Sunday, October 09, 2011

"In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye..."

Our neighbouring catholic Anglican  parish has been hosting a rather splendid series of lectures this year, to celebrate the 400 years of the King James Bible...We've heard bishops and deans, former MPs and current Canons - and one way and another it has all been very good.
Usually, though, I've listened with interest, learned something new - and that has been it.
Not so on Thursday, when our speaker was a palliative care specialist, who just happens to be married to our diocesan bishop.
Her topic "Medicine and the Bible" could have gone in many directions and indeed we covered alot of ground in the course of under an hour.
But two things have stayed with me, which I need to reflect and blog on - and somehow, so help me, I WILL find the time before they fade.

The first is that idea represented by the title....that in a split second, as they hear a diagnosis, people's lives are changed.
Someone who isn't feeling that ill goes to collect their test results - and their world is turned upside down.
In the west, we seem to spend an awful lot of our time living in our futures....planning what we will do when X.....saving for retirement (or fretting because saving just doesn't seem to be manageable)....dreaming of the next holiday....
And suddenly, all that is gone.

Alison spoke of the contrasting two-thirds world view...that the future is highly provisional, that the question "What will you be doing in 12 months time?" is almost meaningless, in a context where the fragility of life is taken for granted, and demonstrated day by day. She spoke, too, of the joy that seems to characterise this approach, which leaves you focussed almost entirely on the present. Her words reminded me of the saying I heard again and again in India
"In the west you have clocks - in India, we have time".

Among her hospice patients, she said, that joy is sometimes rediscovered, as the future is contracted into maybe the next day, the next few hours - and hopes, too, become simpler, less demanding...
"Perhaps when I wake I'll feel less sick......My family will be here......The sun will be shining"
It might seem an impoverishment to live in the present simply because you are deprived of the future you imagined....but to really let go of tomorrow and savour today is surely a gift, not a deprivation.

This morning when he arrived at church, my delightful new godson was on very smiley form - and his grins lit up my world. His mum commented that she's very aware, this time round, of the simplicity of his, sleep, love....and we reflected together on the fact that his contentment comes in part from living in the present.

At both ends of life, then, we learn to sit light to time.
I wonder if this helps prepare us for eternity.

1 comment:

ramtopsrac said...

Thank you for sharing this moving and helpful thought.

However, I am minded to also remember an MU project in Uganda that among other things has to teach the need to prepare a store of fuel BEFORE lighting a fire to cook- something that apparently isn't natural because they live in the present rather than planning for the future. The tendency is that they light the fire to start cooking a meal they need now, and then the fire goes out whilst they are collecting more fuel, leaving them hungry and frustrated.

Somehow, I think we need an element of both, because if we do not prepare for the future by living in the present as faithful servants of our God, then the fire of faith that feeds us, is in danger of going out.