Tuesday 2nd June 2020
Thank you for your letter, but I was surprised to learn that my previous one was at the centre of such a flurry! Were you in the garden, waving the paper around or simply reading it out loud? To continue playing with this idea for a moment, I think the butterflies should look out for their real enemies; there's nothing to fear from somebody who also notices when they fly past an open door and try to exit via a closed window. Despite their discontent, they will still be gently lifted and released in the open air. As you may have deduced, the parallel with humankind, although denied, seems even more evident to me as a result of our imaginative, playful exchange. Considering your references last time and elsewhere to 'stirring up', we both knew exactly what we were talking about in the context of the Holy Spirit. Yet, as we have seen in the past week, a laudable cause, in principle, can result in mass responses which have some awful outcomes. There are numerous other examples where a crowd surrounds an individual because of some supposed breach, or uses the equivalent Twitter flap. As you know, I'm not suited to the banner wielding cry, "What do we want? .......When do we want it?" I prefer the concept of "Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still small voice of calm!" The first two lines of the hymn are equally significant and it is on my list of favourites - circumstances determine whether it remains my number 1. The whole truth is often found beneath surface level.
I shall avoid getting into politics, except to say that I am always alarmed by the cry for more and more legislation to curb distasteful remarks. It is such a blunt instrument, but the recent proposals under review in Scotland, extend the meaning of 'stirring up hatred', including communications 'likely to'. I wonder how any critical ideas from the Apostles or some modern day preachers would fare. I also ask which crimes against the person are ever underpinned by love? The butterflies with their advocate might also try something, but we would all be better off if certain individuals would inform calmly when they could have remained silent. They could throw some light on the matter.
There's no need to apologise about the Ecclesiastes reference because it's a good one, as was the song. After writing to you, I did look up the song and listened to it, but amazingly, within half an hour, we turned on the news and saw the end of a quiz programme, including a question asking which group had sung that very piece of music. Yes, I shouted out the answer before the guy had finished his question - amazement all around me! Then, last Wednesday, there was a documentary (about ageing!) which played the same song. Can you believe it? Oh, and by the way, I have had to mend a tear this week, so you can imagine how pleased I was about that. On the other hand, in the absence of our letters, I would not have thought anything of it.
I like your elaboration of the happiness/contentment distinction, with the additional remarks on being blessed. About a month ago you mentioned that the way of Christ might seem counter-cultural and I would suggest that, at first glance, the Beatitudes could seem similar, or at least, counter-intuitive. Personally, I do not like the use of the word 'happy' in the context of Matthew 5. As you say, blessed is far deeper than happiness and, both when reading the text and when living some of the experiences described, the appreciation of being blessed in such circumstances may take some time. Yet, as with the comedy incident you noted, we are told that a performer practises for hours to perfect the brief period we see on stage. For the spoken and written word, too, it's the tone as well as the timing that can make all the difference. Your online message refers to 2 Peter 3:8-9 and once again I am reminded of a particular joke concerning God and a believer. I thought of it initially a few weeks ago, when writing to you, but I have already gone on too long now.
When distinguishing blessed from happy, ice cream came within your boundaries of happiness which is why the following few remarks are included here. Sometime last week I read a report that cream tea deliveries had increased since lockdown and noticed in the photo, a well known brand of clotted cream. The latter was added to my shopping list so that I could make our own cream tea as a weekend treat. The previous week marked the first appearance in years of an ice cream van with its distinctive jingle. Kelly's soft whip was displayed on the side, although you might guess that a more solid version of the brand suits me. The reactions of local children are very interesting to watch. One little boy is three and his whole being seems to express eagerness. While waiting with eyes fixed on the prize, his feet are always on the go and when we last saw him, being second in the queue looked unbearable. Mum was keeping him in his place at a distance, but he leaned forward as if that might help speed things up a little. It was a simple moment that all could appreciate. Yes, I do observe and listen to people in all settings, trying not only to listen, but to hear the true message as well; then, sometimes I probably talk too much.
Wishing you a week of surprises, even promptings unfolding,