In terms of personal favourites, a very close second to science fiction has to be historical fiction; especially tales set in the 7th Century CE when land of many kingdoms was being forged into one. One of my favourite writers is Matthew Harffy – he does great research. Not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I like him. I’ve spent the past few weeks binge-reading a 6-part series.
Harffy uses lots of old Anglo-Saxon and Nordic words for places and people. Places I know very well but with other names. One word that keeps appearing in his novels is Wyrd. So, I looked it up. Here’s what the Urban Dictionary has to say about it:
The web of cause-and-effect that permeates the universe. The Germanic/North European equivalent of karma. Not to be understood as an externally-controlling fate but rather as the natural consequences of one’s own actions; each person shapes their own wyrd. There are also family wyrd and national wyrd, which are shaped by the actions of the group as a whole. Wyrd, therefore, does not control our lives, it just responds to our own actions according to orlog, the fundamental law that governs the workings of our world.
This word ‘Wyrd’ doesn’t get used anymore, but it captures a great deal of how I understand life and faith unfolds. It resembles the Tao of things. Today, we might use ‘Serendipity’, one of those delicious words that roll around the tongue like a full-bodied red wine. But serendipity doesn’t quite capture it for me. Wyrd is a very relevant word for the last few days since sharing with you my decision to retire around the middle of next year. Messages, phone calls and emails from many of you have been very heartwarming and gracious. Once again, the faith community of St Kilda demonstrates its capacity for understanding, care and love.
I know from far too many experiences in ministry that the relationship between congregations and ministry agents is a steady sequence of connection and disconnection. Attachment and detachment. There is a pain in that. Sometimes there is a relief! But speaking for myself, acknowledging that its time to step aside from full-time ministry is a big step. This particular journey began in earnest back in 1979 and it’s been a pilgrimage involving periods of pure endurance and genuine joy. Like every pilgrimage. If I could live my life over again, and all circumstances being equal, and with the benefit of hindsight, I would choose a similar road but I’d probably read more of the map beforehand!
Back to that word Wyrd
Over the past few weeks through our Sunday online gatherings, we have been exploring the relationship between enlightenment, art, and faith/spirituality. Two gatherings, in particular, attracted a lot of feedback in the days that followed. I’m referring to the days on which we explored The Way and Impermanence. Perhaps these topics were bubbling up out of my sub-conscious but for whatever reason, whilst they spoke to many of you they also spoke to me. Every choice we make leads to unplanned consequences and unforeseen possibilities.
Since then, I have been pondering upon and have taken to heart these wise and thought-provoking words of Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible”.
Endings and beginnings are the way of life. I think they are also the wyrd of life.