Tag Archives: faith

Words, words, words …⤴

from @ blethers

I've been reading. Of course, there's never a time when I don't have a book on the go, but that's fiction. As it's Lent I've tried to be a tad more disciplined, and to that end saved up a book that I bought some months ago. At the time, I posted online that it had been a bargain - and it was: it cost me about £70 less than its published price.

Saturday's Silence is an academic study of my favourite poet's work with reference to Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Day. And when I embarked on the introduction, I found myself nodding in agreement with much that the author had to say, about poetry in general and Thomas in particular. And it's not that I've stopped agreeing as I move through the body of the argument - quite the reverse.

I'm struck by how intense, line-by-line scrutiny of a poem kills that poem stone dead. This isn't a new thing floating into my consciousness - it's something I was terribly aware of when I was teaching English lit, and especially teaching poetry. But in my latter, more experienced days, I had learned the trick of teaching the "how" rather than the "what" - teaching the basics of poetic understanding* via snippets of examination so that the individual pupils could do it for themselves, and reach the point where it would be in the first instance instinctive, even if further study produced deeper and more detailed appreciation. It was that approach, I believe, that had S4 boys (15-16 years old) learning and loving poems by not only Thomas but also John Donne, reciting them off by heart and lovingly examining what it was that had so attracted them.

I've never really stated all this on paper before. Perhaps it's struck me as blindingly obvious without my labouring the point. But why I'm doing it now is because I've linked it in my mind, thanks to Richard McLauchlan, with religion, with faith itself and the nature of faith.

Think of all the tedious sermons you've listened to in your day. (Obviously, I'm addressing a somewhat targeted audience here - you know who you are...) Do you ever consider, perhaps when you give up actually paying attention, what's wrong with them? I bet some of them at least were lectures, telling you what words in the bible signify in terms of what you, the punter, ought to believe.  Lectures, instead of actual communication, kill faith as dead as academic study kills a poem.

I'm not going to chase this further. I want to emerge with today's little epiphany which is probably more of a realisation of something I've known for decades.

Prose can kill.

Which is why poetry is important, why the practice needs to be done to acquire the eyes with which to grasp it.
Which is why I approach faith as the poet, or as the lover of poetry who spots symbolism at a hundred paces.
Which is why music is so important.
Which is why it was a combination of music and poetry that brought me to faith.

I'll finish the book. It's had the merit of taking me to revisit some dearly loved poems, to feel once again the sudden stab of recognition that Thomas's last lines can so often create. But it's the poetry that matters.

Always.


*I'm talking here about such technical features as caesura, enjambement - all the stuff you make a part of your perception so that you don't need to think about it.

Springing thoughts⤴

from @ blethers

Two days after the last snow left
I saw the tiny hint of life
in colour, purple, on the mud
which rain had flooded winter-long,
and thought of Spring.
Encouraged by the silent sun
the lack of wind, the sudden song
- a blackbird sitting on a pole -
in air so silent I could hear
the rush of wings above my head 
as pigeons - should I call them doves?
 - set off briskly over roofs 
and gardens, sodden mossy lawns
and foodless shrubs where dunnocks live
I stopped, for long enough to feel.

But what I felt was not the joy
that children feel when freedom calls
but rather that nostalgic pain
more keen with every passing year
that tells me each Spring takes us up
the path towards that distant peak
where only faith says flowers will bloom.


C.M.M 02/18

Another Advent⤴

from @ blethers


Another Advent

For Andy, who suggested the possibility.

From the darkness that returns
each year we sing our plaintive song
and ask that God will come again
and fill our lives with what we know
and hardly know is all we need.
The fire burns low, the night is long,
and yet we feel in some way held
within the circle of this flame
that still we tend with anxious care
in some place hidden from the eyes
that mock and laugh and turn away
with restless ease towards their end.
The world too turns, and we await
the power that fills our life with light
and let our alleluias ring
within the darkness of the earth.

C.M.M. 12/17

Not easy on a bus⤴

from @ blethers

I was reflecting the other day how much more difficult simple faith (in God, mostly, on this occasion, but not exclusively) has become in the past century or so. And I think I was ruminating ruefully - do you have a vision of a sad cow? Trouble is, we know too much. All of us, in varying degrees, are equipped with more awareness of what constitutes our surroundings than were our forebears.

