Thought for the Day
Every week during school closure and lockdown, our very own Reverend Philip Jackson has shared with us a philosophical reflection to help our community pause and consider the wider perspective.
Thought 8: Courage
One of my favourite books is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The story and the characters are so gripping and the sense of the triumph of good over evil is incredible. It is also great lock down reading running to over a 1000 pages!
Many of you will know that Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings based in part, on his experiences in World War I. As a young man of 24, Tolkien was sent to the Western Front in the summer of 1916 and experienced first-hand the horrors of the Battle of the Somme. Some of his early thoughts about his mythology were written by candlelight in bell tents and some even in the trenches. It is therefore unsurprising that his characters have so much insight into courage. It is hard for us to imagine what those young men went through and how they managed to continue to face each day in those horrors, knowing it could be their last.
This pandemic has sometimes been compared to a war. I understand the sentiment, but I think there are significant differences for most of us to the courage demanded of that generation on the Western Front. That is not to say that what we are facing is insignificant- far from it. We still need the courage to face every day with fresh determination. The courage to face restrictions on our freedoms with grace and patience. The courage to keep working hard at adjusting to a very different world. The courage to not give up.
I think those characters in Lord of the Rings have much they can teach us about the courage we need to keep finding. I will let one them, Aragorn (OK my favourite…) have the final word to inspire us to keep finding the courage we need and not to give up.
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”
Thought 7: Thankfulness
It is very easy for us to focus on the negative things in our lives. Right now of course there is much that we could be negative about. We can easily fixate on the news and on all the awful things happening and the growing numbers of people who are ill and dying. We can focus on the restrictions of our freedoms and the how everyday life has changed beyond all recognition. Whilst all this and more is of course true, there is still more to life than just these truths. There is still much we can be thankful for, even in the current climate.
The French novelist Alphonse Karr says this, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” We may have to look a bit harder right now to see the roses, but they are there! It is an excellent discipline, (and one which psychologists tell us is good for our wellbeing) to deliberately remember the things that we are thankful for.
It might even be something that you want to talk about as a family and come up with things every day that you are thankful for. They don’t have to be big things- it may be as simple as being thankful for the food on our plates or that the sun is shining. Whatever it is we are thankful for helps us to see that there is more than the challenges our world is facing right now. There are still roses among the thorns.
Thought 6: Kindness
It is sometimes said that kindness as a currency is in short supply these days. I don’t know whether that is usually true or not, but I do know that for myself it is very easy to be so busy and wrapped up in our own world and to do list that it’s easy to miss the opportunities for kindness that are around us every day. I think this period in our countries history gives us special opportunities to demonstrate kindness to those around us, and I think fundamentally as humans beings we have this desire to help others; this desire to be kind.
Partly that is because as humans we are capable of great acts of altruism. I think crises like this one can bring people together and bring the best out of them. It was so encouraging to see the response to the Governments appeal for an army of 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS right now. Less than 24 hours later over twice that number had signed up! I don’t think that kindness is dead!
The other reason that we can have this desire to be kind is that when we show acts of kindness to others it actually makes us feel happy. In the film 1959 Sleeping Beauty animation, one of the characters comments on this. “Maleficent doesn’t know anything about love or kindness or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I think she isn’t very happy.”
Each of us has lots of opportunities to be kind right now. Kindness at home with our families and keeping in touch with extended families and friends, as well as kindness to our neighbours. Let’s keep making sure that the currency of kindness is in good supply in our homes and communities.
Thought 5: Hope
One of my favourite films is the Shawshank Redemption (15 cert). For those who don’t know, it is about a character called Andy who is locked up for a crime that he didn’t commit. No spoilers, but the film tells the story of Andy’s life in prison over many years and how he holds on to hope in the bleakest of circumstances. One of the great lines in the film is when Andy says this, ‘Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.’
It is so important in this time that we hold on to hope. We need to encourage one another that life will not be like this forever. Yes, the effects of this pandemic will have a huge impact on our world for many years to come, but we can still have hope. Hope that it won’t always be like this. Hope that we can and will support one another through this time and then build life again.
