We relish in describing ourselves as optimists, and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a good thing to be optimistic. However, in my quieter moments, as I’ve pondered on this, I’ve thought of our expressions of optimism as often having more to do with our fears than anything else. It’s a sobering thought.
Optimism is often used as a kind of protective armour we put on to shield us from all the vagaries of life. It’s a way of dealing with our fears. We bury them under a layer of false optimism, while all the time they eat away at us.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The basis of optimism is sheer terror.” Sounds a bit extreme, but I think I’m beginning to understand something of what he meant.
May your new year be filled with authentic optimism and encouragement.
I’m not one for certainties, though I’m sure they have their place. Now that may sound a bit wishy-washy and anaemic, but they do have this tendency to shut doors and close down thought and discussion. I lean more to the side of that gracious invitation to look beyond the prisons of certainty, into the wide-open spaces of mystery and endless possibility. So, when it comes to certainties in life, I prefer to hold them in an open hand and bid them goodbye when they need to go.
It’s strange how our eyes always tend to seek out the horizon. Some of the most iconic pictures we have are of people shielding their eyes and looking out towards the horizon. Perhaps it’s because deep down we know there’s always more to what we actually see and experience. Perhaps it’s because we are awakened to the truth, that behind all things, there are hidden depths of other realities waiting to be explored. There’s always something more beyond the horizons of life. The territory of the invisible is profoundly real.
Year after year, I’ve watched this tree transform itself into the beautiful colours of Autumn. The transformation happens quietly, naturally, persistently and without any kind of fuss or grunt and groan striving for perfection. It just slowly happens.
I’ve often wondered why human beings can’t transform themselves in this way as well. Change always seems to be so immensely difficult in human life. Some say we can’t change in this way, while others say we can. Which is it? Well, as Forrest Gump would say, “Maybe it’s a bit of both.”
Yesterday I was engrossed in watching the shadow of a cloud slowly move across the slope of a small hill. It was a moment of sheer beauty. It got me thinking of the landscape and the intimate relationship it shares with light.
It has this wonderful gift of being able to receive the light into itself and to immediately begin to shape it in diverse textures of shadow and colour according to all the nooks and crannies and angles of the terrain. It’s as if the landscape becomes an artist using light as the paint to produce a portrait of itself. I’ve often seen what I can only call breathtaking creations flowing out of this sacred and intimate relationship.
Yesterday morning early I was sitting in our lounge sipping coffee and listening to the wind blowing. As it caught the eaves of our home I heard its characteristic and mournful lament. It’s a sound that always touches something deep in me evoking what I can only describe as a sense of deep loneliness and longing.
I think at some level of our humanity, each of us is alone longing and pining for something we don’t really understand. The wind is a master at putting us in touch with this hidden and mysterious aspect of ourselves. I suppose it does this to us because in itself there are unreached realms of longing and mystery. There is much humanity in nature and nature in humanity.
My neighbour gave me a small slip which I planted last Autumn. It has now turned into this. Hard to believe that in that tiny slip, this was waiting to express itself.
There is within things a beautiful urgency to grow and fulfil themselves, and when this growth and fulfilment are authentic, there is beauty. Beauty and authenticity are inextricably linked. When something is authentic you cannot help but be touched by its beauty.
For a number of years now I’ve watched the coming in and the going out of the tide on the Medway river. It never ceases to fascinate. It seems to me that the river is most at rest when the tide is out. I think it’s a bit like breathing – exhaling is always easier than inhaling, emptying easier than filling; and then there’s that brief in-between moment of sheer rest before the next inhalation. Today, as on many days, I saw this brief moment of rest and felt that in the tidal nature of my own breath the Medway and I breathe as one.