Start with something non-religious. Think of these medical dramas which show even the time of my own childhood, the documentaries which show doctors as white-coated invincibles, the patients as wide-eyed innocents ready to believe that all will be well as they descend into what Robert Frost called "the dark of ether". Nowadays fully-fledged hypochondriacs like me can look up procedures, statistics, symptoms, photos (God preserve us from the photos) and learn doubt. We realise when we are being soothed, and the best that can happen is that when we're actually in extremis we feel soothed. It's when normality returns that the doubt arrives.

And I think it's much the same with religion. All the old certainties - from hell to heaven and places in between - are now subject to the scrutiny of science and knowledge. We know what's up there, out there, beyond ... it's not a mystery any more. We can no longer feel sure that God's in his (note - his) heaven, which is up there in the sky. I remember wrestling at University with the teleological and ontological proofs of the existence of God, at a time when I didn't believe in anything. It was a struggle, but not a spiritual one. It changed nothing; it was easier than Formal Logic; I passed the exam.

All this conspires to make me increasingly irritated at people who assume that if you adhere to a faith you are either "throwing reason out of the window" (what my father said when I announced I was going to be confirmed at the age of 28) or are somehow sufficiently ill-informed to accept a child's version of religion. (I also become irritated at Christians who insist that that's the only way, but that's another story). Someone who thinks and challenges and argues is going to bring that attitude to what they call God - and if having done so they can find themselves happy with the language and attitudes of a faith system, that is where they will exercise their minds as well as their souls.

God - that word we use to describe the indescribable, remember? - God hasn't shrunk because we know the workings of the world that we used to consider a sacred mystery. God isn't the little shrivelled creature of some celebrated fiction. My understanding of this word, this concept, is of something at once all-encompassing and omnipresent and at the same time tiny enough to be within every mind that allows itself to wonder, every heart that allows itself to melt. God is in every moment of thankfulness; still there when the heart hardens and shuts God out.

When a faith-structure allows for this kind of vision, provides the framework of beauty and wonder and loss of the self-consciousness that inhibits, gives space for sorrow and joy and the tears of both, that is what I call Church.  When I find myself in it, I am grateful. When it is threatened - and it can so easily be threatened - it is like an impending death. When it solidifies into something else, I'm better off without it, sad though that feels.

But try explaining that over the dinner-table. Or on a bus.

Not easy on a bus⤴

from @ blethers

I was reflecting the other day how much more difficult simple faith (in God, mostly, on this occasion, but not exclusively) has become in the past century or so. And I think I was ruminating ruefully - do you have a vision of a sad cow? Trouble is, we know too much. All of us, in varying degrees, are equipped with more awareness of what constitutes our surroundings than were our forebears.

Start with something non-religious. Think of these medical dramas which show even the time of my own childhood, the documentaries which show doctors as white-coated invincibles, the patients as wide-eyed innocents ready to believe that all will be well as they descend into what Robert Frost called "the dark of ether". Nowadays fully-fledged hypochondriacs like me can look up procedures, statistics, symptoms, photos (God preserve us from the photos) and learn doubt. We realise when we are being soothed, and the best that can happen is that when we're actually in extremis we feel soothed. It's when normality returns that the doubt arrives.

And I think it's much the same with religion. All the old certainties - from hell to heaven and places in between - are now subject to the scrutiny of science and knowledge. We know what's up there, out there, beyond ... it's not a mystery any more. We can no longer feel sure that God's in his (note - his) heaven, which is up there in the sky. I remember wrestling at University with the teleological and ontological proofs of the existence of God, at a time when I didn't believe in anything. It was a struggle, but not a spiritual one. It changed nothing; it was easier than Formal Logic; I passed the exam.

All this conspires to make me increasingly irritated at people who assume that if you adhere to a faith you are either "throwing reason out of the window" (what my father said when I announced I was going to be confirmed at the age of 28) or are somehow sufficiently ill-informed to accept a child's version of religion. (I also become irritated at Christians who insist that that's the only way, but that's another story). Someone who thinks and challenges and argues is going to bring that attitude to what they call God - and if having done so they can find themselves happy with the language and attitudes of a faith system, that is where they will exercise their minds as well as their souls.

