Tag Archives: imagination

November 22: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxii – loved, endowed, persuaded.

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Without the earth we are nothing – earth is the womb where there is nourishment for growth. Love is responsible for bringing everything into existence; and through the potential love brings there are arise infinite possibilities – characteristic of the Kingdom. The Kingdom moulds my identity in becoming a relational being; at times seemingly random and even chaotic, yet always sourced by love, and when it is unconditional it leads to healing, wholeness and new life.

Children love stories, and there are plenty of them – so do adults, but there’s a dearth of stories here. What about the Gospel stories? Stories free up the imagination – especially inclusive stories. Where love is responsible there can be no in and out. Everybody is in – otherwise love is not unconditional. This is not saying everything is perfect – perfection is an ideal that inhibits growth, it creates elitism and privilege. When I’m aware of my sinfulness and want to be left alone – what good is that? Yet my sinfulness is why God came looking for me… all I need is just a little more loving.

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We are loved unconditionally, endowed with the Spirit and persuaded to love God and neighbour; we can only do the one by doing the other. When we look at all Ten Commandments we tend to lose sight of the important one, without which the rest are meaningless. Society functions on a multi-layered structure. At one end the patron holding the monopoly, and the clients at the receiving end with the brokers in the middle – who were clients themselves while negotiating on behalf of others.

God’s concern is for those permanently at the bottom. Enabling love was nowhere to be found, everything was conditional on having some kind of power. Is this advocating communism? Only if communism means the presence of all-pervading unconditional love. Utopia is all right for dreamers, but we have to live in the real world. But ask – am I surviving in this real world, or am I just about surviving in a world that wants me to thrive?

AMcC

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10 November: This Wreck.

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Henry James’s true country, Azar Nafisi assures us, was the imagination, in a Blakean sense, meaning the life of the spirit.  At the start of the Great War, James wrote to Rhoda Broughton:

Black and hideous to me is the tragedy that gathers, and I am sick beyond cure to have lived to see it. You  and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared this wreck of our belief that these long years we had seen civilisation grow and the worst became possible.

From ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi, Harper Perennial, 2007, p216.

We must remind ourselves of the danger of anaesthetising the imagination too much, to the extent where those caught up in fighting are merely ‘little brown men killing little brown men’, as one US General memorably said. No doubt he was making the world safer, in his own mind. But as Blake reminds us:

Caiaphas was in his own mind

A benefactor to mankind.

The Everlasting Gospel.

We are brothers and sisters of the same dust, the dust of Earth, the dust of the stars, formed by the breath of God.

WT.

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November 6, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: vi – ‘How would he tell his own story? ‘

 

Is there a place for Jesus in today’s world? Has Evolution side-lined Christian belief? Certainly questions like these are not readily answered in terms of traditional theology. There isn’t an obvious fit between the conventional understanding of faith and the unfolding reality of the world. It might be preferable to be content with asking the questions rather than trying to provide answers!

It is clear that such questions are being asked more and more today and it is not clear whether conceptual answers are available. The questioners seem to be from a group familiar with the Christian story, but suspicious of the ways the churches tell it, or live it in a challenging way.

Scholars tend to say the Jesus story is for students and researchers of the Bible to elaborate. Jesus belongs to anyone struggling with faith – and how to live it truthfully. There is no doubt that Jesus remains a fascinating figure for many; and it is clear that many who would call themselves agnostic or even atheist actually live by values closer to the Gospel than do many Church-goers.

There’s obviously something bigger about Jesus than what is contained in doctrinal teaching. He appeals to the imagination in ways that make official teaching about him seem very bland. What is the reality of Jesus beyond dogma? He was very imaginative, to a degree more suited to story than to doctrine. How would he tell his own story?

There never has been a time when God was not fully involved with Creation. The Book of Genesis states that God takes great pleasure in the creative process – and God saw that it was very good – everything is good because it is of God, good only comes from goodness. With evolution the time came for the break away from our primate ancestors, when God adds a new dimension with the arrival of the human.

Strictly speaking this is when the Incarnation actually began – the Incarnation means God identifying with the human species. God, who created the human six million years ago did not say I’ll wait millions of years until Jesus comes before declaring salvation. Yet this has been basic to Christian faith for 2,000 years.

AMcC

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October 14: As a little child

steamtrainNI

One of the last Steam locomotives in Ireland, 1969. John was a highly respected Irish railway modeller.

My sincerest apologies to Ignatius for borrowing the title of this post. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Comparing God our Father to a little child was His idea, not a human notion: this is about being a little child, or being as a little child, even if only for a few minutes on the beach, and so coming to a little corner of heaven.

I wrote last year about a friend, John Byrne, who built model railways, each representing a particular era, with trains and buildings in authentic colours, and period advertisements. Exquisite, approaching perfection. A labour of love.

Someone else would smile and patronisingly make remarks about grown men’s toys. Is that bad?

Two year-old Abel took a ride on a special grown men’s toy at the local model engineering club, rather like the one in this picture, and enjoyed it as much as the real train he rode to get there.

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Of course railways strive to be perfect in many areas, including safety above all.

