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The Original "Getting Real"

The Original "Getting Real"
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Monday, 27 September 2010


For many, many years I loved a particular prayer written by John Henry Newman. It is such an exceptionally beautiful prayer but one that I now see a little differently. Perhaps that is because it was written over a hundred years ago and, if one believes in any form of Divinity/God, everything evolves into something still more beautiful.

The prayer begins as evoking something separate from ourselves: it is 'your' fragrance and depends upon the external idea of God/Jesus and then involves such total self-abasement as to be unseen so that the person praying is insignificant. There's the rub. If the person praying is so self-abasing, how can he/she love the glory of the person or people for whom they are praying? How can one pray that people no longer see the you, but see only God, unless one sees that the perceiver is also God? Is not every single being an expression of God/Life? Why then debase ourselves in our prayers?

I love this beautiful prayer, and I think it would be even more beautiful if the line: "Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul..." were to read: Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come into contact with, may feel the power within his/her own soul..."

It's so clear that the more one delves into the essence of life, the more one sees that any form of evangelisation is merely ego-centricity or fear. If people believe God is omnipresent, then surely every life is Divine and there is no need to correct or change it.
Dear Jesus,

Help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul...

Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!

Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others;

the light, O Jesus, will be all from You;

none of it will be mine: it will be You shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You in the way You love best: by shining on those around me.

Let me preach You without preaching, not by words, but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for You.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Secret Garden

What sheer beauty is Agnieszka Holland's 1993 version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden". The scenery, the gorgeous animals, the beautiful shots of flowers and the brilliant casting (right down to the Yorkshire accents - which are so often too exaggerated or missed completely in attempts at films about Yorkshire!) not to mention the brilliant adaptation of the script with it's wonderful, wonderful message all make it for me one of the most beautiful films ever.

This was the first book we read as a class when I first started Grammar School and I am ashamed to say I missed to much of its wonders at the age of 11. Now, though, its wonder shine through so clearly! The way in which it is the angst of adults which makes Colin remain ill, and Mary's absolute denial of his illness that gets him walking again is so apt. The way the garden comes alive in all its beauty and how it is necessary to discount all that has been taught and perceived in order to restore that beauty....right down to Mary's words about the universe being within our own so movingly true! The incredibly gifted actress Maggie Smith epitomises all that is confining and all that keeps people in their belief in illness and it takes a child's more powerful belief to throw her world into disarray but, by the end of the story, Maggie Smith's character is standing in awe.

From the book, I think this wonderful extract says so much about the whole nature of the story which was wasted upon me as an 11-year-old but what joy to understand it now!
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so...And it was like that with Colin when he first saw and heard and felt the Springtime inside the four high walls of a hidden garden. That afternoon the whole world seemed to devote itself to being perfect and radiantly beautiful and kind to one boy. Perhaps out of pure heavenly goodness the spring came and crowned everything it possibly could into that one place.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Robert Graves, perhaps best known for "I, Claudius" wrote some wonderful poems and this is one of my favourites for its fascinating understanding of interaction between friends:

"In Broken Images"

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Tears are so strange. I seldom cry but know several people who often do, in all kinds of circumstances. When things move people immensely, many weep. When things move me immensely, I withdraw and often smile...but every now and again, for no apparent reason, something quite ordinary appears extraordinary - the love of a mother for a child; the beauty of an animal or the sky or the ocean...the passing of seasons....Tennyson's poem is so self-indulgently pleasing at this time of year:

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

(Photo by Andre Hilliard:

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

"My Grandmother" by Elizabeth Jennings

What an absolutely brilliant, brilliant poem by Elizabeth Jennings. I am sure so many people can relate to this....

My Grandmother

She kept an antique shop - or it kept her.
Among Apostle spoons and Bristol glass,
The faded silks, the heavy furniture,
She watched her own reflection in the brass
Salvers and silver bowls, as if to prove
Polish was all, there was no need of love.

And I remember how I once refused
To go out with her, since I was afraid.
It was perhaps a wish not to be used
Like antique objects. Though she never said
That she was hurt, I still could feel the guilt
Of that refusal, guessing how she felt.

Later, too frail to keep a shop, she put
All her best things in one narrow room.
The place smelt old, of things too long kept shut,
The smell of absences where shadows come
That can't be polished. There was nothing then
To give her own reflection back again.

Monday, 6 September 2010

"Gone From My Sight"

This beautiful extract from the American poet Henry Van Dyke was read recently at a family funeral and I think it is one of the most beautiful readings on the subject I have ever heard.

It's interesting that Van Dyke was also the author of 'Joyful, joyful..' - the beautiful lyrics added to that most beautifully joyful work of Beethoven 'Ode to Joy'. I knew little about the author before, and simply from reading his words, he sounds like such a brilliant man.

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!'
Gone where? Gone from my sight ... that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, 'There she goes!' there are other eyes watching her coming and their voices ready to take up the glad shouts 'Here she comes!'"