: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen"  (of that whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent) - but I need a different approach to this way of speaking (as, indeed, Wittgenstein realised later in his work!)
So what is this "Other" to which I pray as a Christian? All I can say so far is that when I feel myself expanded when being with those I love and when, and when encountering the profound being of the trees I walk through, and when in some describable way I feel the living connection between two hills, then I know that my own existence can give to and receive from something that is immeasurably greater than myself.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Yesterday was drum-workshop day - seventeen of us creating a single musical being. Building a greater being from parts is not a sole prerogative of humans: the whole universe is built on this! But this sort of co-ordinated freedom feels like the essence of humanity.