Monday 30 August 2021

Anger is an energy: It can destroy or it can create

We live on an angry planet, or at least it certainly seems that way. Anger seems to be everywhere; people appear ever more angry.

A friend contacted me the other day troubled by the anger she had felt toward a friend who had been asking some rather personal, probing questions. She got very defensive. I don’t think her response was inappropriate, she dealt with things well, she certainly wasn’t rude or insulting. The trouble she had was dealing with how she felt afterwards, she was very angry. She asked me how I stayed so calm in such situations. I explained that I had learnt to be like this from a young age. It was my way of controlling the potential anger of others. What I also said was that I had not always dealt with my internal anger though over the years. The anger was still there, and the anger remained just as destructive. I have learnt over time that anger, like all other emotions has a place. It is not wrong to feel angry, there are times when it is entirely appropriate to feel angry, the key is what we do with these feelings, do they inspire us to creativity or do they become destructive.

There is a lot of anger about at the moment. I think the feelings have intensified over the last eighteen months as we have been hit by the Covid crisis. I have noticed that since lockdown ended folk have in strange ways struggled more. I wonder if this has been due in some ways to folk clinging on holding on through it all and now as some sense of normality has returned many of us have struggled more. There is anxiety and a sense of anger that so many of us are expressing.

Yes, folk are angry, but not necessarily at the same things. What I have noticed is that much of this anger seems to become obsessively focused on whatever the object the individual or group might be angry at. There is nothing new in this we humans have projected our obsessive anger on to people, places and things throughout our history. In time the anger becomes ever more deep seated and transforms into resentment, so deep it cannot be reasoned with.

Resentment is a waste of life, as it so quickly becomes all consuming. It can take over your whole life. You will find many examples of this in literature. A classic example would be Captain Ahab. My friend, who I mentioned earlier, produced a copy of “Moby Dick” from her hand bag while we were talking the other day. In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick Captain Ahab is consumed by his rage against the “white whale” “Moby Dick” who in a previous voyage had destroyed his ship and bitten off his leg. So Ahab, vowing revenge, sets out on a voyage to hunt down the “white whale”. He becomes so consumed by his rage and his desire for revenge that as time goes by he no longer sees “Moby Dick” merely as the perpetrator of an evil act but as the “devil incarnate”, as the sum and substance of all evil that occurs in our lives. Today there are many versions of the “White Whale”. Just spend a few hours on social media if you don’t believe me.

Ahab grapples with the “white whale” until the end. He hurls his final harpoon and cries out “to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

Now I know this is only a work of fiction. A great work of fiction by the way and one written by a man who had Unitarian links. I understand that Herman Melville worshipped at the “All Souls” in New York. There is something in this work of fiction that speaks to me and I believe to all of us when we look at the power of rage and the destructive nature of deep rooted resentment. We only need to look at the world we live in today to see example of this all around us. Have you ever been consumed by such rage?

They say that anger is like fire. It can smolder for some time and then suddenly blaze or burn with fury. Anger, like fire, of course does serve a purpose, an essential one at times. It can bring warmth where cruel coldness once reigned. It can destroy what is harmful and oppressive, as it has throughout history. The problem of course is that sometimes the right healing does not follow, you have to build again after the destruction.

Anger itself is neither good or bad, it is what is done with this emotion that makes the difference. As Aristotle so wisely recognised when he asked not whether anger is “good” or “bad” but how it shall be used: directed at whom, manifested how, for how long and to what end.

Anger can be an example of care, deep care. I have noticed feelings of anger in myself this week. I have realised that in some situations I have remained too silent, afraid to speak out, when I should have. Some of the anger is frustration at myself. I am becoming aware that the feelings are also a nudge that I should act and speak out. The key is discovering the right and appropriate ways to achieve this and to do so in ways that add to life’s creation and not destruction.

