This is simply a short blog, on the shortest day, to mark the Winter Light.
I tend to find that the journey down into darkness feels like it happens quicker than the journey back into the year's dawn, rather like intellectual endeavours. By which I mean, that 'time' between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, is a slippery slope of mud and falling leaves. It ricochetes down into darkness here in Wales like relentless rain. Whereas the time after, that between Solstice and Spring, happens slowly. It is a climb back up the hill of days.
When I was an undergraduate (and for some years afterwards), I would stand on top of The Mound by Old College on campus, musing on such things. Usually wrapped in a shawl, usuallly also with a black staff to help me walk, usually at a Sabbat. From there I saw in (and out) many a transition of both people and seasons.
The dignified and historic demeanour of this place is sadly no more in appearance however, thanks to a pox of infant-school coloured signs littering the aesthetic and serving no useful purpose (the maps are mostly wrong, the parking signage akin to screaming GO AWAY WORLD to every passerby, even the crows seem to shun them).
Recently though I met, in the mound's shadow, beside the glaring brightness of misdirection, Father Tim of Gower - for a recorded interview about my path through interfaith.
( < Father Tim)
The output frame was, is, the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon - and as a consequence, our conversation took a deliberately Christian direction. My answers could just as easily have stepped into various 'isms' (Buddh... Hindu...NeoPagan...Tao...); but Father Tim was interested in finishing a conversation we had begun some years earlier in the Peace Mala garden, Swansea, on Yeshua - therefore that is what we did.
The irony of this was not lost on me, due to my ongoing disquiet regarding how many interfaith related 'dialogues' are resolutedly fixated on a Hebraic only focus. I say "resolutedly" because I, and others with whom I share this despair, am uncertain as to whether the absence of actual interfaith discussion on many shiny platforms is a deliberate choice, or simply a naive lack of awareness as to the role of other paths in the larger world (surely it could be, no, not fear of the other...?). Discussions which hang on similarities and differences are how we introduce the topic to children; those which talk endlessly about Christianity, Judaism and Islam, are a conversation inside a paradigm, going over and over the varying shades on the same side of a rainbow. Yet they remain popular with certain types of adults, progressing words merely in circles, not in change.
There are exceptions of course, such as Banksy - who is, perhaps, the very essence of exception and from whom this Yuletide saw a perfect commentary on the manner in which mankind attempts to wall in faith, through his gutwrenchingly beautiful work, the Alternativity
Whilst we are still in position where distant countries can decide which religion can claim land rights, where walls between worlds are being built and no longer pulled down, where even on allegedly safe soil people are attacked by authorities for being Witches, where the stones thrown are faked words through an abuse of power, where Cathedral Chapters panic at the inclusion of Neo Pagans in their processions, where the disneyfication of an entire way of life is what it takes to quell some people's terror... then forgive me, but I am reluctant to acknowledge claims of interfath in which only the select few are given a voice. This, thankfully, is a trap which Father Tim's podcast successfully avoids.
He also avoids that tendency to exoticise, where the non-Hebraic are a performance piece rather than a valued source of wisdom: 'See how inclusive we are! We have people in coloured robes!" etc. I also see people acting as spokespersons whom I know, personally, have expressed loud and derogative remarks about faith and religion, plus others whose reputations and action in the world are less suitable than they are made to appear. People about whom those who actually know, wince - and vacate the room. Thus reducing the calibre of discussion into an echo chamber. Background checks seem to have gone out of fashion.
To be fair, I see the same tired old ideas being trotted out in other realms too. Such as at academic conferences for instance, where papers seem to be recycled year on year, where only the deliverees change. I sit there and think, 'Hang on, didn't I see that exact paragraph here last year? Oh, and that was what the last speaker already said, were you not listening? Ah - that one is stolen from X... that was said ten years ago... that one was me... has nobody read any new books? Aaaaand that one is a paraphrasis of a single point, for fifteen straight minutes...' and so on and so forth. Repeatedly what is apparent, is that often the most innovative and intelligent individuals are greeted with blank looks when question time comes around, wheras the derivative are applauded. There are exceptions, obviously - and sometimes the applause simply comes later. Maybe we, as a people, need to go over and over tired old tracks until a sufficient amount of listeners have managed to comprehend the concepts? Innovation by repetition. Maybe we can all only see a short distance above our own ability? Maybe I'll do a paper on it sometime (unless I can find one already in existence...).
Back to the podcast though. Beforehand, we spent a little time with the King of the Sea Trees who was/is on exhibition below the room where we had decided to talk. I explained the shamanic layer in that landscape and we considered the possible divinity of an ancient forest. Then we shivered our way upstairs to the Founder's Library - and began recording.
I wasn't particularly coherent. Exhausted and distracted I found it oddly difficult to concentrate - thus I apologise for my uncharacteristic vagueness in the podcast, which you can listen to here.
We talked for much longer than we needed for our purpose - and could have continued for many more hours.
It's been almost forty years now, since I first took a stand in defence of multi-spirituality. I've been doing so ever since. I began by refusing to be forced into Christian prayer (which I happen to like - but as a choice, how one chooses, not as a habit (no pun intended)) in school assemby (the one and only time I ever got into trouble - but it was worth it because myself and my partner in justice, got the system changed), to getting kicked out of the Brownies aged six for asking to which god we were swearing allegiance (my father was delighted, my mother rolled her eyes), to campaigning for World Religions to be included in the R.E. GSCE syllabus whilst still a pupil, resisting the relentless durge of a particular brand of Christian centred study, watching my fellows loose interest at a terrifying speed as the same old same old was trotted out by equally bored teachers. I'm glad to see that has finally changed in schools - it yet remains for the growth of inclusivity to make it into many universities though. The real work is going on outside.
It was thus beneath the weight of irony that our podcast took place - and for the record, the opening sentence on my blurb, should say that I was born on land reclaimed from the sea (the Bache), not the other way around - unless, of course, we were being prophetic...
On which note, I wish you all a Merry Yuletide - may the darkness bring you comfort and the growing daylight, truth.
*Link to Podcast - because repetition, repetition, repetition...*