Over my holiday break I read a very little book by Frederick Franck. The book was given to me by a dear friend who said, “Eat this while in Thailand, it’s nourishment for head and heart”.
I say read but what I really mean is still reading. 7 weeks later and I’ve only just reached page 36. It’s not that I am a really slow reader but rather I can’t turn the page until I have fully absorbed what I have just read. I get through 3 or 4 short reflections and have to stop. Very few books have that effect on me. Poetry does. Some theology too. But this little book of distilled wisdom is enchanting both in style and depth. It’s called: ‘A Little Compendium on That Which Matters’
The foreword describes it as a ‘profound confrontation with the human within oneself and others’. The book may be little in size but it’s mind-blowingly huge in terms of content – a life time of emerging wisdom beautifully but honestly captured in 62 pages of text interspersed with simple sketches.
Frederick served as a doctor on Albert Schweitzer’s staff in Africa. A dental surgeon by profession but best known for his love of art, writing and interest in human spirituality. He once said that “Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a way of being”. I first met Frederick, not personally, but through his book The Zen of Seeing.
He died in 2006 at the age of 97.
One of his phrases I love very much goes like this: “Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) is not tied to any particular religion, but to all… and to none. For I hope that it may speak also to those who, while shunning religious labels, share fully in the specifically human quest for meaning and for values to live by. For to be human or not to be, that is the question!”
He advocated that the meaning of life is to See – to see within, see through and see beyond.
I hope that as we make our way through 2019 we will continue to develop our capacity for ‘seeing’ not so much with the eye but with the heart.
May this coming year be kind to the world in which we live.