December 24th of Advent

And so, here is Christmas Eve. Within the nativity story, we are waiting for a birth that will bring change, hope, light and, of course, peace and love. How clichéd those abstract nouns sound, worn threadbare as they are – unless we are willing to enter them, earth them, be them, bring them to life. Birth them.

I’m reading Dr Iain McGilchrist who has written what is surely his magnum opus The Matter with Things. He poses the following questions, taking on some of the stultifying paradigms of our time with depth, patient exposition and great erudition:

  • Who are we?
  • What is the world?
  • How can we understand consciousness, matter, space and time?
  • Is the cosmos without purpose or value?
  • Can we really neglect the sacred and divine?

Tonight, for this last ‘advent’ blog entry, I will leave you with some words by McGilchrist from early in the book that speak to me, and may speak to you. I would also like to thank you if you have been reading these posts. I know that some people have, and I am grateful. The images are of our Christmas tree and nativity scene. Nadolig Llawen! Warm Christmas greetings to all!

Iain McGilchrist:

“I hope that in what follows the reader may come to see grounds for a view that the world is a seamless, always self-creating, self-individuating, and simultaneously self-uniting, flow that is only truly knowable as it comes to be known. (I say ‘it’, for convenience at this point; it is a question worth considering whether this is the appropriate pronoun.) ‘It’ is like a stream, with its whirlpools and eddies, that come into being for a time, and resolve; while they are there they are present to all observers, even measurable up to a point; and yet, while distinct, they are inseparable from the stream, not just in the sense that without the stream they do not exist, but in the sense that they are the stream. […]

What is required is an attentive response to something real and other than ourselves, of which we have only inklings at first, but which comes more and more into being through our response to it – if we are truly responsive to it. We nurture it into being; or not. In this it has something of the structure of love. […] The very people for whom this excursus was designed are the same ones at risk of getting too hung up on the detail of terminology, rather than seeing what is being pointed towards. That can only be recognised, not defined: in this it is like the Zen image of the philosopher pointing at the moon, while those around him are focussed on his finger.”  The Matter with Things, 2021, p.47.


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