A Little Bit of Buddha and on Fraudulent Franciscanism
On Wednesdays I do nothing for anyone else. It is my artist’s day. I can paint all day if I want; sleep; read books or go for a walk with my partner – a long walk, eight to ten miles. A few weeks ago we went into the countryside around Aylesbury – I have lived here over four years now and still do not know what is in my own back yard. It was the most fantastic walk and such a beautiful warm day. Not only did Stephen show me the little handless Buddha (excuse the local phallic graffitti) but also a Badger Wood where he spotted a complete fossil of a clam over three inches in diameter. We found this at the end of the walk and to me it symbolises the scallop shell of St. James and pilgrimage. I like finding little talismans on walks. I have an astronaut on the moon in a piece of flint from a walk around Hilfield Friary last year. The visor on the space helmet even reflects the lunar landscape on this particular piece. What it means, I have no idea, but I like it and both talismans are carefully placed at home as a joyful reminder of a good day.
I love the stone carving in the above photograph. I love the serenity of his face even without his hand he is very still and calm. He seems to say, “Take care of your self. Love yourself, be gentle and kind to your self.” This is so important, for if we do such a thing we can then transfer that love of self to others. Christ teaches us this too. He said, “Love others as you love yourself.” We forget the love of self bit and run around for years doing “good” but forgetting the self love that is the foundation of true love of others. First things first. It has taken me a life time but I tell you there is so much freedom to be gained from true love of self. This is not selfishness – it is self care, as my brother Franciscan, Fr. David Bergdorf, drummed into me when I went to Assisi this summer.
Talking of Franciscanism, I have included the word fraudulent in the title. What is this? Well, it is something I have been thinking about a great deal recently. I work as a tutor at the most fabulous after school centre and I love it there immensely. Somehow, since I started, the work seems to have flowed very well and I have enjoyed teaching a wide range of subjects- all three sciences, maths, english, 11+ and early years. My students get on great and we all have a fabulous tutor/ student relationship. But I feel like a fraud! Why? you may well ask. Simply it is because before I go, on each and every day I am saying my Franciscan Office or some set of prayers and I offer up everything to Almighty God. I ask Him to help me, guide me and show me what is needed by everyone I work with and teach. I know for a fact I do not know what is needed by anyone I come into contact with. I might think I know based on my own superficial assessment but this is not the same as really knowing what is need by the ‘other’. For instance, how do we know what a particular student is going to do in life and what particular talent they have to offer the world? We do not know this important information – at best we offer a range of possibilities from which they can access something that approximates to the perfection that should be their destiny. At worst, we limit them and hem them in with turgid and unimaginative tasks that are far removed from what is truly important for the soul and being of that student.
Young people are treated like automatons these days – beings who are needed to fulfil some kind of job that is required to improve the economy of a country. There is very little scope for creativity, for just being, creating and doing whatever they feel moves them. It is a trashing of true talent and is the one reason why education is continually failing a large number of disillusioned young people. Here in Buckinghamshire, there is the 11+ that creams off the most intelligent who win a good education for passing a test at 11 years of age. So what about those who do not pass? If they have wealthy parents they may get a private education or after school tuition. If they are poor they have to find their way or get lost, stressed out and in some cases bullied and suicidal, or give up and become addicted or in trouble – eventually leading to possible prison. As a nation we should simply not accept this as the norm. It is a tragic waste of ability and talent and creativity all for the sake of some narrow view of what is intelligence and the converse which can only be fulfilled by some bog standard vocational training.
In all of this there is very little incorporation of the creative path. Music and art are the first casualties when budgets are cut. Yet is is these two subjects which are most needed to inspire and excite young people to see new possibilities in their lives. There is still some archaic notion in the country’s psyche that such things are irrelevant as they are not real work. In a way we are operating a kind of educational Animal Farm in Britain. I thinkl all young people deserve to have at the very least JOY in their education as a fundamental right and freedom to explore and learn what their unique talent is.
My fraudulence is my humility – I do not know what is best for anyone at any time, so for me I have to offer it up to God and to ask Him for help. He always answers and when I do and it always goes well and joy is a concomitant part of the process. Christ was truthful when He told us his yoke is light. The opposite of this is Ego and the thought that when we achieve anything it is because we are very clever and know best. We can see the fallacy of this when we find ourselves having to defend our actions and shore up our inconsistencies and errors to save face. It is the root of all warfare and suffering in the world and the reason why peace is unattainable through human thinking.
So long as I remember what a fraud I am and know that is is truly God that enables me to achieve anything useful, then all will progress well. When I cock up it is all muy own doing!