Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

If you've stumbled upon here randomly, then I suggest you check out my biography and other pages.

Please Note: This site, and the social networking profile pages connected with it, reflect my personal interests & views which do not necessarily represent those of organisations I am affiliated / associated with.

18/01/2015

Lightening Our Being

I didn't go to church this morning, I didn't go to Meeting for Worship - I had intended to but around 2 to 3 inches of snow had fallen overnight and, having stepped out on to the driveway, I realised by the time I had cleared the car of its solid icy shell, I would have been very late. 

A good friend of mine, a fellow Christian, has often said in passing to me that the Quakers - the Religious Society of Friends as they are formally known - cannot be considered a church. I in turn counter that they are very much a church, citing various bits and pieces from Quaker literature, not least George Fox who proclaimed the church to be the people not the building. 

The reason I mention this is it points to a kind of malaise I have felt within me recently. A feeling that going to church, being involved in the keeping and building of a church, too often leads to these kind of notional conversations about authenticity. Yet the paradox, as I see it, is that such machinations can end up leading us away from authenticity - as we become too engrossed, too 'hyped up', in the politics of it all.

So, whilst I set out this morning with every intention to go to prayer and communion and confession and celebration - all the things Quakers do in the silence just as other Christians do in their structured services of sermons and hymns - I think I was in some ways looking for a way out, which the snow helpfully provided.

Instead I strolled up the road and through our village park - a humble park consisting of a football pitch, a children's play area and miniature skate park - passing by a young family at play, a giddy young dog bounding about on his owner's straining lead, a couple beginning a day's walking.  There is something about snowfall in this country, which happens randomly some years and some years not at all, that seems to bring out a playful present-mindedness amongst people. I wonder if, aside from the obvious opportunity for sledging and snowmen, it is also the temporary transformation of our familiar landscapes that awakens us from our distant, laden thoughts.

Leaving the park, I walked up over the bridge, pausing briefly to look at the old canal slumbering frozen-still beneath me, and then onwards to the local shop. I bought some lard, returning home by the same route to make some bird feed - again doing this in relative quiet. Snowflakes started to come again in fits and starts, and I kept an eye out through the back window on the odd robin, blue tit, crow and magpie taking their turns on the feeder.

The struggle for authenticity is, as I see it, at its most simple one in which we must try to live more presently, and more lovingly, in our environment. It also involves, to borrow on the Taoist concept of Wu-Wei, a level of 'going with the flow', rather than trying to force events and situations through frenetic thought and activity. We see this expressed poetically in the Tao Te Ching:

"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. 
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. 
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner, 
Do your work, then step back. 
The only path to serenity."

And:

"Close the mouth, 

Shut the doors,
Live without toil all through life.
Open the mouth,
Meddle in the affairs, 
Live without peace all through life."

There are Christian parallels to be found with this way of being, most famously in Matthew 6:25 - 6:27:

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?"

And in 1 Samuel 2:3:

“Talk no more so very proudly; 
Let no arrogance come from your mouth, 
For the Lord is the God of knowledge; 
And by Him actions are weighed." 

This is not an argument on my part for an uncaring ambivalence in the face of life's issues and difficulties - be they the church, be they societal, be they personal - but, as the Old Testament teaches us, there is a 'time for everything'.

Another Christian friend of mine, Margaret - an elderly Methodist lady with great faith who serves as a dedicated servant to Christian Aid, routinely announces in Autumn she will be 'hibernating' in January and February, withdrawing from engagement in committees, activism and the like. Although I have previously viewed this as a bit of a quirk, I can kind of see now her wisdom in practicing solitude and simplicity between the busy, ceremonial Christmas and Easter periods.

Finally, I wasn't just watching the birds today. I had the pleasure of our two young cats to keep me company (not forgetting my dear wife!) - this is their first winter as it happens and they have yet to be allowed outside. Early afternoon I caught Hobbes, our ginger tom, looking through the window at the snowflakes with an intense interest - completely in the moment and contented.


The scene reminded me of a passage by Catholic and Celtic Christian writer John O'Donohue which I happened upon a week or so ago:

Nearer to the earth's heart,
Deeper within its silence:
Animals know this world
In a way we never will.