In the Gospel accounts you will see examples of Jesus becoming angry at injustice. The gentle Jesus meek and mild image is not an accurate one. He raged against the religious leaders of his day who seemed to place observance of the law over caring for people. It seems that the heart of the law was missed in pursuit of following the rules. A classic example of this can be found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 13 of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. To Jesus what mattered were the people, that is what he cared for rather than these laws that had lost the spirit of the faith. So what did he do? He healed people on the Sabbath right in front of the Pharisees.

Jesus saw the law had lost sight of the people. He saw his purpose, as a good Jew, to return the law to the people.

I recently came across the following poem “Making a Fist,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

“Making a Fist,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
A drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
Watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past
the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the back seat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

Anger can be creative, it is wrong to see the feeling as merely negative and destructive. Naomi Shihab Nye’s fist is a gesture of self determination, of the will to live, of a fury to stay alive. This power can become a seed that can compel us to act in ways to aid in the creation of life and not its destruction.

This is beautifully illustrated in the following verse from Thich Nhat Hahn

“For Warmth”  by Thich Nhat Hanh

I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep the loneliness warm—
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

He wrote it after the Vietnamese village Ben Tre, that he and his monks had helped to rebuild four times, had been destroyed once again by American bombers. Over time he tenderly cared for his anger, knowing that it could be turned into action needed for his country’s survival.

Anger is an important human emotion, we have it for good reason. You cannot live without it. The key is what we do with the energy. In “Women who run with wolves” Claressa Pincola wrote

“All emotion, even rage, carries knowledge, insight, what some call enlightenment. Our rage can, for a time, become teacher, a thing not to be rid of so fast, … The cycle of rage is like any other cycle; it rises, falls, dies, and is released as new energy.

… Allowing oneself to be taught by one’s rage, thereby transforming it, disperses it. So, rather than trying to behave and not feel our rage or rather than using it to burn down every living thing in a hundred mile radius, it is better to first ask rage to take seat with us. Have some tea, talk awhile so we can find out what summons this visitor.”

We can’t hide from our feelings of anger, nor should we destroy with them, but we do need to realise them and create something from this fire that burns inside our hearts. It is there for a reason and the reason needs to be found or it can actually destroy us. The key is to make good use of the anger. Now what that might be is for each of us to discover. You have those feelings, even if you don’t want to recognise them, the key is to understand them and see what they are compelling you to do in order to participate in the creation of life, for our world needs it. There is far too much destructive rage all around us. It is getting louder and more destructive as time goes by.

So know your anger, do not flee, understand it, make something useful from it, it become a part of the creation of life. Our world so desperately needs it.

I am going to end today with “Uselful Anger” by Stephen M Shick

“Useful Anger” by Stephen M Shick

A good anger swallowed
clots the blood
to slime
—Marge Piercy

But what is to be done with it,
this anger that dare not be swallowed?

Should it be diluted with denial, cooled with indifference?
Should it be sweetened with good intentions,
softened with lies?
Should it be spewed out red hot over searing tongues,
scorching the guilty and innocent alike?

What’s to be done with it,
this anger that dare not be swallowed?

Don’t dilute it, deny it, or cool it.
Don’t sweeten it or soften it.
But, pause for a moment.

Could you hold it before your eyes
examine it with your heart and mind?
Could you hold it
then touch it to your belly
that place where your soul rests?
Could you let it enter there knowing it is the part of you
that needs to be treated kindly
that needs to be listened to
that needs to be honored?

For it has the power to save you,
to save us all.

Below is a video devotion based on this "blogspot"

Monday 23 August 2021

Nostalgia for the Day: For this is the Journey

I recently enjoyed a week off duty. It was much needed. There has been so much going on. I didn’t make too many firm plans other than to spend time with my mum and sisters and some very old friends. I also managed to have a conversation I have being trying to have for over twenty years. Last week I managed it and it has made a whole world of difference. I feel a new freedom and a new happiness, I just wish that here hadn’t been such a price to pay to get there. That said I am grateful that the aching yearning is not there and the wishful thinking of what could have been seems to have eased. I thank God for this.

