Monday, 16 July 2012

A Rock, an Island

It's an interesting dichotomy, isn't it? And if that's the wrong word I'll blame the predictive text on my Android.

I refer to the idea that if God is Trinity, then to be made in the image of God means to live in community. And yet the Christian faith has frequently held up an individualistic experience as a kind of ideal.

From the Catholic/Orthodox side I'm thinking of Simeon Stylites, Mother Julian etc - the great hermits who were so eremitic that people flocked to see them. And from the Prods, that whole evangelical idea that, at root, salvation comes down to me, my little soul and God. No idea that I am part of the local church, the One Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church and, indeed, the Human Race. Here's my little, tiny, grubby soul, here's God and here's the great big gulf in between us. What a wretch I am! Who can save me? Well, you know the rest.

And I guess I'm feeling this most of all this evening because the Retreat people and the Beaker residents are all having an enjoyable time in the Beaker Bar (donations only, definitely not a price list for reason of HMRC).

And I feel I'm better somewhere else. After all, one of the joys of followership is being able to bitch about the leader - while one of the burdens of leadership is knowing that's the case and leaving them to it. And, examining my soul (and remembering a line from Douglas Adams) I find it's about the size of a hazelnut - but perhaps more wrinkled, like a walnut.

It doesn't seem much of a soul, this evening. And I'm thinking that one hazelnut (or even walnut) on its own doesn't add up to a hill of beans. I know that one soul - even just mine - is what would be saved if that's all there was to save. But it doesn't seem worth it, really. If Jesus were my teenage niece, Alicia, I could imagine the cry of "Effort!" going up.

So I'm going to have to let them get on with it, and hope that, although we're a community and that's how we journey, considerations are also made for those who strike out ahead, alone. If Julian's cell had walls, whoever made those walls, the architect was, ultimately inside (and the Architect was, ultimately, above). I'm not a rock, but I'll have to be an island.


  1. The idea that living in community as the image of God means with other people is the justification of those who are extroverts and need other people to exist at all and who cannot do silence and solitude.

    Maybe we are body, mind and spirit, and it is our inseparable individual trinity that reflects the image of God. Not the presence or absence or absence of other people.

    But then I am an introvert so I would say that.

  2. For me, as another introvert, the turning outward towards others is an essential part of the life I am trying to lead. Not becoming an extrovert - that will never happen - but also not letting myself take my naturally introverted tendencies to extremes. It's like so many things - like walking a tightrope between extremes.

    I think a lot of the solitaries had the support of their local village or religious communities, and many of the greatest mystics, when not engaged in solitary contemplation, were very good at dealing with other people in their communities.


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