COP26 #8

The laugh

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When you feel despair at the state of the world,

Do something small.

Ignore those voices without or deep within

Calling you fool for refusing a tyrannical logic

Achieved only by cynical wisdom –

Then do it anyway.

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When you feel broken by all the cruelty the world contains,

Reach out, remembering that humanity

Can only be collectively encountered.

Allow empathy to be an umbilical conduit

For a nutrient called kindness.

What else are we for?

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When overwhelmed by the size of the mountain

Walk slower, saving breath for conversation

For miles pass fast in company, then as words fade

Listen for the fat laugh

Deep down in the belly

Of all that is still becoming.

COP26 #7

Another poem of hope and connection, which suggests a world not ruled by the survival of the fittest, but rather by the eventual realisation of unification and interdependance.

This recording was made in the immediate wake of the death of my sister.

Every subsequent spring

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All things die

You know this, but know it again

Not so as to live in deaths dark valley

Or to let fear fence you from the joy of living

Rather know it so death does not fool you

So it does not rule you

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Know it because, like last year’s leaves

(Or the spirit that stirs in oak trees)

Nothing is ever wasted, nothing rejected

Instead, all of us will come to participate

In every subsequent spring

From now into ever after

Amen

COP26 #6

Following on from yesterdays post about the usefulness of spirituality as a means to turn us towards ideas that might save the world, here is a favourite poem(if it is OK to have a personal favourite of your own poems that is. It might be like favouring one child over the others.) I love this one because it says romething that feels true, whilst also leaving the mystery wide open.

I am

I am bird, I am wind

I am scaled, I am skinned

I am soil, I am stone

I am flesh, I am bone

I am ebb, I am flow

I am stream, I am snow

I am all of these things

And I am nothing

I am love, I am light

I am morning, I am night

I am atom, I am star

I am close, I am far

I am start, I am end

I am stranger, I am friend

I am all of these things

And I am nothing

I am silence, I am song

I am right, I am wrong

I am sea, I am shore

I am less, I am more

I am young, I am old

I am iron, I am gold

I am all of these things

And I am nothing

COP26 #5 (Spirituality and activism)

I had a conversation with a dear friend recently. He is a Church of England priest, so although we share very similar world views our theology has points of divergence. In this conversation I was trying to describe what ‘spirituality’ still meant to me and how I seek adventure in new meaning. Because my friend is full of grace, he listened and talked it through with me, even though he found some of what I said troubling – I entirely umderstand why, but remain unrepentant.

My points went something like this. When trying to understand the spiritual path I am drawn towards, I use these tools;

  1. What sings in my soul. I know this sounds like airy-fairy, self centred post-modernism, but I think at some level it has always been true, for all of us. I am just more at peace with letting go the doctrine and codified belief systems that no longer resonate. (I know too that the things that sing in my soul always resonate with the teachings of Jesus, but increasingly I am open to a wider set of reference points.)
  2. Things that are to do with love, beauty or brokenness. This is hard to describe other than to say that when one or more of these things is communicated, my own broken humanity responds in a way that makes everything technicolour.
  3. What I have recieved from people/sources I trust. You could use the word ‘apostle’ here. We learn tihngs from people who have already taken us along the way. The dangers of trusting the wrong voices are obvious – consider the way that social media shapes us by feeding us bias – but ideas and inspiration is often an external thing, offered by others.
  4. What I have found to be useful. This last point relates to how spiritual ideas might be seen to shape both individuals and wider human communities towards good.

The last point is the one that I want to talk about a little more. It has been obvious throughout most of my life that mainstream religion, certainly in the West, has had far too little to say about social and economic justice. More recently, it has had little to say about climate change/justice either. It is not that individuals within faith traditions has not brought huge energy to bear in challenging these great injustices, but rather that mainstream theology has not offered a coherant story or an idea that has enabled the radical changes that I believe to be necessary. By and large, faith seems to have contributed to the status quo as determined by those powers that want things to stay the same.