I set off for home that Monday morning, past familiar signs and symbols on the M62 as you leave Lancashire and enter Yorkshire. As I drove, I listened to music that took me right back to my teenage years. As the rain fell stronger, it was siling down, I turned the music up louder and sang along, I was probably screaming as I passed Stott Hall Farm. The whole journey was a festival of nostalgia. As I was driving, I smiled to myself and remembered that nostalgia does mean a kind of homesickness, a longing for a place or a time that once was. We can of course never go back to that same time and place and even if we could it would never be as we remembered it. No one ever steps in the same river twice. Why? Well because the river is not the same and neither is the person who steps into it.

Here's what I was singing along to in the car


Last week was a journey home, a step back in time, an experience of nostalgia. That said it was an experience of all these things in the present day. I had gone home with a sense of sickness, homesickness if you like but returned revived and revitalised prepared to journey on

Nostalgia is an interesting word. Like so many words it has changed in meaning over time. Originally it meant “severe homesickness considered as a disease” from the German heimweh (home+woe) homesickness. It is rooted in the ancient Greek words “algos” meaning pain, Grief, distress and “nostos” meaning homecoming. Nostalgia is a painful homecoming.

There is a similar Welsh word “Hiraeth” which is a mixture of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past. The Cornish and Breton equivalents are "hireth" and "hiraezh"

Don’t we all yearn for a time long gone at times. I do wonder if times were ever as we imagine them to be, whether good or bad. The yearning and nostalgia may well be for a past that never was. My grandfather always said there was no such thing as the good old days, no idealised time. Life was tough, much tougher back then. I know he was scarred by the loss of younger brother at a young age, from appendicitis. People of his generation were used to the loss of children, something we have not been accustomed to in our day and age. I have been thinking of this a lot these last 18 months, particularly with the response in some quarters to medical developments. So many childhood killer diseases have been irradicated, sadly in recent years some have returned.

We cannot, should not ,live in the past, it is rarely as we remember it. That said neither should we just disown the past, just let it go. This is not healthy either. What is vital is to find peace with the past and to help that bring it alive the moment in which we live and thus create a future in which we can all live, to build the land where we bind up the broken and where captives can finally be free. Even if that is just ourselves, which of course it is not. Life is never just about ourselves and our personal freedoms. I sometimes feel that this fetishization of the present is another symptom of a growing self-centredness. There is another danger too, the failure to learn from our mistakes made in the past. Do we learn the lessons from history? Well, it would appear not. The horrible scenes in Afghanistan this week seem to prove this once again.

I have over the last few days sought solace in the writing of Forrest Church. He was a powerful influence on my early years as a minister. One of the many principles that Forrest lived by was “nostalgia for the present”. He described this as embracing each day as it passes instead of ruing it after it has gone. Or “looking forward to the present” which he has described as enjoying what you have as if in a state of anticipation rather than aching longingly for that which likely will never be.

This became particularly pertinent during the last years of his life as he was dying of Oesophageal cancer. He discovered that he could practice what he had always preached. Something he learnt over years of pastoral ministry, as he shared in the lives of so many people, especially those at the ends of theirs. As he wrote himself “I have seen people in the last weeks of their lives live every moment more fully than they ever have before, because they recognise what most of us don’t in our daily living: that each moment is precious.” That even in those last moments of life there is a potential for peace, beauty and completion.

I remember a Unitarian ministerial colleague tell me that he had become convinced of God’s presence in life during those moments that he shared with people just before they died. That something was happening in those moments that he cannot begin to describe, all that he knows is that life took on a different meaning in those moments and that he himself was transformed by being present there and then. The conversation has stayed me, it has fed my daily life and it keeps speaking to me. I have experienced the same truth over the years as I have shared openly and intimately with people and not just at the end of their lives. Those spots of time moments, when I have touched something deeper. I have experienced it once again these last few days. As I have stepped into and re-experienced the past, including moments of the deepest pain and even opened some old wounds from past, I didn’t bleed too much. As I have done so I have been better able to connect with the day in which I am living and feel fully present in life and thus experience less fear of what is yet to come on this beautiful journey that is life. As they say life is a journey.

