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Photo of a seashore wreath: tinsel, pebbles, shells and candle

Profitable wonders?

Newsletter: December 2018

Dear web friend,

Warm greetings to you again as we tiptoe through the tinsel to Christmas; and I start with the opening words from the book Centuries, written by Thomas Traherne.

An empty book, he says, is like an infant’s soul, in which anything may be written. It is capable of all things but containeth nothing. I have a mind to fill this with profitable wonders.

There is a lovely sense of adventure here, a sense of starting out, of fresh hope, which belies the times in which he wrote. As you probably know, Traherne was an Anglican priest who had just witnessed the overturn of the Anglican order in England’s bloody and brutal civil war of the 1640s, culminating in the execution of the king. Never had this country been so divided – families split, politics in a violent and gear-crashing melting pot. (Ring any bells?) Traherne was himself a royalist, who could easily have felt bitter at events.

But he is not going to be distracted by current affairs, as he writes this book to his friend, Mrs Hopton.

I will not by the noise of bloody wars and the dethroning of kings advance you to glory: but by the gentle ways of peace and love.

Despite everything happening around him, Traherne wishes for Mrs Hopton to enjoy the world… but knows it can be difficult.

Is it not easy to conceive the world in your mind? To think the heavens fair? The sun glorious? The earth fruitful? The air pleasant? The sea profitable? And the giver bountiful? Yet these are the things which it is difficult to retain.

We want to enjoy life but then life intervenes and sometimes, instead of delighting in everything, we delight in nothing, well acquainted with discontent, boredom, anxiety, rage, jealousy or fear.

And for this loss of connection with ourselves and the world, Traherne blames our thinking, which almost goes on despite us.

As nothing is more easy than to think, so nothing is more difficult than to think well. The easiness of thinking we received from God, the difficulty of thinking well proceeds from ourselves.

And now we have Christmas to enjoy, with the world changing with each sentence written. How will we manage that?

With the intensity of the social action and expectation around this time of the year, I always make for what Traherne calls my ‘interior court’, a place where Christmas can be received rather than done or endured.

Here is our soul, our receiving space; and where there is such room inside us, we think better. We discover we possess within us a different centre, a better magnet for life, away from our thoughts that are trained mainly to judge, to worry, to deny and to attack… not a good recipe for Christmas or life.

‘Nothing is more difficult than to think well’, this is true; but it does help if we can sometimes stop, breathe and allow to appear within us a different space, our interior court – a space for fresh arrivals, for receiving; an entree for kindness, wonder and joy.

Everyone has such a lovely court inside them, but not everyone visits it.

Yet this is the emptiness, the space, celebrated by Traherne at the beginning of his book, but now applied to ourselves, as we, (despite Brexit civil wars) become like an infant’s soul, in which anything may be written.

And that is quite enough as we make our way towards the stable.

Ever grateful for your company on this delightful and crucifying journey, I wish you a kind Christmas, the Christmas you need, a warm fire in your winter heart… and the spillage of profitable wonders even?

Simon x

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