We’re gently taking this season back with a tiny movement in our small corner… #adventwithme
It’s been really encouraging and provocative to discover the ways that people have responded to the invitation to Advent With Me and the momentum that has gathered online, but more importantly in people’s routines and lives in the last six days.
For me I’m carrying this tension of overwhelmedness at work and the juggling of my time with this sincere desire and commitment to enjoy and cherish this season and discover and recover myself. Less TV is good, already I am more tuned in to how things feel, taste, smell and sound and what nurture and challenge there has been looks a little bit like this…
I’ve been moved to tears on the bus more than once this last week by Caitlin Moran who writes about poverty with such a connectedness to people as well as the problem of distance between those who aren’t poor and those who are:
All through history, those who can’t earn money have had to rely on mercy; fearful, changeable mercy, that can dissolve overnight if circmstances change, or opinions alter. Parish handouts, workhouses, almshouses – ad hoc, makeshift solutions that make the helpless constantly re-audition in front of their benefactors exhaustingly trying to re-invoke pity for a lifetime of bread and cheese. That’s why the invention of the Welfare State is one of the most glorious events in history…Something not fearful or changeable, like mercy, but certain and constant…A system that allows dignity and certainty to lives otherwise chaotic with poverty and illness. – Unlike Most of the Coalition, I Was Raised on Benefits, Caitlin Moran, Moranthology 2012
Bang smack into the first week of Advent local Belfast dwellers and Northern Irish/Irish folk were hit up with headlines and roaring helicopters heralding riots, violence and traffic disruptions in December. Most comments I heard from both sides of the community were appalled and distressed at the ‘behaviour’ of many and when you are trying to lead a retreat from mainstream December culture and a withdrawal to something more embodied and real this episode feels like no coincidence and impossible not to ponder the timeliness of the #flegs issue in Belfast. This is a time in the comfortable West when people are feeling screwed over, poor and fearful about the future, it is horribly simplistic to make a sweeping generalisation but it seems Monday’s protest was a microcosm for a community of the broader human dilemmas at this time; where things are less certain, people feel lonely, lost, forgotten and desperate for recognition. I’ll be the first to criticise and condemm the behaviour and the ‘triviality’ (this is funny) of the concerns about flags in the wider context but I’m not stupid or insensitive enough to ignore the significance of loss and change for some people in my local community. So, for Advent With Me in our attempts to nourish our body-selves we have to think of the deprivation, loss and mal-mourishment of communities in whatever form that takes. We can’t create a hierachy of suffering, because whatever the manifestation, suffering and vulnerability looks like violence, poverty, brokeness and fear.
And so, in speaking of loss, I was incredibly moved and inspired by the beauty of Kelley Nikondeha’s Advent Ache :
This Advent I stand in the ancient tradition of lament and longing as my insides churn at the not-yetness of it all. I wrestle with the unknown, unanswered and misunderstood things as I light the purple candle. I confess the great ache of incompletion.
I’ve been challenged by the ethcial purchasing and revolution of my friend Ruari who is shopping locally for Ireland, from Ireland, in Ireland, has stopped using known tax dodging firms, searches high and low in second hand shops for a winter coat and is avoiding the city centre to buy Christmas gifts handmade locally. I’m challenged at the potential power of everyone putting their purchasing & investing choices locally but more importantly provoked into knowing this is something I don’t feel ready to do yet…
So this season, full of hope, expectations and a desire to be counter-cultural will not go the way we dreamed, full of peace, quiet reading hours, frosty morning runs – their will be an ache, loss, collusion with unjust economic systems; but I’m grateful for we small people in our small spaces going without our music & TV, taking time to run, stitch, plunge our hands into the ground – if we can re-member our bodies we are doing more than gorging on food and drink, noise and busying ourselves with everything that wants to draw us away from ourselves and each other.
Take time: feel your fingers, toes, eyelashes and tongue. Grieve with tears, a heavy heart and adrenalin. Move your body to purchase in places that aren’t so accessible; run or walk your warm body through the cold, wet air and breathe in the universe and our Creator.
Continue blogging, tweeting and participating #adventwith me – it’s so encouraging