Sunday, 26 February 2017
The Guardian of the Rock of Truth was entertaining his grandson on the mountain top. After several millennia he felt the need of a little company, and it wouldn’t hurt the lad to learn a few things about what grandpa did all day. They sat and watched as various humans below attempted to scale the mountain where the large Rock gleamed in the sunlight. They watched them as they got side-tracked or discouraged. Sometimes people actually fell in their attempts.
“Why do you need to guard the Rock, Grandpa?” asked the boy.
“Because the truth is dangerous to humans.”
“Why is that?”
“I’ll explain another time,” said the Guardian. He was looking closely at a human who was getting very near the summit. They watched as a man scaled the last few feet of the climb and stood unsteadily blinking in the sun.
The Guardian walked over and stood between the ragged and exhausted man and the Rock. “I’m afraid you can’t go any further,” he said.
“But I want the truth,” complained the man.
“Sorry. Out of the question,” said the Guardian.
He turned back toward his grandson, and the man dashed forward. In a second he had picked up a small piece of the Rock and jumped back onto the trail. The Guardian watched him head down with a sigh.
“But, Grandpa, he looked happy!” said the boy.
They looked down at the man. He was holding the tiny piece of the Rock of Truth over his head, a look of ecstasy on his face. Far below him they could see a crowd of cheering people who watched as the man made his way down the mountain. The Guardian clucked his tongue and shook his head sadly.
“Are you afraid he will fall, Grandpa? Is that why it’s bad for him to have a piece of the truth?
“No.” answered the old man.
“Is it because it will make him ill?”
“No,” said the Guardian.
“Then why?” asked the boy impatiently.
"Because now he will take that small piece of truth and start another religion.” The Guardian said.
"A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing…You can wear a crown, it doesn’t make you king, beware the trinkets that we bring"…"For all that glitters is not gold"…Beware the dangers of shiney things…perhaps the most dangerous being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…Or perhaps the delusion that you believe that you hold the whole truth in your hands...
None of us know the whole truth, we can only get a glimpse of it and even the small aspect that we get to glimpse upon we do not see directly. Any bit of the light we gaze upon is refracted…As Paul said in his famous words on love we only see into the glass dimly. No one sees the whole truth…It is important to remember this and it ought to breed humility…
People can be very funny!!!
I recently posted a comment on facebook, it was meant for my more theologically inclined friends. It read “Has anyone else ever noticed that when ever you type "panentheism" into Word it wants to correct it to pantheism...They are not the same and one is not a mispelling of the other...”
...The responses I received were hilarious, mainly from people who just made jokes about the terms, which they'd never heard of...
Now I’m not going to talk about their differences here, they are vastly so by the way, although one does seem not to be recognised by Microsoft. No the reason I mention this is that I was recently sent a questionnaire by a friend who was asking me for my views on God and Love amongst others things for her thesis titled “Models of God and the Meaning of Love”. The word panentheism had come up in my attempt to describe my own beliefs, as I attempted to share my experiences and my truth. I found the exercise both useful and deeply moving as I recalled and attempted to put into words experiences that are beyond the limits of my language and seemingly way beyond the limits of Microsoft spell checker, or this "Blog" by the way. Google blog keeps on wanting to correct "Panentheism" to "Pantheism" too. I was merely trying to attempt to share my truth from my experiences, my own understanding of the little aspect of the light I have glimpsed upon and only dimly…my partial truth…my imperfect truth...
Truth is an interesting concept, especially in matters of faith, belief and disbelief. So often people see it as a rock that must be clung to, that is absolute and must not be questioned. It can often lead to argument as people find that in order to hold on to their truth they must disprove the truth claims of another that differs from their own. Such reasoning lacks humility, because the truth is that whatever we believe or disbelieve about truth we never see the whole truth completely, instead we merely glimpse through the glass dimly or maybe get a hold of only a tiny piece of the truth. Who can honestly say that they know the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well I suppose some can say it and even believe it, but that doesn’t make it true. Whether that is a person in the gym or coffee shop or the leader of an institution or nation.
This brings to mind this little snippet from Anthony DeMello’s “One Minute Wisdom”
"To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth, the teacher said: “If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.” “I know,” answered the student, “an overwhelming passion for it.” “No,” said the teacher, “an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.”
