Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Golden Shadows

He follows me
With golden shadows to my secret rooms.

Charles Tennyson Turner (1808 - 1879)

These last few months I have been experiencing and reflecting upon many personal traits which, at first sight I would much rather be without.

But I realise that what appear to be 'shadow' aspects also themselves have 'golden shadows', gifts they bring to me and to others.

My abiding laziness frees me from the cultural obsession with being busy, a life of appointments and schedules, the fear of being alone with nothing to do. I have time for myself, to think and pray and I have time for others. I rarely have to put people off because I have 'more important' things to do.

My procrastination reminds me that most things aren't that inportant and frees me from the need to be perfect.

My sometimes critical nature connects with witty conversation which makes people laugh, instils a sense of fun into life and punctures pomposity, including my own.

I am greedy but what a love of life that manifests! I encourage others to let go a little and enjoy themselves.

In my spendthrift nature I can 'take little thought for the morrow', be free from the obsession with security and living in the future.

I have struggled with anger but often it relates to a sense of justice and fairness.

In my personal vanity is a love of beauty, self respect, and even a healthy self love. I don't have to shrink from others...and neither do I feel I am more significant than them. Each person is beautiful with many gifts to offer to the world.

There is also a very real darkness in me...which in some ways seems unredeemable. But perhaps in some ultimate sense God can use what is darkest and most despicable as raw material for some new creation. That is my hope anyway.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cruelty and Mercy

Cruelty has a human heart
And Jealousy a human face
Terror the human form divine
And secrecy the human dress.

The human dress is forged iron,
The human face is a fiery forge,
The human face is a furnace sealed,
The human heart its hungry gorge.

William Blake (1757 - 1827)

For Mercy has a human heart
Pity a human face
And Love the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

William Blake (1757 - 1827)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I have been arranging a funeral this morning. Thankfully not for someone I know. Talking to the undertaker I felt relief that I wasn't there for someone I love...yet I was aware of how many people over the years must have sat there overwhelmed with the terrible pain of grief.

It is a privilige to support a family at this time. The practical arrangements, making sure the funeral takes place in an ordered way is as sacred as the prayers, the hymns, the readings. Isn't it the routines which partly carry us through painful times?

Life is short. How many times do we hear those words during our the point where it becomes a cliche', hardly noticed, easily ignored?

May I live richly and well. And you also, unknown friends!

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Here is a very simple drawing I made yesterday. Some of my drawings (like 'Soul Friends'..see below) are complicated in their design but I also love to make pictures which are simple, naive, primitive, innocent. I am in the process of making a new series of drawings which are simple....maybe contemplative.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Spirit of the Fountain

'The Spirit of the Fountain dies not.
It is called the Mysterious Feminine.
The Doorway of the Mysterious Feminine
Is called the Root of Heaven-and Earth.

Lingering like gossamer, it has only a hint of existence;
And yet when you draw upon it , it is inexhaustible."

Tao Teh Ching (trans. John C. H. Wu)

'Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

from 'Ash Wednesday' by T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

True Godliness

Cell of a Carthusian Monk

Having writen about the hidden, the obscure, the contemplative aspect of spirituality I also want to highlight the 'fruits of the spirit', the outward manifestation in the world of a deeply centered inner life.

'True godliness don't turn men out of the world but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavours to mend it...Christians should keep the helm and guide the vessel to its port; not meanly steal out at the stern of the world and leave those who are in it without a pilot to be driven by the fury of evil times upon the rock or sand of ruin.'

Wiliam Penn, 1682

There is much to be said for William Penn's words though I don't share his view that the purely contemplative life is to 'meanly steal out at the stern of the world'. Without time to withdraw, to pray and simply 'be' the life of action becomes fretful, even despairing. Compassionate action flows naturally from a life of prayer. It may be that action and contemplation may not be located in one individual but divided between two persons, each complementing and completing the work of the other. And prayer itself IS action, having effects in the world which may not be immediately obvious but which nevertheless are powerfully transforming.

Even so, to be silent and hidden needs no justification. At its core it is 'useless'. It serves no purpose in the same way that the intimate gaze between lovers has no purpose beyond itself. For something to be of value it need not make the world a better place, nor bring any kind of advancement (including spiritual). It is what it is, no more.....It is useless and in its emptiness the whole world is illuminated.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Indirection and Concealment.

"Monks are experts at doing nothing and tending the culture of that emptiness".

from 'Meditations. On the Monk Who Dwells in Daily Life.' by Thomas Moore

These words fill me with joy. They give me permission to do nothing, to make haste slowly, to potter and be useless; to have the space for God, for the great world, for others and myself.

I find it difficult to write much on this blog (though I write a lot in my personal journal). But there is a theme which by its nature cannot be shouted but only hinted at.

Thomas Moore in the same book writes...,

"...we might learn this art of indirection and concealment, ultimately a means for preserving one's spiritual integrity. The world should have a difficult time gaining entrance."

Hardly anyone knows this blog is here...I like that. But someone might stumble on it. It doesn't really matter. It is here. Pointless. Useless. A 'rose without why'. Maybe a tiny scrap of something sacred. Maybe not.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


The artist's function is to love the enigma. All art is this: love which has been poured out over enigmas - and all works of art are enigmas surrounded and adorned by love.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)