It is by choice and not by chances that we change our circumstances. Nadia SahariRead More
“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” Wendell BerryRead More
All real living is meetingRead More
Who is my neighbour? Who is my enemy?Read More
Both sides now
Reflecting on how I’ve experienced the transition (occasionally the seismic shift!) from youth to, and through, middle age, I’ve found it illuminating to listen to Joni Mitchell singing her own heartfelt song of love, life and loss, “Both sides now” in two versions recorded nearly thirty years apart. Written and recorded first in 1969 when Mitchell was 26, she re-recorded it in 2000. The lyrics show remarkable insight to have been written by someone so young yet her performance in the early version seems to skim over the surface of the very words she penned.
Something's gained, something's lost
In the later version (recorded when she was approaching 60), the song takes on a whole new aspect. Her voice, soaring over a shifting and ambiguous orchestration, draws out the ambiguity, ambivalence, sense of loss and hope unique to later life. Maybe it takes until later in life to know and communicate that we’ve looked at life from “both sides now”, from win and lose and to know that “something’s gained and something’s lost in living every day”. And to know that that’s OK. [Performances of both versions can be found on YouTube, 1970 and 2000]
What is this wondrous mystery unfolding within me? I have no words to name it, for that One is above all praise, transcends all words St.Symeon the New TheologianRead More
Tolkien said that “not all who wander are lost” and T S Eliot “we shall not cease from exploring and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where started and to know the place for the first time”.
One interesting signifier of the journey into the second half of life has been my experience of non-linearity. I wonder if – at the risk of over-simplification – the head/mind/ego tend to be more linear and the body/soul/heart more discursive, less directive or directed. I am held in the paradox of living with some degree of intentionality and agency whilst also experiencing the indirectness of life, the reordering of awareness. Thus (again Eliot), “love of a country begins as an attachment to our own field of action and comes to find that action of little importance”.
(Both Eliot quotations are from ‘The four quartets’)
Linn of Muick, Duncan MacMillan
“Tell me who has died?” “I have” Waking with this mysterious question and answer hanging in my conscious awareness, I was haunted by it for several days. The mystery of ‘dying to self’ is much more profound and imminent now than when I was younger and much more black and white about virtually everything. Looking back now on how I experienced scriptures on death to self, they seemed like an invitation to a heroic endeavour, something at which I could excel if I gritted my teeth enough. By effort and personal application, I could achieve death to self. Now it seems much bigger than anything I could manage. It feels more like something I’m falling into. And whereas my own intentionality is significant, I know myself to be experiencing the truth or Richard Rohr’s wise but paradoxical statement “You can’t get there, you can only be there”.
The road less travelled
Scott Peck, referencing Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, encourages us to take the ‘road less travelled’. Sometimes in the middle of life, with questions of faith and church and growing older all coming to the fore, it can seem as though we’re no longer on a road at all. Not adrift from the fundamentals of our faith (however we experience or express those) we can say – in the memorable phrase of a good friend - “I’m not lost but I don’t know where I’m going”.
God is not ‘here’ or ‘there’ but truly to be found in all things.
For several of us who meet together as the “two halves of life” group, reading and discussing some of Fowler’s work on the stages of faith proved profoundly affirming. Knowing that there are those who have walked this way before and experienced the feelings of dislocation and even alienation in faith and life – and have named and travelled through these – brought a deep sense of being held in something much bigger. God is not ‘here’ or ‘there’ but truly to be found in all things.
[If you’re interested in finding out more about the stages of faith refer to either of the following books: ‘Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning’ by James W. Fowler or ‘A Churchless Faith’ by Alan Jamieson]
There is a line in the Vedic texts which says “The world is as you are”.
Letting the world be as it is
We can – each one of us – see the same film, read the same book or listen to the same piece of music and experience them quite differently. The world is as I experience it, as you experience it. And at one level this is of course right. How could it be otherwise? And yet we can experience – perhaps more and more as time goes by – a strange upending of this. More and more I find that the allusive, elliptical, koan-like parables of Jesus call me into a different way of being, more inclined – on my better days! – to let the world be as it is without my first having critiqued or categorised it. From this place emerges the rich possibility that the parables are reading me rather than me reading the parables; the world reading me rather than me reading the world.