Cause... and effect
Newsletter: March 2019
Dear Web friends
Greetings again (and ‘hello!’ to lovely newcomers) and I start with a story I use in The Journey Home (previously The Beautiful Life).
A man in a village owns a horse which runs away.
The following day the villagers come up to him and say: ‘Terrible news about your horse running away!’ And the man, staying firmly in the present, says, ‘Could be bad news, could be good news.’
Two days later, the man’s horse returns – with twenty wild horses! So now the man has twenty-one horses!
Hearing the news, the villagers come round again, with big smiles. ‘Great news about your twenty-one horses!’ they exclaim. And the man says, ‘Could be good news, could be bad news.’
Later that week, the man is trying to break the horses in, and gets thrown by one of them and breaks his leg.
The news travels quickly and the villagers speak as one: ‘Terrible news about you breaking your leg!’ they declare. And the man says, ‘Could be bad news, could be good news.’
The following week, the recruitment sergeant arrives in the village, and all fit men are called up to fight in the war. But the man is saved by his broken leg – which the villagers are keen to celebrate.
‘Great news about you not having to join up!’ they say. ‘Could be good news, could be bad news,’ he replies, staying firmly in the present.
I’ll stop the story there… it can go on rather. And note that the trouble with a cause is that it makes people stupid; this is a common transaction.
Give people a cause, however worthy, and it can become a vehicle for self-righteousness and hatred. I have spoken to charity workers who, caught up with their cause, take their hatred of offending governments as a badge of honour.
And I have spoken with Brexiteers and Remainers who suddenly live in a binary world of good and evil – and each knows which side they are on.
My favourite placard from the recent London March for ‘staying in’ was: ‘PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 52%; SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 48%’
Brilliant, yes… but smug.
The trouble is, when you give humans a cause, they tend to become tin-eared (unable to listen), hysterical (unable to see), or under the cover of darkness, they baptise deceit, happy with small lies told, content with inconsistencies edited out, winking the dark arts through – if it furthers their cause.
Give someone a cause – whether they’re vegan, white supremacists or anti-Trump campaigners – and they stop seeing others as human. Sadly, it’s cause… and effect.
So I’m interested that Jesus appeared to give up his cause at the end. He could have slipped away into the crowd after upsetting everyone in the Temple with his violence and his shouting; it might have been wise.
Instead, he became a sitting duck in the garden of Gethsemane, allowed himself to be arrested, went quietly, without shouting the odds at any of his accusers and captors.
Indeed, on the cross, instead of furthering the cause in some public denouncement of the bad boys, he said: ‘Forgive them, father, they know not what they do.’ When, of course, they knew exactly what they were doing.
This might seem something of a whimper from Jesus and a bit of a let-down; yet he seemed determined that, whatever was occurring, everyone should remain human.
Perhaps the Kingdom of God lies in the space beyond our worthy causes (which yes, we do sometimes merge with), where all remain human; where we can listen without prejudice, see without blinkers, live freely and accurately in this present moment, and where the only question is: ‘How can I be kind in this here and this now?’
‘Could be good news, could be bad news,’ we say, refusing some imaginary moral high ground for a glimpse of the magnificent present, which, like the soil in spring, is full of such possibility.
Not much house news in this letter; in fact, none at all. But for that, you may be unfeignedly thankful.
Until soon, my friend. And wishing you kind space amid your difficult days,