Thursday, 9 January 2014

Morning thorts

Strange to think that in the US our friends have been struggling with sub-polar temperatures – my friend Julie in Minnesota able to let her little dogs out for only one minute as a precaution against damage to their paws in the fierce cold.

Yesterday in England, a morning so balmy I had no need to light the stove.  I set my tea-kettle to boil on my own Heath Robinson cooker fuelled by bio-ethanol gel, the door and window open to air the house.

A morning of no wind, no rain.  Fresh and clear.  Only birdsong.  I ate my breakfast sitting outside under the trees.

Already I can feel the Earth turning toward the light.  I woke with the dawn around seven, and by twenty to eight had light enough to write.  There’s long battery life in my Macbook, but I like writing with pen and paper because for me one of the joys of the day is noticing the waxing and waning of the light.  I love every kind of living light, and the computer light competes with it.

Now Christmas with its flurry of church commitments, family visits – and funerals this year – is over, I can concentrate again.  I want to begin the journey towards my pilgrimage through Lent without opinions exploring the territory and considering what that might mean.  For those who may not have been following my posts, just to explain that this year I’ve decided to give up opinions for Lent.

One of you wrote to me saying that without expressing opinions I would be unable to worship God – and that intrigued me because I hadn’t before identified that much of our worship is indeed expressed as opinion: “You are mighty, You are glorious, You are King over all,” etc.

So, Lent Without Opinions would require a re-phrasing: “Your might and glory fill me with wonder, King of all the Earth.”
That’s a statement – reporting the state of affairs within my heart – not an opinion.

It helps to clarify what an opinion is, and understanding how an opinion differs from a fact (oddly, not everyone understands this).

Examples of facts versus opinions – (1 is a fact and 2 an opinion in each case):

  1. Elizabeth II is the Queen of England
  2. Elizabeth II is an excellent queen.

  1. Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus
  2. Jesus is Lord over all.

It seems likely that why people find it hard to tell the difference is because from the point of view of the person with the opinion it looks like a fact.
It’s possible to state one’s own truth, though, without expressing it as an opinion:
  1. I love my friend Emily (reporting of one’s own truth)
  2. Emily is a lovely girl (opinion)

I suspect that living without opinions will allow both me and others greater freedom – it occurs to me when I ponder on it that people could feel very hemmed in by my opinions; my view of reality replacing their own like the invasion of a conquering force!

My first draft of that last paragraph said: “Opinions hem other in, substituting a different view of reality from their own.”  Then I realized – oh! That’s an opinion!
Replacing it to include “it occurs to me … that people could feel …” alters it from an opinion to a sharing of my thoughts and ideas.

So, in Lent (and I can see it might help me to begin learning now!) I will still be allowed to share facts and observations, to wonder about them and question what I see, and to share the truth of my inner world – but not to advance my point of view as though it were a fact.

D’you see what I mean?

I am hoping this will be a journey into a kinder and gentler way, both of communicating and seeing, than I have been used to.

My natural mode (my beautiful mama tells me I am very opinionated): “Tea made with spring water tastes different from tea made with tap water.”  To change that from an opinion to an expression of personal truth,  all I need do is add “to me” at the end or “I find that” at the beginning.

And your thoughts?


Buzzfloyd said...

I think you will find it very challenging but ultimately a significant leap along your life path.

Unknown said...

I don't think I could do this ~ & at present I don't have the mental space to try. I will watch with fascination...

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx waving!

rebecca said...

Yes, I see what you mean...(However, "it occurs to me" that this is mostly a personal exercise that may or may not alter the response of those who would be are easily put off by another person's opinion.)

In the end, what really matters is the condition of one's heart, for "out of the abundance the heart a (wo)man speaketh).

Wishing for just a sip of your fine weather, my friend! I'm happy that you have it to enjoy.

Julie B. said...

