Monday 13 May 2024

They don’t publish the good news. The good news is published by us

Thich Nhat Hanh “The Good News”

They don't publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

On the drive back from our Jack’s wedding a couple of weeks ago we stopped off at the village of Grassington. It was lovely to walk in the Yorkshire country side on such a beautiful day. We walked without thought of where we were going and eventually made our way back to the village. As we wandered around I noticed a sign on a tiny local jewelry shop that read “Home of the Notorious Tom Lee”. We called in and purchased something as we paid I asked about the sign outside. The owner was only two pleased to tell the story of “The Notorious Tom Lee”. He was the local blacksmith who lived and worked in the building and also the small inn next door. He had murdered the local doctor and terrorised the village and surrounding area. A thief, a highway and all round bad man. He had apparently been shot and injured during a highway robbery and the local doctor Richard Petty had tended to his wounds. Fearing the doctor would inform on him he took him on a drinking spree, following winning money on a cock fight, in nearby Kettlewell ( the place of our Jack’s wedding). The doctor was lured to the woods and murdered. Despite being the prime suspect there was not enough evidence to convict. Eventually Tom Lee was informed on and caught and found guilty at York Azzizes where he was hanged for his crimes. Later his body was left in a cage in Grassington to warn other would be criminals.

A gruesome and fascinating tale and one that the village is known for. There were no other plaques to local people. It all got me thinking about how we know places and people; it got me thinking about notoriety and our fascination with bad news and bad people. How we are fascinated by darkness and dark people. Whether they be notorious murders or world leaders. People love gangster stories and highway men etc. My childhood was filled with tales of characters such as Dick Turpin, Ned Kelly, Jesse James, Al Capone. Gangster films are ever more popular. People today are fascinated by true crime stories. Recent research has shown how this can be psychologically damaging. There is a fascination with notorious public figures, people love the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, whilst decent honest politicians are seen as dull and uninspiring. There is a fascination with celebrity gossip and celebrity influences online. Meanwhile there is a distrust of those who do good, who give their life for others. They are often sadly seen through suspicious eyes or considered dull. People are even told to hide their light and not talk about the good that they do. To not share the good news. Therefore, sadly all we ever hear is the bad news, because the good news is not up in lights and yet generally speaking it is the good that occurs throughout most of our lives. The good news does not stand out and shine so bright. Well maybe it should maybe it is time to tell the good news, to evangelise if you like.

Last Tuesday evening Adie Tindall led a fascinating conversation during “Living the Questions” on this very subject, “What is the good news?” He introduced the conversation explaining where the word evangelise came from. He explained That “'The ancient Greek word 'Evangelion' meaning good news was made popular in the Greco-Roman world. Especially under the reigns of Augustus and Caesar. Where they proclaimed a military victory to the Masses of the Roman empire, declaring “Salvation for the Empire.” This was adapted by the early Christians declaring the good news of Jesus Christ and Salvation in a different sense. Adie then opened up the conversation and invited us to explore the spirit of Evangelion in our context and experience; asking if any of us had good news to share? How do we share the good news? What is the good news as opposed to only the terrible news, and what part hope has to play in this?

We also talked a lot about discomfort and distrust we evangelism. How we can feel uncomfortable when people want to tell you what they considered to be their good news to you. We often turn off if someone is evangelising about their chosen subject. I experienced it myself the other day as a friend was trying to tell me about the merits of a carnivore diet. After first being taken aback by their approach I did look into it. While interesting I will not be following it. By the way they haven’t stopped evangelising since.

Why do we only talk about what is wrong, why do we promote only the bad news. Why do we build statues to the notorious. Why is it that a brutal murderer is the biggest talking point of the beautiful village of Grassington? Hey I’m talking about it now. Actually there is some good news in this. We talk about it because it is rare and shocking. Most people live decent caring lives, will do what they can to help. Something I have witnessed wherever I have been in life, wherever I have gone. We do good because it is the instinctive thing to do, the problem is that we are told not to talk about it. Maybe we should as it will encourage others to do more and in so doing all gain. So long as we ourselves do not become the bad news by overwhelming others with what we consider to be “The Good News”. The good news should always be joyful.

