“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

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Tribute to Tyndale

Yesterday my husband and I went down to London for the day, but not to see the Queen. The morning was devoted to visiting an exhibition called Treasures of the British Library, which was free to all comers.

It was absolutely marvellous, and took us well over two hours to get round. Of course, there was a section of sacred texts in amongst everything else, and we saw a copy of the Codex Alexandrinus, one of the three oldest extant Bibles in the world; some stunningly beautiful illuminated Qur'ans and Bibles, and the Bedford Book of Hours, which was so richly illustrated, it took the breath away.

The exquisite Bedford Book of Hours
But the item which moved me the most was  a little book, measuring about 4 inches across and 6 inches tall. It was one of three remaining copies of the Tyndale New Testament, which had been published in 1526, in Worms, because he had had to flee from England.

A page from the 1526 edition of Tyndale's New Testament
My lovely book about the Bible by Gordon Campbell calls William Tyndale 'the father of the English Bible'. He was responsible for producing the first complete New Testament in English, and had also partly translated the Old Testament, when he was executed for heresy in Belgium in 1536. Two years before that, he had produced a revision of his New Testament, about which Campbell comments "it has been estimated that 83 per cent of the KJV [King James Version] published in 1611 derives from Tyndale, either directly or indirectly through other Bibles."

Two things moved me about actually seeing it - one was that I knew he had died because of his passion for making the text of the Bible widely available in English; and the other was that as I bent to decipher the close-set text, I could suddenly feel how amazing it must have been to be an ordinary English person (or at least one of the minority who could read) and to be able to actually read the sacred text of my religion in my own tongue for the first time, and no longer have to rely on the priest to tell me what the Bible said and taught. It must have been truly awesome.

I am so grateful to the British Library for putting on this sort of exhibition, free for all to attend. Long may it flourish!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Feelings of Pronoia

It really was such a delicious feeling, to discover a new word today, whose meaning (whether it is true or not) really speaks to my condition.

I just got back from leading worship at Oxford Unitarians, and was feeling pretty darn chipper anyway. So I turned the computer on, to check my e-mails and have my customary squint at Facebook. To be confronted with a lovely post from a friend, which she in her turn had shared from somebody called Anthony Smith:

"My new favourite word is Pronoia (the opposite of paranoia). It's the belief that everything in the universe is conspiring to support you."

My heart instantly leapt in recognition - yes, I do believe that this is what the universe is like, oftener than we might believe.

And yet I had never heard it before. So I put it into google, as you do, and was surprised to find multiple references, including a dedicated website pronoia.net. Somebody called Rob Brezsny has written a book called Pronoia is the Antidote to Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings. Here is an excerpt from it, quoted by the website Free Will Astrology

"DEFINITION: Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It's the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It's a mode of training your senses and intellect so you're able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

OBJECTIVE OF PRONOIA: To explore the secrets of becoming a wildly disciplined, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, scrupulously curious, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lyrically logical, lustfully compassionate Master of Rowdy Bliss.

HYPOTHESES: Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is your birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.

PROCEDURE: Act as if the universe is a prodigious miracle created for your amusement and illumination. Assume that secret helpers are working behind the scenes to assist you in turning into the gorgeous masterpiece you were born to be. Join the conspiracy to shower all of creation with blessings.

GUIDING QUESTION: "The secret of life," said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, "is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do." What is that task for you?"

It all sounds a little bizarre. But then I noticed that the book also suggests a daily practice, which I find quite interesting:

"DAILY PRACTICE: Push hard to get better, become smarter, grow your devotion to the truth, fuel your commitment to beauty, refine your emotional intelligence, hone your dreams, negotiate with your shadow, cure your ignorance, shed your pettiness, heighten your drive to look for the best in people, and soften your heart -- even as you always accept yourself for exactly who you are with all of your so-called imperfections."

I really cannot argue with any of that. Maybe more of us need to become pronoiac (which is apparently the preferred adjective). Maybe it might make the world a happier place ... who knows?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Lamentation for a Lost Way of Life

Yesterday I had a physiotherapy appointment for my poorly knee. The physiotherapist was looking at my MRI scan on her computer when I asked the question "So when will I be able to run again?"

Her answer was one word. "Never.". And I instantly dissolved into tears, as the finality of that judgement sank into my heart. Apparently the meniscus is already damaged, and the way I walk ("very poor mechanics") makes matters worse. If I persist in running, it will compromise my current ability to walk pain-free, and eventually I will need a knee replacement, probably sooner rather than later.

It was so hard to hear this. Running has been a huge part of my life for the last sixteen years, ever since I decided that I wanted to get fit before my fortieth birthday. Well, now I am 55, and my running days are over. In the last few years, I haven't run many races (my peak year being 2004, when I completed the London Marathon), but I have been able to go out three times a week for two or three miles, and to come back feeling on top of the world.

And now I can't do it again. Ever. The pain is hard to bear.

A part of me is trying to rationalise the pain away - come on, it could be worse, at least you can still walk or cycle. You haven't been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease or Crohn's or MND or any one of a number of hideous, life-changing conditioins. Your life is not threatened. Get a grip.

I know that over the next few weeks, I will come to terms with this change in my life. I will keep searching until I find an alternative form of exercise that makes me feel good about myself. But I doubt that any will match up to the simple joys of putting one foot in front of another - of running.

Just now, the words, "Once I was a runner" are the saddest in the world. I can feel the grief settling into my bones. And so I am lamenting a lost way of life, a lost source of happiness. I am finding it difficult to discern where God is in all this. He/She seems to be altogether absent.

Except perhaps in the sure knowledge that this too shall pass. Which I will cling onto, in the days ahead.