Things have been a bit slow here recently- this is mostly because I have been doing a lot of work editing poetry for the up and coming Proost Poetry Collection. I am really excited about this project now- after huge amounts of work it is finally coming together.
One of the things I have been doing is writing chapter introductions. By way of a teaser here is one of them;
Imagine one of those wet-into-wet Chinese landscape paintings in which
a flower holds your gaze to the foreground,
whilst line after line of mountains
climb and bleed into the distance.
It seems like there will always another ridge line,
another high corrie to cross.
I walk into the rain and the mist
Forced to trust that
there will be other flowers
in places beyond.
There was a time when everything felt permanent, or so we are told. Communities were solidly built around stratified social class structures. People began work at the age of 14 and spent their lives in the service of one employer; the chances are that this was where your parents also worked. Whole towns were organised around the shift patterns at mills/shipyards/mines. We worked together, then drank together afterwards. On Sundays we went to church together.
This was no utopia; there were always those for whom this kind of life felt like a kind of prison. They longed for adventure on the high seas, the promise of the New World. They felt thirst for distant spice filled forests, for tropical islands lapped by warm green waters, for feasting on strange beasts around a pioneer fireside and above all for freedom. Freedom from the tired old ways of doing things, freedom from old obligations and paradigms, freedom from the drab dull monochrome lives lived by their parents. Freedom from things that always remained the same and from the kind of religion that insisted that was how things should be.
Should I stay, or should I go? Perhaps we humans always have to make this decision. The going and the staying are not necessarily geographical concepts. Do we stay with what we know, or do we dare to imagine something new?
As well as putting up the stone buildings that anchor us to place, our faith can also be a mode of travel. Our history is littered with people who were convinced that God was telling them to go somewhere, to do something. These people have acheived amazing things.
I heard a story once that really helped me to understand the flowering of faith in different parts of our history. Revivals hit us from time to time, usually associated with people who are inspired to go to new places and dream of better things. These revivals can be like an erupting volcano, spewing out molten rock that flows out into the cracks and crevices of the landscape. Nothing can stand in its way.
After a while, the flow cools on the outside but it remains hot and plastic within, still moving slowly. However, eventually what is hot cools and solidifies. It can no longer move, but becomes solid rock.
It is from this rock that we build our Church, our religion.
The truth is, we need both those who go, and those who stay. The rocks that form the walls of the old cathedrals are beautiful.
But the mountains are calling me again…