Life is often described as a journey that moves from one stage to another, sometimes full of joy and sometimes full of fear. Like the seasons life is forever changing. My life has taken me to different stages and I have journeyed with a rich variety of people. Some have been there from the very beginning, some I have joined and stayed with and others I have travelled with for only a short time. They have all touched and blessed my life in deep, rich and meaningful ways and I hope I have blessed theirs likewise.

I heard a lovely example of this week where it seems I did. I conducted a huge funeral this week for a local dignitary. Afterwards a woman approached me to thank me for helping her son a few years ago. Dan the man as she called him. As a teenager he had struggled with himself and to come out as gay. He came to see me and even spent a few months with the congregation, his family were Anglican. She told how much I had helped him come to terms with himself and that he was thriving. She said he would be thrilled when she would tell him later than he had seen me. We do really do not know the impact we have on others, whether positive or negative. There is no neutrality in life. Everything we do and everything we do not matters. Matter truly matters. Never be indifferent in life, for life itself is surely not.

Life is a journey they say, who am I to argue. What I would say though is that the journey is not really one of distance. If you think about it we don’t really go anywhere, or not too far. We are limited by the confines of this beautiful spinning planet, unless you are an astronaut or a multi-billionaire like Elon Musk or Richard Branson who indulge your fantasy of blasting off into space. For most folk the life journey is not one of distance, but rather depth. It is an inner journey, what some have called the spiritual journey. The wonderful farmer poet Wendell Berry captured this beautifully in his poem “A Spiritual Journey”

"A Spiritual Journey"

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

by Wendell Berry

Many folk, in spiritual circles often speak of “The daily journey”. This is a very strange thing to say, it doesn’t make sense. You see “journey” means what you do in a day. So, when you say daily journey, what you are actually meaning is your daily, daily. The word journey is derived from the Latin word "diarnum" meaning daily portion from which the old French word "jornee" which meant a day’s work or a day's travel, is derived. I love this truth, it makes me smile broadly. Of course, any spiritual journey can only be taken one day at a time. That said we do not walk innocently into it, all that we are, all that we have been and all that we have experienced is a part of us, the journey before becomes part of the journey of the day, which leads us into an unknown future, but one in which we can travel well, if we can learn the lessons from the past.

Life is a beautiful journey. What are you going to do with the day?

A question to leave you with.

I say…

Let us journey on. Let us live each day and live it well. Not by forgetting the past, or living in fear of it, but by allowing it to truly inhabit our daily tasks. Let us live with nostalgia for the present, by embracing our daily task, and embracing the beautiful journey, rather than ruing it after it has gone. Let us look forward to the present by making the most of what we have with a sense of anticipation for what might yet be rather than an aching longing for what will likely never be.

Let us journey on and journey home, whatever our daily tasks might be.

Here is a video devotion based on the material in theis "blogspot"

Sunday 8 August 2021

“How Do We Remember? To Re-Feel Our Lives Again”

The Olympics end today. I find that they always bring up memories of years gone by. They connect folk with the past and times in history, both personal and universal. The Olympics are always caught up in their time and space. In years to come no doubt these Olympics will be known as the “Covid Games”. They have already been postponed for one year. These are the 2020 Olympics, but are taking place in 2021. They have taken place without crowds of supporters cheering on the competitors. They have also been the games that have highlighted various mental health issues that top class athletes, as well as ordinary folk, suffer from. Society has changed and is changing and this is reflected in all aspects of life.

