He lives in our hearts

God has left sin in the world in order that there may be forgiveness: not only the secret forgiveness by which He Himself cleanses our souls, but the manifest forgiveness by which we have mercy on one another and so give expression to the fact that He is living, by His mercy, in our own hearts. 

Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

A prayer for the poisoned

 Forgive my blindness
 Forgive my deafness
 Forgive my lies and pretence. 
 Forgive my ignorance
 Forgive my coldness 
 Forgive my scorn and disdain.
 Forgive my deceptions
 Forgive my incompetence
 Forgive my turning away. 
 Forgive my ugliness
 Forgive my vanity
 Forgive my arrogance and blame. 
 Forgive my depravity
 Forgive my ingratitude
 Forgive my weakness and guilt.
 Forgive my squandering
 Forgive my impatience
 Forgive my wounding and shame. 
 Forgive my weariness
 Forgive my misery
 Forgive my fear and control. 
 Forgive my faithlessness
 Forgive my doubting
 Forgive this poor, futile game.  

Our despair

Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.

Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

Take delight in their delight

Earlier this year, a simple but profound piece of advice was given to me. This slice of very practical wisdom was handed to my teacher by his teacher as they trod the strange social rubble of the British Isles. After many years spent in foreign lands, I am back in this very same rubble, though it is now in a more conspicuous state of decay than it was a decade ago.

I seek a certain depth of interaction, and have tended to find the majority of social situations less than satisfying. On many occasions, I have come away with a mild but lingering disappointment. This disappointment doesn’t originate in being perturbed by the sense that I am an outsider. I no longer attribute this ‘status’ to fatal character flaws or social ineptness – I know that I am simply here doing something different. But how do I connect? How do I feel into the human interactions that are placed in front of me?

I forget about my own personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

Instead, I take delight in their delight.

This sweet and simple little sentence has transformed a sense of lack into one of fullness. It is gently kicking out remnants of my own egoic disdain towards humanity. It has created another little chink in my falsely constructed armour of self. When I practice opening my heart to the delight of another human being, I am touched by the joy that I encounter. It is a beautiful, simple exchange. In forgetting about my own fulfilment, my fulfilment increases.

Inevitably, there are times when the levels of delight in the external theatre are low. There is only act, gloss and performance in the name of social lubrication. What now? What if the behaviours being presented are destructive or disharmonious?

“Forgive them father for they know not what they do”

Answers in the bible, by way of a wise and articulate friend of mine. This phrase acknowledges and requests penance for the sorrow of unconscious human operation. How perfectly apt. Shifting it into the first person and directing it back to a young, rage-filled self feels healing. Applying it in moments where one’s own conduct could be improved is humbling.

“Forgive me father for I know not what I do”

These two approaches of delight and forgiveness form a perfect compliment to one another. They are helping me to step out of my hermit’s nest more often and with greater willingness. They bring an increased sense of lightness to my days, which is a blessing in these strange times.

Shelter in the rock, central Portugal, 2016

With gratitude to Mother Hodge