According to the Gospel of Thomas Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Whilst Lao Tzu wrote in the “Tao Te Ching”
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
You will never bring forth what is within you while ever you are afraid of what is within you. There have been times when I have been afraid to bring forth what is within me and I have witnessed the same fear in others too. After all isn't it a little less scary to receive our truth from elsewhere rather than to let it come forth from within ourselves?
The key to truth seeking is openness, born from uncertainty and humility. Openness is a way that enables us to experience new previously unseen truth; a truth that will set us free. It will allow us to bring forth what is within us and by doing so we might just uncover what will save us from the delusion of what we think we know about ourselves, one another and life itself. It will build bridges between the walls we build around ourselves.
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that goes something like this: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” I suspect it’s the same with truth. Is it better to be given something that will feed us for a short time or is it better to be given a way that will enable us to keep on feeding ourselves and one another? Do we want to be given a fish that will fill our bellies for now or do we want to be given a method that will keep on feeding us; a method that will enable us to seek the truth that will set us free and continue to set us free?
Do we trust ourselves enough to seek out the truth and therefore to bring forth what is within us or would just rather stick with the safety of what we think we already know of what someone has taught us or told us is the truth.
Well we can trust what we unearth if we learn how to truly live in the questions of ours and others truth claims. Trust is vital. We have to learn to trust what we discover, what we unearth, what we catch, whilst not putting a fence around what we see as the truth today; the key is an open attitude whether that’s in finding your own truth or in offering truth to another. Now the challenge of course comes in dwelling in the ambiguity of truth without becoming overwhelmed or paralysed by it; the challenge comes in maintaining a deep commitment to the openness that truth seeking requires and not allowing yourself to become closed down.
This is not for the faint hearted. This takes courage. This is not the easier path, but it is definitely the one worth taking, for it is the one that will set us up to live in and through truth.
If we want to be a seeker of truth then above everything else what we need is an unremitting readiness to admit that we may be wrong. .
The truth is of course. Once you can see you are wrong about something, admit you are wrong about something, do whatever you can to put right what was once wrong, then you are no longer wrong, you are right. The key is to feel right enough in your humanness to be able to admit that you can only ever vision the partial truth and to be open to the truth of others…
The key is in being right enough to be wrong...For that is essence of the truth...
Sunday, 19 February 2017
Life is a most amazing journey, never a dull moment. Now although each journey is personal and each experience unique. We never journey alone. We journey in the company of others. Some are there at the beginning and remain to the very end, some are there at the beginning but do not stay until the end, some come and join with us for a while but do not remain. Some are with us later in life and then journey on without us, when we are gone. We never journey alone, we always journey with others, although sometimes it doesn’t feel this way.
We are all wounded in some way on this ship of love journeying along. If we live in love we can bring some healing, we can become wounded healers. It is our wounds that put us in a place where we can be of service to one another. We are all wounded to some degree we all have cracks within us. Nobody is perfect, complete, and who would want to be. In fact it is our wounds and imperfections that put us into a better position to help others come to terms with who they are. It is this that breeds empathy and understanding. Who amongst us is not wounded in some way? Who amongst us does not bear the scars of life? It is our very wounds and the scars formed from them that makes us better able to help others come to a place of healing from their own wounds.
We are all "Wounded Healers", journeying along, limping along...
The ancient Greeks understood the power of the “Wounded Healer”. Their mythology tells the story of Chiron, who was a wise and benevolent centaur and a master of healing.
As the story goes during one of his adventures Heracles visited the cave of Chiron. He had been invited to a gathering there. Now as we all know it is impolite to attend a party without bringing something for other guests and so Heracles brought along a flask of strong wine. Now the smell of the wine attracted many of the other centaurs who began to fight over it, nothing much has changed over the centuries, during the melee Chiron was accidently wounded on the knee by an arrow shot by Heracles. This was no ordinary arrow, it was poison tipped. This was no ordinary poison either it had come from the Hydra a monster with many heads that was virtually impossible to slay. Now while Chiron could show Heracles how to heal the wound caused by the arrows tip, he could not treat the Hydra’s poison. As he was immortal it could not kill him but neither could he fully recover. He would have to live on into eternity with his wounded knee. Chiron the greatest of healers could show others how to heal, but he could never fully recover from this wound. His wound would always show. He walked on into eternity limping. Chiron is the archetype of the wounded healer.