We who are ever Distanced and distracted
By the parade of bright
Windows thought opens: 
Their seamless presence
Is not fractured thus. 

Stranded between time 
Gone and time emerging, 
We manage seldom 
To be where we are: 
Whereas they are always 
Looking out from 
The here and now. 

May we learn to return 
And rest in the beauty 
Of animal being, 
Learn to lean low, 
Leave our locked minds, 
And with freed senses 
Feel the earth 
Breathing with us.

May we enter 
Into lightness of spirit, 
And slip frequently into 
The feel of the wild. 

Let the clear silence 
Of our animal being 
Cleanse our hearts 
Of corrosive words. 

May we learn to walk 
Upon the earth 
With all their confidence 
And clear-eyed stillness 
So that our minds 
Might be baptised 
In the name of the wind 
And light and the rain.

May we all re-find a simple authenticity at this time of year. Amen.

08/01/2015

They came for the Cartoonists

This is a quickly put together entry to the blog tonight, in response to the shootings in Paris.

I was unfamiliar with the French publication Charlie Hebdo until terrorists entered their offices yesterday, having shot dead in cold blood, amongst others, a police officer named after the very religious figure they were claiming to protect. They entered the building not on a frenzied rampage, but with what seems to be the cold, calculated intent of an assassin. They summoned their targets by name and sentenced each to death. In doing so, they became not God's righteous anger, rather Satan manifest.

As any regular reader of this blog will know, I consider myself a committed Christian. This is my first and foremost religious identity - although I would then qualify that with terms like Unitarian, Quaker, Non-Subscribing, Liberal, Progressive and Free. 

As a Christian, I accept Christ as a prime archetype and arbiter in my life - or at least I try to. I suppose, if I use evangelical-speak, I love Jesus. I love his teachings and example as found in the Bible and other non-canonical scripture, I love the works upon works that he has seeded over the centuries, I love - admittedly, on rare occasion - that mystical, immanent experience of Christ being somehow with me when I happen upon a 'thin place'. I am instinctively inclined, therefore, to feel defensive of Jesus because I have this attachment, one that is as much emotional (if not more so) as it is rational.

I have looked at a smattering of the Charlie Hebdo output and, I have to say, I greet some of it with a wry smile:
"Unhook me, I want to vote!"

"Bin Laden is alive!"

And some of it I look upon with disapproval - something like a frown, a roll of the eyes, a sigh and a huff:
“The true story of the baby Jesus... What your pastor never dared tell you is finally revealed in this new Gospel according to Riss [the cartoonist]. Because did you know that the Baby Jesus was a child of sin, scourge of dragons, sandpit faith-healer, child-killer, blinder of men, hyperactive child-king, tormentor of his teachers, and apprentice prophet?”


"Cardinal Vingt-Trois has three fathers..." (a response to opposition to gay marriage led by the Archbishop of Paris)

I realise this publication is deliberately trying to provoke a reaction, so even the most shocking images I can tolerate and feel no pressing need to respond to with out-and-out protest. However, in terms of deliberately provoking reaction, if publications or other forms of media and art do choose to engage in this strategy, they have to accept that the offended may respond more passionately than I.

After all, the right to provoke includes the right to respond. But this all must take place within a liberal democratic framework. So any response generally takes the form of letter writing, maybe a picket outside of the headquarters or venue from which the provocation is emanating, maybe a boycott of products - maybe, quite simply, a blunt exchange of words, a guttural shout with an accidental spray of spit lacking any of that middle-class etiquette we tend to insist upon, even when at our most heartfelt.

All of this falls under our shared right to freedom of expression. The same freedom of expression that allows Christians to worship in their churches, chapels and meetings houses. The same freedom of expression that allows Muslims to worship in their mosques. And so, as a lover of Jesus who wishes to express such love, I inevitably share the same platform as the apparently 'anti-Christian' cartoonists who wish to mock, undermine, misrepresent and slander Jesus.

This is why, on the drive to work this morning, quite casually tuning into BBC Radio 4's Today programme and hearing a reporter state this was a tension between freedom of expression and freedom of religion, I felt a sudden surge of indignation.

