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A year ago we were swept up on an unexpected tide of events, a series of changes that made us think differently about our lives, our homes and our world. Many of us grieved deeply, and many became more spiritually focused. Our life journeys switched direction, and we had to go with the flow.
Last week a member of the IFCG executive sent me a passage from T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets. It’s a brilliant bit of verse about the life journey, and it seemed only right to honour it with some spiritual works with resonant sentiments. After T.S Eliot we have a short quote from Lao Tzu. This is followed by a poem that appeared last summer in an Indian newspaper. Since we reproduced it last June it has gone viral; it’s called I Heard we are in the Same Boat. If you saw it before, I hope you don’t mind us reproducing it again. Following this a poem also by an Indian poet, Valsa George, called My Voyage. After this the Jewish Traveller’s Prayer, and we close with by C.P. Cavafy’s astonishing poem Ithaka, another contemplation of the life journey.
This week we have a film from Channel 4 News showing the World’s cities at the outset of the pandemic.
From this week we have slight change of plan. We will be issuing Words of Connection on a fortnightly basis.
Thank you so much for your attention and support. Please stay well, and enjoy the longer days of spring.
Very best wishes
FROM THE FOUR QUARTETS
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at where you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
FROM THE TAO TE CHING
A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
I HEARD THAT WE ARE IN THE SAME BOAT
I heard that we are in the same boat.
But it’s not like that.
We are in the same storm,
but not in the same boat.
Your ship can be shipwrecked
and mine might not be.
Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, of reconnection.
Easy, in flip-flops, with a whisky or tea.
For others, this is a desperate crisis.
For others, it is facing loneliness.
For some, peace, rest time, vacation.
Yet for others, torture:
How am I going to pay my
Some were concerned about a brand of chocolate for Easter (This year there were no rich chocolates).
Others were concerned about the bread for the weekend, or if the noodles would last for a few more days.
Some were in their “home office.”
Others are looking through trash to survive.
Some want to go back to work because there are running out of money.
Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some need to break the quarantine to stand in line at the banks.
Others to escape. Others criticise the government for the lies.
Some have experienced the near-death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, some are not sure their loved ones are going to make it, and some don’t even believe this is a big deal.
Some of us who are well now may end up experiencing it, and some believe they are infallible and will be blown away if or when this hits someone they know.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles during 2020.
Others say the worst is yet to come.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat.
We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
And each one will emerge, in his own way, from that storm.
Some with a tan from their pool.
Others with scars on the soul.
It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance.
Not just looking, more they’re looking, seeing.
See beyond the political party, beyond biases, beyond the nose on your face.
Do not underestimate the pain of others if you do not feel it.
Do not judge the good life of others,
Do not condemn the bad life of others.
Don’t be a judge.
Let us not judge the one who lacks, as well as the one who exceeds him.
We are on different ships looking to survive.
Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility.
Leaving the sheltered confines of the past
I embarked on a voyage, fresh and new
With the present volume and its contents closed down
To open another and pore over its pages anew
Everything was calm and still as I set out
Except the pain of being cast loose from my anchorage
Over the swelling magnitude, we sailed past
To alight into the novelties of another world
On the bosom of a tranquil sea, with fleecy clouds above
We moved on to realms, fanciful and new
And continued to sail over the lolling waters
Gazing at the finny herds in undulating waves
But sudden was the turn of wind and weather
The waves rose to mountain heights
Thunders bellowed over the wild waters
And the sea into an aggressive fiend turned
The billows lashed and crashed over the rocks
All around was the booming sound of rushing waves
Flashes of lightning, left rents in engulfing gloom
And the ship, adrift in the roaring currents
At a point when it was about to drown
The tempest subsided, the sky turned clear
What Providence has saved us from our peril?
We keep wondering now and ever
Knowing that tempests will again strike
And our vessel will be rocked hither and thither
Now, with greater caution in every move
With the riggings once more fastened tight
And with the blue line of a cherished past
Receding quickly away like a cloud in the horizon
We continue our voyage, braving the waves
And sail past to regions far and unknown!
JEWISH TRAVELLERS’ PRAYER
May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, Who hears prayer. Amen
C. P. Cavafy
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.