In his book “The Wounded Healer”, Henri Nouwen envisioned the religious community as a safe haven where people could be open and honest about their own woundedness, their suffering and loneliness, a safe haven where through recognising ones pain healing and recovery could begin. Nouwen wrote that people today are “Semitic nomads…(who) live in a desert with many lonely travellers who are looking for a moment of peace, for a fresh drink and for a sign of encouragement so that they can continue their mysterious search for freedom.”
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
So how do we begin to heal, to live whole lives? Well it begins by knowing and naming our own pain. our own darkness. and to not be afraid to show our scars. I always remember the scene from “Jaws” when the great white shark hunters are going out to face the man killer and they begin to drink and sing sea shanties and of course show one another their scars. The scars are marks of experience of having lived the lives of shark hunters.
Henri Nouwen wrote “We do not know where we will be two, ten or twenty years from now. What we can know, however, is that human beings suffer and that a sharing of suffering can make us move forward.”
So let us journey together, side by side, let us tend to one another’s wounds lets become together, the wounded healers.
Let's keep limping along...Together...
Saturday, 11 February 2017
Please watch the clip above before reading on...
It seems I'm not mad after all. I cannot draw a perfect circle.
The circle is never perfect, in fact I’m pretty sure that the circle will remain forever incomplete. I think it’s better that way…
One of the great plagues of humanity is perfectionism, seeking perfection both within ourselves and others. How many times, I wonder, have I rejected either myself, others, or life itself, because it did not offer perfection? How many times have I noticed others doing the same? It is a lot easier to see in others by the way than in myself.
Nothing in life is perfect, it is always imperfect. I am pretty much convinced that this is how it ought to be.
So when we say that we are imperfect, that others are imperfect, that life itself is imperfect we are correct, in the sense that nothing is ever complete.
The mistake we have made is that in saying that someone or something is imperfect we have suggested that they or it is somehow wrong, when in fact we couldn’t be more wrong. Imperfection itself is what makes life what it is, it is the fuel and energy of life as it is through imperfection that the energy to create relationship is fuelled.
This brings to mind this rather lovely poem by Harold Kushner “Jigsaw”:
There must have been a time when you entered a room and met someone and after a while you understood that unknown to either of you there was a reason you had met. You had changed the other and he had changed you. By some word or deed or just by your presence the errand had been completed. Then perhaps you were a little bewildered or humbled and grateful. And it was over.
Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.
Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle.
And so it goes.
Souls going this way and that.
Trying to assemble the myriad parts.
But know this. No one has within themselves
All the pieces to their puzzle.
Like before the days when they used to seal
jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that
All the pieces were there.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
Many pieces to someone else's puzzle.
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don't.
And when you present your piece
Which is worthless to you,
To another, whether you know it or not,
Whether they know it or not,
You are a messenger from the Most High
When we come together in love, we create the love we have all be searching for.
This brings to mind a book I read just weeks before I began my ministry. It has been one of the most important books in shaping my approach to ministry, which of course literally means to serve. The title of the book is "Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love": By Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt. This is from the Chapter "Hospitality begins inside." (pg 33-34)
" We are caught up in what is probably the most immature attempt at spirituality humanity has ever seen. It is tragically and poignantly adolescent, with the deep emotion and angst that goes with adolescence. It is a spirituality that seeks improvement for life - a better me, a better relationship - but it does not seek God and it does not move us towards others. It just keeps us running on the treadmill of our little egocentric worlds.
Because hospitality always involves giving something of ourselves to others, it is a spiritual practice. Spirituality is about relationship. When you and I become confused about the meaning of spirituality, remembering that spirituality is about relationship will bring us back to the basics. Relationships."
...Spirituality is about relationships...
One of my great frustrations with a lot of modern “so called spirituality” is that it does not seem to be about relationships at all. It seems to be all about the self, almost about protecting the self, from the so called “messiness” of living. It seems to have become almost narcissistic in its nature. Maybe that’s why it can seem so appealing. The truth is of course that all we ever achieve in blocking ourselves off from the messiness, from circling our spiritual wagons, is increase the loneliness and the emptiness.
I can usually get a good measure as to where I am at spiritually by simply checking where I am at relationally with myself, with others and with God, they are all interconnected and inter related.