The former chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said:

“Doing good is not painful, a matter of dour duty and a chastising conscience. There is a Hebrew word, a key term of the Bible, for which there is no precise English translation: simhah, usually translated as "joy". What it really means is the happiness we share, or better still, the happiness we make by sharing.”

There is a real joy in doing good, all gain and yet we are encouraged to hide or light. Such a shame as joy is one of those feelings that grow the more we share it. Like love joy increases with subtraction. It is good for our souls and for the souls of others. As Swami Vivekananda said:

“The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified, and God will be in them.”

Thich Nhat Hahn said in his wonderful poem “The Good News”, that I shared earlier, that they don’t print the good news, that is our task. We have to make and publicise our own good news, to be aware of the good news that we are surrounded by. We need to be grateful that we experience life at all. He says: “Listen! You have ears that can hear it. Bow your head. Listen to it. Leave behind the world of sorrow and preoccupation and get free. The latest good news is that you can do it.”

Of course there are those who do try to spread the good news. I remember as a child that “The News at Ten” used to have an “And Finally” section at the end of its news bulletins. This would tell of a heart warming story. There is “The Good News Network” and similar publications that try to publicise good things in the world. So, there are pockets of folk trying to spread the good news, but they are rare.

There is sadness in this world, but there is also beauty, love, compassion, courage too. It’s just a shame that most of the modern media no longer believes that this sells.

The News of the World may well have gone the way of the Dodo and the dinosaur but what it traded on is still going strong, stronger than ever it would seem.

Perhaps the real problem is that we have come unreceptive to the good news. Maybe we no longer have ears that hear. Maybe we find it hard to take in the good news and just as importantly share it, become it, nurture it and let it flower and grow. We do this by not only our good deeds, but also let others see it.

As Hildegard of Bingen said:

“A person becomes a flowering orchard. The person that does good work is indeed this orchard bearing good fruit. . . . Whatever humanity does with its deeds in the right or left hand permeates the universe.”

Let us prepare the ground for the good news, let’s create the beautiful garden and let it bare fruit.

In “The Parable of the Sower” Luke 8: vv 4-8 Jesus tells the crowd that the sower threw seeds on the path that were trampled on and eaten by birds; while other seed fell on rocky ground where the roots were weak and therefore the plants withered and died; still others fell on thorn and the thorns grew up and choked the plants; finally some fell on good soil where they thrived and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing...a hundred fold.

Let us prepare the ground for the “Good News”, let it flower and grow. Maybe we need to find new ways of sharing the good news.

The great sages such as Jesus and Buddha spoke in parables in attempts to help people get to the deeper meaning of their message. They wanted the ears that heard to wrestle with what was being said and therefore come to a deeper understanding.

I believe that in this parable Jesus is telling his followers that in order to hear the good news you need to become receptive to it. As I have said many times before I believe that every one of us has the potential for deep compassion as well as the potential for hatred and extreme selfishness. The key is to feed and develop that compassionate aspect of ourselves and then we can indeed impact positively on the world in which we live. I do believe that the kingdom of heaven is within all of us, as is hell for that matter and that we can indeed build that kingdom here on earth; or we can build our own living hell here on earth. It really is down to how we all live our lives. “The Parable of the Sower”, “The Good News Network” the word’s of Thich Nhat Hahn, little conversations throughout our day, smiling at the person that you pass on the street, passing on a good turn given to you can indeed lead to some kind of chaos theory of love and compassion. It is time to start spreading the good news of the decent and ordinary and not just talk about the notorious.

Start spreading the “Good News”, we can change our world today.

I’m going to end with the poem “So” by Leonard Nathan

It’s a poem addressed to each and everyone one of us. We who live ordinary lives, not the famous or infamous, the notorious. We ordinary people who create the “Good News”. We are the most important people in the lives of others. We influence through our ordinary daily interactions. There is always something deeply meaningful and effective that we can all do in our ordinary lives and it can make all the difference. Let’s start spreading the “Good News”

“So?” by Leonard Nathan

So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.

Please find below a video devotion based on the material in this "blog spot"

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