TRYSTAN OWAIN HUGHES opens chapter 3 of his The Compassion Quest with this exquisite quote from Rilke

Only one space extends
Through all beings: innerworldspace.
Silently, the birds fly within us.
and I, who wants to grow, I look outside,
But find within me grows the tree.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Nearly everything calls us to connect

What a joy and a relief to me, and a challenge too, that Trystan Owain Hughes has offered the world what Tony Campolo calls “a book that was waiting to be written”. Some books baptise us with both tears and smiles. And make us stop, look, listen. And make us turn around.

Pope Francis, thank God, calls humanity to “go out into the world”. Yes! Absolutely. But with what?

Rilke, Francis ย and Trystan Owain Hughes bring something OUT into the world that has grown, and is forever growing, WITHIN them and us.

Interconnectedness. Thank God. There’s God. There’s the future.

12 thoughts on “THE COMPASSION QUEST

  1. don’t get it – do you mean interconnectedness _is_ God? all this God stuff is just so vague… sometimes an overwhelming, awesome reality which gives immense clarity and the interconnectedness of everything is blinding obvious, other times darkness, confusion, fog… the reality and clarity can’t be manufactured – it comes and goes randomly. fickle. but that’s the darkness speaking…

  2. Thanks Dorothy. Yes, more and more over the last thirty-odd years I’ve come to think of God being, precisely, the interconnectedness of all things; that the Good we must aspire to is, precisely, harmony with one another and with all creation. We judge others and we judge ourselves – both too harshly.

    Entering into the suffering of the world (‘compassion’ means ‘with suffering’) takes away something of the harshness – even if only little notches at a time. And then sometimes, for all of us, the sun shines through the clouds, even if only for a moment, with what you’ve beautifully described as “immense clarity”.

    But we’re not there yet! So like the ebb and flow of the sea the darkness comes and goes still. I’m interested especially in your use of the word “vague”. My own image of God is not crystal clear. I am, you would be right to deduce, more comfortable with “vague” than with with (too frequently dangerous) “certainty” – religious, political or otherwise.

    Thanks for reading and for this follow up. I very warmly commend The Compassion Quest to your further interested reading and insights.

  3. thank you for explaining. May I ask another question? How does the idea that God is simply (or supremely) the interconnectedness between everything sit with the biblical imagery of God as Being? with a distinct “personality” overtone to it, ie with the possiblitly of relationship (Father/Son/Spirit in trinitarian interconnectedness, but also we’re adopted into that same family cf some of Paul’s writing)? Mind you, as I type, I’m also remembering Jesus’ prayer to the Father that we (his disciples) “might be one as You and I are One”… suddenly I’m seeing that as so much more than simply avoiding desturctive rows in PCC meetings, or avoiding spiteful gossip… maybe instead it’s about us all being one with Jesus and therefore with the Father – “of one being with the Father”, consubstantial (homoousios). Now _that_ is truly mind-blowing… and fits maybe with your interconnectedness concept.
    The idea of God _simply_ being a word for a sort of woolly idea that somehow “we’re all in this together” (!!!) terrifies me – but bringing the traditional Myth language to bear upon it might somehow make it more accessible. Still Aweful, and somehow depressing – which makes me wonder whether I’m still missing something… the moments of clarity never bring depression or confusion, those come when fighting the place the clarity wants to take one to.
    Literalist, concrete images are just so much safer, somehow… so much more comfortable. Being led into Unknowing can be unbearably painful, with no promise of relief.
    Does any of this make any kind of sense to you? i’m not sure it does to me…

  4. Ah! I guess the cop out here is “that’s the Mystery” – except it’s not a cop out! This really is a mystery. How can such a big God be small and personal? Yes, mystery, but having a go at some kind of an answer leads me to think-out-loud that the God who is IN everything (as life source) can BE everything. And the fullest possible extent of “Being-ness” is something not fully known to us because ours are presently very limited perspectives.

    But we do have the enlarged perspectives of other incarnate beings to look to, together with our own moments of “clarity” – Jesus of Nazareth being my own chief inspiration.

    Yes, God is “awe-ful” and our approach to God will properly be filled with awe. But I believe that we are being drawn into a Love and a Oneness that’s hinted at in our present life, in our loves and needs and yearnings – but that we must wait to be fully realised. In the meantime being loving, needy, yearning humans is a condition that was honoured by Jesus of Nazareth, is being honoured and allowed by God, and will someday be transformed. And this is a process at work in all humanity, in all creation, not just in religious humanity.

    It’s one of the joys of being a parish priest that I’m privileged to engage in many conversations like ours. Two other people have spoken to me today about “moments of clarity” and the concept of “letting go”. So far as concrete images and “Unknowing” are concerned I think we all experience a bit of both, most of the time don’t we? I’m probably less afraid generally of the unknown than of some of the world’s more dangerous certainties though.

    Certainly your insights and questions make a lot of sense to me insofar as I share them all to some extent … “until the Kingdom come”.

    Thanks again ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. and the greatest pain is when we are most fighting the call to Love/Being.Light – when Unlove/Unbeing/Darkness are uppermost and it seems easier to simply let them win.
    and yes, it is Mystery – but why does “personal” have to equate to “small”? maybe we’re using the word “personal” differently.

    And I don’t think I meant Unknowing as the opposite of concrete… more as the opposite of the moments of clarity, when we glimpse the togetherness of everything and God/Being/Love/Light as omnipresent, omnipotent. In those moments it’s somehow all so _obvious_ – and then bang! the Unknowing rolls over us like the fog from the sea and we are once again walking in darkness, with no real idea where we’ll be when the fog lifts, and the constant anxiety that maybe we’ve mis-read the compass and map and will walk straight off the edge of a cliff.

    Or maybe it’s never like that for you… after all, we are each of us unique and we each of us have unique steps in this Dance of Being.

    It’s just that sometimes, for me, the clarity also brings with it a profound awareness/sharing-in-the-damagedness of so many and so much and then sometimes I lose sight of how to hold all of that in the presence of God/Being/Love/Light. To put it another way – instead of being able to lift them all into the presence of God/Being/Love/Light and hold them there and stand between them and the encroaching darkness, I find the darkness seeping into my own being. A succession of Gethsemanes, Calvaries… and when I’m in the midst of that process, whether on my own behalf or on behalf of others, previous Resurrections are a dim memory and seem very, very unreal and hold out little hope for the future. A bit like the Narnian image of the sun being purely imaginary… maybe I need a Puddleglum to stamp on the fire from which emanates the confusing smoke and reaffirm the reality of the sun, whether I ever get to see it again or not! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. woke up this morning realisingthat maybe in this particular fog _I_ need to be Puddleglum for those for whom I pray, holding fast to the knowledge that the clarity was real – still is real even though at the moment I don’t see it. And having done all, to stand…

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