For example (in case you needed it) I grew up within an evangelical Christian tradition that promoted individual salvation (after we die) above all else. They called this ‘the gospel’. It took me years to realise that this way of seeing the world/reading the Bible/understanding the mission of Jesus was full of subjectivity and distortions, and that there had always been other ways to approach the story. The story has more to teach us if we allow ourselves to be taught.

What still interests me (and keeps me returning, despite everything) is how faith motivates us to reach for something better, somthing deeper, more ‘true’, more loving, particularly in the context of a changing world facing huge challenges. To put it another way, what ways of seeing the world/reading the bible/understanding the mission (gospel) of Jesus might be USEFUL to us?

I think I have found some intriguing clues- not answers as such, but certainly ones that invite me to respond. A lot of this came to me in part through the writings of Fr Richard Rohr, particularly his most recent book ‘The Universal Christ’. I tried to describe some of this in a post a couple of years ago. You could say that Rohr has fulfilled that ‘apostle’ role I described previously, and also that as I read his worlds, something deep inside me said YES. There was great love and beauty in the whole story.

Also, his theological ideas seemed useful in a way that nothing else had for some time. He painted an idea of a unified, interdependent, interconnected world in which ‘The Christ’ was another word for everything. In this reading, God loves things by becoming them. These ideas came from Rohr’s Fransican tradition, and have been tested over time by deep theological thinkers, but it really feels to me that they are needed now, more than ever before.

In this reading, the purpose of faith is to shine light on the great goodness of all created things and the great interdpendence of all created things. It is also to note the brokeness within the nature of creation which we, as part of the whole, seek to heal and to ‘save’. This is not then restricted to saving the chosen frozen in a mythical and much feared afterlife, but rather about the here and now and what is within our grasp. How might such a reading change our relationship to the world?

I would argue that it changes everything.

Those of you who are travellers in a faith tradition will no doubt have all sorts of concerns and questions about my simplistic summary above and you would be right to do so. After all theological statements should allways be questioned and wrestled with. (Perhaps, however, you would be best to start with your own!)

Finally, if you have read this in bemusement that anyone might find motivation and inspiration in dead religion, then… well I have no desire to convince you otherwise. Find yours elsewhere and let that sing in your soul instead.

COP26 # 4

Today, a re-post of an old poem about looking backwards…

It seemed appropriate once again to remember that the human race has travelled a long way, or then again, perhaps not far at all.

(Recorded up the hill behind where we live, at the old ruined farm.)

COP26 #3

Marking the journey towards the the last chance for the continued survival of whole species and perhaps even our civilisation: a conference of world leaders, meeting just over the river from where I live.

This image is of ‘Amal’, a three meter high puppet refugee who has been slowly making her way accross europe to her final destination of Manchester, along routes taken by other Syrian refugees. The full story is here.

I share this story not only because it is remarkable how an outsized animation has been able to humanise a human tragedy more than the humans themselves…

…but also because as we head towards COP26, it should be clear to us that the battle against global warming is inseperable from the issue of global social justice. The huge consumption gap between the haves and the have-nots is the problem here, The fear that keeps our borders high is the same fear that stops us from realising that it is we who have to change.

Image from The Guardian, here.

I want to live

I want to live in a world in which refugees are welcomed

As if coming home. As if the food they are given

Was cooked by their own mothers.

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I want to live in a world in which people share what they have

With those who have nothing. Where fear of scarcity is foolish

Because we finally recognised abundance.

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I want to live in a world in which love for neighbours

Made hedges and fences inconvenient. As if real estate

Is not real after all.

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I want to live in a world in which guns are things for museums

Behind glass with suits of armour. Where tanks are

Used only to store liquid.

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I want to live in a world in which nothing is expendable, as if landfills

were already full. As if bags of bolts and empty cans

Can be used again tomorrow.

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I want to live in a world in which children are thrilled by birdsong

and gloriously appalled by black beetles. Where great adventure is made

Out of mountain and forest.

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I want to live.

