In Context

All my life I tried to believe
in the importance of what Thomas
should say now, do next.
              There was a context
in which I lived; unseen forces
acted upon me, or made their adjustments
in turn. There was a larger pattern
we worked at: they on a big
loom, I with a small needle
                          drawing the thread
through my mind, colouring it
with my own thought.
             Yet a power guided
my hand. If an invisible company
waited to see what I would do,
I in my own way asked for 
direction, so we should journey together
a little nearer the accomplishment
of the design.
            Impossible dreamer!
All those years the demolition
of the identity proceeded.
Fast as the cells constituted 
themselves, they were replaced. It was not
I who lived, but life rather
that lived me. There was no developing
 structure. There were only the changes
in the metabolism of a body
greater than mine, and the dismantling
by the self of a self it
                      could not reassemble.

Mthr. Carys comments that if in reading this poem

we have seen reflected how we have understood our relationship with God; if we have heard and echo of seeking guidance, and of knowing ourselves shaped and coloured by a pattern greater than our own, then there is validity in this.

p. 68

But there is more to it than that. In our solipsistic way we can indeed become “impossible dreamers”, seeing ourself as the moving force in our own life, the chief actor in a play of our own devising, but in so doing we can forget

how to sniff the air for the scent of God-with-us in ways we barely imagine

Frequencies, 68

I’d be interested in knowing how others see this.

Like it or not, we are our own solipsism, the person we know best is ourself, even if, as my psychiatrist is wont to say, we know but little of that. She has a point. We contain multitudes. I am conscious of the layers, but can so identify with Thomas’s sense of working within a context. Me with my small needle, making a contribution to a larger tapestry. Loving needle-work, I was content to be the needle-maid of the Lord.

Yet despite that (or was it because of that?) I would pray for direction. Did I think God did not know what I needed before I asked for it? Did I think if I prayed really really hard it would have an effect on him? I must have done. I must do. Otherwise why do I pray as I pray? Maybe Thomas catches it in the idea of our journeying together “a little nearer the accomplishment / of the design”?

And yet, and yet, how easily the self deconstructs.

That sense of the self, of journeying to a destination unknown but set, accompanied, sometimes remotely, can crumble and the tapestry unravels, dismantled by the context. Anyone who has suffered from severe depression or had what I still insist on calling a “breakdown” will know whereof I write. That sense of being lost out on night’s old ocean in the inky blackness of isolation, even from the self; especially from the self. Whatever happened to that Jessica? Who is this Jessica? And then, only in the letting go, only in the breaking down, can reassembly begin.

The poet is right. The self cannot reassemble itself. For me it was, and is (for I am a work still in something one might label “progress” if labels are needed) a matter of sniffing the air for that sense of “God-with-us”. That is why some of the moments I have tried to capture across this last fortnight, whether in church kneeling, out on the moor walking, or in silent contemplation by the sea, have been, and are, so important. As I stood in the forest on Tuesday, in the rain and mist, my other half watched and wondered, but accepted. I heard, once more, the trees, sensed again the larger communion of which we are all part, tapped in, if you like, to the eternal praise given to the Holiest in the Highest. It came, then it went, like a radio signal in mid-Wales. It makes it easier to accept the changes.

In the letting go, in the negation of the will, in the silence, in the waiting, and in the acceptance of that, I come, as we do now with our Advent book, to the journeying. But of that, more on the morrow.

There is an #adventbookclub using “Frequencies of God” by Carys Walsh and you can support the publisher by buying it here: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220882/frequencies-of-god. We’ll be running this club on Twitter and Facebook, and you are welcome to join in with thoughts and comments. Other folk doing this are https://grahart.wordpress.com/, and https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/ so please pop over and read their thoughts too!