Saturday, 3 June 2017

Another Place: Don't Turn Away

Last Tuesday morning, like so many people, I woke to the horror and disbelief at what had occurred the night before on Monday 22nd May in Manchester. I could hardly believe my eyes as I bore witness to the brutal murder of 22 innocent people and many more injured. There was a part of me that wanted to come back to be the people of the city that has been my home for twenty years, there was also another part of me that wanted to turn away; there was a part of me that just couldn’t bear to look.

I find it hard at the best of times to watch the news. I prefer to read about the suffering in our world on-line or to listen on the radio, than to watch it with my eyes. I find watching the news too much at times, especially the way the rolling news is presented today. I spent the next few days with family and loved ones, which had been the plan as I took a week’s leave. I spent time at home in Yorkshire and I spent time by the sea. The sea is always a place of solace for me.

I noticed that Tuesday morning as I spent some time walking around the place I grew up, Birstall in West Yorkshire, that I found it hard to even look at people; I noticed that as I passed people and they smiled at me, I found it hard to smile back, but after a while I began to do so. As I walked around familiar childhood places memories came into my being, I re-membered, I re-felt old experiences. Some from 30 or 40 years ago and some from this very same time last year when I walked these very same streets again in shock and horror following the brutal murder, by another fanatic, of the MP Jo Cox. I remembered my visit to Parliament just a few weeks earlier, when only a week later another hater of life had committed more brutal acts of murder. I thought of the troubles in our world of the countless brutality that we witness every day. The weekly shootings we hear of in American, how frequently these take place in schools and work places, the deaths of innocents in Syria and Iraq and the streams of displaced people and the suffering they face. I remembered other massacres of innocents, Dunblane and of course Anders Brevik and the mass shooting of 77 people in Norway in 2011 as well as the countless terrorist atrocities we have seen throughout the world in recent years.I woke again this morning to more horror as three more fanatical haters of life attacked murdered innocent people in London, just heart breaking.

 I also remembered the violence and fear I have witnessed and experienced in my own life. I re-felt these feelings as I walked the familiar streets of home, alone. I passed people and I didn’t want to look at them, I wanted to look away. The people though, they would not let me. As they smiled at me, something inside began to wake up once again, I kept on seeing in them love and decency. That evening and over the next few days I witnessed and heard of countless acts of love that occurred that night in Manchester and in the days that followed. Symbols of love and compassion from all kinds of ordinary people. I saw it with my own eyes. I witnessed people coming together in love, as people always do. We see this every day too and throughout the world.

Later in the week I visited “Another Place”. This is a favourite place for me and I went there with one of my favourite people, a dear old friend. I went to Crosby Beach and stood with the Anthony Gormely Statues and I stared out to sea. I love to stand and stare at the sea, to let my eyes just take in the open vastness and simply experience “Another Place”. Whenever I do I feel fully alive and connected to a Power far greater than myself, I feel conscious of this universal consciousness that creates and connects all life; this deeper aliveness which I have come to believe is the consciousness at the core of everything. As I did that day my eyes felt wide open once more and I could look at the world again. I began to see, once again, with renewed vision. It was powerful and it was deeply healing. “The eyes of my eyes”, were once again opened.

I spent most of the day talking and listening with a dear old friend, a person who has seen me at my worst and who I have shared intensely heart breaking moments with, too many for two people. She reminded me of a time when I had been broken by grief, a grief she herself was not yet ready to surrender to at the time, even though it was infinitely more painful for her. She described how my whole body seemed broken as she looked on me that day. Her eyes witnessed this in me and I know how much it hurt her, for there is nothing more painful that to witness someone you care deeply for in such brokenness and also as she could not visit this place yet.

As she spoke I re-membered and I also remembered how this was another moment of healing when I would once again rise as I found the strength to turn back to life. I wouldn’t be a minister today but for this time. I wish it hadn’t happened, if I could change it I would, but so much has come from that suffering. This is the healing that rises from life’s suffering. This is the meaning that rises from the suffering and dispels all despair. It is this that enables me to bear witness to life, love and community.