How have we backed ourselves into this corner? Why are we allowing this narrative to persist, that somehow one person's doodles can impede another person's faith - with the subtext following, admittedly in the shadows, that Charlie Hebdo brought this horror upon themselves? Do we really believe this, or are we trying to take a sophisticated, intellectual position to disguise our base fear in the face of a determined enemy?

And as we have seen with today's British media, we are running scaredUnlike our continental European neighbours, unlike some Australian publishers - not one major British outlet has published any of the Prophet Mohammed related cartoons. I understand this, I too feel scared. Having imagined a man in a balaclava tracking me down and bursting into my house, I initially refrained from publishing on this blog the ever-so insightful Charlie Hebdo cartoon where a soldier of the ISIS / Al-Qaeda death cult (a cult given a good debunking by Hussein Ibish on BookForum) is beheading the very prophet they claim to defend with the tagline,

"I'm the prophet, idiot!" 

"Die, infidel!"

Is this not the crux of the matter in one cartoon - that these movements in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are much more about a desperately-corrupt attempt to exert power than any religious commitment. It is no wonder then that the major Western recruiting ground for the ISIL cause is said to be the gangs of downtrodden estates.

But this does not mean we can say ordinary, everyday Muslims have no responsibility - just as we non-muslims cannot wash our hands completely. David Aaronovitch writes in The Times today that a mix of Muslim pressure for blasphemy laws mixed with a more general misplaced interpretation of multiculturalism - and a fear for our personal safety and those we hold dear - has indirectly contributed to yesterday's crimes. The article itself is behind a paywall, as is all content for The Times, but here is a snippet:

"The problem is, you may think, that even though the vast majority of Muslims would no more kill a cartoonist than a Methodist would, they still don't quite get our freedom of speech. When they complain about insults and say they're angry about this or that being published and want it banned, then they create the permissive fluid in which the violent zealot swims.

So we need to be clear, for everyone's sake, and at the moment we are anything but. This is this deal for living together. The same tolerance that allows Muslims or Methodists freedom to practice and espouse their religion is the same tolerance that allows their religion or any aspect of it to be ridiculed. Take away one part of the deal and the other part falls too. You live here, that's what you agree to. You don't like it, go somewhere else.

The countries of Europe need the same glacial clarity that governs free speech in America. There shall be no law (or action) that abridges the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble and to petition for redress.

And there's something else we need to do. A reason why Charlie Hebdo could be singled out for attack is because the rest of us have been cowards. There should, of course, be satires on Islam as on Christianity as on capitalism as on Russell Brand. But there aren't. Part of this is because of a misplaced decency ("why make people feel uncomfortable?") but most of it is fear."

In this sense, Huffington Post columnist Adam Wagner is right - we are not all Charlie.

I do not wish for people to go around gratuitously hurting the feelings of my Muslim neighbours. But New York Times columnist Ross Douthat sets a challenge which cannot be ignored when he argues that - as a citizen of a liberal democracy, as someone who cherishes my own right to a particular form of expression - I do have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the man or woman I call blasphemer

We're all blasphemers now.


05/01/2015

Journeying with the Magi

Below is the third church service I have ever taken. All of three of these have taken place at Oldham Unitarian Chapel. I indebted to this community for providing me with this opportunity. The people at Oldham are friendly, thoughtful and down-to-earth - and they genuinely care for one another. This is, in part, a testament to the devoted leadership provided by Reverend Bob Pounder.

I am also grateful to the initial Worship Studies Course I undertook, facilitated by Sue Woolley on behalf of the Midland Unitarian Association.

Alongside the Biblical reading, Matthew Chapter 2, we used the reading 'Melachi of Babylon, An Astronomer, on The Miracles of Jesus'. This is taken from 'Jesus the Son of Man', a beautiful book by Kahlil Gibran. 

