Nun better

In another life, I would have become a nun. Years back I gave God an ultimatum: unless You point the right man in my way, I have every intention of becoming a nun.

My life didn’t go that way. But if it had, the good ladies in the following clip are what I would like to have become:

  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2009/oct/30/stanbrook-abbey-eco-friendly-nuns?CMP=AFCYAH

Synchronicity and Metamorphosis

I had a somewhat odd thing happen today. I was chatting online with some I know only very slightly through the world of the internet and we had been talking at length of being works in progress, of being in the midst of personal transformation and metamorphosis.

I heard something in the room that made me leave the computer and go and look. Tiny wings were beating against the window pane; a small tortoiseshell butterfly had appeared as if from nowhere and was seeking to get out. Now the window in this room has not been opened for a while; it’s seldom used as a bedroom and to be quite honest, whenever any winged thing enters the house, be it moth, butterfly or otherwise, my cats tend to pursue it and kill it. I have no clue as to how the butterfly came to be there.

I do however count it as a sign, a message from above(or beyond) that the transformation process is nearing completion and I(and maybe my online friend) can soon find our true wings.

I let the butterfly out of the window and it flew away into the autumn sunshine.  It made me think of an episode I have read about where Freud and Jung had been discussing the various things and Jung had been describing a dream about a scarab beetle when a scratching was heard and a scarab type beetle appeared in the room. Neither could explain this, and Freud was silenced for once. Not long after this episode, they ceased to be friends.

The world is a truly magical and astounding place.

The one that got away….

My husband read some of my posts last night and after the usual sort of comments he said, “Oh by the way, you didn’t write about faith when the title said about faith”.

Errr, umm, yes, well.

Faith is probably the hardest to write about, really. Faith is very hard to define outside of a dictionary and I guess that’s why I “forgot”.

Faith is about absolute trust and certainty and knowing that something is real. I have faith in gravity, for example. Under normal conditions, if I jump up, I come down again with an earthshattering thump; I jump without even having to think if I will come down. Gravity is a theory proved by experience and evidence. It works, simple as that. Even in low gravity conditions like the surface of the Moon, it works according to the conditions present.

But Gravity is simple by comparison with God. God is tricksy in so many ways. We don’t know the mind of God terribly well; that I guess is what most theology is about, trying to suss out God and understand how He works. Some swear by the Bible, but I find that only confirms to me the tricksy nature of God, because of the contradictions. Personal experience and discovery are for me the way to understand God and even then just when you think you know where you are, wham, things change.

I don’t think it’s faith that allows the snake handlers to play with venomous snakes without (allegedly) being bitten. I’m not sure what it is. To me, that’s testing God. And sooner or later, He’ll have a lesson for you. There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and you cross it at your peril.

I’ve never had an unshakeable unmoveable faith; I spend much of my time doubting. Questioning everything. Trying to test and prove things for myself. That’s just me. I envy people with true faith, rather than the tattered rags that are mine. But every time I discover something new, and wonderful for myself, I realise that my rags are not  rags at all.

Mandala

Viv's drawings and paintings 029

I did the above mandala a few years back and looking at it now it seems a very hopeful image of what was presumably inside me at the time. I’ve been intending to post it for ages but spurred on by Robert’s posts at http://retiredeagle.wordpress.com I thought I’d finally do it.

To believe, to have faith and to know

OED definitions:

of BELIEVE:  accept as true; as speaking truth; think; suppose.

of BELIEVE IN:  have faith in the existence of; feel sure of the worth of

of FAITH: reliance, trust: belief in religious doctrine; loyalty, sincerity

of KNOW: have in one’s mind or memory; feel certain; recognise; be familair with; understand

I am not sure how the dictionary definitions are going to be of much use here but then I did use the OED popular version. I was talking with my husband about issues of faith and what the difference was between faith and belief and we came to an interesting conclusion that dictionary definitions notwithstanding, they are not the same thing at all. Someone can believe in God(or the Universe) but not have faith in him. And as for  know, well it all came unravelling even further.

