It’s Time for a Rethink
From MAGGIE STRINGER… a thought-provoking piece for all of us who just want things to get back to normal
It’s the second full week in January 2021, it’s a bit warmer today than yesterday, the sky is around 20 shades of grey, that is ten shades less than yesterday, and the consequences of the Covid pandemic continue to challenge the scientific community and further confuse the desperate politicians in their decision-non-decision-another-decision routine that flows out of Whitehall.
For those of us living here in Pembrokeshire, we simply add to the Whitehall list of confusing changing rules of conduct, all adjustments and recommendations identified as essential for Welsh survival by the Welsh Senate in order to get our final list of instructions for continuing to exist! It’s really not that surprising to me that certain UK citizens have given up trying to follow the rules. Instead, let’s all stay at home – just for a change.
Tolstoy wrote many wise words in his novels including this poignant statement: ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself (sic).’
Isn’t that precisely what we need to be reminded of and reflecting upon right now in early 2021? The shocking reality facing everyone is that the fundamental nature of what we have come to expect and experience, as individuals who live alongside others in a variety of communities, no longer exists. We are required to follow social distancing guidelines that prevent the welcoming handshake, the friendly hug, the loving kiss from all who are not in the permitted social bubble or family unit, up to six members.
These restrictions on how we express our feelings, our connectedness with each other are completely alien to who we are as human beings. No wonder there is discontent and the breaking of rules. Physical human contact, the sense of touch, is the first sense by which we experience a feeling of being loved and wanted at birth.
When this sense is restricted and indeed removed from our interactions with each other, it’s equivalent to loosening the ship’s mooring so that it drifts away from the safe haven. And when people are set adrift from their expectations, when they lose their moorings and find they are without instructions that make sense or a compass to help them navigate through the days ahead, life can seem totally meaningless and pointless. No wonder there’s an increase in mental health difficulties.
But let us stop and take note of another wise saying about this world, this time from that incredible genius Albert Einstein. He said: ‘The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.’
The message being spread loud and clear by this pernicious Covid virus is that human beings have got to rethink the way we have been treating the world. It is time to rethink the way we behave in relation to one another. It is time to review how we human beings both as individual women and men and as political and financial leaders have abused and continue to abuse that most precious sense of touch. From the moment of birth, we long to receive the warmth of safe hands around us, yet those same hands can beat and brutalise a child or a mother or father. Those same hands can touch a button that releases excruciating pain and agony thousands of miles away from the control console with napalm bombs.
If nothing else, surely the presence of Covid-19 in our midst can be a catalyst to stimulate the leaders of the nations to rethink how we are behaving in the world? It can be a catalyst for all of us at the grass roots level to start rethinking how to encourage one another to value Life. A gentle walk with eyes open to see what is around us, whether we be in the streets of an urban environment or in a rural context, can open up the possibility of seeing our surroundings in a completely different way. It can also open the possibility of thinking differently, especially when we have an unexpected encounter with a robin or other creature wending its way through life.
I hope these few musings might act as a trigger for your continued thinking, reflections in an effort to realise some honest change. However, I think this poem by Roy Bennett is an authentic prompt to help us change our thinking for the benefit of our future world:
Don’t just learn, experience.
Don’t just read, absorb.
Don’t just change, transform.
Don’t just relate, advocate.
Don’t just promise, prove.
Don’t just criticise, encourage.
Don’t just think, ponder.
Don’t just take, give.
Don’t just see, feel.
Don’t just dream, do.
Don’t just hear, listen.
Don’t just talk, act.
Don’t just tell, show.
Don’t just exist, live.
The beginning of Maggie’s professional life was spent teaching teenagers who had rebelled against the educational treadmill. She also ran adult education courses in psychology and sociology and later was involved in adult literacy and numeracy provision. After training, she entered the Methodist ministry, working with different congregations including six years in Bolivia. On returning to the UK, she was the Methodist chaplain at the University of Sheffield. Maggie is retired from full-time ministry and enjoys sharing spirituality with the Society of Friends in St Davids and Goodwick.