Monday, January 14, 2008

As asked for...

Here is the Mike Higton quotation, from Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams. Church Publishing: New York, 2004, p. 1.

"Last month, I found myself sitting in an airport departure lounge littered with people in transit: people from more backgrounds than I could guess, speakers of more languages than I was able to recognize, all accidentally thrown together in a cluttered public space in which few of us ever spoke more than a handful of words to any of those around us. I was on my way to what was for me an important meeting, finishing some university business I had been negotiating for months; I was nervous, defensive, concerned to make a good impression when I arrived at my destination. with some dull time to fill before my flight was called, I tried to decide how to begin this description of Rowan Williams' theology. In particular, I tried to think of a way to convey the claim that in the two or more million words of his published writings he is constantly concerned to press one simple question -- and I realized that I could not think about that question without asking how it caught up with me exactly there, exactly then.

Sitting there, I was aware of the work-stale glances of the airport staff, of the quickly averted eyes of my fellow travellers, of the anticipated scrutiny of those I was going to meet, of the assessing gaze of my employers carried around in my head, and of my own anxious self-regard. What difference would it have made if I had let myself believe that, beyond all these, I was held in a wholly loving gaze? What difference would it have made if I believed myself subject to a gaze which saw all my surface accidents and arrangements, all my inner habits and inheritances, all my anxieties and arrogances, all my history -- and yet a gaze which nevertheless loved that whole tangled bundle which makes/2/ me the self I am, with an utterly free, utterly selfless love? What difference would it have made if I let myself believe that I was held in a loving gaze that saw all the twists and distortions of my messy self, all the harm that it can do and has done, but also saw all that it could become, all that it could give to others, and all that it could receive?

And what difference would it have made if I had seen each face around me in that departure lounge -- cleaners, businessmen, emigrants and immigrants, waitresses, tourists, even academics on university business -- as individually held in the same overwhelming, loving gaze? What difference would it have made if I believed each person around me to be loved with the same focus, by a love which saw each person's unique history, unique problems, unique capacity, unique gift? And what difference would it have made if I believed that this love nevertheless made no distinctions between people more worthy and people less worthy of love, no distinctions of race, religion, age, innocence, strength, or beauty: a lavish and indiscriminate love?

It was easy to jot these simple questions down, easy to think about them -- but to believe in such a loving regard, and to let belief in it percolate down through all the sedimented layers of my awareness, would have been shattering. such unfettered acceptance would have been utterly disarming; to believe such good news, such a Gospel, would have been very, very difficult."

-- I excerpted it, as you can imagine. The children's talk went really well. I had just four boys, three of them in the pre-teen hooligan stage. We talked about the possibility of remembering that we are beloved whenever we contact water, and I used a little water in the Lavabo bowl, thumbed a cross on each of their foreheads and said, "Remember you are beloved." They took that well without too much grimacing -- the next phase was to say, "Hmmmm, everybody seems to have a cross except ME..." So they applied their little thumbs to the task and then went off to Sunday School, very happily.

One of them is a theologian in the making. He pointed out, "It's a lot easier to remember about being beloved when the water's in a nice silver bowl like that." So we had a very brief chat about the need to educate our imaginations so that ALL water speaks to us of being beloved. "Right," he said.

Our writer's presentation on the book-in-progress went well--between those who came because they were interested, and those who came just in case something might be happening behind their backs...he writes well, and he reads well, and there was much to think about in what he said.

Then home and dinner preparation.'s too long since I baked a cake. Some of it was beaten too much and some not enough and it rose up amazingly in the pan and fell down just as amazingly once it was out of the oven, and altogether looked wretched. The kids chomped it down, uttering protesting cries, "It's fine, Mom, it's really chocolatey, and ... ummm... dense!" Fondue was good, though, and we had two kinds of nice salad and lots of wine and good coffee. When dinner was through I started the first dishwasher load, and then betook myself and the aches and pains to the sofa with a knitted throw and Pickwick Papers and listened with great contentment to the young ones playing some game or other --Apples to Apples perhaps? at the dining-room table. Tremendous glee and conversation and laughter.


I'm Still Me said...

Thank you! That was just what I needed to read.

Crimson Rambler said...

oh good! I'm glad!

RevAnne said...

Thank you...I'm going to link to this post from my the idea of being always aware of that loving gaze, not only on us but on all.

Jim said...

Just to point out: There is no *wrong* way to make a chocolate cake.

I speak as one with experience of chocolate cake.

Okay, most of my experience *is* in the quality control side. What's yer point?

Iris said...

How beautiful and powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

I amy have to make your chocolate cake on my day off!