Friday, 26 August 2016

No Stone Unturned

The world we live in is wonderful. I am mean that in the literal meaning of the word, it is full of wonder. One of the unexpected delights of having my own children is that I get to relive the world again through their eyes. It's something I wasn't expecting. Life sparkles again.

A few weeks ago now when I was painting the garden fence Zach, my 18month old, was exploring the flower beds and searching under every stone in search of a woodlouse or two. It was fun to watch him trying to look under the rocks and, after he had done so, to bend down and stare intently at the creatures. Sadly for the invertebrates he discovered the staring soon turned into prodding and full on squashing; they didn't last much longer once that began. I didn't intervene, it was science after all, an experiment was taking place - if I squeeze, slime oozes forth... was the postulation of the day. I didn't want to stand in the way of discovery.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Happy to be a hobbit

I've come to see that much of my angst and anxiety about the future comes from an over inflated view of myself. There I've said it.

I've come to see that much of my pursuit of success is a lot more about a pursuit of personal acclaim than it is about success. Although it's true that I'm among the world's most privileged people and that I do have a responsibility to live conscientiously, much of my drive isn't as other-centred as I'd like people to think it is.

I have found that there is a lot of freedom and joy to be had in the concept behind the title of this blog. A hobbit knows his place in the world and isn't torn apart by aspirations. He is happy to let wizards be wizards and enjoy their company. A hobbit understands that dwarfs simply are the way they are, and there's nothing he can do to change it. Hobbits know that they cannot save the world, that they aren't as wise as wizards or as strong as men or as mysterious as elves (but they will save the world when called upon). They are creatures of duty and are in love with the small and simple pleasures in the world. In fact they recognise that there really are no small and simple pleasures in the world, and it's this that makes pleasures so well, pleasurable.

'I am, and I am not' and happiness comes from knowing exactly what I am and what I am not.

I am one human being in 7 billion. I am not more valuable or worthy than anyone else on the planet. I am loved by God as are everyone else. I am not entitled to happiness or health. I am the man my children call dad and I am looked to by them to be their dad. I am creating the men of the future by how I am a man to them. I am not able to be a perfect father. I am not full of patience and peace and my wisdom comes in fits and starts (and is more fitty than starty). I am not as useful as I think I am but neither am I as useless as I'd sometimes like to be or wish I was.

I could go on.

I am a lover of God and I have found my deepest satisfaction comes from him. I am not consistent with this discovery and I am still fond of wandering away from my Centre. I am not a hypocrite but I am inconsistent. I am addicted to approval and I am not cured of pursuing approval from others. I am prone to post things online that reveal this addiction and I am not even sure if this blog is not yet another one of those posts. I am needy for significance and I am made to feel significant by the love of those around me. Having said that, I am not satisfied by the praise of those closest to me since I know that I am made with cravings incapable of being satisfied outside of my creator.

I am happy to be a hobbit, but even that self-professed happiness might well be more of my saviour-complex by a humbler name.

In one of his parting letters an older man once wrote to his younger follower:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, 
I'm coming to learn that for myself. The great gain we all seek may look different from one another and we may believe it to be at the end of differing rainbows, but this man's advice is that what will set us in the right direction is simply this: honour God with contentment. Contentment is happy thankfulness for the present, and this comes from having a sober assessment of oneself ('for we brought nothing into the world...) and an understanding of the dangerous appetite of greed (those who desire to be rich fall). Honouring God flows out from the humility these realisations create.

Hence: I am and, I am not.

I am a member of the human race, a race marked out not by it's large neo-cortex or its capacity for abstract thought but a race endowed with image and likeness of God. I am a standard bearer for God by virtue of being human yet I am part of the broken race living east of Eden.

I am loved and I am not treated as my inherited and chosen sin deserves.

There is great gain in this. Great gain to be had in living here. Happy to be a hobbit.