I also used the following video:



Funnily enough, all three services had some Quaker content - this has not been contrived, it tends to just 'sneak in' as I prepare a service.

~~~~

Friends, as we come to the time in the Christian year we call Epiphany and embark on the new calendar year, I would like us to come together to reflect on ‘The Journey of the Magi’ – sometimes called the story of the wise men or three kings – as found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2.

 ~

But before we do this, I want to say something about the Bible, from which we take the reading. Recently, I was asked by a friend – on discovering that I was a Christian – “What do you think about the Bible?”

It was one of those questions – the ones mixed with genuine curiosity but also tinged with a kind of apprehension. The question was quickly followed by, “Because you do know it’s full of historical inaccuracies right?”

It kind of caught me off guard, leaving me wishing I had said this, not said that and so on.

However, what I did say was this: If I want to find out about history, I wouldn't look to the Bible. Yes, it’s tied to the story of the ancient peoples of the Middle East - but it cannot be taken literally.

I followed this by drawing on what Reverend Bob Pounder has said to me before. The Bible finds its real power in its so-called messiness – as the fruit of around 3,500 years of human experience, prayer and conversation about the meaning of life. The Bible is in essence, the ‘yearning of the human soul for something greater’,

From there, I added, that in the New Testament, in the stories of Jesus, we can find its pinnacle – a compelling answer to such yearning.

This kind of conversation could have perhaps taken all day but it moved on from there and we spoke about Oldham Unitarian Chapel and the support you have given to me in taking the pulpit. I must thank you again for this opportunity.

I recognise friends in this room today may have answered differently to my friend's question – this is, after all, what makes us Free Christians - but I thought I would mention it, to hopefully give you an insight into my approach before exploring Matthew Chapter 2.

~

So, having said this, let us now move to today’s main reading, Chapter 2 from the Gospel of Matthew – the Journey of the Magi – as a reflection ahead of the year, as we look forward to another stage in each of our journeys.

Matthew 2 – preceded by a genealogy to show his apparent connections to Abraham and David – is very much part of a deliberate introduction to the story of the adult Jesus that is to come. Matthew 2 begins with a group of seekers travelling to Jerusalem from ‘the East’, asking:

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

It is worth noting that although Western tradition has tended to speak of three wise men, based on the three gifts which were given to the baby Jesus, the number of seekers is not stated in Scripture – nor is the time period between Jesus’s birth and the visit, nor are they all necessarily male. Perhaps these blank spaces are deliberate, left for us to place ourselves there?

What we can say is the group were likely to be people with some religious learning – based on the etymology of the word ‘magi’ – and they were probably from somewhere around what we now call Iran. It is also worth noting that they are not Jewish and likely hail from another significant civilisation. From the start of the Gospel of Matthew, we are given clear indication Jesus is a universal leader, teacher and saviour.

The star, which we are told they followed, is also deeply symbolic. It is tied with wider beliefs held by the ancient peoples of the Middle East, both Jews and Romans, of stars foretelling events on earth. It is also simply, a representation of light breaking through darkness.

In piecing all of this together, we can draw upon our own experience today. We too are seekers gathered together on a journey. We too have had a glimpse of light, of something greater than ourselves, and by coming here today; we too are actively seeking to move closer to it.

Yet just like the magi - travelling across thousands of miles of the mountainous, rugged and somewhat inhospitable terrain of the Middle East - this journey of discovery is not easy.

The destination is not necessarily obvious either - the seekers go to majestic Jerusalem, a holy city, yet Jesus is elsewhere in lowly Bethlehem.

In our own spiritual journeys - the years gone by and the years which hopefully lie ahead - it is likely there will be times when the light we perceive is greater than other times.

It does not follow either that the presence of light coincides with times of contentment and stability, in the most obvious of places. Indeed it is often in the trials, on the steepest cliffs and in the most shrouded of valleys, that we suddenly hit a moment of clarity in which the light becomes brighter. Certainly that is my experience.

And following this line of thought further, it is no surprise to me that the people I have met in life who seem the most empathetic, the most insightful, the most wise – in both a worldly sense and a spiritual sense - are more often than not those who have experienced failure, tragedy, depression – and have somehow come out of the other end.

~

Having arrived at Jerusalem, seeking the Messiah, we then read in Matthew Chapter 2,