God - that word we use to describe the indescribable, remember? - God hasn't shrunk because we know the workings of the world that we used to consider a sacred mystery. God isn't the little shrivelled creature of some celebrated fiction. My understanding of this word, this concept, is of something at once all-encompassing and omnipresent and at the same time tiny enough to be within every mind that allows itself to wonder, every heart that allows itself to melt. God is in every moment of thankfulness; still there when the heart hardens and shuts God out.

When a faith-structure allows for this kind of vision, provides the framework of beauty and wonder and loss of the self-consciousness that inhibits, gives space for sorrow and joy and the tears of both, that is what I call Church.  When I find myself in it, I am grateful. When it is threatened - and it can so easily be threatened - it is like an impending death. When it solidifies into something else, I'm better off without it, sad though that feels.

But try explaining that over the dinner-table. Or on a bus.

Scottish Interfaith Week 2016⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Small - Interfaith ScotlandJoin Dr Maureen Sier, Director of Interfaith Scotland and Frances Hume, Development Officer to find out more about Scottish Interfaith Week 2016 on Thursday 1st September at 4pm.

Dr Maureen Sier, Director of Interfaith Scotland and Frances Hume, Development Officer will share about Scottish Interfaith Week 2016 – what it is, why it is important, and what resources are available for teachers to mark the week in schools. Scottish Interfaith Week is taking place from 13th – 20th November. The week provides an opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s diversity and to plan events that bring people together to promote dialogue, understanding and co-operation between people of all faiths and none.

The theme of Scottish Interfaith Week this year is ‘Religion and the Media’, recognising the powerful effect that the media can have on people of different faiths. Maureen and Frances will outline resources available for teachers on this theme. They will also give an outline of the work of Interfaith Scotland including the variety of workshops that they offer in schools.

Sign up and join live in Glow TV – Scottish Interfaith Week 2016

If you unable to join us for the live event you can always catch up with the recording at another time – Glow TV’s Watch Again.

Explore Buddhism⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Small - Samye LingGlow TV continues looking at world religions and enabling pupils to ask their varied questions about different faiths.

Join us live on Wednesday 27th April at 11am from the Samye Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health where you will have the opportunity to speak to Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche the Abbot and Retreat Master. You can find out about the Samye Ling Centre which attracts thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the magnificent temple and grounds or to attend one of the many courses on offer and also ask Lama Yeshe all your questions about Buddhism.

Register now to take part live – Explore Buddhism

If you unable to join us for the live event you can always catch up with the recording at another time – Glow TV’s Watch Again.

The meeting⤴

from @ blethers


THE MEETING

This the night when under the dark dome
the hard stars shine and that one
shines brighter than them all, the night
when power and pomp and wisdom and wealth
come seeking a king and find instead
love in ordinary, human love, vulnerable
to all that wounds beneath the sky -
This is that night. It comes again.

For earthly power was melted then
in tears of joy, of journey done,
of understanding what lay there
in poverty of place and rank
and all they knew, these visitors,
collapsed in shards of sudden loss
and left them free to live again -
This is that night.

©C.M.M. 6/01/16

The meeting⤴

from @ blethers


THE MEETING

This the night when under the dark dome
the hard stars shine and that one
shines brighter than them all, the night
when power and pomp and wisdom and wealth
come seeking a king and find instead
love in ordinary, human love, vulnerable
to all that wounds beneath the sky -
This is that night. It comes again.

For earthly power was melted then
in tears of joy, of journey done,
of understanding what lay there
in poverty of place and rank
and all they knew, these visitors,
collapsed in shards of sudden loss
and left them free to live again -
This is that night.

©C.M.M. 6/01/16

The meeting⤴

from @ blethers


THE MEETING

This the night when under the dark dome
the hard stars shine and that one
shines brighter than them all, the night
when power and pomp and wisdom and wealth
come seeking a king and find instead
love in ordinary, human love, vulnerable
to all that wounds beneath the sky -
This is that night. It comes again.

For earthly power was melted then
in tears of joy, of journey done,
of understanding what lay there
in poverty of place and rank
and all they knew, these visitors,
collapsed in shards of sudden loss
and left them free to live again -
This is that night.

©C.M.M. 6/01/16