To me(and in the end, that’s what a blog is about, being able you share one’s own thoughts and opinions) I don’t have to believe in something I know. For example, I know that the speed limit in my street is 30 mph. I don’t believe it: I know it. It’s a matter of fact, not opinion. I know that the elephant is the world’s largest land mammal alive on earth at the moment; this is not up for dispute, it’s a simple fact. The fact that larger mammals live in the sea is not part of the statement, or that larger creatures used to live. I don’t BELIEVE that the elephant is the largest land mammal: I KNOW it. This is what makes me such a curmudgeon about matters of belief, because so many matters attached to belief are actually matters of facts, of information: of dates and times and names and so on. When the Christian church was founded, what languages the Bible had been translated from and to, the problems with damaged and missing texts, the issue of ancient agendas (example: until Constantine(I think, but do correct me if I am wrong) reincarnation was an accepted sideshoot of doctrine, but this didn’t suit politics at the time, because peasants who thought they’d go to Hell for ever after ONE life alone were more malleable) and of cultural issues of the times (example: St. Pauls insistance on keeping women submissive was purely a product of his culture. The whole issue of women covering their heads was down to the fact that at the time only prostitutes went bareheaded in public: ergo a matter of decency and not of doctrine) These are some things that I KNOW about the early church and while they’re up for interpretation to some degree, they’re not up for denial. There are whole churches that base their treatment of women on St Paul’s letters; in all honesty, I feel the poor man would be horrified at this. I think also thisis why Jesus never wrote anything down; and the fact that the four gospels have differing accounts of the events of Jesus’ life is simply an illustration of differing witness accounts, that phenomenon that bamboozles cops everywhere. There are other gospels that are not canonical that tell marvellous(and probably totally fictional) accounts of Jesus’s boyhood. I have a copy of a translation of the Gnostic gospels that makes entertaining reading if nothing else!

The thing is for me that we are beings of mind, body, spirit and soul and I hate to see people abandon or neglect one at the expense of the others. Healing is about wholeness and balance and when we neglect one aspect of our being we invite not only imbalance but illness.

What if?

What if I am wrong about everything? About every thing that makes my own life meaningful and productive? About every single “given” I’ve always believed in, that my parents love me, that I’m an intelligent woman, that God(whatever you name him) exists and cares about us as a species and me as an individual? That all the events of my life have combined to shape me as the person I am today and that no experience however unhappy is actually wasted?

What if I am wrong about everything?

I’ve been here before, poised on this brink of the vast cravass of unknowing, peering into the darkness and finding the darkness has eyes that look back at me, that the darkness is the Smoking Mirror that reflects first what exists and then shows what may.

I’ve been here before, aghast at the prospect of a life spent without meaning.

So have others, many others.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things- trees and grass and sun and Moon and stars and Aslan himself, Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem  a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours IS the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there inst any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and settting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”  

Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, from The Silver Chair by CS Lewis.

Wherever you are today on your journey, rest assured, some one else has probably been here before you.   

Things to make you go, “Hmmmm!”

I first discovered the words of Anthony de Mello when we first went to theological college but it was far from approved reading. The books were hidden away in the colleage Quiet Room, which was my favourite place in the whole campus(that’s not saying a lot; I hated the place as a whole). But de Mello’s books awakened a capacity in me for imaginative contemplation that I’d hitherto repressed.

Some short quotes from “One Minute Wisdom”

Aloneness

   To a disciple who was always seeking answers from him the Master said, “You have within yourself the answer to every question you propose- if you only knew how to look for it”

And another day he said, “In the land of the spirit, you cannot walk by the light of someone else’s lamp. You want to borrow mine. I’d rather teach you to make your own.”

Blinkers

“If you make me your authority,” said the Master to the starry-eyed disciple,”you harm yourself because you refuse to see things for yourself.”

And after a pause he added gently,”You harm me too because you refuse to see me as I am.”