The novelist Aaron Laritsen speaks about hope and comfort in his book ‘The Great American Road trip’. He says, “There is strange comfort in knowing that no matter what happens today, the Sun will rise again tomorrow.”
Let’s hold on to hope.
Thought 4: The simple pleasures
One of the opportunities we have in the coming days and weeks is to remember the simple pleasures of life. We are not able to go on exotic holidays, or even ordinary holidays. We can’t go out to restaurants or to the theatre or cinema. We can’t even visit friends! So what is left in life…?!
There are still so many things that can bring us joy. Spending time in our garden (if we are lucky enough to have one) and watching the birds. Going for that one walk every day, and enjoying the nature all around us. The joy of picking up a good book or switching on a good box set. Spending proper quality time with family and sharing our hopes and dreams together.
The poet Avijeet Das says this, “Looking at morning dew serenading on the petals of flowers is an ecstatic moment! This makes us realise that it is the simple pleasures of life that give us the most happiness!”
Let’s make space to re-discover those simple pleasures of life, and to appreciate that even in this current time there is much that can bring us joy.
Thought 3: Re-gaining Perspective
I don’t know if you have ever had that experience of looking at a photo and seeing that something or someone is just way bigger or smaller than they should be- it’s confusing for our brains and our perspective gets all mixed up. I think life can have that effect on us. We get sucked into conversations, decisions and what feel like incredibly important choices, and we can lose all perspective. We end up getting stressed, angry or upset about things that in the grand scheme of life are just not that important.
There are many awful things about the current situation, but one of the more positive aspects of what we are facing is that when something this huge happens, we get a chance to regain our perspective. We see people losing jobs and lives and we recognise that the small things we have obsessed over are not as important as they seemed before. Perhaps we remember the really important things in life are not based around possession and achievements, but rather character and kindness.
The challenge then for us once we leave lockdown, is to hold on to this perspective rather than slip into our old habits!
Thought 2: Sacrifice
The idea of sacrifice is one that does not get much air time these days. Generally speaking our society doesn’t like the thought of putting others before ourselves when it costs us something. And yet, in this extraordinary time there are many who are making sacrifices for fellow human beings, even strangers.
Perhaps the most obvious examples of sacrifice that we can see around us today are the scores of doctors, nurses and other NHS workers who are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis to care for the sick. Some of those doctors and nurses have even paid the ultimate price and lost their lives. They are a remarkable group of people who are working incredibly long hours under huge pressure, with little thoughts for their own comfort and care. This is sacrifice.
Of course they are not alone in making sacrifices. There are many other key workers who are having to make daily sacrifices to keep society running in the best way possible. I think we should be encouraged and challenged by their example to us, as well as being grateful of course. Perhaps it should challenge us to consider what sacrifices we might be willing to make. That could be something as simple as picking up some shopping for neighbour, or making a phone call to someone on their own in isolation. This week millions of Christians around the world remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on Good Friday. Whether or not we have faith, let’s use this week to consider the many sacrifices being made for us right now and also to remember that our sacrifices, even if small, can make a big difference.
Thought 1: Hitting pause
The events of the last few weeks, and particularly these last few days have been shocking for us all. The life that we had all been expecting in the lead up to these Easter holidays is very different to what we are all experiencing in lock down. How do we even begin to make sense of what we are experiencing as individuals, community and indeed as a nation? The issues we are facing are clearly ones that will take years to process and to deal with, rather than days or weeks. However, I think there are ways that we can approach this lock down now that can help us to use the time in the most positive way possible.
I think that for some of us this would be an excellent opportunity to hit pause in our lives. We so rarely have time to really consider the important things in life. We rush from one thing to another and then back again! When do we have extended time to consider who we want to become in life? What do we want to be known for and remembered for? What kind of friend do we want to be? What kind of contribution do we want to make to the world around us?
It is that great Philosopher, Albus Dumbledore who said, ‘It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’
Is now a good time to consider the future choices that we have been thinking through and to think about what difference those choices will make and what they will help us become.
It might even be that in all this enforced family time, we might want to have these kinds of conversations. If we manage to think these questions through, and perhaps even talk them through, it is possible that for some of us this enforced pause could be a really significant and life shaping time.