The next leg, planned for Valentine’s Day, should take me to Warwick. This weekend, coincidentally, we visited a friend there – providing me with a bit of a preview. It is not a town I know well and I look forward to exploring it more. On this trip, accompanied by an enthusiastic 6-month-old poodle called Harvey, we walked into town by canal and river.
When I asked our Reverend friend if her church was having a Candlemas service, she rolled her eyes and gave a hollow laugh. I took this to mean ‘Of course not, those were phased out centuries ago’ but I expect meant something more like ‘Yes, and it has taken weeks to organise’ – as this morning we were holding candles and processing into a light-filled church, asking to ‘have the darkness of our souls dispelled’.
Recently I’ve been shaking down a colleague for some insights into Jain, via Twitter; during the process the question came: ‘where are you are on your spiritual path? aligned to your ‘walking home to 50′ progress?’ Which is an interesting point and (not being an expert proverb-producer or koan kreator) hard to answer in 140 characters. So here goes.
I’ve been very much shaped by Christian culture; you could say I have a Christian operating system. However I find it hard to say ‘I am a Christian’ as that could be infer all sorts of exclusive, dogmatic and supernatural beliefs. Really I’m just ‘stumbling forward’ to borrow a phrase from today’s sermon. This poem, which I came across in a book called Doubts and Loves by Richard Holloway, speaks often to my condition:
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.
Despite lack of certainty, and lack of belief (even in belief itself) I try to maintain some kind of spiritual alignment, an open-ness to that which cannot be spoken of or understood, that lives beyond and also within my localised bit of current existence. And what this might mean for living, doing less harm, flourishing, setting aside the self sometimes.
As for my journey, it has something of pilgrimage about it, though I don’t see it as heading for some grand revelation. (It is after all aiming for Brighton Pier: candy floss and a ride on the ghost train maybe…) To me pilgrimage is plain physical stuff, blood and sweat, not exalted transcendence. (But who knows what’s happening just out of sight, behind the hedge, at the corner of your eye, shaping some strange future…) I like the idea of ‘thin places’, where ‘the veil between this world and the Other world is thin’, often ascribed to ‘Celtic’ Christian sites such as Lindisfarne, or the holy ground of Glastonbury. But my thin places aren’t these. Nothing wrong with these superstar spiritual locations, but I’m drawn to dreamlike marginal spaces such as the fields beneath spaghetti junction, or an ancient drove road now skirting some warehouse units. Perhaps the journey itself is thin. A typo just despatched to the aether and overwritten: ‘thin paces’: I’ll leave it at that for now.
Back to today. After a nice lunch and more time playing with the dog, we drove home on the motorways, snow beginning to fall.