But the other day I played on the beach with Abel. He persuaded me to make a bridge of sand and rocks and then he used pebbles for trains and cars, pushing them across the sand, under and over the archway, lining them up on the far side. It seemed to me that this was as serious as John’s model, or the miniature ride-on trains in the park.

And just as the child’s imagination or the modeller’s patience create new worlds for a few people to enjoy, so the great imagination and patience of God keep on creating a universe for all his creatures to enjoy.

Let us pray for the imagination and patience to see how best we can join in the work of building up and caring for our corner of the universe, and the grace to get on and do it.

Laudato Si’!

 

MMB.

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August 18: An Appreciation of Francis Thompson by W.H. Davies.

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Francis Thompson turned up again after I’d put his series to bed, so I’ll share this now. W. H. Davies was another poet who lived on the streets, though he was to find friendship and marriage and a long life span.

In this Davies uses his memories of seafaring and tramping to imagine Thompson’s life before he was welcomed into the life of the Meynell family. The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head when he was travelling the dusty roads of Palestine. Can we see him in the homeless people we meet in the street? How best to give them bread and not stones?

Francis Thompson by W. H. Davies

Thou hadst no home, and thou couldst see
In every street the windows’ light:
Dragging thy limbs about all night,
No window kept a light for thee.

However much thou wert distressed,
Or tired of moving, and felt sick,
Thy life was on the open deck—
Thou hadst no cabin for thy rest.

Thy barque was helpless ‘neath the sky,
No pilot thought thee worth his pains
To guide for love or money gains—
Like phantom ships the rich sailed by.

Thy shadow mocked thee night and day,
Thy life’s companion, it alone;
It did not sigh, it did not moan,
But mocked thy moves in every way.

In spite of all, the mind had force,
And, like a stream whose surface flows
The wrong way when a strong wind blows,
It underneath maintained its course.

Oft didst thou think thy mind would flower
Too late for good, as some bruised tree
That blooms in Autumn, and we see
Fruit not worth picking, hard and sour.

Some poets feign their wounds and scars.
If they had known real suffering hours,
They’d show, in place of Fancy’s flowers,
More of Imagination’s stars.

So, if thy fruits of Poesy
Are rich, it is at this dear cost—
That they were nipt by Sorrow’s frost,
In nights of homeless misery.

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August 9: Francis Thompson VIII: The Kingdom of God.

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O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places—
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
Tis ye, tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry–clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

Harrowhell

And the Thames was filthy in Edwardian times. But Christ ventured to Hell itself to rescue those held there.

Thompson’s editor, Wifrid Meynell wrote:

This Poem (found among his papers when he died) Francis Thompson might yet have worked upon to remove, here a defective rhyme, there an unexpected elision. But no altered mind would he have brought to its main purport; and the prevision of ‘Heaven in Earth and God in Man’ pervading his earlier published verse, we find here accented by poignantly local and personal allusions. For in these triumphing stanzas, he held in retrospect those days and nights of human dereliction he spent beside London’s River, and in the shadow – but all radiance to him – of Charing Cross.

See also our post of June 23rd 2017, Shared Table VI.

 

 

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Interruption: Third Person Singular

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I just found a passage that sums up why stories like David’s are so valuable. It comes at the end of a story told by Ali Smith, The Third Person:

The third person is another pair of eyes. The third person is a presentiment of God. The third person is a way to tell a story. The third person is a revitalisation of the dead.

It’s a theatre of living people…

It’s a box for the endless music that’s there between people, waiting to be played.

Ali Smith The First Person and Other Stories: London, Hamish Hamilton, 2008.

Endless Music, maybe waiting for you to play it. Enjoy looking through David’s – or his protagonists’ eyes! Enjoy Ali Smith’s stories – and all the others – as well; let their ‘presentiments of God’ revitalise a deadened corner of your heart.

And look out this coming week for Tom’s continuation of David’s SciFi story as those Chihuahuas return to Kent!

 WT

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28th January – Acquiring Hope

A 20th century Jewish philosopher, Ernst Bloch, in his impressive work The Principle of Hope, reminded people that hope means facing the future with creativity and courage. It is a most desirable gift to acquire in modern circumstances. He looked at attempts to express this over the centuries. People like Francis de Sales and Angela Merici clearly eliminated various fears from people’s lives, and thus made hope possible. However, we can ask whether it was typical of Catholic or Christian community practice to emphasise the empowerment that accompanies hope.

We often speak nowadays of bringing hope to the terminally ill, or to refugees, or to situations of drought and famine. It is a gift which can bring badly needed courage into such situations. We expect connections between hope and practical readiness to solve certain social problems. That is one valuable aspect, but not the first aspect in religious reflection on hope. Often in the New Testament hope is implied, not mentioned directly. In the early Middle Ages, this was felt to be an area in need of further clarification.

What is hope? The debate that emerged talked about the arduous times in life requiring perseverance. Hope flows from God just as forgiveness does. The first treatise on hope came from Eudes Rigaud, a Franciscan lecturer. He taught Bonaventure, who wrote his own account. When Thomas Aquinas used Bonaventure’s text, he turned it into syllogisms, merely logical statements. But hope is our way of narrating our resurrection faith, a process of imaginative awakening.

CD.

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