FROM THE BOUNDARY - Hiya! – Part two

To all the Nicodemuses of the world: you don’t have to be Pharisee, politician, priest or professor. You may be painter, porter, packer, policeman. It’s no matter who, or how old, you are. For all, “the wind bloweth where it listeth”. You may know it’s there, but you can’t control it. You won’t know why it’s there, or where it will lead you (John 3:8). It’s pneuma, the wind, the Spirit, and it’s come to give life to the dry bones of your life (Ezek.37:1-14). One thing’s certain. Though you don’t understand it, all you need do is ask for it (Luke 11:13). Jesus tells us so.

But wait. Sometimes ‘life’ – yes, with all its dry bones – speaks louder than book texts. The other day I went to buy a glass rooster from my friend Ahmad. While there, I happened to see a framed, monochrome photo of a young woman, probably dating from the mid-1950s. Her face was so vibrant, so full of life, and very beautiful. Her head rested on her hand and her eyes, wide and full of wonder, looked to something offstage. I asked Ahmad where she’d come from. He told me “the dump”. OK: someone, sometime, had thrown her out. Surplus to requirements. Ahmad asked me whether I liked her and gave her to me. In my mind, I called her ‘Crystal’. Later it struck me forcibly. This beautiful lady, Crystal, is now dead. DEAD.

You probably don’t know Dylan Thomas’ play for voices, ‘Under Milk Wood’. It too dates from the 1950s. It’s about life in a small, Welsh, seaside town with all its gossipy, free-wheeling, littleness – brilliant. It was made into an LP, and in the 1960s, as an undergraduate, I used to listen to it on Friday night. Richard Burton had the main narrator’s role. One of the characters is an aged, Baptist minister, Rev. Eli Jenkins. He recounts his morning and evening prayers for the little town. It’s been set to music and most recently is movingly sung by the Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel. It begins: “Every morning when I wake/ Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,/O please do keep Thy lovely eye/ On all poor creatures born to die.” Yes, “BORN TO DIE” – me, you, the beautiful girls we see in the street, the darling little kids we see with their moms, the big-wigs in their self-importance – everything. Frankly, I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head: “born to die”. Looking about me in the streets: “born to die”. Those In my prayers: “born to die”. Well, it’s true, isn’t it? And then this week life, death, corroborated Eli’s words for me. Our baby, dear, dear Precious, the most recent, well-beloved , pussy-vagrant with a home, was killed on the road outside the house. “BORN TO DIE”. Just like Crystal in the photo. Mere hearsay words in books seem so empty at times, don’t they?

But then yesterday I rang my best friend, William, who’s very wise. I told him what I was experiencing. His response: “Born to die or BORN TO LIVE?” Gulp. Yes William, thank you. A correcting voice, totally unexpected. “The wind bloweth…” Later, driving into Massy, I was thinking about it all and what I’d write in this column. I parked and immediately met my old friend ‘Rock Man’ – musician, songwriter, singer, story-teller. Without ANY prompting from me, he told me to look all around and see the rock-solidness of life in which everything is inter-connected. “Rocks breathe”, he said. “Rocks weather, but they go on, and on, and on. They LIVE. They can’t be destroyed. WE ARE ROCKS.” Yes – “BORN TO LIVE”. Thanks William. Thanks ‘Rock Man’. And thank you Crystal. “The wind bloweth…”

OK then: “seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7; Jer. 29:13). We – and that includes me – mustn’t be afraid to ask. “Come unto me…” It can be an ejaculatory prayer, or a single word, or silence. It can be standing, kneeling, prostrating. The love in our hearts speaks for us. Our needs are known before we ask, after all (Matt. 6:8). “Lord, you know all my longing” (Psalm 37). If you will, seek the blessing of Mother Mary.

It’s all about experience. Jesus calls us: “Come and see” (John 1:39), come and experience. All the creeds and catechisms in the world are little more than marks on paper unless, in some way, we’ve experienced the understanding they express; unless we’ve experienced for ourselves Christ’s cross, the resurrection and saving power of Christ in our lives as they are, the Christ who IS the resurrection, who IS the Life. So we must be ready, ready for that Spirit which comes in Jesus’ name and will teach us all things. It may come in an old photograph, a feather on the ground, in the words of a wild man the world may shun, even in the ‘tut tut’ of the respectable folk who shun him. It may come in the storm, or from the silence of the loving heart. It’ll guide us into all truth, that’s for sure.

Go safely, then – until the next time.

Hiya, from the boundary: “As the sun can be seen only by its own light, so Christ can be known only by His own Spirit” - (Robert Leighton).

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