It matters how we see life, how we look at life, for how we see life will affect how we live in the world. Yes we all turn away at times, it gets too much, but we cannot do this for long, we need to look at the world with loving eyes, for the world needs it. I know I do. We need to see the world through eyes that are fully awake, through conscious eyes. This is not easy by the way, it will hurt, for the awakened eye is the vulnerable eye, but it is the only way to live and it is the only way to see beauty and love. If we turn away, as we are all tempted to do at times, we will fail to see all that makes life worth living for, worth dying for, for that matter.

In the Gospel accounts there are several examples of Jesus healing people of blindness. There are other occasions where he is found criticising the religious leaders of the time for their blindness. You will also find several occasions where Jesus’s gaze, his eyes if you like, are mentioned, the way he looked at people, always with love and compassion even when rebuking them. There is something powerful in these examples from the Gospels; a powerful lesson is being taught here about how we see and look at things; a lesson about how we all should live in love and compassion, with our eyes wide open, bringing healing and love to all, so that they too can see once again through clear open eyes.

The key is to see the world through “Unfurnished eyes” as Emily Dickinson described them, eyes untarnished by the past and wide open. This is like seeing with the eyes of  the Buddha, uncluttered by attachments. If we can we begin to not only vision but create the Kin-dom of Love, the Kingdom of God right here right now. It begins by not turning away, no matter how hard it can feel at times  no matter how much it hurts.

All we have to do is unfurnish our eyes; all we have to do is see through loving eyes. You see, despite what we are told, love in actual fact is not blind, for it is love that truly sees. Just think about the people and the places you love, have you noticed something, you notice greater detail about them. You see more than is often seemingly there in them. When you gaze through loving eyes you become more conscious, life just seems more alive and you feel more awake. I did that day as the people I passed compelled me not to turn away, by looking at me and simply smiling and I did when I went to “Another Place” and simply opened my eyes and gazed at the sea.

Just imagine what might happen if we saw all life and all people through such loving eyes? Well if we do we will see more, which means life will hurt more at times, but we will also know more beauty and love and we will bring more beauty and love into our world. All we have to do is live with our eyes wide open; all we have to do is not turn away.

Don’t turn away and if you do, don’t turn away for too long. Instead let’s look at the world with open eyes.

To live with open eyes is to see the world as it truly is; to see reality as it really is, warts and all and in its beauty spots too. To live with open eyes is to not turn away from the suffering present in life but also to pay attention to life’s beauty too. To live with open eyes is to see the reality of the whole of life. This is not easy, so often we are tempted to turn away. To live fully connected lives we need to live with open eyes, to see life with all its blessings and curses.

Our open eyes allow us to recognise where we can act in the world, if our minds and our hearts are open. If we live with open eyes we will see clearly how we cannot turn away for our world needs us to look on it with loving eyes.

Let’s turn away no more and look at the world through loving eyes.

“Each New Morning” by Penny Quest

Each new morning two choices are open to every one of us:
The choice to live that day in the joyfulness of Love,
Or in the darkness of Fear.

Each new day, as the sun rises,
We have another opportunity to make that choice.
The symbolism of the sunrise is the removal of shadow
And the return of Light.

Each new morning we have another chance
To rid ourselves of the burdens, sorrows and fears of the past,
To rejoice in the joy of the present,
And to look forward to a future of fulfilment
On every level of our being.

Each sunrise is a fresh opportunity to release fear,
To choose a different life-path,
To commit ourselves to joyful, light living,
To trust in ourselves and in the Universe,
To trust in the forces of Nature and in Mother Earth,
To trust God, the Creator, the all-That-Is.


1 comment:

  1. The tragedy in Manchester touches me closely in my personal life. A reminder that both victims and those first on he scene of horror are in need of prayer. A reminder that the Unitarian message that there isn't some absolute "right" that transcends human life itself is still as apposite now as when it was forged in the conflicts centuries ago. And the wisdom of taking time, as I have seen a headlong rush to "save the planet" by rapidly swathing tower blocks in foam insulation despite the supposed "jeremiahs" disquiet at the obvious compromising of their fire safety. The voices raised against the orthodox and obviously popular need to be respected.