Monday 22 February 2021

Common Sense and the Common Good

I recently spent more time than is probably healthy watching the second impeachment of the former US president Donald Trump. Many of the prosecutors spoke powerfully, but one deeply. This was the lead prosecutor Rep Jamie Raskin. His closing remarks hit me in both the head and the heart, they stirred my soul. I was already aware of the personal tragedy that he and his family had recently struggled with. On the 5th of January he had buried his son Thomas who had sadly taken his own life following a struggle with deep depression. Raskin persuaded several members of his family to attend the capitol building, to be together on January 6th, they day of the attack that led to Trumps impeachment. Raskin seems to be a man of deep integrity with sense of duty and purpose. Quite remarkable really in this day and age, to stand up and do your duty, even though you and your loved ones were suffering the deepest kind of grief. Raskin though clearly has a sense of a higher purpose than just himself. Of course his grief was not only for the loss of his son, but also for what had happened to his country.

Throughout the trial Raskin invoked Thomas Paine, who his son Tommy was named in honour of. Paine authored the pamphlet “Common Sense”, in which he famously advocated for American independence in 1776. Raskin stated "Senators, America we need to exercise our common sense about what happened," He continued,  "Let's not get caught up in a lot of outlandish lawyers theories here. Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country." Later he paraphrased Paine again, from another pamphlet called "The Crisis". "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered, but we have this consolation: The more difficult the struggle, the more glorious in the end will be our victory." During the trial he said “I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021. It’s not going to happen.” He closed the prosecution case by updating some of Paine’s language, to be more gender inclusive stating  “These are the times that try men and women’s souls.” Raskin appealed to common sense throughout his addresses, urging the 100 hundred senators who were the jury to use theirs “Common Sense is also the sense we all have in common as a community…Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country” when deciding whether to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Thomas Paine offered a common sense approach to religion, rejecting authority and creeds of any kind. That each is compelled to seek their own truth and that what mattered is how we live our lives as he stated  “I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.”

Jamie Raskin and Thomas Paine got me thinking about “common sense” in general and how vital that is not only at this time, but all times. To repeat Raskin “Common Sense is also the sense we all have in common as a community.” Common sense is about seeing things as they actually are and doing what ought to be done, for the common good.

Generally speaking when we talk of “Common Sense” we speak of something innate within us that does not require specialised training. This is true, but it can go too far. We ought to not reject expert views on matters, just because we believe our guts tell us something else or because someone on the internet told us otherwise. This brings to mind an old word shared by Susie Dent from Countdown this week, “ultracrepidarian” a nineteenth century word meaning “a presumptuous critic; one who loves to give opinions on matters they know very little about.

We must trust all our human senses of course we should, including the sixth, what Carl Jung called our “Collective Unconscious”, that said we must never suspend our reason, our capacity to think and have the humility to listen to those who perhaps know more than we do. If recent times have proved anything it is that just because you have a YouTube channel it does not make you an expert. Neither does some ones passion mean they are correct. It brings to mind a cartoon I saw this week that said, “Let me interrupt your expertise with my confidence.”

There is nothing new in this appeal to “Common Sense”. Aristotle described it as the ability in animals, including humans, to process sense-perceptions, memories and imagination to reach judgements. He claimed only humans have true reasoned thinking which takes them beyond common sense. So he seemed to suggest that in and of itself common sense was not enough, we still need to reason.

Our modern understanding of “Common Sense” dates back to the enlightenment era. In French the saying is “Bon Sense” which means “Good Sense”. I suspect that Descartes thought that common sense was pretty uncommon, suggesting that all have access to it, but that it is rarely used well, he suggested that we ought to be skeptical of it. Needless to say common sense did seem to develop during this time, and it was Paine’s “Common Sense” that became the most influential document of its time, influencing the revolutions of both France and America.

“Common Sense” seems vital right now. There has been an urgent appeal to it these last 12 months as we have struggled to live through this pandemic. In an age when trust in “experts” has eroded people have struggled to know who they should trust. Sadly we are living in the age of the “ultracrepidarian”.

