Sunday 30 December 2012

... and bless when I understand

Three quotations for the new year - with thanks to Mark Oakley and his chapter on Discovery in The Collage of God

I greet him when I meet him, and bless when I understand.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (Wreck of the Deutschland)

We had the experience, but missed the meaning.
T S Eliot (The Dry Salvages)

We never catch
him at work, but can only say,
coming suddenly on an amendment,
that here he has been.
R S Thomas (Adjustment)

Friday 21 December 2012


a new poem by Joanna Lynham

Some hold love in their hands
weigh it with care
isolate it from the fabric
of the mind,

Some tame love with soft words
fill it with hope
use it for the service of

Some turn their backs on love
slamming the door,
afraid to let its magic change
their lives,

Some bind with hidden threads
holding it close
protecting it in order to

For me, love is inspiration
a window open
                         to the sky

Fulbrook, 2012

And Wisdom's born in secret

CAROL - Written in 1946

Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of whispers,
In the dry grass of pastures,
And lull the solemn night with their weak bells.

The little towns upon the rocky hills
Look down as meek as children:
Because they have seen come this holy time.

God's glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom's born in secret in a straw-roofed stable.

And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels.
You shepherds, gather on the hill.
Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings
Are coming through the wintry trees;

While we unnumbered children of the wicked centuries
Come after with our penances and prayers,
And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay
Beside the wise men's golden jars.

Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

Thursday 13 December 2012


A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Dr Eben Alexander

Fiona Walthall recommended this book at the recent discussion on December 9th. She writes: 

Eben Alexander is an eminent neurosurgeon who spent 15 years as associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.  He operated on many patients with life-threatening brain conditions.  He has often heard stories of Near Death Experiences, or journeys in other worlds, but has always put it down to that person’s own consciousness creating these experiences.  On 10th November 2008 he was struck down out of nowhere by an extremely rare form of e-coli bacterial meningitis.  Survival rates are less than 10% and most of those end up in a vegetative state.  As he slipped ever deeper into a coma the last words he spoke were “God Help Me”.

Over the next 7 days, Eben was given antibiotics and all his fellow neurosurgeons came to give their advice on treatment.  He was on life-support machines, and by day 7 the decision was made that all the machines should be turned off and nature should be allowed to take its course.  A member of his family said, “Hang on, let’s just go and see him one more time”.  While they were there his eyes opened, he sat up, and he said, “What are you all doing here?”

After he made a full recovery, Eben looked at his own medical records and could see no evidence of any activity whatsoever in the outer area of the brain which is where ‘the bit that makes you human’ resides.  From a medical perspective it was totally impossible that his brain could have been functioning so that he could be having any thoughts or experiences at all.  Yet throughout that 7 days he was in another world, experiencing things with a beautiful companion guiding and leading him.  He had a complete memory of his experiences on his return.  The only way this was possible, this experienced neurosurgeon reckoned, was if ‘he’ had actually been there.

This is a fascinating and very readable book.  Indeed it is one of those you can’t put down.  It provides much food for thought, particularly once you read the nice little twist at the end ... but please don’t go straight to the end!