There are many paths to the top of the mountain. And many travellers on those paths. The only ones who do not reach their goal are those who run in circles telling everyone else they are on the wrong path.
It takes far more courage, far more strength of character, far more thought & effort, to choose the path of love & compassion rather than the path of mindless hatred & destruction.Anyone who supports war, genocide, weaponry & inequality cannot truly be an adherent of Christianity, Islaam or any other major world religion. They cannot truly be a humanist, a Wiccan or a pagan. They cannot truly claim to be a decent human being.
Christmas is coming, and the geese are getting fat….be sure to put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do. If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.
For those who remember that nursery rhyme….
It is November, not yet half way through. Advent Sunday is more than two weeks away.
Advent, that time of waiting, expectant, excited, a sparkle, which is altogether missing in Lent, added to the quiet meditations.
But when I look around, I do not see Advent. I see Christmas – but not a Christmas that Christ would recognise. I see Greed, Waste, Substitution, Commercialism, Heartlessness, Lack of Compassion.
I see shops laden with goods; most of it totally superfluous, expensive, gaudy…I see things which beggar belief in a country where so many are dependent on food banks, who do not earn enough to make ends meet……if one believes that, or is it just another media-fuelled piece of propaganda?
I see the adverts, portraying cosy homes with perfect families, beautifully gender-divided, white middle-class, comfortably off….the covert message – if you cannot or do not live like this, then you are a failure….
Buy this, have that – or be seen as deprived, poor, selfish, beneath contempt….
Then I look at pictures of refugees, arriving at our borders, with the clothes they are wearing & a few items hurriedly shoved into a bag, clutching their children & the shreds of their dignity.
I see the newspaper headlines blaring & glaring: THEY ARE COMING FOR YOUR JOBS! THEY ARE COMING FOR YOUR BNEFITS, YOUR HEALTHCARE, YOUR EDUCATION….
Telling us that our communities, our language, our culture are under threat from these swarms of possible terrorists…
I see a father, holding his two children & his fear & his despair; his face crumpled in tears & humiliation.
I see the small son of heartbroken parents, lying on a beach, dead.
I see a perfect little black girl, her hair neatly-braided, floating face-down, cradled in the lapping waves….
And still, after all these years, I see the East African woman, my sister, forced to leave her sick child alone in the desert to die, in order to save the other three.
How many of our “own” people will spend this Christmas alone, on the streets, hungry, cold & forgotten?
How many houses in our country lie empty? How many beds will have no occupant? How much will we eat & how much will we throw away? How many gifts will we receive that we neither need nor want…
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat…
But first there is Advent. Can we shut out the commercial clamour for that precious few weeks and consider where the need truly lies and can we think about putting a penny in the old man’s hat…
My journey, my spiritual journey, seems often to resemble my mountain climbing activities in the physical world.
Sometimes there is a long walk in; a time of plodding along, when the mountain is out of sight, or can be seen so far away it seems impossible to reach. I walk and walk but it gets no closer…
Sometimes the climb begins immediately, no warning and no warm-up. Just up. Steep and rough and unrelenting. The mountain towers above me, dark, forbidding and overwhelming. It accentuates my smallness, my frailty, my arrogance in believing I can climb it at all.
Steep and rocky, gradual and grassy, broad ridges, narrow ridges…sometimes the path rises ahead, clear and obvious, pointing the way. More often it is hidden, obscured by false paths, betraying cairns that lead to precipitous cliffs or treacherous gullies or insurmountable crags.
Doubt creeps in and becomes fear. Awareness of the height, of the great abyss beneath and behind, grows. Clouds thicken and drop around me, rain spattering and the wind chilling. and unbidden my feet stop and the temptation to turn and run to safety grows.
It takes then an action of will to move forwards. To reach a level part, to stop and let breathing return to normal, for heartbeat to stop racing and pounding, to ease tired legs. And to take stock, to check the map, to check the surroundings. to ask the questions, am I warm, am I dry, am I really too tired to carry on.
The weather, so fickle, so changeable, bright clear skies and sunshine filling within seconds with dark grey clouds and rain, or sullen yellow-bellied snow clouds, blizzards and white-out, when visibility goes entirely and one cannot tell up from down. And those heart-chilling moments when it becomes impossible to move and real questions about survival are being asked; and those moments when the cloud breaks, and the wind drops and the sun pours through and the way is suddenly clear.
So onward and upward until, just at the point where I doubt if I can go on, I realise that the slope is levelling out and the summit cairn is in sight. There is a rush of energy into tired legs, my step quickens and I reach to touch the stones, to embrace the moment.
A short time to linger, to admire the view and take a photograph to remind me of the day, or to huddle in the lea of the cairn, shivering over a soggy sandwich. Occasionally to lie back on springy turf or smooth ice- scrubbed rock and let the sun and the warm breeze brush and caress.
But, too soon, the knowing that it is time to leave, to continue the journey, downwards now, away from the heights and towards the real world below. Always the glance back and the surprise at how fast the cairn, won with such effort, fades from sight, how fast the slopes rise up behind.
Always, at journey’s end, I pause to look up, to remind myself of what is there even though now hidden from sight. Often, when weather and time and energy keep the high peaks out of my reach, I look up and smile inwardly because I know I have stood in those places and I remember….