I have been watching the Olympics, but not with the same interest and attention that I have in the past. I am not sure why. Someone suggested to me the other day that is probably because of the time difference. I am not convinced of this. As a child I loved the Olympics. My first sporting hero was Brendon Foster and this dates back to the 1976 Olympics at Montreal. I was only four years old at the time. Now when I say he was my sporting hero, I suspect he was more my mum’s. She loves the Olympics and I suspect I enjoyed watching with her all those years ago. The images I remember from 1976 are not of the actual events but images repeated over the years. My mum likes to tell the story of waking me late in the night so I could watch Brendan Foster’s race, he came third and won bronze in the end. What is strange is that I do have this felt memory of being woken. It is not so much a visual memory though, more an emotional one. This though does not surprise me as memory for me is much more a felt, an emotional experience, rather than a visual one. In many ways it’s the responses of competitors after the events that stay with me, not just the competition, I am touched by the joy and the emotion.  I am touched by the years of dedication that these people and those who have supported them have put into their lives. Not just the winners and medallists, but also those competing. It is inspiring and these feelings stay with me, stored in my heart and soul. No doubt others remember differently.

If I have learnt anything in life it is that people can experience events, remember events, that they were both present at very differently. There are many reasons for this, but one may well be how their senses take in the experience, another how they actually remember. Some people are much more visually minded than others, more spacially aware. I have noticed over the years how different my brother and myself are. We recall things very differently and I suspect that this is because we process and thus remember very differently. We human beings are very diverse creatures indeed. While my brother and me look alike, we are not very alike.

A Lot of my memories were lost for many years, but have over time been re-felt and re-experienced. This is never an easy experience, but it is a rich one in the end. When I say it isn’t always easy, I am understating things, in truth it can be excruciatingly painful. I have recently re-experienced some memories while visiting an old friend who was staying in hospital in the North West. Thankfully he has been able to return home and I hope that his mental condition will continue to heal. During our conversations he talked an awful lot of our days, when we were students. Events and people and experiences that just weren’t there for me, they were gone, seemingly lost, from my mind. Some amusing and wonderful and others less so. There was an awful lot camaraderie, friendships and the odd romance, that never ended well. The memories though were not particularly visual though, they were felt, they were emotional. I re-felt these memories, I re-sensed them, they were resentments. They keep on coming as the days pass.

As I have said, many times before, I wish we had a word for re-sensing things that didn’t only have negative connotations. Resentment means to re-feel, to re-sense something, sadly we do not have a word for doing so in a positive or even neutral sense. My memories are mixed experience, aren’t all of memories a mixture of blessings and curses, just as life is. To quote good old Moses, “I lay before you life, blessings and curses, therefore choose life”

I wonder how your memories manifest in your life. Maybe you could reflect on past Olympics and where you were in your life and the folk you shared those memories with. How do you remember? What senses come alive? Perhaps talk with those who shared those memories with you, how do they remember? I Bet that they don’t in exactly the same way.

Memory is a mysterious thing. The way I remember my own life and people I share my life with has changed many times. The changes seem to coincide with the way I have experienced and understood my own humanity. The truth is that my life is made up of those lives that went before me, my life is built on their lives and those that follow me, their life will be built on mine and my contemporaries. The ancestors who walked before me and those that follow me are actually a part of me. I find that incredibly humbling.

It fascinates me how these memories take shape and form and often reshape as time goes by; it amazes me how these memories seemingly re-incarnate as the days pass. In many ways it is memory that brings the moments I am experiencing to life, how these ghosts of the past in habit our lives. They follow us like headlights on our tales.

One thing I have never had a great memory for is names. I was talking with someone the other day who told me how much he hates it that some people forget the names of others, he said he thought it was disrespectful. I told him that am one of those people. I can remember details of a person’s life, if they have told me it, faces stay with me, even though I claim I don’t have a visual memory, but I suspect that is more spacial than facial the deficit I mean. That said for some reason names can easily get lost somewhere. By the way it is not only the names of people, but places and things too. The details are there, but not the name. I am told that this is only going to get worse, I have already seen the signs of what is yet to come. Billy Collins captured this perfectly in his poem “Forgetfulness” Angela Fowler recently shared this poem at our poetry night. She loves Billy Collins, as do many of us. He has the capacity to touch places deep within but in a simple easily relatable way. Interestingly when I remined of this on Thursday she had forgotten about it, which we all laughed about together, a beautiful moment of human connection.

