Altar, Throne And Cottage: An outmoded vision?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa Passes - John Butler Yeats

 

 

...a quaint notion, minted in the early years of the 19th century as a uniform hierarchy for the ordering of society in Britain. Some may argue that, strictly speaking, it belongs to centuries before the English Reformation.

 Or, to put it another way: God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world. So sang Pippa, the little silk-winder from Asolo in Robert Browning's poem, Pippa Passes. I sometimes think he should have made that a qualifying clause: When God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world.

I was reminded of this some years ago by an online article entitled The Power of Words. Marsha Hansen revives the convention of giving honour to God before a public address. She feels that only African Americans of a certain age will know where she's coming from. At the time, I couldn't help wondering what this practice might signify to Barack Obama, or John McCain. Doubtless, it would be as mystifying to Donald Trump as the customs of Ancient Mesopotamia. Few will have been taken in by his charade at the Western Wall of Jerusalem.

Time was, when before a meal, with all family members assembled (simultaneously!) around the table, the head of the household would say 'Grace', a prayer of thanks to God for providing their food, but not only that, a blessing upon it that it would nourish the body and do no harm if it were contaminated. It was a kind of domestic Eucharist. The tradition survived through WWII and into the sixties when a certain degree of affluence and taking things for granted began to permeate social life. Today, it is observed only in religious orders, in academe and at (some) public functions. Even among Christian and other Faith families, it has become an overlooked habit.

This was a way of being for all parties, no matter how wealth and opportunity were redistributed from one term of office to another. A broadened franchise came with the understanding that governments were there to enact policies on behalf of voters, as expressed in general terms through the ballot box. The democracy we prize does demand leadership. Whilst it spares us the tyrants, it exposes us to the tyrannies of our own limitless expectations which, in turn, paves the way for the autocrats we dread. The idea of a democratic free-for-all and the overweening reverence for personal choice in every aspect of our lives creates noise in which the weakest voices are drowned out and the vulnerable get crushed.

It seems this template is in our very DNA, an image of our relationship with the Creator, from which we can’t depart though we may allow other powers and passions to occupy the territory and reconfigure it in their own interests. In the past, it was recognised that divine wisdom was needed in the making of decisions, and in the striving to live them out faithfully. If you prefer, you could say it was to accord an Intelligent Universe its due. Thanks and appreciation really can change our perception of the world and our destiny. What Tennyson articulated was once widely held belief and therefore had a very real charge: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.

We live in an age of glib sound bites, rhetoric and empty promises, but in the beginning was the Word. If we believe in its everyday ability to focus the intentions of the heart and mind (down to memos on the fridge door!) then prayer and the sending of healing thoughts borne out by actions that enable them, must improve the quality of life for everyone, near and far. The extent to which it does so depends on our perseverance and how widely the energy takes fire.

As things stand, the cosmos is in crisis, the nations ungovernable. The rising generations are left bewildered by what life on this planet entails. They have no sense of where they've come from or where they're going. In Britain, they have no systemic connection with their cultural heritage, thanks to spurious interventions in education.

The old framework was as aspirational as it was formed. Yes, it was instinct with nostalgia for what never wholly existed. History lays bare the legacy of corrupt Popes, self-serving kings, disaffected peasants and revolutions that replaced one kind of despotism with another. But does that make the reaching for it misguided and the effects of reaching for it redundant? Politics and Faith in God have never wholly mixed, yet everyone has a blueprint for living in the gentle Beatitudes given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Honouring that 'policy' would go a long way to changing the climate of politics and delivering truer leadership.

Isn't it precisely because of the excesses of human nature that we lose our way and need such a model to get us on track?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thy Kingdom Come

 

This post was prompted by Stephen Evans' On Rolls the Old World, an excerpt from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

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An Anachronism That Still Rings True

 

 

This is an updated post from the corresponding week of 2008 with a few reflections on government...

 

It's sobering that the fear expressed by Raul Ramos y Sanchez in Another Martyr in the Making?* is being discussed in Britain, and was, before the Presidential Election. At a popular level, it operates among comrades via jokes of poor taste. For the philosophical, it's a let's-not-go-there kind of scenario. But the more pessimistic seem to regard it almost as a given, a case not of 'if' but 'when?'

What Raul says is true: we are always hostage to the extremist fringe, but God forbid that they prevail!

The United Kingdom was delighted with the result on November 4, but when we observed the strikingly personal element in the wild jubilation that followed - despite sharing the hope and belief that it signalled the end of a dark era - we were left bemused, asking: What is it that the US really thinks has happened? Nothing is yet delivered. The financial powers of the world will still be pulling strings behind the scenes. Barack Obama has an incredibly complex task ahead and he won't please all of the people all of the time, or maybe even some of the time. We're in cosmic recession and the going will be tough.

*The aftermath of an American presidential assassination on the grounds of race would be a wholesale nightmare on a shrunken globe. Chaos theory rampant.

The Betsy Ross Flag

All that said, nothing, but nothing, is inevitable. This is a golden chance to get things on a more even keel, to shun greed and allow consideration of others to determine our actions. To do things because they need addressing and not, in the first instance, merely for material gain. Let's put the spotlight on responsibilities and forget about rights for a while. We can't all have our due.

This is something every single person can choose to do within his/her own sphere, however humble, within whatever parameters.

If that isn't the rubric on a personal scale, a President loses executive power in the people’s interest. The mandate is hollow. He becomes the creature of self-interested advisers. An architect's plan comes from above, but the spadework is done on the ground. The power at grass roots level is still the strongest there is, and is what Kings and Emperors have feared most of all down the ages. At its best, it works silently, like leaven, subtly altering the texture of life and experience for the better. It is far from the monstrous ambiguity that 'helping ourselves' has become. The more citizens who understand this and lend their energies to it, the more salutary the change for the common good. We rightly espouse democracy and enfranchisement, but we elect politicians to govern on our behalf. Like it or not, they are a general reflection of the People.

The recall to heritage may be a Utopian ideal, but that doesn't make it impracticable. A vision is a guide, a motivational tool. The Dream in earnest! A bid for a fairer and more humane society which does not languish in rhetoric. It can’t be realised without effort and, sometimes, considerable sacrifice, and giving way. Living as if it were already accomplished is the only way any person, community, or nation, can truly move forward. The most vulnerable and genuinely deprived in our respective countries are dependent on it.

And those devoted to such things can pray. At the very least, it's a focusing of our aspirations and intentions. Whatever we like to think, for all our assumptions, we don't have the last word. Didn't God promise Abraham that for the sake of ten right-minded men, the city would be spared? Ethnic minorities are still the butt of hatred and discrimination by some, but we might remind ourselves that the fears expressed when President Obama was first elected have not come to pass.

It's as simple as it is profound. Political systems in themselves aren't going to change the world. They are there to administer our will as best they can. The rest is down to us.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”  William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

 

George Washington kneels in prayer at Valley Forge

 

 

 

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Latest Comments

Monika Schott Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
20 October 2017
Thanks, Stephen. It's an important part of history. It must be captured.
Monika Schott Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
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Stephen Evans Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
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Wonderful that the story of this community is being preserved. Bravo.
Rosy Cole Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
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Your enjoyment of this project is infectious, Moni, and unusual and fascinating to read. It's not so...
Rosy Cole Down with Moonlight: A One-Minute Play
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'Course it is. I bet you calculated that when you were still in diapers, as you say over there, and ...

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