Now all this brings to mind the YouTube clip that began this "blogspot". by Parker J Palmer on “The Mobius Strip”.
Here is a little written reflection by Palmer followed by my own attempt to explain what he describes so well.
“Life on the Mobius Strip” by Parker J Palmer
Here’s a brief meditation on life on the Mobius strip, a curious concept to be sure, but no more curious than life itself!
The curious object pictured is a Möbius strip.
I need to keep saying “what seems to be” because the Möbius strip has only one side! What look like its inner and outer surfaces flow into each other seamlessly, co-creating the whole. The first time I saw a Möbius strip, I thought, “Amazing! That’s exactly how life works!”
Whatever is inside of us continually flows outward, helping to form or deform the world — depending on what we send out. Whatever is outside us continually flows inward, helping to form or deform us — depending on how we take it in. Bit by bit, we and our world are endlessly re-made in this eternal inner-outer exchange.
Much depends on what we choose to put into the world from within ourselves — and much depends on how we handle what the world sends back to us. As Thomas Merton said:
“We don’t have to adjust to the world. We can adjust the world.”
“How can I make more life-giving choices about what to put into the world and how to deal with what the world sends back — choices that might bring new life to me, to others, and to the world we share?
I came across the wonderful Youtube clip on "The Mobius Strip" the other day, my journey to it was another beautiful example of synchronicity. The type that often leaves me smiling for days. Palmer suggests that “The Mobius Strip” is a useful metaphor for our inner and outer lives. How these are interrelated and how we are affected and how we affect the world in which we live. He claims that the onstage life is how we appear in the world, how we impact on the world, what he describes as the ego questions. While the backstage life is more about intuition and instinct and value and faith. These are those deeper aspects of ourselves, what is called soul, that greater reality that makes who we truly are. He claims that we are born in wholeness. That there is no separation between our inner and outer lives but as time goes by and we become increasingly influenced by the external world we lose touch with our souls and disappear into our roles. He suggest that as we grow up into the world we realise that it is not safe to be our backstage selves in the onstage world, that we somehow have to hide who we truly are and we begin to build a wall of separation. This he says becomes painful due to the disconnect between the inner and the outer life. Due to this, for so many, often the spiritual seekers, there is the desire to bring our lives into the classic shape of the circle. Which he says means I want what is important to me internally to be the values by which my external life which surrounds revolves. Thus bringing a sense of unity to my life. Thus my external life becomes authentic as I become centred.
Palmer suggests that there is another way, an alternative, which allows us to be both authentic and open. It is achieved by reshaping into the “Mobius Strip” which has the feature of being continuous and unbroken. By simply tracing your finger around what appears to be the outside of the surface you soon find yourself on what appears to be the inside of the surface.As you continue round you soon find yourself on what appears to be the outer part of the strip. He says that it only appears this way because one of the key features of the “Mobius strip” is that there is no inner and outer the two seem to co-create each other. That this is how life is. That whatever is inside us mergers with what is outside and vice versa and both influence each other and in that exchange, interaction, coming together we co-create what we call reality.
For Palmer this is the question that links the inner life with the outer life. It is this that brings that sense of connection of oneness and brings us closer together. It is this that brings the pieces of the jigsaw together and begins to bring about completeness maybe one day, that yokes all life together, that is Yoga. In so doing we return to the wholeness, the natural state, in which we were born. Or perhaps to put it more religiously we return to paradise, we return to the natural state, the original goodness and blessing into which we were born. We find completeness. We create the Kingdom of God, the Kin-dom of Love, right here right now.
So to answer Palmer’s question “How do we make choices that are life giving rather than death dealing?”
Well it really does depend on what we put into the world and what we take in too, to paraphrase Thomas Merton. It is about how we relate to one another, to life and to our inner selves. It’s about relationships. It’s about not trying to draw that perfect circle because that can soon become a wall, a barrier, that cuts us off from everything, unless we agree 100% with it or them 100% of the time, in which case we will find ourselves completely alone.
It’s about becoming the imperfectionist. It’s about learning to dance on the Mobius strip.
I’m going to end this little chip of a "blogspot" with a little meditation written by my imperfect inspiration Forrest Church. This is “The imperfectionsit”
So take the first step. Become the imperfectionist. Learn to dance on “The Mobius Strip”