“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, 28 June 2014

When Virtual Becomes Real

Our little cat Luna has been very ill. It started last Saturday, when she was noticeably off her food, and quieter than usual. By Sunday, we were sufficiently concerned to take her to the vet, and again on the Monday. She was given antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and we were told to keep an eye on her. My husband texted me on Wednesday morning to say that she was no better, so when I got home from my conference in the afternoon, I took her straight back to the vet, who admitted her as an in-patient. That night, she had a 3cm section of impacted bowel removed. Had it not been, she might not have survived. The next day, we went to visit, and she was like a different animal; and on Friday evening, I brought our little one home, well on the way to recovery.

She is currently sitting on top of the wardrobe in the spare room, no mean leap for a cat who is supposed to be "taking it easy". But it's one of her favourite spots, and I guess she wouldn't have done it if she had felt too sore.

During the whole sad time she was in hospital, and I was so worried that we were going to lose her, I have been unutterably moved by the warmth and caring of my community of Facebook friends, who have been commenting and sending love and sympathy for the last 48 hours or so.

I have noticed this before on Facebook - if anyone is in trouble, or in grief, or anxious, or worried, friends *do* rally round, offering words of sympathy and comfort, and warm virtual hugs. And it really does help.

The feeling of connection is very real. I know that it is fashionable to say that the social media and mobile phones between them have ruined genuine communication between people. There are endless images of people standing or sitting "together" with their heads down and their thumbs busy, texting away, and not noticing the world and the people right next to them.

BUT this is the other side of it. And I am very grateful. And moved. And feeling blessed.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Gift of Laughter

In one of Anne McCaffrey's books, somebody (I think it's Lanzecki in The Crystal Singer) says "A man can sleep any time. But a laugh restores the soul." And I have just been chuckling away at a post on the Tolkien Society page on Facebook, where members were invited to do bad mis-castings for characters in the Peter Jackson films. Of course it very soon got out of hand, and many other cultural references found their way in, from Monty Python's Holy Grail, the Wizard of Oz (Sauron being killed by Edoras falling on his head) and even Dallas (Melkor coming out of the shower and finding it was all a dream). And I will long remember the image of the Nine Riders on black Harleys, with Riders on the Storm by the Doors in the background. And Orc munchkins. And Samwise Gamgee in sparkly red shoes, saying "There's no place like home, Mr. Frodo." It made me laugh out loud, and suddenly the world seems a brighter place.

"A laugh restores the soul." Yes. This is certainly true of the laughter that arises from the joy of sharing something funny with others, or as a side-effect of being happy anyway. But laughing *at* others rather than *with* them has always struck me as a cat of an entirely different colour. I am sometimes accused of having a sense of humour deficit, because I don't often find people falling over / failing to do something / otherwise being made a fool of, very funny. So while I do find many of the posts on Facebook very funny, and indeed, share many of them, some I just don't. This laughing at other people's misfortune *feels* the same way to me as cruelty to animals.

I guess it all comes down to compassion in the end - putting yourself in the other person's shoes, and imagining how they must be feeling. So while I love to laugh, and find that a good giggle brightens my day, I'm selective about what I laugh at.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Walk in the Woods

It is going to be difficult to write this without resorting to cliches. On this warm and sunny morning, I decided to go for a walk in the woods. I am very fortunate in living five minutes' walk away from a footpath which leads to Salcey Forest. I was only out for about 40 minutes, but it has left me full of awe, full of wonder, full of gratitude.

The combination of weather during the last few months - sunshine and rain in just the right quantities, meant that the verges of the path were a mass of green and flowers. I walked mindfully, opening my eyes and ears to the world around me. There was cow parsley over six feet high, clover, buttercups, many other shy woodland flowers I could not name, and a riot of wild roses; and the air was full of bird song. The sky overhead was blue with wispy white clouds, but the height of the bordering hedges meant that the path was still in shade, very pleasant to walk in on this warm morning. Every so often, there would be a break in the hedge to my left, and the sunlight came pouring through, painting everything it touched in brighter hues. The path is narrow, only wide enough for one person (or one horse - it is much used by the local riders) and I had it to myself. One cyclist passed me on the way out, and one runner on the way back. Apart from that, it was me, alone with God's creation. And it was glorious. And I give thanks.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Taking the Longer View

A few days ago, the first public meeting of a newish (they were founded in September 2013) Unitarian group, the Fellowship of Non-Subscribing Christians, was announced. The meeting will be held at Stalybridge Unitarian Church in a couple of weeks' time.

Some Unitarians (sadly) have rushed to condemn this new group, fearing that its influence on our General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches will be divisive. This knee-jerk reaction, condemning the new group 'sight unseen', worries me. It does not seem very Unitarian to me, that we should not be more like the Quakers "open to new Light, from whatever source it may come." Surely it is this openness to new ideas that is the hallmark of our much-vaunted Unitarian tolerance?

Or it should be. As I have written elsewhere: " This openness to a process of continuous and continuing revelation is what has kept Unitarianism green and growing down the centuries."

In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo first learns that through Gollum, Sauron has discovered that the Ring is now in the Shire, he exclaims: "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature when he had a chance!" Gandalf responds: "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need." Frodo retorts that he does not feel any pity for Gollum, and Gandalf again advocates a more compassionate view: "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

There is so much truth and wisdom in this advice. He is saying that we shouldn't judge new things too quickly, because they might just turn out to be a force for good. So I agree with a colleague who is counselling a more charitable, open, considered approach, and who suggests that we simply wait and see what happens.