As we clamber slowly out of lockdowns and restrictions start to ease, we can look forward to a bit of stability with some degree of hopefulness. It’s been a long journey and it has not ended yet.
This morning (Friday), while sitting on my favourite bench with my skinny ‘flat-white’ take-away, I found myself drifting into some deep reflection. I was quite mesmerized by the dark storm clouds that were coming toward me through the entrance to the bay. It felt like I was being approached by a metaphor. In fact, so deep was my reflection, that it took some rather heavy raindrops on my bald head to bring me back to the present.
Whether it’s because I’m getting a bit older, I’m not quite sure, but I’ve become increasingly aware of what Celtic Christians called ‘thin’ places. I struggle to find good words to use to write about it because it resists being described. I’ve read other attempts to capture the experience but none of them quite do it for me.
They relate the experience to things like the power of place; like standing on the windswept crags of Lindisfarne. Or watching a whale shattering the horizon line as it breaches and reaches for the stars. Or the feeling you get when you hold your first child in your arms. Or you find yourself sitting on a log in a forest captivated by sunlight dancing with shadows. I’m familiar with each of those wonderful feelings. But the ‘thin place’ I experience is different again to any of those moments.
The place has a part to play. As does light, and sound, and emotion. But for me, it has more to do with what is on my mind and some of the ‘heavy’ things that I am often trying to make sense of spiritually, psychologically, and theologically.
As I watched the clouds forming, I was reminded of footage I had seen of the ‘mushroom’ cloud above Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That horrendous moment in which 2 bombs took the lives of over 200,000 mostly Japanese civilians. I’m also carrying lots of thoughts and images with me from watching The Man in the High Castle. Its alternate histories are haunting me. So many ‘what ifs? Then my thoughts roosted upon an article I had read that morning about COVID-19 and how a microscopic virus over a period of 18 months has ‘officially’ taken the lives of over 4 Million people.
To be clear, ( and please don’t laugh) it’s not that I go to, or find that I’ve stumbled upon a ‘thin place’ but rather I enter a ‘thin place’ that seems to appear within me. And as I sit within it, I find that my feeling of ‘heaviness’ fades and I am at peace with all my questions and doubts. This may sound a bit whacky, but I find myself embraced by what I can only express as love.
Julian of Norwich, theologian and mystic, who lived through some difficult experiences: the Black Plague (which killed half the population of England in the Middle Ages), the Peasant’s Revolt and the suppression of the Lollards, was still able to write in Revelations of Divine Love, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.
That’s what my ‘thin place’ was saying to me on Friday.