“Common Sense” is vital as we continue to roll out the vaccine. Many people are skeptical of the vaccine, they have their fears. I watched a interesting program on Panorama on this only this week. Vaccines: The Disinformation War It focused on a recent video that has been spread throughout the internet primarily targeting folk who have genuine concerns about the vaccines. It is quite effective. There are many forces who are spreading disinformation about the vaccine and it is feeding into people’s fear. Vulnerable people are being targeted and this is dangerous. It is key to listen to those who know what they are talking about and then use our common sense, a sense that is shared by all and yet at times can appear so uncommon. To quote Jamie Raskin again  “Common Sense is also the sense we all have in common as a community.” Remember that we are in this together folks.

I was very grateful last week that both myself and Sue were able to get our first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, due to our work. I do hope that we will all be in this position soon and that we can begin to return to live the lives we would like, to return to a full common community.

The season of Lent has just begun. I trust that you enjoyed your pancakes on Tuesday, on what I like to call “Flat Yorkshire Pudding Day”. How do you eat yours? Do you prefer savoury or sweet? Being a good Yorkshire man I prefer mine with a thick onion gravy. I know that others think that this is utterly disgusting and makes no sense at all. Makes perfect sense to me, after all that a pancake is a flat “Yorkshire Pudding”.

People often give things up for Lent. I personally though prefer to think of what I can give towards the common good, it makes sense to me, rather than give things up. I suspect that we have all had to give up enough these last few months. So let us instead focus on what we can give to the common good, seems like common sense to me.

Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 4 describes Jesus facing temptation from “The Devil”, now my common sense cannot believe in a literal being that embodies all that is wrong in the world. That said my commonsense has no problem believing that there are voices both within and without that can knock me from my path. It is so easy to be distracted and tempted down so many pathways in life. Which of the voices both within and without do we trust? How do we rely on our senses, so as to make the right decisions in life? It is not always easy or that simple. We live in an age where there is so much distrust. I have a questioning mind and I ask questions of everything. Sometimes I have to ask the common questions that apply to all, I can’t always do as David Whyte suggests ask my own questions and give up on other peoples question, there are at times that common questions matter to us all. There is a common good and there truly is common sense.  To quote Representative Raskin once again “Common Sense is also the sense we all have in common as a community.”

There is a great deal of power in fear and in anger it influences our reason and our decision making. Who and what do we trust? Some say that we should trust our gut. Should we whilst also ignoring our reasoning faculties? What if what our guts are saying is coming from fear? Sometimes your intuitive feeling is the correct thing, but not alone, sometimes it might be completely wrong. I have noticed an example of this in recent weeks. Actually, it has come to light during the weekly quiz. Sometimes the first thought, the instinctive thought, that seemingly comes from nowhere is correct. Answers that come from some strange hidden place, that you didn’t even know you knew. I am unaware of so much until I find myself in conversation with someone and then suddenly this knowledge is there that I was not even conscious of, the human mind is an incredible thing, a complete mystery to me. That said sometimes that intuitive thought has proved to be completely wrong.

Sue and myself have proved to be a good team at these weekly quizzes, but we could have done better if we had not only relied on our gut feelings but also our reason. We have talked ourselves out of the correct answer on several occasions. One example was last week. We were asked where Mozart was born, which city? Now I knew he was Austrian and so we said to ourselves Vienna, the obvious answer. I then began to doubt this initial feeling and kept on saying, "I don’t think that is right, for some reason I think he was born in Saltzburg." We did not trust this reasoning and stuck with our initial answer Vienna. Mozart of course was born in Saltzburg. It didn’t matter as we won the quiz that week. That said it was still frustrating.

So how do we find the common sense, which seems so un-common at times; how do we trust that sense that we all have in common? Maybe Jamie Raskin can be the example to follow. He stayed true to his moral compass, he followed the greater common good, despite living with intense personal grief. He is certainly an example to me in this time when such people are portrayed as folk who should not be trusted. We have lived through a difficult year, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a fresh hope, there is "Respair", if we remain sensible if we live with common sense, a sense that we all have in common a sense that considers the common good, the good of all. It is up to us, it is up to all of us.

Monday 8 February 2021

Snowdrops of Hope Awaken at the Beginning of February

Last Saturday Sue spent time with her women’s circle, on Zoom of course not in person. It is a key aspect of her personal spiritual practice. As a result, on Sunday, she made a whole load “St Brigid’s” crosses. Now traditionally these are green, but she made a blue for me, our colour. Little Charlie, the dog, even got one to chew on. As I left for work on Monday morning, wondering what I might explore in worship this week, she suggested I might want to buy a bunch of daffodils to add to it and brighten up my vestry. Now this may surprise some folk, but I do listen to her and did as suggested.

