Welcome, Namaste, Peace, Shalom

Welcome, Namaste, Peace, Shalom, Benedicite. May the peace of the Lord always be with you.

Annapurna (Goddess of the Harvests) range, Nepal. Machapuchare, Fishtail Mountain, sacred to Shiva and never climbed.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The cracks that let the light in

By Ian Britton on Reel Worship
‘There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.’
Leonard Cohen

I love modern technology. I am so grateful for medical science, travel, hot and cold clean water on tap, plentiful varied food supplies, central heating, cooking hobs and ovens. Decent housing. Computers and the internet. Nice soap. Sanitary towels with wings. Easily available nice clothes in modern easy care fabrics. The list is endless. I am so grateful that I was born in the mid 20th Century.

This is not a rant about the need to return to a mythical non-technological paradise. Nor about how most of the rest of the world live in poverty in part caused by our over consumption. Nor about the ecological disasters it has caused. Nor about how we should all give up our cars and make our own soap etc, etc in order to make it all better.

But recently I have been thinking about the hidden price we pay, almost unnoticed.

A few days ago a friend gave me this quote by Leonard Cohen. Thoughts about the importance of spaces where nothing happens have been with me for a long time. I think these are essential for our health. Mental, physical, spiritual. Individual and corporate.

I remember when an organisation I worked for got very efficiency conscious. It reduced staffing levels and set targets. The aim was to cut out time wasting. In the process it removed all the little spaces in office life. The making of coffee, the chats in the kitchen or the loos, passing by someone’s desk. Even chats with customers. People barely had time to say good morning to each other or go to the loo.

A hitherto reasonably happy office became very unhappy. Some targets were met or improved but those that depended on an invisible unmeasurable web of relationships built up in the spaces where time was being ‘wasted’ failed. Customers felt neglected.  There was no time to listen or to talk.

A very long time ago I read an account by someone who was part of the move to cities resulting from economic depression and the clearances in the highlands and islands of Scotland. It spoke movingly about how previously healthy people mysteriously sickened and died in the city. It wasn’t that conditions in the city were that bad. It was something to do the removal of space, time and beauty from their lives. It made a big impression on me. I have never forgotten it.

Volcanic Crater and the Atlantic Ocean
Sao Miguel Azores
I wouldn’t want to be dependant on spinning my own thread, knitting and sewing all my own clothes, producing all my own food. I would be cold, hungry and naked. But the machinery that was supposed to give us more leisure seems to have had the opposite effect. We are all so busy. We have access to more goods more cheaply than ever before but we don’t seem to be any happier.

Transporting goods by canal boat might not be speedy or efficient but the people on the boat travelled slowly through beautiful scenery and had time to think and to talk in a meandering fashion.

Oxen have two speeds, dead slow and stop. Mainly they seem to prefer stop. Travelling by ox cart gives plenty of time to admire the views and ruminate on life.

Ox Cart Nepal 2010
In the past many more occupations involved lengthy and fairly slow travelling, being outdoors, and a considerable amount of solitude and silence. Also, tasks which took time and could not be hurried too much.

Foot Spinning Nepal 2010
Spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, they keep us still and focused and we can be sociable while we are doing them if we want to. In Greece I saw small groups of men spinning in the gardens of their houses. And old women with young girls making lace. Sitting outside, enjoying the weather and companionship.

Men mending fishing nets Sao Miguel Azores
 Making something full of holes.

The Boy Who Knits
 This page is full of spaces, we couldn't read it otherwise.

The Tao Te Ching says:

“A wheel is useful,
because of the hole at the centre of the hub

A clay pot is useful,
Because it contains empty space.

Doors and windows are useful,
Because they are gaps in the walls.

The value of what is there,
lies in what is not there!

(trans by Timothy Freke)

The Bible says:

When God created the universe he rested on the seventh day. He ordained every seventh day as a day of rest for us:

"There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live,” Leviticus 23: 3

'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien” Leviticus 23: 22

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42   but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10: 38-42

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”


28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6: 25-34