“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Herod the Great is a historical figure – he was a Roman client king, with a reputation as a cruel tyrant. Clearly he would be disturbed by such news of a coming king.

And, I should say at this point, there is a political interpretation we could follow – using the social gospel approach, but today I want us to remain focused on the more personal truths found in the story.

Herod, I propose, can be viewed as an aspect of the human psyche. Herod is a representation of lust, greed, envy, anger and pride. Herod represents those states of mind and heart we are prone to, which we sometimes act out on ourselves on one another. So in this sense, to us as seekers, Herod is a very real presence in our lives today.

Herod says to the Magi, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Again, alongside political interpretations, what can we draw from this on a personal level? It seems to me that here we are being given insight into a further attribute of the Herod condition; self-deception.

There is a famous line in the film, ‘The Usual Suspects’ – a story about a Machiavellian crime overlord – that goes as follows, “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

Our very own Herod is like this – it is that voice within the ego that convinces us the bad we are doing is somehow necessary, the bad we are doing is not actually our fault, the bad we are doing is actually good if only you look at it from a particular point of view. Herod pretends to kneel, but in fact stands in the way between ourselves and each other, the Christ-child within us, and a life in-tune with God.

The spiritual journey, I propose, involves a conscientious decision to constantly, relentless - and often painfully - face up to the inner Herod.

The story also says that ‘all Jerusalem’ was disturbed with Herod at the news of Christ’s coming. It is only a small phrase, something we might overlook, but maybe what we are being given forewarning of is the way humans tend to conduct themselves en masse - that in confronting Herod, we potentially face a kind of isolation from our families, our friends, our colleagues and so on.

This is why we need to come together, in an inspirational, honest and caring community like we have here in Oldham.

Just as the magi travel together, so must we.

~

Having spoken with Herod, the story goes that the magi received prophecy and journeyed onwards to Bethlehem.

“The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

I have spoken much today of the trials of the spiritual quest, but there is a promise here also – there is something to aim for that will bring great joy.

What lies beneath the star is that great joy, manifested in the baby Jesus – on meeting him, we hear that the seekers from the East “bowed down and worshipped him.”

It is worth noting that in the Middle East at the time of Jesus, there were many faiths rubbing alongside each other. The seekers would have likely encountered Greek philosophy, Roman folk religion, Zoroastrianism, perhaps even Buddhism. There are many stars, many traces of light to follow. They had a choice. In many ways the same as we do today.

To draw on what Reverend Bob Pounder has taught me again, there comes a decision point when we have to ask ourselves, “Are we for Christ or not?” It is often said by religious liberals that there are many paths up the mountain - I include myself in this. But what we tend not to say is that at some point we have to commit to one of those paths. Again, this is certainly my own experience – that to really grow spiritually, we need to find a way that speaks to us, and patiently commit to it. This is not a call for the closed-mindedness to other faiths, but a call for courage and diligence in finding a direction.

There is much discussion out there about the symbolism of the gifts the magi bring to Jesus, and we could have a sermon entirely on this. One reading is that gold represents earthly wealth, frankincense represents spiritual power and then we have myrrh – almost as a punch line - which represents death.

We can map the connections with the wider story of Jesus but if we are talking about our own personal commitment, maybe again we are being given a forewarning in these introductory passages to Matthew, a heads up if you will, of what we are each asked to give up by choosing the way of Jesus.

In the spiritual quest we are required, yes, to give up our time, effort and money.

We are also required to wholly commit our hearts and minds to a spiritual master.

And, in doing so, to draw on that famous Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote, we are 'bid to come and die', to die to our old self.

Quite pointedly, Matthew 2 finishes with, “they returned to their country by another route.”

The magi, it seems, were forever changed by their meeting with the Christ-child, they avoided Herod and returned to home, to everyday life, by a different way – as witnesses to a different reality.

Friends, in the New Year that lies before us,

let us seek the light,

let us support one another in our journeys,

let us carefully commit to a path,

let us taste the fruit of a life nearer to Christ.

Amen.

02/01/2015

A Time For Everything

'Father Time reaps the fairies' - from German folklore
Source: www.oneletterwords.com

The Quakers have historically held a belief against holy times and seasons, including not celebrating Christmas, putting forth the very reasonable case that all time given to us is precious, is to be treated as holy.