The “Brigid’s Cross” is a small cross woven from rushes, in this case it was coloured straws. It has four arms and woven into a square in the middle. Last Monday 1st of February was “St Brigid’s Day” one of the patron saints of Ireland. This festival was formerly the Pagan festival Imbolc and marked the beginning of Spring. Many still celebrate it this way. The Goddess Brigid was originally one of the “Tuatha De Danann” and was adopted by The Christians in Ireland.

So last Monday was traditionally considered the beginning of Spring, there have been some signs of this, although the weather is protesting. Last Tuesday 2nd of February was officially the end of the Christmas Season with Candlemass. Traditionally this was always the end of Christmas and not Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. The Church of England actually announced that people could keep their decorations up until Candlemass this year in an attempt to keep out the January blues. We are living through unprecedented times after all and I know an awful lot of folk were grateful for this.

There was some sadness in this land as we heard the news that Captain Sir Tom Moor had sadly died. Now he certainly was wonderful symbol of hope in deeply challenging times and I am sure that his spirit of love and service will live on, despite the loss of his physical life. That though is up to us.

There have been other signs of hope too this week, suggesting the end of winter and the beginning of a new spring. On Monday morning Stephen Lingwood, minister in Cardiff, posted on “Twitter” “February will be better than January. March will be better than February”. I had the same feeling that morning too. There are small signs of hope around. There are new shoots coming through. The snow drops are everywhere. The snowdrop is considered a symbol of hope. Legend has it that they appeared as such after Adam and Even were expelled from Eden. Eve was about to give up hope that the winter would never end, but an angel appeared and transformed some snowflakes into the flower snowdrop, showing that the winter will eventually come to an end. The flower is linked to the purification associated with “Candlemass” as the old rhyme goes:

“The Snowdrop, in purest white array, first rears her head in “Candlemass” day.

There are other signs of hope too, in the middle of this long winter of life. The vaccines continue to be rolled out. So many have received theirs now. We are not at the end of this, of course we are not, but maybe there are signs of coming towards the beginning of the end. The 2nd of February is also “Groundhog Day” another sign of the measure of how long the winter is going to be. Yes I know that most of us feel like we have been living through a version of that classic movie this last 10 months. Remember of course that eventually that day does come to end and Bill Murray, in the form of the character Phil Connors is transformed and even gets the girl Andie McDowell. There are signs of hope all around us.

Sadly bad news on the Punxsutawney Phil front, the groundhog, he saw his shadow. This, according to the tradition, means six more weeks of winter. So, winter might be a little longer this year.

I had my own “Groundhog Day” experience on Tuesday as I had to make my journey to the chapel twice. Not great driving up the Washway Road twice. I arrived at my vestry and realised I didn’t have my mobile phone. I thought I must have put it down as I brought the milk in. I drove home cursing my brain and then looked around the house but couldn’t find it. I then went back to my car and there it was at the side of my seat, it had fallen out of my pocket. I laughed at my own madness and then got on with my day, filled with February thoughts of inspiration.

On Wednesday I woke up to news that made me smile broadly, it balanced out the sadness of hearing of the death of Captain Tom. The 3rd of February is “Elmo” that loveable character from Sesame Street’s birthday. It put a broad smile on my face and as Elmo’s says “Elmo thinks it’s important to be kind because if you’re kind to somebody, then they’ll be kind to somebody, and it goes on and on and on.” We should all be more like Elmo and more like captain Tom.

This is not the end of winter, but maybe it’s the beginning of the end or at least the end of the beginning. There are seeds of hope being planted and there are new shoots all around us. Hope springs eternal and we do not seem too far from spring. The seeds are there planted beneath the earth, waiting to give birth.

Maybe there are lessons that we can learn from the patience of seeds as we wait for the spring of re-birth from this awful virus. They lay there buried, surrendered to the process that is yet to come, when they will flower and flourish for all to share. Like those seeds there is so much buried within us waiting to be born, but not today. There are signs of hope though, may we nurture them.

