“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Taking It As It Comes

Each day is a new day, an opportunity for growth. As it says in Rumi's wonderful poem, The Guesthouse,  "This being human is a guesthouse, Every morning a new arrival." And this is so true.

Yesterday was a good example. In the morning, I conducted a funeral - it went very well, and the family were happy with what I had done. One of the congregation made a complimentary remark about my voice, and I felt very happy.

Then I got home to find that a book I had been working on for the past eighteen months had been turned down by the publisher. The e-mail was kind and regretful, and contained some good advice, but the feelings of hurt and rejection were real.

So I have to find a balance. I have to learn to embrace each "new arrival" - to celebrate the good, and to learn from the bad, so that I can grow. I am truly grateful for all the good things in my life - family, friends, my work as a minister, the beauties of nature around me, and need to learn to be likewise grateful for any setbacks, so that I can learn from my mistakes, and maybe, one day, produce a piece of work that is worthy of publication.

May it be so.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Commonwealth of God

Like many people, I have been horrified by the bomb attack at the Boston Marathon earlier this week, and feel so sad about this renewed evidence of violence and hatred in the world.

I have been reading Forrest Church's The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology this week. One passage in it really hit home. He writes:

"Members in the Commonwealth of God are not bound together by the specifics of their religion, for the nature of our interdependence does not require this. Rather we are bound by the shared recognition that when one person suffers, all suffer; when we violate one life, all lives are violated; when we pollute the earth, all living things are stained; when one nation threatens the security of another, it, too, becomes less secure; when we place the planet in mortal danger, we hazard the future of our own children as well as the children of our enemies.

Competitive virtues elevate winners by diminishing losers. This is especially hazardous in competition between countries. In the age of the global village and the global economy, while the balance may be tipped temporarily in one side's favor, if sustained such imbalances set up the possibility of a tidal wave of terrifying proportion, which may start all the way on the other side of the world, and end up crashing down on our own shores.

Given human nature and history, to propose a relational, cooperative, and fraternal, or kinship-based, ethic fashioned to strengthen the interdependent web of being may seem idealistic and naïve. In fact, it is desperately realistic. Interrelatedness is not simply a theological concept; it is a new truth."

Amen, amen.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Devotion of Friends

I have just been re-reading Vera Brittain's two volumes of autobiography - Testament of Youth and Testament of Experience. It has made me reflect on the nature of true friendship.

There is something very special about devoted friendship - the best marriages are based on it, for example. Such loyalty and devotion between two people is rare and precious, whether it occurs between a man and a woman, or between two people of the same sex. The relationship between Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby is a beautiful example of a very strong same-sex devoted friendship. They met at Oxford after the First World War, and after a rocky start, became the best of friends. In her wonderful tribute to Winifred, Testament of Friendship, Vera writes of her time with Winifred in London before her (Vera's) marriage:

"Those years with Winifred taught me that the type of friendship which reaches its apotheosis in the story of David and Jonathan is not a monopoly of the masculine sex ... After a year or two of constant companionship, our response to each other's needs and emotions had become so instinctive that in our correspondence one of us often replied to some statement or request made by the other before the letter which contained it had arrived."

Winifred's love and loyalty to Vera were complete and absolute. After Vera's marriage to George Catlin, the friendship between the two women is as strong as ever; indeed for some years, Winifred shared a house with the Brittain-Catlins. She wrote a typically rueful letter to Vera shortly after the latter's marriage and subsequent removal to America for a year: "I am happy. In a way I suppose I miss you, but that does not make me less happy ... When a person that one loves is in the world and alive and well, and pleased to be in the world, then to miss them is only a new flavour, a salt sharpness in experience." When she died at the tragically early age of 37, Vera was devastated.

Every human being needs at least one deep, true friend, who, in the words of the Arabian proverb "is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away. This is the sort of friendship that can, with luck and care, grow between people of all kinds.

Today is Golden Rule Day, on which we are exhorted to do unto others as we would wish to have done to ourselves, and to refrain from doing to others that which would give us pain. Every time we obey this, we are putting out a small tendril of friendship towards another person - who knows where it might lead?