Here is the poem

The name of the author is the first to go
Followed obediently by the title, the plot,
The heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
Which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
Never even heard of,
As if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
Decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
To a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
And watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
And even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
Something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
The address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
It is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
Not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
Whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
Well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
Who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
To look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
Out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

…Billy Collins captures something beautiful, if a little painful here, as he usually does.

Memory is a mystery, we all forget things. I keep on forgetting things at the moment, but I know that this grief and how it manifests in my life, how love and loss plays out. Thankfully I am keeping a sense of humour about all this. We have to maintain our sense of humour about such things. That said there are types of memory loss that less funny, tragic really. There is of course Dementia, in its many forms, the cruellest being Alzheimer’s. A disease which attacks the cortex of the brain forming bundles of tangled plaque that inhibit conversation between the neurons; as it takes away a persons identity and history as aspects of their humanity drift away. The longer we live the more likely we are to become one of its victims.

While the Alzheimer’s sufferer forgets, those who loved them never let them go. Those who shared memories with them hold their love, those feelings are felt in that deeper place that cannot be destroyed by time. Love is eternal, it is immortal. Perhaps some of us feel these experiences more deeply, depending on how we experience life. Sometimes they are so intense that we lock these memories away. Ghosts though have a habit of haunting you again when you least expect them to.

This brings to my mind the following verses from Isaiah (49 vv 15-16):

15 Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.

These words came to me the other day as I was looking at the callouses on my hands caused by training at the gym. I then spent a little time looking at the palms of my hand. I looked at what are called the heart and lifelines and remembered the love I have known and the love I have shared, with those people who have made up my life. Such feelings are surely Divine. There are times when these feelings are too much.

This is beautifully illustrated by Thich Nhat Hahn, who wrote in “Present moment, wonderful moment”

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”

Isn’t he right. All that has been before is a part of who we are.

Life awes me every single day, it humbles me also. The more I learn the less things make sense. Every day I have a growing sense of how truly ignorant I am. Nothing makes absolute sense to me. I have no idea why I feel what I feel or why my mind remembers and forgets things and then suddenly the memory is more alive than it has ever been. Clever people try to explain these things to me, but they seem to get it even less I. The sum of the parts they describe do not even begin to scratch the surface of the whole.

I am grateful to be a part of this incredible mystery that is life itself; that I get to share with the people I do; that I get to experience the sensations of these memories coming to life in my body and spirit, enhancing my experience of life today.

I am grateful to have experienced this the most amazing trip that anyone could wish to be on. Thank you for being a part of it. What a ride, what a ride…

Please click below to watch a video devotion

based on the material in this "blogspot"


Sunday 1 August 2021

To weave the web, to tear and repair

I will begin this "blogspot" with a refelction by Parker J Palmer...

Here’s a William Stafford poem about the “thread” that runs through our lives — a thread that can guide us if we hold onto it:

"The Way it is" by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Holding on doesn’t make life any easier, but it can keep us from getting lost in the dark woods that swallow us up every now and then. Knowing we can find our way home with that thread in hand, we’re more likely to explore the darkness and learn what it has to teach us.

From time to time, I lose track of the thread of my life. I lose it when I succumb to my own fears, or to other people’s expectations, or to the non-stop circus of distractions we call the modern world. So I need to take time to ponder a few questions, which is what I’ve been doing this week:

As I look back on my life, what’s the thread that has given me a sense of meaning and purpose? How can I name or picture it in a way that will keep me more aware of it?

Once I’ve reclaimed my lost thread and have it firmly in hand, what darkness do I need to enter and explore? For example, what fears do I need to face into and walk through to keep them from shutting me down?

In what kinds of situations do I most often let go of the thread? How can I avoid those situations, or go into them better prepared to deal with their risks?