This brings to mind a little gem I first came across a few years ago it is taken from “Dwellings. A Spiritual History of the Living World” by Linda Hogan,

"Seed. There are so many beginnings. In Japan, I recall, there were wildflowers that grew in the far, cool region of mountains. The bricks of Hiroshima, down below, were formed of clay from these mountains, and so the walls of houses and shops held the dormant trumpet flower seeds. But after one group of humans killed another with the explosive power of life’s smallest elements split wide apart, the mountain flowers began to grow. Out of destruction and bomb heat and the falling of walls, the seeds opened up and grew. What a horrible beauty, the world going its own way, growing without us. But perhaps this, too, speaks of survival, of hope beyond our time."

Yes there are seeds of hope waiting to be born and there are shoots already showing. There are many dark days to come through, of course there are, but there is hope beyond this time, in the not too distant future. The Hope has to be there growing in our hearts and souls or we won’t plant those seeds. It does not mean there is not horror and destruction in our lives now, but nor does that horror in the present moment stop us seeing that there is goodness in our time and place. There is so much goodness and amazing work going on all around us.

We need to live in and through hope, we need to be hope, we need to say yes to life. Just because there are problems and suffering in life it does not mean we should turn away from life and lose all hope, make despair the orientation of our heart. What kills us is cynicism, giving up on the possibility of what we can make things in life.

This brings to life a quotation from Stephen Colbert a rather wonderful late night American television host of “The Late Show”, who during the presidency of Donald Trump suffered a deal of great despair at the state of his nation, but continued to live in and through Hope and humour. He said:

“Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say "no". But saying "yes" begins things. Saying "yes" is how things grow. Saying "yes" leads to knowledge. "Yes" is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say "yes".”

So I say yes to life, to possibility, to the Hope in my heart. So I keep on planting seeds, despite those who tell me there is no point. For hope is, as Elizabeth Barrette says in “Origami Emotion”

“Origami Emotion” by Elizabeth Barrette

Hope is
Folding paper cranes
Even when your hands get cramped
And your eyes tired,
Working past blisters and paper cuts,
Simply because something in you
Insists on
Opening its wings.

I was thinking of this as I looked at the lovely “Brigid’s Cross” Sue and gifted to me and so many other friends and family. She had done something similar with the crystals she had given as gifts to friends and family at Christmas. Those crystals that made little rainbows from light in their homes. Rainbows of course are another symbol of hope.  Life is tough right now, yes it does feel like “Groundhog day” at times, there is much suffering, but that is not all that life is. We do not live in a state of total despair, there is much hope, I am seeing it in this February’s nature. February is better than January and March will be better than February, Stephen is correct, but we have to make it so. 

This brings to mind those final words from the film “Groundhog Day” as Phil Connors (Played by Bill Murray) finally got released from that repeated long winters Day

“When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long lustrous winter.”

There is so much that can be given birth to when we come through this long winter of all our lives. We do not have to trudge through it either. It doesn’t have to be a long slog, with heads down just repeating the same old day. It doesn’t have to be a tough old hike through life. This brings to mind a rather wonderful piece I recently came across by John Muir on hiking, titled “Sauntering”.

"Hiking - I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them."

Maybe this is a spirit that we can take into our daily lives as we keep on going through this winter. Instead of slogging through, perhaps we could saunter, as if on a journey through the holy lands of life and maybe when this is all over the seeds we plant along the way may give birth to something wonderful and beautiful. It will also most certainly help us get through the winter.

Yes, it’s a long cold winter and we are not through it yet. That said there are signs of hope all around us and there is something beautiful within us, waiting to be born, to be given birth to, in our hearts and hearths. Let us nurture them and share them with each other, encourage each other to keep on our little pilgrimages to our own Holy Lands, remembering that the holy land is the land beneath each of our feet. For everything is sacred, everything matters, every thought, every feeling, every word and every deed.

Monday 1 February 2021

Keeping It Real: On WA.I.T.T. & Reality

I remember a few years ago asking a friend what he was doing? He simply answered, “Keeping it real”. I laughed at the time. It was a phrase that was in common usage, almost told as a joke, but actually it has deep meaning. Afterall being real, living real and keeping it real is the only way to live. To live is to inhabit reality and to be fully alive in reality, doing the work we are here to do, for the good of all. To truly live spiritually alive can only occur in the real world, as challenging as it is. Our current life situation can put a strain on this. I know myself I am living an increasingly two dimensional life and this makes creativity difficult. I don’t like it, yes I am having to adjust, but would rather not live this way. That said it is absolutely necessary, only this week we passed the loss of 100,000 souls to this virus in this country alone and over 2million the world over. So we must live this way or God only knows what the death toll would be. We have to live this way, this is life, this is real life.

