Sunday, 12 March 2017

Good or bad: Maybe, maybe not...Let's wait and see...

“Oh it’s an awful day, truly dreadful.” I wonder how many times I have heard these words uttered. I heard it several times last Sunday. I heard it as folk arrived for worship. I heard it as I chatted with people at the gym and heard it from several friends that evening. Now granted these friends are members of a walking group and it had been pretty wild last Sunday. It certainly didn’t feel like the beginning of spring.

It is said that we British are obsessed with the weather. Oscar Wilde said that conversation about the weather was “the last refuge of the unimaginative”. Bill Bryson, that great observer of this nation, noted that the most striking characteristic of British weather is that there “ain’t much of it.” None British people are puzzled, it seems, at our obsession with talking about the weather. I’ve lost count of the number of storm warnings over the last few weeks and yet if truth be told none of them were severe in comparison to other parts of the world. And yet we never stop talking about the weather. In a recent survey 94% of respondents admitted to having talked about the weather in the past six hours while 38% admitted to doing so in the last hour. Which means according to social anthropologist Kate Fox who performed the study in 2010 for her book “Watching the English” “…at almost any moment in England, at least a third of the population is either talking about the weather, has already done so or is about to do so.”

We British are obsessed with the weather. How many times have you talked about it already today? When was the last time you did so?

Please don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong in this. I actually think it is lovely way for people to connect. The problem isn’t so much that we talk about the weather. No the problem I see is something else. It’s the way that we divide our conversation into “good” and “bad”. We talk about “good” and “bad” weather. It seems to me that we do this with all aspects of life. We divide life into “good” and “bad” and we do it with people too.

How often do we hear the phrase “There are two types of people in this world?” Well there aren’t there are people and people. We are all made of the same stuff, we have the same spirit within us. Dividing up people into different camps helps no one and in my view it is this that leads to the evil that we do to one another, it is this that justifies so many of the wrongs we have commit against one another. When we look into one another’s eyes do we really see someone other than ourselves? Do we really see a different type of person?

Yet we all do it. I do it, I’m no different to anyone else. We all have our scapegoats those we blame for our troubles or life’s troubles. It is not just with people and weather that we do this either, we do it with good fortune and with fate. We talk about good luck and we talk about bad luck.

Of all the stories I’ve told in my time as minister, the one that people seem to remember the most, the one that folk have told back to me more than any other is the following one on good luck and bad luck. A story that the people I serve physically tell back to me by lifting one or the other shoulder. Here it is…

“Let’s Wait and See”

There's an excellent Taoist tale of a farmer who has a balanced view of life. This view often confuses those around him that expect him to react or behave according to the "norm".

The story goes that an old farmer is working hard in the fields. He has a wife and a son, and ekes out a meagre living. One day, his only horse runs away. Upon hearing this, his neighbours comment "Oh, how awful! That is terrible! Such bad news!" to this the farmer replied:

"Maybe, maybe not. Let's wait and see."

A few days later, the farmer's horse returns and with it is another, exotic horse from far away. The horse is a mare, and is of rare value. The neighbours, upon hearing this, exclaim "How wonderful! It's fantastic that your horse returned and brought another horse with it! Such good news!". The farmer shrugged and said:

"Maybe, maybe not. Let's wait and see."

"The farmer's horses gave him many young, prized colts making the farmer very wealthy in the town. The neighbours were very happy for the farmer saying; "This is so fantastic! Your new horses have brought you much fortune! Such good news!" The farmer responded:

"Maybe, maybe not. Let's wait and see"

The farmer's son, now a young man, tried to tame one of the young colts and was thrown from the horse, breaking his hip. This left the son unable to walk. The neighbours came to help and tried to console the farmer saying; "Oh, how awful! Your only son will never walk again! Such bad news!". The farmer, who was not upset, simply said:

"Maybe, maybe not. Let's wait and see"

Later that year, the farmer's country went to war, and the army came by to conscript every able bodied man for duty. The farmer was too old to be taken, and his son could not walk, therefore he was excused. The army simply took the farmer's horses, leaving him just his original horse to allow him to keep farming.

Was the farmer's life good? Maybe. Was the farmer's life bad? Maybe not.

Good luck and bad luck are two sides of the same really depends on the perspective that we choose to view in any given situation.

“Good” and “bad” are aspects of all life and each and every person. Sometimes what we see as “good” and “bad” turn out to be the very opposite. It’s the same with people. There are not two types of people that we divide into “good” and “bad” camps. There is simply one type of person. Division and divisiveness are very dangerous things indeed. Where on earth do we draw the line?

It matters how we speak about life, it matters how speak about one another and it matters how we speak about ourselves. By saying this is “good” and this is “bad” and standing in this judgement we are creating a wall between aspects of ourselves and aspects of each other. This creates division both within ourselves and each other. What we need is reconciliation. We and all life is formed from the same source, we cannot separate any aspect of it from another.  We need to learn to create the environment when the lion and lamb can lie down together. Both the lion and the lamb within ourselves, but also the lion and the lamb in each other and all life.

Our world really needs this now. We seem to live in ever more dividing and divisive times. Our world needs healing and I believe it is the task of free religious communities to take the lead in this. It is up to us and it begins with us, in our own hearts and in our own communities. For it we get this right we can begin to bring healing and reconciliation to our wider world. It begins with how we engage with one another and with life. It begins with how we view life, maybe it begins with how we even view the weather. Maybe it begins by stopping seeing the weather as “good” or “bad”, and simply see it as weather.

The spiritual life is not a passive life. How we live in the world really matters. How we see life, how we see ourselves and how we see one another really matters. How we speak about life, how we speak about ourselves and how we speak about one another really matters. We impact on life constantly we are not just blown and battered by life. We can set our sails and even gain mastery of the elements if we take care our sails. We are not powerless in life and our lives are not meaningless. It is important that what we actually do is recognise our power and responsibility. To truly pay attention to how we impact on life and one another. To live spiritually is to take responsibility and to fully live our lives. We are not all powerful of course not, but we are an important part of the whole and our world needs us to recognise this and to play our part fully in life.

We need to fully recover our true identity, we need to recognise our interconnectedness we need to awaken our true sense of self and embrace fully our being and our inter-being with each other and all life in reverence, in love and in care. In so doing we will begin to embrace an attitude that is an antidote to separating life into “good” and into “bad”, into “them” and “us”

If we do we can begin to create the environment where the lion does indeed begin to lay down with the lamb.

It is up to us. For this we are all responsible.

No comments:

Post a Comment