Friday, 28 January 2011


I have always been drawn to things pre-historic, for which I should thank my parents - childhood camping holidays took us all over the British Isles and France, from the neolithic village of SkaraBrae in the Orkneys, to the menhirs of Carnac, Avebury, the White Horse at Uffington, the ancient footpath the Ridgeway ... although brought up as a church-goer, my earliest memories of a sense of 'sacred,' 'awe' and 'other' came from being in these places- often very beautiful, natural places- and absorbing the atmosphere.
I grew up associating spirituality with the outdoors, and the ancient. The image above is of Wayland's Smithy; it is a tomb. I imagine people standing around it mourning their dead - people who loved and were loved. Human lives that mattered - and when has there been a time when this was not so?

Ancient sites interrupting the landscape connect us with essential human needs - to form community, to be safe, to understand the land and the life it holds and be able to survive in it peacefully without destroying it or it destroying you,  to be able to travel, trade, explore, create, form relationships, tell stories, make music, art and love, look beyond ourselves out into the mystery of the universe; be alive ... we have not come so very far really, our needs have not changed in essence.

To discover more fully what it is to be human, what true humanity is no matter when, where or who, this is what interests me. It is surely a path to understanding one another at the deepest level, and discovering our natural affinity and mutuality - empathy, sympathy, compassion, acceptance ... for we all know what pain is, and fear, and love and awe ... surely here is something deeper than cultural, religious, credal, economic, historical divisions.
Personal faith, to be of enduring value, has to help us to discover the rich depth of humanity within and around us and help us to draw out the best of what humanity can be - the impulse towards compassion - rather than the violent and fearful worst, which spirals us and the planet into degredation. 
Discovering how to be most fully and wonderfully human, humanity at its most profound, seems to me to be the essence of the spiritual path, whichever faith - what else can we do, after all, except try to walk this earthy life well?

There is a beautiful quote from the prophet Micah (6:8), said to summarise the whole Hebrew scripture, that says it all, to me:
'Hear O Mortal, what is good, and what does God require of you,
but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.'
That humble walk with God, to me, is radical spirituality.

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