Life does not work out as you would expect it to, thus we have to constantly adjust and find ways to stay connected fully to reality. We also have to find ways to stay connected to one another. I am growing weary of this situation that we are all living through, but I, well all of us, have to live in this reality; this is our reality and we all have to guard against the danger of attempting to shape it to fit into what we would have it be, just because the world is not working out the way we would like it to be.

I have noticed frustration this week as I have heard some colleagues talk a bit too much about the potentials for growth in this current climate. Yes, there are opportunities to connect with new people. That said let us not pretend that this is not an ideal or even advantages reality. It is not, although it has allowed us to spread our nets a little further, well we could have been doing that anyway. For most of us the pandemic has reduced our experience of reality. We are living through frightening and destructive times. This is the reality of what we are living through. My word I do hope that we are all able to live through it.

So what do we do, we adjust, we adapt. We are doing this as well as we can. It is important to always remember that life rarely works out the way that we expect it to and that this is always the case.

I recently came across the following tale from my favourite Mulla Nasrudin, the holy fool. I love Nasrudin as he has this wonderful way of turning our expectations upside down. Here he acts in an unexpected way, which fools the would be thieves of his slippers.

"Some boys planned to steal Nasrudin's slippers and run away with them. They called to him and pointed to a tree. 'Nobody can climb that tree,' they said.

" 'Any one of you could,' said Nasrudin, 'and I will show you how.'

"He removed his slippers, then tucked them into his belt and began to climb.

" 'Nasrudin,' they cried, 'you won't need your slippers in a tree.'

" 'Why not?' Nasrudin said. 'Be prepared for every emergency, I say. For all I know I might find a road up there.'

Of course Nasrudin sounds ridiculous here. Of course, he won’t find a road up in the tree, even if he expects it could happen. Now while the story teaches that we can find our way in life in unexpected ways, there is a larger point being made. This is that reality is not your enemy, but it certainly can become the enemy of your expectations.

Yes, life often does not work out the way that we expect it to and this can lead to disappointment. The truth is that often life brings experiences that contradict the way we believe it ought to work out. Now when this happens fear can begin to take a hold and this it would appear is what leads to the rejection of reality for some kind of fantasy. It is not reality that is causing the problem, but our expectations about how reality should work out. Why should life work out the way that you and I expect it to?

Life is a constant conversation; we all live by what David Whyte has named “The Conversational Nature of Reality”. Life does work out exactly as we expect it to and we do act in exactly the way that the world expects us to. Reality exists in that conversation, which is never how we expect to be, that goes on between ourselves and one another. To keep it real it requires us to live there, often in the discomfort of reality, where life is rarely how we expect to be. While realising that we are living in this same reality.

Reality is the only place to live. The problem it seems is that for some in order to do so, reality has to be rejected for some other distorted view of life. This it appears to have been an increase in this these last few months, which has led to more and more folk falling down the rabbit holes of all kinds of “conspiracy theories”. These are a distortion of reality into something else, as if there was some kind of plot against the world. It is claimed that reality is not what we are experiencing, that we all living in some kind of Matrix or some other science fiction film. That reality is not real at all. I suspect that the fact that we are living ever increasingly two dimensional lives has helped to fuel this, we are not able to connect as we would like to and for good reason. This can lead to a sense that we are not all in this together.

It is true we often create worlds in our heads, that differ from the world of reality. It is a child like coping mechanism. This though can stop us living the life we are here to live, to do the work for the good of all. This alternative reality can at times turn vicious and deadly, and can lead to all kinds of scapegoating, as it has done throughout human history, when one group or other is blamed for all of life’s troubles, QAnon is just the latest example of this. There have been many others throughout the ages. They are taking on more prominence in our time due in no small part to this general sense of physical separation that we are having to live through. We have to live this way, of course we do, but there are many detrimental consequences of this.

This brings to mind a tale from Anthony DeMello’s “One Minute Wisdom”

"The Master claimed that the world most people see is not the world of Reality, but a world their head creates.

