Monday, 14 January 2008

Roots ...

That which would nourish and build spiritual maturity as the fruition of this life is at the very heart of our existence. We are born with a spiritual seed already within us.

At our conception it is not just the beginning of a physical growth process that, however wonderful, simply brings another living creature into this world. That is the case with the rest of the animal kingdom, and as an evolved and planned part of life’s diversity we share in that process as our own means of reproduction within creation as we know it; but we are more than that: we are men and women, we are humankind, we are the reason for the existence of everything else on Earth, and for the existence of this astonishing planet itself. That fact, if only we had the ‘ears to hear’, would tell us so forcibly that our solar system exists purely for the creation and establishment of a nursery and home for mankind. It is easy to run with the seemingly logical sequence of thoughts that follow on from this – the galaxy for the solar system, the cluster for the galaxy, the known cosmos for the cluster of galaxies – but I believe that to be an arrogant extension of mankind’s present limited capacity to comprehend; not the capacity to understand “something” but to comprehend – Full stop.

We are told that we are created in the image and in the likeness of God. (Genesis 1:26) but I am always failing to grasp this in a way that satisfactorily answers my questions. I do not doubt its truth, but I am unable to take it on board in any sense that provides me with the inner quiet and sense of certainty that is so frequently twinned with total acceptance. I fail to understand what the words mean, but the passage of time has granted me an awareness of two facts derived from that lack of understanding: firstly that the failure is entirely my own, and secondly that it brings home to me the reality of not being able to know all things. In searching for the answers to some of my questions, I have to recognise the limitations of being human. There is much that cannot be worked out and learned with mind alone, and in some areas, like everyone else, I must heed the words of Saint Augustine of Hippo, ‘Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe, that thou mayest understand.’

The ability to believe that I am created in the image of God, without really understanding what that means, is a natural, and perhaps supernatural, extension of all that I have received through my past years of gradually increasing faith. There is so much that was once easily dismissed that is now undeniable. Faith has opened a door for me, the closing of which I could neither imagine nor endure.
What I do understand, is that the essential spark for being made in the image of God is the implantation, the inclusion and the infusion of that spiritual seed into our physical creation. We cannot - neither physically nor as intellectual concept – be conceived as human beings without the touch of that generative and eternal light.

From our earliest days that seed begins to grow, taking in all it needs from the new world into which it has been born, but, at the same time, our mind necessarily fills itself with the information it receives from this world that will enable it to grow and eventually function within it as an entirely independent being. All that is present in the infant’s world will have a bearing on the formation of both the mind and the spirit of the rapidly learning new child, and on the character and spiritual integrity of the adult to be.
The apparent death or disappearance of the spiritual seed goes unnoticed, and to grow up without even the merest hint that anything has been lost is both the most tragic and the easiest thing in the world.
Thomas Traherne wrote of this in his ‘Centuries of Meditations’ (3:7-11)

‘That first Light which shined in my infancy in its primitive and innocent clarity was totally eclipsed ... by the customs and manners of men, which like contrary winds blew it out: by an innumerable company of other objects, rude, vulgar, and worthless things, that like so many loads of earth and dung did overwhelm and bury it: by the impetuous torrent of wrong desires in all others whom I saw or knew that carried me away and alienated me from it: by a whole sea of other matters and concernments that covered and drowned it: finally by the evil influence of a bad education that did not foster and cherish it. All men's thoughts and words were about other matters. They all prized new things which I did not dream of. I was a stranger and unacquainted with them; I was little and reverenced their authority; I was weak, and easily guided by their example: ambitious also, and desirous to approve myself unto them. And finding no one syllable in any man's mouth of those things, by degrees they vanished, my thoughts ... were blotted out; and at last all the celestial great and stable treasures to which I was born, as wholly forgotten, as if they had never been.'

'Had any man spoken of it, it had been the most easy thing in the world, to have taught me, and to have made me believe that Heaven and Earth was God's House, and that He gave it me. That the Sun was mine, and that men were mine, and that cities and kingdoms were mine also: that Earth was better than gold, and that water, every drop of it, was a precious jewel. And that these were great and living treasures: and that all riches whatsoever else was dross in comparison. ... When I began to speak and go, nothing began to be present to me, but what was present to me in their thoughts. Nor was anything present to me any other way, than it was so to them ... All things were absent which they talked not of. So I began among my play-fellows to prize a drum, a fine coat, a penny, a gilded book, etc, who before never dreamed of any such wealth. ... As for the Heavens and the Sun and Stars they disappeared, and were no more unto me than the bare walls. So that the strange riches of man's invention quite overcame the riches of nature, ... nothing is so easy as to teach the truth because the nature of the thing confirms the doctrine: ... '

As well as stating truths about childhood experience, does this not touch our hearts with the awesome responsibility that is parenthood? And does it not hint at the very core of the reason why the death of a child is so utterly devoid of anything that verges on understanding? The death from this world and from our presence is one thing, but the death of a child of God before we have entirely poured into it our love, our frail faith and our life, is a trial which leaves us in a limbo of fear and uncertainty. What more could I or should I have done? I loved within this world, but did I believe enough to give my child the seeds of my faith that it may graft these onto the seed with which it had been born?
Even within the life of the parent who thinks they believe in nothing, there is the unquenchable flicker of that ‘first light’ with which they themselves were born, and in the unrecognized longing of one child of God for the spiritual prosperity and salvation of another born of their own flesh, resides the ultimate revelation of what this life is about, and the pulse of meaning behind the incomprehensible reality of the incarnation of God into mankind: the conception, the birth, the life and the death of Jesus. He was THE Child of God. He was THE man. His death was not His end, nor a continuation of a gradual petering out for mankind; the resurrection of Christ was the beginning of our future.
Such are the thoughts which may never trouble the parent who dies in due season: at a time, also in due season, which allows their children to grieve and to take their turn as the patriarchs and matriarchs of the overlapping God-child generations.

In striving to become the persons we are made to be, we must become aware of the life in that ‘first light’ within ourselves; we must steer away from the ‘dross’ in our lives and be able to discern whether to search and build upon all that has been gifted to us, or recognize and discard our past as having been empty and misleading.

'The person you are depends not on what you can achieve, but on what is given you
- perhaps by the hands that first held you –
the warm hands of your mother, the strong dependable hands of your father,
and on the hands of many people who have given you their gifts all down the years.'
(More from Ten to Eight on Radio 4. Various authors.)

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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