OLD NOTEBOOKS: In the midst of my contemplation of this Chinese Buddha, along comes an image that becomes a memory; it’s all these objects of reverence and holy things that seem to clutter this central object of focus, the continous chanting by Buddhists from all countries and dressed in different kinds of costumes with bells and accessories, and accouterments… and my own sense of reverence.
When I was a young guy I stayed with an Anglican priest in a Victorian vicarage until I could find my own place. It was my first job, supply teacher in a rough high school in East London, just before Christmas and I hadn’t really thought about it, coming from the far North East, a heritage of strong whisky, fishing boats in the North Sea and gales. Christmas wasn’t meaningful there.
By comparison, everything in London seemed soft and gentle, small wrapped gifts from everyone and I was opening them in my room, when the Church bells suddenly start ringing, it was a collosal din coming from above my room. Did they have bell-pullers? I didn’t see anything to indicate that, and the Father came in dressed in a black cassock, wide-eyed and important and apologised for not telling me about it but it was a cassette tape player and could I come and see – shouting the instructions above the huge noise, and could I please check on these cables reaching up through the ceiling to the huge speakers in the bell tower, carefully placing the cassette player on the small carved clerical table and the wound copper cables stretching dangerously upwards. And I understood I was to watch them for a while to see they didn’t come loose then come downstairs to the service and he’d indicate with a nod when to run up and switch off the cassettte player.
Everyone who came to see the Father just assumed I was a trainee priest and smiling all the time, I felt inspired about being a ‘believer’, but what in? Didn’t seem to matter it was just a sort of space I was occupying at the time; really nice (compared with the storms and savage battle history I’d recently escaped from, best kept quiet about). Aspiring towards the state of being goodhearted, without knowing what exactly I was doing and hadn’t yet discovered what the question was, Looking but not ever finding the opportunity to discuss this kind of thing with the very tall young curate who was always in a hurry; dashing around washing the dishes in this Victorian kitchen with huge taps; abundant generosity with his smiles although kinda narrow in his views.
I happened to show him a leaflet the Hare Krishna guys gave me , dancing in the street with a drum. And the curate said: Oh dear, God on a bad day , and gave it back to me. So I thought about that answer for a long time and it really sounded not bad considering it was not exactly accompanied with any kind of intelligent question. But it did inspire the thought; what might God be like on a good day? So that must have been the question I really wanted to ask this curate, I thought later up in my room, the shape of a large cross that used to hang there where my bed was, and had left the original pattern of the beautiful old Victorian wallpaper in the faded room… it was shortly after that I left for Asia.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle”. [Albert Einstein]