If you find these questions helpful, I’ll be glad. If you have thoughts or questions to share about holding onto the thread that guides your life, I’ll be glad for that, too.

…Thank you Parker…I do like Parker J Palmer

Today is 1st August. I began my ministry with the good folk of Altrincham and Urmston and many others , these beautiful people on 1st August 2010. 11 sweet years, we have been through so much together.

Now of course 1st August is a special day for many reason. It is of course “Yorkshire Day”, as I am sure you all know. You will be celebrating won’t you? I don’t remember it being marked when I was a child, I suspect like a lot of things it is something that has developed over the years. It began in 1975, a creation of the “Yorkshire Ridings Society” as a response to the local government reoganisation in 1974 when the three Ridings no longer existed. August 1st was picked as it marked the passing of Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, a campaign led by the Yorkshire M.P. William Wilberforce. The day was already marked as “Minden Day” commemorating “The Battle of Minden” , when a White Rose is permitted to be worn in the headdress. The white rose is of course the symbol of Yorkshire.

To be honest I suspect that “Yorkshire Day” is a bit of nonsense, although not as much as “Lancashire Day” which is marked on 27th November and began in 1996, no doubt in response to “Yorkshire Day”.

1st of August is also “Sister’s Day”, “Girl Friends day”, “Planner Day”, “Respect for Parents Day”, “Doll Day”, “World Lung Cancer Day”, “Psychic Day” (I’m sure they already knew that), “Rounds Resounding Day”, “International Child Free Day”, “Raspberry Creampie Day”, “World Scout Scarf Day”. I am sure there are other days marked on 1st August too.

1st August is also “World Wide Web Day”, a day of celebration dedicated to web browsing on the internet. Seems like an odd thing to celebrate I know, but if you think about it, the World Wide Web (www) is something that has helped keep so many of us going these last 18months. The World Wide Web has made it possible to do so, something that would not have achievable just a few years ago. It has helped us keep in contact with folk all over the world, as well as finding out information about virtually any topic! It really is quite remarkable to think about the power that the Internet has today, for good and for bad.

The first image to be posted on the World Wide Web, was uploaded in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee. It was a photo of “Les Horribles Cernettes”, a parody pop band founded by employees at the CERN centre in Geneva. The term “surfing the net” was coined a librarian called Jean Armour Polly? It was first used in an article she published called “Surfing the Internet” in March of 1992. Since then the World Wide Web and grown beyond anyone’s imaginings.

Tim Berners-Lee created the www, you know he gave it away for nothing. If he had wanted to, I’m sure he could have been the richest man on earth, but money was not his motivation. Profit is not the only thing that stimulates creativity, although some would have us believe it is. Tim Berners- Lee is a Unitarian Universalist and it is suggested that the principles of the faith tradition influenced the creation of the World Wide Web. In 1999 he said:

“One of the things I like about Unitarianism is its lack of religious trappings, miracles, and pomp and circumstance. It is minimalist, in a way. Unitarians accepted the useful parts of philosophy from all religions, including Christianity and Judaism, but also Hinduism, Buddhism, and any good philosophies, and wrapped them not into one consistent religion, but into an environment in which people think and discuss, argue, and always try to be accepting of differences of opinion and ideas.”

This at least is the ideal. Nothing lives up to an ideal.

It was something about the decentralised power aspect, that spoke to Berners-Lee and his ideas as to what the www would become. Perhaps what influenced him was the idea that the Divine is a part of the interconnectedness of everything and that all feed into the creative process. This is how Berners-Lee conceived that the World Wide Web would operate.

When considering the future of the internet in 1999 he suggested that:

“We certainly need a structure that will avoid those two catastrophes: the global uniform McDonald’s monoculture, and the isolated Heaven’s Gate cults that understand only themselves. By each of us spreading our attention evenly between groups of different size, from personal to global, we help avoid these extremes. “

Sadly, and seemingly more clearly day by day, Berners-Lee’s dreams have not been realised. The darker forces that are at work in life do seem to have overwhelmed the internet with aggression and disinformation, while corporate power has taken control. A bit like so many of the great faith traditions the spirit at the heart of the World Wide Web and the internet have been overtaken.

