MAGAZINE NO. 147 [ December 2019 ]
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
THE NEED FOR ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION by Sarah Bachelard 5
ANTARCTICA: WHERE DEEP CALLS TO DEEP by Ros Bradley 10
WANDERING AND WONDERING by Alex Nelson 13
TOWARDS DADIRRI: CULTIVATING CONTEMPLATIVENESS IN DAILY LIFE by Peter Yuile 16
SPIRITUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE: A CONVERSATION by Frances MacKay and Bethany South 20
MARY AND MARTHA: IN SEARCH OF THE BETTER PART by Kim Langford 24
CLAIMING THE DARK NIGHT OF AGEINGby Kerrie Hide 29
MARGEURITE PORETE: HEARING THE VOICE OF A BEGUINE MYSTIC IN TODAY’S WORLD by Cathy Lambert 35
DAVID TACEY’S ‘THE POSTSECULAR SACRED: JUNG, SOUL AND MEANING IN AN AGE OF CHANGE’ reviewed by Digby Hannah 39
Will the recent experience of early, widespread and persistent bush-fires provide the necessary wake-up call to address climate change? ‘It’s painful to keep hearing about the critical state of our planet in a context where we feel constantly frustrated and disempowered by delusional politics and societal apathy, as our collective future is sabotaged by leaders who seem stubborn-ly invested in business as usual.’ Sarah Bachelard’s words speak for an increasing number of Australians. She goes on to say that problem solving and rational debate won’t save the day. Only a shift in the way we see the world – a profound spiritual conversion – will do. Such a conversion involves ‘an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone’, a shift from a ‘desecrating to sacramental relationship to our world’. For those of us who wonder how to pray authentically in this and other challenging situations in today’s world, she says: ‘By prayer I mean not just vague petition, but a committed placing of ourselves in the way of grace, opening ourselves as best we can to the energy of God’s life, being available for the work of the Spirit within us... For me, it involves letting myself be present to the stuckness, intransigence and wilful blindness that I sense blocking the shift that’s seeking to be made... and then bringing it before God, bringing it to the light, offering it to be softened, released, remade’.
The urgent need to respond to climate change continues in Ros Bradley’s ‘Antarctica: Where Deep Calls to Deep’. Ros describes the ‘profound sense of the numinous I felt amidst this very beautiful and pristine part of the earth – testimony that we are part of a mystery so much larger than ourselves’. She goes on to say, ‘I also felt humbled by the sheer fragility of our planet, the enormity of scientists’ predictions of climate change and an urgent sense that we must all try to act with wisdom, courage and diligence’.
Alex Nelson unpacks the theme of wonder in ‘Wondering and Wandering’. We mightn’t go on an Antarctic expedition but we can spend time in nature – and retreats are a good way of doing this. Alex reminds us that although wonder comes naturally to children, sometimes as adults we need to be reminded how to cultivate wonder. Wonder, he says, can be described as ‘having our eyes opened to love, being amazed at the beauty of other beings and falling into love, being in love with them’.
There is no infinite harvest, no perpetual growth without fallow, without season and rest and waiting. (Richard Browning, Chaplain, Radford College, Canberra).
Peter Yuile recommends the indigenous practice of dadirri or deep inner listening as a doable, accessible practice that can be incorporated into our daily life to help us live more contemplatively.
In ‘Spirituality in the Workplace: A Conversation’, Frances MacKay and Bethany South address such questions as: What might we mean by spirituality in the workplace? How might we reclaim the spirit of Sabbath in the interests not only of personal wellbeing but the survival of our planet? They explore how the sabbatical ethic of imposing limits on the exploitation of people, creatures and the land is clearly relevant to the climate change debate as well as areas of social justice. They suggest that, while some organisations are recognising that certain practices can contribute to the well-being of their employees, and that a workplace where people are flourishing is more likely to be productive and creative, they wonder if there are broader ethical issues to be addressed.
Kim Langford’s ‘In Search of the Better Part’ is about the complementarity of contemplation and action in our personal narratives. Kim invites us to revisit in image and word the story of Mary and Martha as told in Luke 10:38-42. She challenges us to move beyond the contemplation/action binary to find our own ‘better part’ – to live the life that is ours to live, ‘undistracted’ by anxiety, envy and competiveness.
In ‘Claiming the Dark Night of Ageing’, Kerrie Hide utilises the example of the 84-year-old prophet Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and the teachings of John of the Cross on the Dark Night as a way of reflecting on the process and gifts of ageing. Having discovered her place in the temple is to embody wisdom, Anna has ‘claimed the night of ageing’. Kerrie then explores how ‘The Dark Night’ by John of the Cross can provide a valuable map for this life stage. ‘Rather than envisage the decline of energy levels and body functions as a process of diminishment that leaves human beings destructively empty, John’s vision invites us to see ageing as an opportunity to strip away the non-essential until we become totally empty and ready to be filled with divine love.’
Marguerite Porete, along with Hadewijch of Brabant and Mechthild of Magdeburg, were members of the 13th C. Beguine movement for women who did not desire to become part of a formal religious order and chose not to live in a marriage relationship. Cathie Lambert suggests that they can be models for those who live on the edge of church structures, yet seek creative ways of making their voices heard.
In his review of The Postsecular Sacred: Jung, Soul and Meaning in an Age of Change, Digby Hannah welcomes David Tacey’s reworking of the core theme in most of his writings – the return of the repressed (the sacred). Unsurprisingly, for Tacey a postsecular sacred in Australia is less about dogma and more about metaphor, myth and symbol – and listening to our Aboriginal brothers and sisters.
May the above offerings inspire us to embrace hope in challenging times.
Love and Peace