Your komorebi makes me yearn for a little hermitage at Pacem in Terris. I haven't been in over a year, but always hope to go again. And you have one in your back yard! I have also been called "opinionated" and think I'd have a hard time refraining from having an opinion, but I think it sounds like a good exercise along the road of just learning to be. And lastly, it has warmed up to 4 degrees above zero this morning and feels so much less painful! And Minnesota will be warmer by the weekend (28 degrees above Fahrenheit) -- such a relief. I love the Komorebi Khronicles! Gah -- I think it's cheesy when people do that so don't know why I did. :) Praying for you today... xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hello my friends! Waving! xx

Anonymous said...

(Head explodes)

I'll wait to read your journey before I have a thought :-D

Pen Wilcock said...



Anonymous said...

Hi Pen,
It is currently 15 degrees F, -9 C here in MN! So I am envious of your weather. It is easy to get discouraged/blue when you have to carry blankets or emergency kits in your car in case of break downs. My son and future son-in-law both ride their bikes to work and have had to scramble for alternative transportation because it is too dangerous for them to bike in this cold and bus routes are inadequate and could leave you waiting unprotected at stops for 20 minutes or more.So, bring on the descriptions of spring - I will revel in them vicariously!

Pen Wilcock said...


We've stocked up our larder and our woodstore, because your weather finds its way to us in due course - though I expect we will not have it as cold as it's been for you. Today in England it's cold and frosty but the sun is shining bright: a beautiful morning. May God bless your family and provide for your menfolk getting to work in the wintry weather. x

Deb D. said...

Pen: I like how your approach for Lent challenges one to think through how she states her thoughts/observations, etc.

I offer a challenge to you in the items you set forth as facts and opinions. You stated (in my simplified summary) that the point of view of a person may lead one to conclude something is a fact. You gave as a fact that Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar and an opinion that He is Lord of all. I would differ in stating that the latter is an opinion. I understand my perspective of the world and belief in the Bible would be the basis of why I believe He is Lord of All. But (again, understanding my perspective) it is a fact whether or not I or anyone else believes it. Is the data that He was born during the reign of Caesar based upon my trusting something external to be giving factual information? Yes, I think so. It means I trust those who recorded history to give accurate data as to when He was born and that there was a ruler named Caesar during that time. Am I trusting those recorders of history more than those who recorded the Biblical history? Perhaps what I am laying out is a bit muddled. I'm hurrying as I am soon leaving my home for the evening, but hopefully the heart of my thought comes through.

Bless you, dear lady!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hiya - the difference between a fact and an opinion is that a fact can be objectively verified. It is indeed the case that the verification must at some point by someone be taken on trust. So at this distance in time the details of history are not in the strictest sense verifiable and a higher level of trust is possibly required, as you said.
You say that you believe it to be a fact that Jesus is Lord over all. Many other people in the world hotly disagree. That's precisely the difference between a fact and an opinion. Disagreement is the indicator of opinion. Of course there is an underlying fact, about which the opinions are formed. In the fullness of time, it will be revealed - that's the point of faith, belief/hope in what is not yet revealed. But saying that your point of view is a fact whereas the point of view of those who disagree is a fallacy, is precisely what stating an opinion is.
I'm so sorry if this sounds cold or rude: that tends to happen when I'm trying to be clear about something. x

Buzzfloyd said...

I think it helps to realise that 'facts' and 'the truth' are two different things. A fact is verified, while the truth may not be verifiable. You may believe in something as truth without ultimately being able to verify it as fact.

You can tell that 'Jesus is Lord' is an opinion, AKA a belief, because you have to have faith to believe that it's true. It may be a belief that, in the fullness of time, is proven to also be a fact. But if it fell into the category of fact, there would be no need for what the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard called the 'leap of faith'.

Facts are things that we can agree on as empirically verifiable. Religious beliefs don't fall into this category, no matter how great our conviction. But, since facts are not necessarily the whole truth, we still hold our beliefs.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks for that clarity, Buzz. I also posted further on this today (Sunday). x