COP26 #2

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Mistake

Can a bad man still love deeply
Or a sad man laugh at the winter moon?
Can a small man dream big dreams
Or an old man plan for distant futures?

Can a wrong man stare deep inside
The soul of his own mistakes?
Can a man already fat from fine things
Learn to live with less, or

Must men always be shaped
By their own scars?

COP26 #1

Marking the journey towards the the last chance for the continued survival of whole species and perhaps even our civilisation: a conference of world leaders, meeting just over the river from where I live.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Many

Many voices make great songs, and

Many arms have the strength to save

For beach is not a beach without a

Billion pebbles and sand cannot become

Sand without the breaking of a

Billion waves. And field is not field unless

We fence it and forest is not forest if

We will not let it grow. Many feet make the

broadest footpaths and many hands lighten

The lift of heavy loads. For a sky is blind

But for a billion stars and without a billion

Screens we see nothing.

COP26: raise (a lot of) small voices

In case you missed it, COP21, otherwise known as ‘the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’, starts in Glasgow at the end of this month. In other words, world leaders have a last last chance to find ways to reverse collective self destruction. We stand on the brink, hopeful that someone can perform an act of great diplomacy. Unfortunately, the host of this gathering of the great and powerful is… Boris Johnson. We might need divine intervention.

Or we might need to remember that even BJ is not immune to the pressure of public opinion. Momentum for change is often only obvious in hindsight, but I genuinely think we are seeing evidence of movement.

It occurs to me too that if we are to see this change, it will not actually be about one conference, or one main effort, or one great action. Rather it will be about a thousand million actions, shaped by the emergence of a different way to think about our relationship with the world that we live on.

I have been inspired by an ark that has appeared on the hillside in my little corner of Argyll;

You can read the full story here.

We need our artists and our story tellers. How else might we start to see things in a new light? We need lot of small voices to make up a whole massed choir (to which I will add my own dodgy tenor.)

As we move towards COP21, I hope to post a series of poems/thoughts/agitations.

A trio of brand new poems for world poetry day…

Michaela, who knows things, tells me it is world poetry day, so what better day to release some brand new poems in to the world?

By the way, these poems will feature in a brand new collaboration with the wonderful Si Smith at some point… watch this space.

Something has to kill you in the end…

Not everything will prosper

Not all that breaks first bends

Not everyone self-actuates

Some wounds can never mend

So if you planned to live for ever

Better think again my friend, for

Something has to kill you in the end

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Not all streets are safe as houses

Some children fail to thrive

No engines run for ever

Not all species can survive

When icecaps are all melting

Why strive to stay alive, for

Something has to kill you in the end

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Not all our cells stay healthy

Not all bacteria’s benign

When trouble brews like viral news

Not all will read the signs

It might be the final curtain

Or we might just recombine, but

Something has to kill you in the end

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Prodigal ape

You cannot choose the weather

You must take it all, for do not

Cheeks sing to both sun and storm?

When you stand before a big sky

It is never silent.

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You cannot ignore the forest, for like all

Prodigal apes you must eventually return

Crawl soft ground beneath the mother oak

Bury your nose in half-familiar musks

That smell of home.

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You cannot swim against a river flow

It will go where it will to go

It might take you down to sea

Where awaiting on the shore

You’ll find me.

Slow

Slow like a river though the roots

Of ancient trees. Slow like sails.

Slow like a meadow in a wind that

flows forever. Slow like the sea.

Slow as the tears that stain an

Unlined cheek. Slow like Sunday.

Slow like stories waiting to

Be told. Slow like sunshine.

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Slow like a worm moving deep in

Virgin soil. Slow like a friend.

Slow like a swallow flies in

New blue sky. Slow like religion.

Slow like the way that lichen

Grows on rock. Slow like a slug.

Slow like glacial flow of ancient

Ice. Slow like a poem.

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Slow like a thought on a

Rainy day. Slow like pain.

Slow like the heartbeat of elephant

Or whale. Slow like a snail.

Slow like summer back when we were

Young. Slow like news.

Slow like the wait for a baby

To be born. Slow like God.