Summer Solstice: Landscapes Inner & Outer – 21/06/20

Hello everybody and welcome to this week’s podcasted Sunday Message, for our Kensington Unitarians community and for friends the world over. Here in the northern hemisphere we’ve reached the summer solstice, some communities will be marking midsummer’s day with bonfires and festivities in the days ahead, and many of us are noticing how long the daylight lasts, how early the dawn arrives and how late the sun sets. Like most living creatures light is so important to us humans isn’t it. We keenly notice its presence … and its absence.

Our opening chant was written and performed for us by our friend Corrina Dolso and its title Seekers of the Light appropriately fits our theme today. Here are the words if you’d like to listen to it again and sing along:

Peace be with you
Love be near you
Seekers of the light
Hold us in it
Safely we sit
Always in your sight.

Thanks to Corrina and Abby for their music beginning and ending our message today and to our trustee Harold Lorenzelli for today’s thoughts on memory and its place in our inner landscape.

So let us sit, or stand or lie down, however is most comfortable for us to create the next 15 minutes or so as a sacred time and space for us, a chance for reflection on our inner and outer landscapes. Each Sunday I light our Unitarian chalice flame and I know some of you light a candle too, or imagine a shining light. I often think of the chalice flame as a beacon shining out, letting people know that they are welcome in our community of the spirit. Let’s take a moment to think about a welcome in life that is there for us and for others – just as we are, no need to keep up appearances or pretend to be something we’re not.

And as we imagine what it is to be welcomed just as we are, let’s also consider how we might be more open-heartedly welcoming to others in life, – are there communities or individuals we could seek to understand better, that we could move towards rather than away from – even in our thinking, if we are still keeping a physical distance in these coronavirus-aware times we are living in.

And let’s take that idea of welcome into a time of reflection and prayer calling upon the divine spirit of life and love to be with us now and to bless all that we say and do this day.

Let us pray for all those who are shunned too often in society – the homeless, those who are addicted to drugs legal and illegal, those who are unwell, those who are ‘different’. Let each of us seek ways to move towards those who are different from us, rather than away from them. Let each of us seek information and education to help us better understand difference.

May we find ways to understand and overcome our fears and uncertainties, for we are living in uncertain times, times that call for our courage and resolve. May we discover new ways to strengthen our sense of inner security, our rock-like foundations of love and compassion that will help us find our sure pathway in times of challenge.

May we be gentle with ourselves and one another in these times, accepting the failures of others as well as our own, knowing that mistakes and wrong steps are all part of what it is to be human.

May we remember to live for others as well as for ourselves, playing our part in the great task that lies ahead, of ensuring the long-term viability of life here on earth.

Let us kindle the light of active hope within our hearts that we might live sustainably and compassionately here on earth and bring about the needed transformations in human society and ways of being that truly can ensure a future for all beings.

And in a few moments of shared stillness I invite you to speak the prayers of your heart this day ….

And may our care and concern bring the nourishment of love so needed by us all this day and all days, and let us say together, we seekers of the light, that ancient word of affirmation … amen.

Harold: Hello everyone and welcome. In this world of reduced horizons we have all been challenged to find new ways of doing things, whether it be the weekly shop or maintaining contact with our nearest and dearest. The outer landscape has shrunk somewhat in certain areas and expanded in others. Spring never seemed so vibrant as it has done these last few weeks and even I with the palest shade of green fingers have rediscovered the delight of watching things grow. That was a real surprise for me.

At the same time the inner landscape has by contrast increased in intensity. By that I mean we have all been drawn to reflect more than usual as events have overtaken our familiar world of habit and customary pursuits. Where previously the world around me with its distractions and diversions has occupied much of my waking hours, I have found myself increasingly drawn into the web of memory and recollection. These journeys have been at times voluntary and at others involuntary. It’s not always predictable when the mind will assert its capacity for drawing us into that realm of experiences hidden deep inside us, stored up and, but for the want of time, waiting to be explored. Such memories are held in the recesses of our minds, by turns tenuous, waiting to be recalled, and at others insistent, clamouring at the gates that separate the inner from the outer world. Of course the hard-headed realist tells me it’s all just a rather complicated set of chemical formulae… but biology cannot explain the essential mystery that remains. It is, for many of us, the eighth wonder of the world.

Of course the memories garnered from experience are not always pleasant but the miracle remains….and why are some recollections garnered and others dispatched to oblivion? Why are some of us better at it than others? Whatever the case, they are unique to us, as individual as a fingerprint, an often indelible record of our personal journey. Perhaps the most amazing of all are those memories that surge up unbidden. They may be triggered by some stimulus in the present moment, the scent of hyacinth blooms, a distant landscape, a musical phrase. Yet oftener than not they flood into our conscious mind and assert themselves over the dominion of the eternal present, shedding, as the song goes, lovely light on things forgotten. Then we are plunged for a few moments into a world where the present and the past are fused in some new-fashioned inner space where time stands still as we savour for a few precious moments the ineffable bliss of being suspended out of time’s reach, in a world of our own making, a world of experience freed from the constraints of time, that great thief of our days. Brief it may be but to be relished nonetheless.

Some may see it as an escape, a wanton neglect of the material world that dominates our days, a detachment from the here and now, that world of timetables and agendas, of deadlines and demands on our time. Yet I maintain that this moment when mind holds sway for a few moments over matter is as valid and as necessary as the need to grapple with the nagging demands of the day. The inner landscape is where the ebb and flow of memory can assert itself…an intrinsic part of who we have been and who we are.

Let me remind you of what a famous novelist once said. The Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez described our lives not as the one we have lived but the one we remember. By that he was expressing what he saw as the supremacy of the subjective experience. In rescuing our memories we reaffirm who we are, we reclaim ourselves, living both in the moment yet strangely outside the moment and linked with all that we have ever been. In this way we can appreciate the continuous thread of existence that gives us our identity. Time present and time past become as one. In recall, we reaffirm ourselves. We become linked in a chain of being nourished by what we have been and what we are becoming. Memory is an act of creation and recreation….and the key to it all lies in that rich chamber of reflection we call the mind.

A famous French philosopher once said that all human unhappiness stems from the fact that we are incapable as human beings of sitting alone quietly in a room. We fill our lives with activity, forever reaching outward and ignoring the fund of experience that lies within us. By neglecting that fund of memories we deny the richness of our humanity. It’s even possible that within us we have stored up enough material for several lifetimes. We each of us have been given a chance to explore that inner landscape. So next time someone accuses you of daydreaming, don’t for a moment feel guilty about how you are using your time and remind them of that song I sometimes sing at church which goes like this…..’Memory, hither come and tune your merry notes. And while upon the wind your music floats, I’ll call upon the stream where sighing lovers dream and fish for fancies as they pass within the watery glass’. I wish you a happy journey, my friends.

Closing Blessing:

And so I extinguish our chalice flame but not
The warmth of our community,
Nor the spirit of love that connects us one with another,
Nor the fire of commitment that burns within us and fuels our work of justice -seeking out in the world.
And may the light of hope shine upon the landscapes of our lives both inner and outer in the week ahead, guiding our steps, marking our journey’s path; amen, go well everyone and blessed be.

21st June 2020

Harold Lorenzelli and Sarah Tinker