Tuesday, 31 December 2019


I came across this picture, and I'm really pleased with it because it is exactly my intention for the New Year.

I have been rethinking in depth my relationship with church, family and world in general, figuring out what I can contribute and how I fit in.
The focus of my imagination for the year ahead is the centaur Chariklo. Her name comes from a fusion of love or grace ("chari") with spinning ("klo"), so her work is about incorporating love and grace into the fabric of creation. In mythology she is the wife of the centaur Chiron, the wounded healer, so she speaks of the symbiosis of masculine and feminine energy in the work of healing. Her role is to hold sacred space for others, and be the witness to the infinite ground of being, helping people go through transition as a soul midwife — helping us navigate the way through a time of change. Her characteristics are rock-solid stillness, permanence (so, dependability), steadiness, peace, beauty, healing and caring. These are the aspects I want to hold before my mind's eye going into the new year.
In 2019 I was intensively writing — I wrote three books during the year. Writing is a very solitary occupation, and I've been writing full-time for just over a decade now. At earlier stages in my life I was very connected to people and had many friends whom I loved dearly and treasured very much, but those connections have dissolved.

I've also had to carefully re-think my relationship with the church, which has been unsatisfactory for some time. In the last few months I've been looking steadily at the question of whether my lifelong travelling together with the church is actually over. This questioning deepened in the time of the UK election, as I faced and tried to understand why Christian brothers and sisters would work for, speak for and vote for heartless and self-serving régimes, while tossing aside the opportunity to elect a man of peace and compassion as our political leader.

When I got still and focussed and scried as deep as I could into my soul, what kept coming up again and again was a quotation from Charles Péguy that I used in the frontispiece of my novel The Long Fall, back in the early 1990s. He said: "The worst of partialities is to withhold oneself, the worst ignorance is not to act, the worst lie is to steal away." And that's what kept coming back to me as I considered quietly tiptoeing off.

In the end I set my resolve on taking my cue from Chariklo in 2020.

I want to work on what that graphic (above) of the Thich Nhat Hanh quotation expresses, in my personal interactions with people day-to-day. Going slowly enough, including enough silence and solitude and keeping enough of a discipline of simplicity, that my soul can be sufficiently spacious to be a loving presence. That's for the detail of everyday, and the orientation of myself in respect of other people. Apart from blogging and writing my regular magazine column, I'm stopping writing and editing this year, as those occupations are very time and attention hungry. I've also stopped driving, because of the stress of it really — I think we have enough roads and enough cars on them, now.

Part of the loving kindness, that I want to work on flowing through me, is living responsibly towards the Earth. I've stopped driving, and I'm going to try hard to deepen my practice of simplicity, to consume fewer resources and support more careful and responsible decision making. We have such a small window to get carbon emissions down to the 1.5C level, and right now the emissions are rising not falling. This has to be a priority for us all. I'm very interested in the role of money in all this — I think Daniel Suelo is onto something in his insistence that money is problematic. I personally don't aspire to living without any money at all, but I think there is a massive spiritual power in the way we use what money we have — and the less money we individually need, the less others can hold sway over our lives. Jesus wasn't joking when he said you cannot serve God and Mammon, nor was Paul when he said the love of money is a root of all evil, and John Wesley's opinions are also very instructive. So I think my financial habits and choices must be integral to working on a practice of loving kindness.

I want to change the focus and direction of my work in the church. Where I had been concentrating on building up the small chapel community I belong to, and also on creating imaginative all-age worship, I realise that my contributions were only patchily successful, and in some cases actually unhelpful. But I still feel an inescapable call to preach and teach, so that will be my focal contribution this year, mostly in the Methodist Circuit where I live. As the effects of the UK's voting in the general election sink in — the mortality rate is rising, especially among the elderly and disabled, our healthcare system is breaking down, 650,000 vulnerable people had their state benefits cut within five days of the new government being returned, the hard right members of Britain First are flocking in their thousands to join the governmental party, and the rending apart from the European Union will bring suffering in all kinds of ways — I want to incorporate the Chariklo emphases of healing, transition, equilibrium and peace into the way I present the Gospel. This year will, I think, be a time of upheaval and change, when it will be helpful to make the contribution of holding sacred space for people passing through change, to bear witness to the faithfulness of God, and to hold the lantern of Christ's love steady for people to see the way. Jesus came to establish a new and living way for us to walk in, and holding the light for people to find their feet on that way feels important for 2020.

