Thought for the week: Margaret Cook finds a teachable moment
‘Unprecedented’ has become an overused word. But it fits. It’s already been claimed that historians may divide time ‘Before’ or ‘After’ COVID-19.
Whatever that ‘after’ may be, we are, as Richard Rohr said recently, ‘in the midst of a highly teachable moment’. This operates at several levels. The earth itself might begin a process of self-correction, while temporarily freed of so much human interference. But will the world’s people seize the lessons that globalisation is teaching us – that cooperation works more effectively than competition? And what of our own personal ‘teachable moments’? In which kinds of renewal or ‘self-correction’ may we partake?
Having been a seeker for most of my life, I came to the realisation that, despite many experiences of inner warmth, inner stillness, inner calm and even inner joy, at some deep level I didn’t entirely believe them. Perhaps it would be truer to say I didn’t entirely trust them.
The Quaker way challenges us to live without certainty and we are practised at that. That takes some of us in the direction of nontheism, and some towards faith. These positions can be further modified to, on one hand, ‘God is simply a good idea’ or, on the other, ‘there is something else but I don’t know what’ (with its counterpart ‘there is something else and I do know what’).
I tend towards ‘there is something else but I don’t know what’. Since my teenage years I have often prayed: ‘I don’t know what You are but I love You.’ Can I finally plump for that ‘something else’ and just rest there – not to fall into rock-solid certainty but to opt for a kind of wobbly trust? Can I finally allow ‘God’ to become a reality in my life and stop tormenting myself about issues of ‘truth’? Can I trust the warmth, the stillness, the calm and the joy and try not to explain them away? They’re pretty convincing when I experience them – it’s just that afterwards I find myself rationalising and, in so doing, minimising them.
Of course, I understand that that’s about not wanting to live in naivete or fantasy, or to discover that I have built my house on sand. I do also have a lot of empathy for the ‘God is simply a good idea’ position, evolved over millennia. I have absolutely no difficulty in choosing to express that ‘idea’ as fully as I am able: in other words to make ‘God’ a living reality. This approach means that we build God.
This is an opportunity for all of us, wherever we are on this spectrum. Right now we are being asked – required even – to live out the idea of God: to make manifest the idea of God, to build God, as one way through this crisis.
‘The universe has shown you, humanity, what is good: and what does it require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?’ (adapted from Micah 6:8).
‘The universe has set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life’ (adapted from Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
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