Life is a miracle.
I am beginning to realise that I need to re-read my own book, ‘Girl with a White Dog’. Often. Particularly the bit in it which says not to despair.
My character, Jessie, in ‘Girl with a White Dog’, is a bit of a worrier, and so am I. On one hand that capacity to worry about things which might happen, or about what I would have done in the past, is a useful capacity for a writer. On the other hand it is a bit of a liability for every day life. I get a bit tired and worn out. I am very lucky that I have a husband who never indulges in worry about hypothetical situations. He points out that there is no use in my worrying about whether I would do the right thing in certain future situations, because I won’t know until I am in them, and I may never be in them.
But I can guess.
I can guess that if I am in a situation where I am tired, or cold, or hungry, or frightened, I may not behave as well as I would hope. I may not be as kind as I would like to be.
But I’m not the only one like that. And there are lots of people, for all sorts of reasons, doing bad things in this world right now. There are wars, there is poverty, there is cruelty. And I read and hear about it and see it on the internet and papers and TV and radio. Every day.
And I think that it might be a good idea for us to try to make a world where there as few people as possible who are tired, cold, hungry or frightened. Or disadvantaged or lonely or miserable or humiliated or insecure. So they won’t be put to the test. And others won’t suffer.
Then my next trap is that I think I can singlehandedly create that myself. Funnily enough, I tend to think that most often when I am already tired.
And I spend hours signing petitions or writing letters or, as I did yesterday, phoning and emailing embassies and tourist offices asking for changes in legislation or release of political prisoners, trying to stop wars, climate change, food poverty…
Which makes me tired and hungry and cold and frightened at the horrible things happening which I can’t stop…
Which again, doesn’t bring out the best in me.
I’d like to be a fearless campaigner, or a politician. But I just get worn out. Then I beat myself up for being worn out and think how rubbish and self indulgent I am for being a worrier.
Which isn’t a very nice thing to do to anyone.
So today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and I am going to try to make sure that this Lent is not a ‘beat yourself up for 40 days’ extravaganza for me.
Because even though I seem to think I am lazy for not solving all the world’s problems before breakfast, I don’t expect it of others.
I DELIGHT in the lovely creativity of others. I delight in the way that funny, gifted, talented musicians and artists and writers and actors and all sorts of creative people bring Joy into the world. I am so grateful for the gorgeous illustrations and films I see, the stories I read and listen to and the music I hear.
The oldest Holocaust survivor in the world recently died at the age of 110. her name was Alice.
Here is a lovely article about her: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/02/alice-herz-sommer-appreciation-pianist-holocaust
And here is more about the Oscar nominated film.
It’s wonderful how Alice steers the conversation to something outside herself – to Music. And, very touchingly, after all she has been through, to the music of German composers. I love the way she plays one hour of Bach every day. And that helped her forgive, and radiate Love and Joy.
So this Lent I am going to try to steer the conversation – internal and external – away from myself and my ability to do ‘good’ and I am going to try to stop thinking I am God. I do know I am not really, but you wouldn’t know it sometimes from the way I behave. Yesterday morning I was like ‘Bruce Almighty’ in the scene with the emails. Overwhelmed.
I am going to think about something other than me (Hooray!) Something bigger and better. Infinitely better.
This Lent, every day, I am going to try to think not about whether I am ‘being’ good enough, but about things which truly delight me. Children’s books and illustrations and tea and chocolate and cakes and funny, comforting adult novels and TV programmes and dog walks in the country and people I love and children and colours and skies and tea rooms and sparrows and ducks and hens. And sticking bits of paper on other bits of paper. And listening to Music. Every day for Lent I am going to do things that delight me, and thank God for them. I am going to hug my husband and my children and contact my friends. I am going to pat my dogs, and delight my hens by giving them mealworms (I won’t think about the mealworms in this vision). Because somehow, being involved with delight-full things and actions is, I believe, being involved with God. I have no answer to the Cruelty I wrote about in ‘Girl with a White Dog’. I cannot explain the Holocaust. I will never forget the things I read about in the course of researching it. I really pray that somehow my book will contribute in a small way to help create a better world, but I know it won’t solve the world’s problems. What I do know, however, and have to remind myself, is that what I say in ‘Girl with a White Dog’ is true – that we mustn’t despair or think that little acts of kindness don’t make a difference. And what I do know also, is that being delighted is Holy whether we think we are religious or not – and living delight-filled, love-filled lives, being involved, (officially as religious people or not), with the reality who is God-who-is Love – a loving, delight-giving God, is not selfish. It’s essential.
We can’t prepare for Easter – the triumph of Love over Evil, Life over Death, (and the loveliness of chocolate easter eggs!) if we spend 40 days of Lent -knowingly or unknowingly- with an idea of a petty, nasty God. If we think, whether we are religious or not, that it is virtuous to habitually hate, judge or punish ourselves or reject who we are then we are, in effect, spending Lent with a false God. And we will probably go on to think it is virtuous to hate, judge, punish and reject others. Which, looking about the world we are in, is far too prevalent. We need to give that false God up. Not just for 40 days. For ever.