In setting aside writing and editing for the time being, I want to take time to build and nurture personal relationships. People are often frightened in times of transition as the old order decays and dissolves, and what we have always known starts to transform. More than that, managing ourselves as we understand the impact of Western civilisation and growth economics on the created order is going to require skill. The anxiety, survivalism, denial and selfishness already apparent in political trends is only likely to intensify. If we want to be signs of contradiction in the present age, I think we'll do well to stand together. Connectivity will be important, so I want to give time and attention to that. Relationship doesn't just occur; you have to nurture it, and I feel acutely aware that I need to put some work into building a tribe as well as into personal contribution.

In 2019 I did a lot of intensive learning about health and nutrition, also researching sources of high-quality food produced compassionately, ethically and responsibly, with lower food miles and as little packaging as possible. I want to carry through that responsible practice into 2020, building and maintaining my health to the best of my ability, honouring the Earth and working for the wellbeing of creation. Organic, simple wholefood, produced to high ethical standards, from small local producers whose agricultural practice nurtures the land and the many species that share it. Particularly as we part company with EU regulations, I think it would be wise to stick to simple ingredients and avoid packaged or processed food — which for all the usual reasons of less packaging, fresher, lower food miles, represents a better choice anyway.

Those are the thoughts and intentions I am holding in place as we go into the new year.

And you — please do come and share in the comments what intention you are holding as we go into 2020 — may you be blessed in the year ahead; may you be at peace, may you be well, may you be contented and provided for. May you be happy.

As John Wesley said, "The best of all is God is with us."


Suzan said...

I wish you a wonderful year and decade ahead. May you meet your aims and ideals. Soul searching means some uncomfortable moments and reimagining life's path.

Long ago I gave up on making resolutions. But for this year I will be looking to lower my imprint upon the earth. My daughter is moving closer to my home so in cooler weather I will be able to walk to babysit and not drive for thirty minutes. I am going to work diligently at being far more resourceful about our food purchases. There always seems to be so much in the fridge. At present my mother's love of condiments means there is little room for the stuff that should be in there.

Rookie said...

Dear Pen, I have just finished reading The Hawk and the Dove which was heartily recommended to me by Benedictine nuns on a recent visit to their monastery. Started Googling to discover whether you were perhaps a former Benedictine, or the biological sister of a monk, or had spent a year as a fly on the wall of a monastery. And now I have discovered your blog, to find quotations from my beloved TNH, whose teachings and practices led me to the Gospel of Jesus and the Catholic Church. My intention for 2020 is to live in slow motion, to stop and take in the person before me, to write letters with fountain pen on real paper and mail them in envelopes with stamps on. God bless you for writing books that bring the light and truth of the Gospels to readers everywhere! Hildegard

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Suzan — Yes, walking more lightly on Earth has to be our top priority, I think. It is humanitarian too, because taking care of the Earth will take care of the humans who live on Earth. People can usually make their own way in life, but not if we have reduced their home to a fiery desert. May God bless 2020 to you with peace and steadfast love. xx

Hi Hildegard — How nice to meet you. Slowness is, I think, vital; otherwise we make ill-considered decisions, and become reactive rather than responsive to one another. Slowness gives to moments what the Japanese call "Ma" — the space around things that allows us to appreciate them. May you be blessed in 2020, blessed in silence, blessed in simplicity of life, blessed in slow beauty. xx

Rookie said...

Thank you Suzan for your response. Interesting that your mom's fridge gives pride of place to condiments. My grandmother's fridge was constantly filled with "one more bite" of leftover meals, her way of not wasting food, but not having space for fresh things to eat. I wish you a New Year filled with happy moments babysitting.

Pen - wow, an author who responds to comments on her blog! Fortuitious that you quote a Japanese concept; I am Japanese on my mother's side. Prayers for a fruitful 2020 without writing fiction; may the Holy Spirit guide you to new ways of sharing your faith. xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Rookie — waving! Yes, we have good conversations here on this blog — and I think your being born into Japanese heritage is a great gift and blessing; I have learned so much from what I've read and seen online of Japanese culture.