Last night we enjoyed a performance of Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream” in the picuresque gardens of local Hazlebury Manor, with some friends. The put a production on every year, and there is the opportunity for a picnic beforehand – this year accompanied by Morris Dancing. Happily the rain held off, although none of us were sunburned!
I think this play is one of the most enjoyable, with lots of humour. The “play within the play” was particularly well done, and the opening scene was a cricket match in Corsham (I'm still trying to work out which of our local woods is the magical one.)
Today I returned from a week of sailing off the west coast of Scotland. Excellent sailing weather (winds force 4 to 5, light cloud cover most of the time but only occasional rain); breathtaking scenery; great company.
Sailing with friends, we chartered the yacht from Portway at Craobh Marina south of Oban, and sailed anti-clockwise round Mull, with overnights at Tobermory, Bunessan and various picturesque lochs (Spelve and Craignish). Also passed through the Sound of Iona (which unfortunately was misty, spoiling views!) and visited the islands of Staffa (seeing Fingal's cave from the sea) and Lunga (famous for its bird colonies).
For more photos see my album and also Ken Boullier's blog. Ken has now finished a three month sabbatical, from his work as a parish priest, to gain his Yachtmaster ticket and to explore sailing a way of developing leadership skills and of spiritual retreat. I think he's on the right track!
I enjoyed watching the last episode of the current series of Dr Who on t.v. at the weekend. Mankind, trillions of years hence, finds a disappointing Utopia and then travels back through time to today to kill off its ancestors. (Doesn't that mean that they kill themselves too? That's the paradox.) For them, chasing the dream of Utopia did not work.
So I was surprisingly interested by a radio interview* I found myself listening to yesterday morning. According to philospoher John Gray, the idea of Utopia derives from the Christian Myth that there is a better life hereafter. He sees much death having come from attempts to create Utopia – for example by seeking to enforce a particular democratic vision of Utopia on the people of Iraq. He sees the Enlightenment, a secular movement, dangerously colluding with religion by continuing with the idea of Utopia, which he also sees in Marxism. Instead of Utopia, John advocates his version of Realism: working in the present with the reality that we discover. Fascinating stuff!
In the past there has been debate amongst Christians about whether we should be trying to create Utopia. The usual Christian language is about whether we seek to build God's kingdom now, or whether we don't bother with that because all this will be burned up anyway to be replaced by the “new heaven and new earth.” I believe that most Christians see a role in trying to improve the world we live in; but it seems that some are trying too hard by seeking to impose it on others.
All this misses out the perspective of the mystic (Christian and other). That perspective is less concerned with the future, and more concerned with attention to the present, and attention to God. The motto** “All is well” (from Julian of Norwich and others) encourages not the enforced change of others, but a desire to understand others. This sounds like John Gray's Realism to me. Maybe he is a modern mystic.
* BBC Radio 4 Start the Week with Andrew Marr 09:15 – interviewing John Gray with Eric Hobsbawm (historian) and Pat Barker (author). John's new book is Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death or Utopia (published by Allen Lane). For more detail see the review in The Independent.
**A quote from Anthony de Mello in his book Awareness.