My understanding is this Quaker position emerged out of the wider radical protestant trend within the 17th century, a puritanical reaction against the perceived pagan and Roman Catholic roots of key Christian festivals - and the critique that during such times there was a tendency to engage in wasteful merriment on the one hand, and very public yet superficial acts of worship on the other. The commonly held narrative is Oliver Cromwell singlehandedly cancelled Christmas in the 1640s but it was in fact a much more collective act than that, involving parliament and the predominant churches of the time. The re-emergence of public Christmas festivities came largely with the restoration of the monarchy.

The reason I want to make note of this now, as we leave Christmas behind us and look ahead to the New Year, is largely due to my encounter a few days ago with the following post to a Unitarian group on Facebook:

"I lost my 5-year-old granddaughter in a car accident on Christmas Eve. She was a joyful little girl, full of wonder and mischief. She was the one I had to keep away from some of my stuff because she would dissect it. She was the one that would tell you just how things needed to be, in her 5-year-old wisdom. And I will miss her dearly. My life won't ever be quite the same without her in it. But I'm thankful she was here for the time she was.

I do believe that she has somehow gone into the mysterious reality that I call God - the source, sustainer, and retainer of life. But while I appreciate all the condolences that my friends and relatives are offering at this time, I don't believe she is floating around in heaven, wearing wings, or sitting in Jesus' lap. Wherever she is, all I can hope for is that her consciousness does rest in peace. I hope that for everyone. 

This has been a good, but painful, test in my loss of the Christian paradigm. I don't know if she ever accepted Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior or not. I don't know if she was ever baptized to wash away her Original Sin. I don't care. I don't think God does either. I don't believe God is "in control" and caused the car accident that took her life. And none of the prayers that people offer lessen my own pain and loss. They just don't. Nothing will "fix" this. That is, to me, what makes Moriah's life so precious. I do hope that somehow, someway, somewhere I will meet her again. I don't limit what our Creator can do. For now, I will carry her memory in my heart. And I'm so glad that I got to know her. I believe she is with God, but that is because God is love, not because she was a Christian."

My friend in faith also shared a picture of the granddaughter lost on Christmas Eve - she was a truly beautiful, joyful looking little girl. My heart goes out to her family - I am leading a service at Oldham Unitarian Chapel this coming Sunday and have included them in our collective act of prayer.

As it happens, whilst this family across the world were entering hell on Christmas Eve, I was out busily getting some last-minute gifts and bumped into a close friend, walking tearfully in the pouring rain. They too were encountering a hell under different circumstances - made all the worse by the time of year.

It seems to me that we all need to be mindful of the kind of tyranny that Christmas continues to have upon us all. We all live under an expectation that this time of year is unfailingly much more joyful, much more holy, than other times. Yet for so many people life is marching on regardless, in the same relentless manner as it did for the previous twelve months - with all its mix of human events and experiences, good and bad.

I have often tried to be mindful of this, mainly as a result of my experience working with those young people in schools who are going through hellish times, whilst the rest of the community are singing carols, rehearsing nativity plays and gossiping about all the presents they are due to get (often exaggerated). 

The same goes for times like Mother's Day and Father's Day - just this past year I sat at a dinner table as the discussion sleepwalked into what various people did to treat their mother or grandmother for Mother's Day at the weekend just gone. I sat casually listening in, suddenly becoming aware one of the members of the group was quite visibly wilting. As we all should have known, our friend had given no gifts, having come from an abusive background and having had to live separately from their family from a young age - spending most of their childhood in state care homes.

I am not certainly advocating a return to 17th century puritanism. I happen to think, as much as we can say every single day should be treated as holy, we humans simply can't live up to that standard - we get caught up in the drudgery too easily. And because of this, we need our festivals and feast days, our sabbaths, to find moments of rest and reflection, to rekindle our sense of holiness and to practise living more appreciatively.

I suppose all I am really saying is, as we look to the days ahead in 2015 - as we ready ourselves to conform to another calendar of pre-ordained ordinary days interspersed by designated special days - that we do at least try to be more awake, more responsive, to the ongoing holiness and the ongoing hardship always around us. 

Let us travel hopefully, together.