Simon Willetts, Associate Vicar at St Peter’s Church Hambledon, contributed the Sunday Reflection this week.
During lockdown I have enjoyed watching what I believe to be a buzzard take its regular flight down the valley, over the village green and beyond. It never ceases to amaze me just how effortless, graceful and serene it looks as it soars.
Christian Celtic spirituality has a close relationship with nature. Spotting a bird of prey in flight was/is often interpreted as a positive vision for the future. A confirmation perhaps that the pilgrim is on the right path. It’s easy to see how the Celtic Christians came to these interpretations, imagine how far ahead you can see from the top of a thermal.
Whatever our belief or spirituality there is much that can be learnt as we reflect on these inspiring creatures.
One lesson our humble, Hambledon buzzard can teach us is found in the simplicity of its life. As serene as their flight might appear, as with all nature, life hangs in the balance. In the animal kingdom this balance rests upon the energy expended hunting for food vs the calories their prey provide in return. Buzzards spend much of their time perching, resting, conserving energy. Furthermore, like other birds of prey they use thermals to minimise the calories they burn whilst they hunt. Perhaps we might suggest they’re working smarter not harder. I was once challenged by a preacher who said – “life, its creativity, its productivity is normally best when we work from a place of rest rather than resting from a place of work.” The Hebrews understood this well; each day starts in the evening, with rest; the Sabbath is the first day of the week not the last! It is when we rest that we can reflect. Rest provides us with the headspace we need in order to hone our art, deepen our passions and develop our work.
For some C-19 has meant a change of pace. As I think about society before lockdown, my reflection is simply that we were a society that was driven, competitive, distracted and perhaps even hyperactive. None of these things are necessarily negative but I pause to think what adjectives I might use to describe my hope for the world going forward. Perhaps words like rest, relaxation, enjoying the company of others, peace, collaboration, might be included in such a list?
Where then does the balance lie? The economy of course needs to be rebuilt but to what end and at what cost? Will we simply return to making life evolve around money, ravaging the earth’s finite resources? Will our new identity be built simply on what we do? Or might we perhaps learn to enjoy the gift of the pause in our daily, weekly and annual living, so that we can value ourselves for who we are rather than by what we do. Will we continue to maintain and build on the community love and support so admirably lived out in the life of our village and beyond? Perhaps we can continue to value others for who they are not simply by what they do? It’s a cliche but after all we are human beings not human doings! Going forward might we be able to take the pressure off, to rest from our incessant productivity? Might we be more ready to stop and perch before we launch into our next flight?
Lockdown has given some in our global community the opportunity to think about what is truly important in life. Many social media posts have been posing succinct questions – what aspects of normal do we want to return to? Which aspects of normal do we wish not to return to?
Many scientists have been struck at just how quickly the ecology of the planet has shown early signs of recovery because humanity has had to pause its frenetic lifestyle. In our combat against the virus we have proven in part that humanity can pull together. So whilst the threat of the virus remains, we should be encouraged by the way in which many have sacrificed their own freedom and rallied to the cause. I see no reason therefore, why our sacrificial rallying needs to stop with the virus. Should not a positive vision for the future also address our other ‘global’ issues – ecology, racial injustice, human trafficking, abject poverty?
Perhaps the sign of the buzzard is that we could be on a positive path to a better future, perhaps if humanity could collaborate around issues such as these, we could even learn to soar.
May peace be with you and all whom you love.
Rev Simon Willetts