Thursday, 23 April 2015


There are a couple of things that focus the mind on our mortality. Taxes, other people’s funerals, illness and turning 50 are some I can think of. 
For me, despite the likes of Joan Collins and Madonna, my 50th was a turning point. Despite taking comfort from the fact that I was biologically and mentally as much as 15 years younger than my grand-mother at the same age (so are you), there was a sense of crisis. 
This in itself was strange. An only child, I’d been raised to believe I had an eccentric genius IQ. I’d been a high achiever all my life. I loved myself (too much at times) and loved others easily because they didn’t make me feel threatened. I was making money and having fun. What on earth could the matter be?
You’ve guessed right: I’d sensed my mortality.
No I didn’t rush off to the nearest Church and find God. I did what many middle aged women in the leafy suburbs do, I found a psychologist who I paid to listen to me.  (How money gives one a sense of control!) She very quickly informed me that she wasn’t like those American shrinks that people visit endlessly. She did however, eventually agree that with only my dogs to confide in she was my best bet.
Over the next two years, once a week, I’d examine: my values; how my readiness to help others included a mix of control; how kindness could also be a form of passive aggression; my non-existent spirituality; and the repeat cycles of my relationships.
She had a Jewish surname and a statue of Buddha on her coffee table and I never discovered what, if any, religion she belonged to. But she did encourage me to seek spiritual balance in my life. Over several months I examined my belief in God/the higher force/ the Greater Being. I was an atheist. I was an agnostic. I was a humanist.
Whatever, it was always very much an intellectual exercise. 
Eventually I would understand that for me the greatest challenge would be to submit to God if he/she really existed. I, who had always been in control of my life and of many others – family dependants, my staff, students I was mentoring etc. – couldn’t let go.  There was a meditation I used to do in those sessions. It involved jumping off a cliff into a huge black abyss and having the confidence that I would be caught by the ‘higher force’. It never worked, I preferred my own parachute!
Somewhere along the line I did come to appreciate the need for a spiritual focus to balance my incredibly busy, materialistic and responsibility-laden life.
Those of you who grew up knowing Jesus was on your one shoulder and your archangel on the other, please don’t get too excited at this point. The only spirituality I was interested in would be on my terms with me in charge.
I tried yoga (too passive), meditative running (too energetic) and then, prompted by the Buddha statue on the coffee table, borrowed the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Book on Living and Dying.  I paraphrase, but very early in the book he advises those who are seeking spirituality not to turn to the esoteric but to seek within our own worldview and culture.
This made imminent sense. So, I decided to attend an Anglican Eucharist service. I did and wasn’t impressed. I’d chosen a seat at the back not realising it was an area allocated to families with toddlers. But the rector announced the parish’s first Alpha Course – it was very new in those days. It was an invitation to “learn more about Jesus and Christianity” so I gave the parish another chance.
In the weeks before the course got underway I read everything I could find in Exclusive Books that featured Jesus. These included the historical Jesus, the Jesus who conned the world by pretending to die on the cross, his lover Mary Magdalene and Jesus in India. Fascinating stuff and I was well armed to handle Alpha.
Little did I know.  But that’s another blog or two.
As I continue to research the Anglican Church for my novel, I am increasingly aware of how our denomination must confuse those who prefer a dogmatic approach: Don’t think, just believe; this is the way it is, to argue is to show lack of faith etc; it must be because the Bible says so.  Instead Anglicanism rests on the three pillars of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
That’s right. You don’t have to throw your brains in a dustbin.  You can take into consideration the context in which a gospel was written, its agenda and how it was fiddled with by others. How sacred texts, like those referring to slavery (apartheid)  and wearing hats in church, need to be read with an open mind.

No wonder we Anglicans have lived on the cusp of schism for so long!  

1 comment:

Kim Watson said...

Welcome to the world of blogging my friend! I pray Jesus will be glorified, as people read your journey of self discovery. Lots of luv ♡