Category Archives: Endings

The Return

It’s been a while, I know. I’m afraid I had to let this blog lapse whilst I did the whole returning to work after kids thing, which involved a great deal of puzzling out as to what I could do that would fit in with all the other things that I already did.

I think I may have come up with a working solution, which is in its early stages but nevertheless is looking hopeful. However just as I begin to establish a new career, of course, we happen to experience political upheaval in Britain such as I have never known before. Whilst on the one hand vaguely hoping that the outcome of the referendum won’t affect my business plan (such as it is), on the other I am acutely aware of the shock experienced by a political establishment whose complacent expectations were proved so misguided given the referendum result.

So that is why I am here again. There are so many, many questions raised in the wake of what you might call a cataclysmic event, and I want this to be a place where I and anyone else can ask those questions. It is in many ways a selfish project, since for me it is therapeutic to launch my thoughts into a public space, but I hope whoever ends up reading this will find it helpful in opening up and exploring their own questions as well. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has experienced restless nights and stress-infused days since the result came out. Nor am I the only one who wants to see a stronger, more compassionate and courageous Britain emerge from the chaos of what has just happened. Perhaps this blog can, in some small way, help to bring that about. I look forward to giving it a try, at any rate.

What’s in store for England?

Economic decline and rioting on the city streets of England are filling our newspapers at the moment, but very little attention is being paid to what things are going to be like when all the furore has died down and we have to rebuild what has been damaged and lost.

It feels as though we’re on a precipice, on the verge of ecomonic disaster and momentous social change. And not just us, I hasten to add – the USA, Spain, France, even China to some extent – one by one the economic powers are falling, and I haven’t heard anyone even allude to what the world is going to look like when the last power bloc falls.

England stands firmly within an international community, a complexity of economically interdependent relationships whose strength ultimately relies on the strength of the American economy. The plunge into ridiculous levels of debt since Bush’s decision to deregulate the financial industry has undermined those relationships, and those who have taken the dream of capitalism between the bit and galloped off in pursuit of perfect freedom are now miring themselves and others in the bog of being unable to extricate entire countries from this now unsupportable debt.

And so the worsening economic climate has been a major contribution to social disaffection. The police shooting of Mark Duggan was catalyst rather than cause of the ensuing violence, as discontent has been rumbling and building under the surface of our society for quite some time now, perhaps even generations. Unsurprisingly some of the major media-fed characteristics of our society – such as the drive to possess, and the centring of ones own world around oneself – have driven the wedge between the wealthy and the impoverished in England deeper and deeper every year. As a nation we are all, including myself, responsible for having created the mess we are in, being almost completely unable to see the value in caring for the wider society we ought to be a part of.

For some individuals, the immediate aftermath of the riots is clear. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods have been destroyed, to those who have suffered injury or bereavement. They are ever-present in my prayers as they face the coming weeks and months and possibly years of coping with the fall-out of the awful events of this week. As a nation, staggering through a social crisis that no-one seems to have foreseen, and simultaneously suffering from the blows of international economic decline, it feels as though we have a long way to go before we reach any kind of stability. I wonder why it has to take a crisis this deep-running to bring people together; still, it is hopeful that we are now beginning to show, as a nation, our potential to see beyond our own individual needs. Witnessing the hordes of people cleaning up the damaged streets, and reading of the generosity of those helping affected people, is a tonic amidst so much suffering. If, as we rebuild businesses, homes and lives, we can build such expressions of generosity and good will into the fabric of our society, then whatever the future brings for England, we will be better resourced to deal with it.

Endings and Beginnings

Why do good things have to end?

This week marked the end of a course I have been attending entitled ‘spiritual direction: an approach to faith accompaniment’. It lasted for about six months, and was one of the most transformative periods of my life. It essentially taught me to listen well to others and enable them in turn to listen to themselves and to God, but through participating I have gained certainty about my sense of vocation, I have developed the confidence to exercise and nurture the innate ability I have to listen to others, I have been given the tools and understanding to deal with pain from my own past in a way that will bring further healing and wholeness, and most of all I have been part of a wonderful community of people involved in the course who have been supporting one another through this experience.

So why on earth does  such a positive and nurturing experience have to end, when it has enabled a process of transformation in me that can only in turn be of help and support to others?

If the premise of this blog is anything to go on, there may not be an answer to this question at all. I mean yes, I can see the good in no longer having concerns about the practical issues that surrounded me being away for a twelve-hour day once a fortnight. The costs, the obligation to others for looking after the children, they’re all gone. But I feel inadequate to express the value of the deep friendships built up within the group of course attendees, and even the larger group relationship that has now been broken. It feels such a great loss.

On the last day of the course, we were given a quote by T S Eliot that I had to read a few times before I could make any sense of it; ‘ We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ I liked it in the end, because it suggested that what we perceive as endings, as finality, can instead be viewed as beginnings. Moments of pregnant expectation that there is now space for new and even better things to happen. And the result of each ending is that we are able to have a deeper experience of the situation we found ourselves in before. In the context of this course (a time of intense exploration) the ‘place’ was me; by the end of it I knew myself much better, in the context of my faith and my family and my work. This knowing is now another beginning in the process of becoming more comfortable in my own skin, a process that is of inestimable value.

Have I answered the question? I don’t think so particularly, as I’m sure had the course continued I would have continued to grow and learn through it. But I find comfort in that although we have to grieve for the good things that end, there is always the promise that if we continue to explore, there will always be more to learn and more to become.