That said the spirit and thread at the heart of is all is still there. There is still hope. Afterall it is we who feed the web, we are not only fed by it, we are a part of it too. It is the same with the nature of all life. We all live in a vast web of mutuality. We all feed this and we are fed by it too. There are many threads that are constantly weaved. Many of the great religious traditions speak of them. It seems to me that the www is a mirror of life.

I have come to believe that we have this thread running through all of us, this aspect of the Divine; I have come to believe that God is not separate from creation, but weaved and weaving through it. We each of us have this very same thread in us, in fact maybe we as individuals are one thread on the universal web of all life, that without our thread and every other thread the web would not exist. The web is what creates, holds and sustains us, but at the same time we create the very same web of existence. Many of the great stories of the ancient traditions speak of this. In the Christian tradition I always think of the Kingdom of God, as being an example of it. You see the Kingdom is not some place we wish to arrive at some day, but something we build or maybe weave right here, right now. We are the builders, we are weavers or we are the destroyers of the web, the kingdom or as I prefer to call it these days, the “kin-dom” of love and life is its temple.

This is why it is vital that we take care of this thread that is our life, body, mind, heart and soul and that we continue to weave into the web of all existence. That we fully play our part in creating and recreating the web. For if we do not we will not be playing our part in the whole and we will feel disconnected, no longer a part of the whole.

At times our thread may become a little threadbare, an aspect may become weakened. When this happens we need to take stock and perhaps do what is required to fix our thread or perhaps do more work to repair the damaged whole.

The web does not only exist in the present moment. It began to be weaved at the beginning of time and will continue on into eternity, when we all here are long gone. That said we have played our role in co-creating the whole. As our ancestors did, those who came before us. As I look back at my own life I can see a kind of personal tapestry being weaved and not by myself alone. I did not create this wholly alone, so many other lives have weaved their way into my life and helped create who I am, just as I have weaved my way into the lives of others. There is no neutrality in life, everything is connected. Everything that we do and do not do matters. Every thought, every word, every feeling. It matters for we are all part of the great interconnected whole.

I have come to believe that the primary purpose of spiritual community is to aid and encourage both the repair and enhancing of our individual threads while also creating, repairing and beautifying the whole. This was Berners-Lee’s vision of the World Wide Web. I suspect it is akin to what Rev Dr Martin Luther King called “Beloved Community”, the Kingdom of God right here right now. A faith community that is based around responsibility in humility. Not one that expects God to do the weaving alone but for each individual to bring their uniquely beautiful thread and weave it into community, turning up, entering into relationship willingly, learning how to weave their individual gifts to make the most of the whole, which is greater than the sum of its parts. To me this is true religion. Religion comes from the word religiere which meant to bind together and create more than could be done alone with the individual parts. Our single threads, no matter how well developed, no matter how powerful and beautiful can achieve very little alone, in fact they are pretty useless and certainly lonely on their own. This is the greatest problem of spirituality without community, in truth it doesn’t really work. Yet each individual thread weaved into the whole, playing its part, can create something way more beautiful than any of us could ever have imagined.

We are here for a purpose, there is a mighty meaning to our lives. Our lives and the lives of all depend on us taking care of the threads that make up our individual lives and the weaving of our threads as deeply as we can into the web of all existence. As we look at ourselves, our families, our communites, our world, no doubt we can see may tears in the web of existence, tears that won’t heal themselves. It is our task to repair the damage by weaving our threads together. In so doing we not only repair the whole, but we also beautify and strengthen our own threads. In so doing we will begin to create the “Kin-dom of Love” right here right now, we become the “Beloved Community”, we become the ones we have all been waiting for.

Something to think about this day, August 1st, “World Wide Web” day and in all the days to come.

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