"When a scholar came to dispute this, the Master set two sticks on the floor in the form of the letter T and asked, 'What do you see here?'

" 'The letter T,' said the scholar.

" 'Just as I thought,' said the Master. 'There's no such things as a letter T; that's a symbol in your head. What you have here is two broken branches in the form of sticks.' "

Sometimes all we see are symbols. We look at the symbols and fail to see the reality.

Reality is a deeply sacred thing; we need to live in reality. This is where faith comes alive, where we can do our good works for the good of all. We need to love and respect reality and thus bring the spirit to life through it.

In “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith” Barbara Brown Taylor writes: 

“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”

I am missing three-dimensional connection. I am missing the physicality of interaction and the gritty reality of live entertainment. Yes, there is much we can connect with and there is truly high quality music and theatrical performances being created through modern technology. Zoom is great in helping us to stay connected but none of it is quite the same as living breathing flesh and holistic connection. I miss the feel of being with people of enjoying live entertainment, of seeing the whole of a person, it is tiring making do with reductionist experiences. I miss the physical nature of live entertainment. I miss the vibrations that shake through your body from live music, seeing the spittle as actors spit out there words, I am also missing the smell of everything. Life is too sanitised, I miss the grime and dirt, where so much of life grows and nurtures.

This week I remembered a concert, many years ago, at Cross street Chapel. It was the beautiful physicality of two East Asian musicians that had a powerful effect on me. The flautist moved me particularly watching this tiny body working over time to control the beautiful sound she was creating, as the vibrations moved through my body. I remember thinking of the years of practice that must have gone into creating this beautiful work of art that I was not just experiencing with my ears, but my whole humanity and with others too.

It brought to my mind those wonderful words of Wendell Berry from his poem “How to be a poet”, the second stanza

Breathe with unconditional breath   

the unconditioned air.   

Shun electric wire.   

Communicate slowly. Live   

a three-dimensioned life;   

stay away from screens.   

Stay away from anything   

that obscures the place it is in.   

There are no unsacred places;   

there are only sacred places   

and desecrated places.   

Yes, two-dimensional activity is wonderful, it allows folk to connect and to enjoy so many things that they would be utterly cut off from without it. I am grateful for this and I am fully engaged and conversing with it, but it is not real in the trustiest sense. It does not involve me wholly, it does not touch my spirit in exactly the same way. It is enough for now and must remain so for quite some time, it has to be, but it is not a replacement for the reality of the three-dimensional life.

To live spiritually alive, requires us to engage fully with reality. This is why I have never liked the following phrase by the twentieth century French Jesuit Priest and Philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who claimed that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”It is often heard by folk who like to call themselves “spiritual but not religious”. Now while I think I know what people mean by it; it bothers me greatly. The reason is that in my view it appears to diminish the human, the physical life. It seems to suggest that the physical life is of lesser importance, merely a home for the spirit. That what comes before and perhaps follows our physical life is somehow more important than this life. That somehow our human experiences are less than sacred. I am not convinced; dualism has always troubled me. I personally do not see a separation between body and spirit. This disembodied spirituality troubles me. The reason is that if we see the body as somehow less than spirit, or on the other hand see nothing sacred at all in our humanity this can lead to all kinds of troubles. I personally see the body as deeply sacred indeed. For me the body is a beautiful expression of the spirit come to life. Life is a sacred thing.

Life is a sacred thing, and we are all in this together. Something that two-dimensional living can sometimes lead us to lose sight of. We are in this together, we must not forget this, if we do we will be able to do the work we are here to do, for the good of all.

We need to remember W.A.I.T.T. it needs to become the acronym of our time, it may well be the acronym of the last twelve months; “W.A,I.T.T” “We Are In This Together”, “W.A.I.T.T.” We are bound to each other and this planet, our bodily home, across races, ethnicities, gender identities, economic status and nationality. Every person matters, everything matters and yet at times, due to our physical separation we can lose sight of this, it can seem like a fantasy, something that is not real and two-dimensional living can exacerbate this.

We must not lose this sense of “W.A.I.T.T.”, we need to embody this reality and find ways to build ties to one another and widen our circles of concern. This is the work of faith, this is faithful living. This is not easy, it is hard work and our current situation make it even more difficult.