In mid-September I was able to take a week off work and decided to travel to the Taize community in France where I enjoyed a much needed break and time to rest, think, pray, walk, read, sunbathe(!) and have good conversations with nice people. During that week, I had two similar experiences which both happened on the same day a few hours apart and guided a lot of my thoughts that week and I’ve been reflecting on them since.
I was sitting on a bench, alone inside the small church just outside the community, praying in the cool, silent dimness. Suddenly the realisation ‘the world is at war’ entered my mind and my heart simultaneously –I sat there going over this thought and what it means. I felt helpless and had to leave the church to get away because it was becoming too painful to sit with it.
I left the church, walking back into the sunshine and quiet noise and checked my phone, which had been on silent, to see what the time was. I had received a text message from a friend I’d not spoken to for a long time, a short message but telling me that I was loved. So suddenly from thinking about war I was then thinking about love, and yes the world is at war, that is a reality, but there’s another reality and that is the presence of love. I didn’t really know how to deal with this so I went to eat lunch and sing some Taize chants!
A few hours later I was lying contentedly in the sunshine in the shade of a tree reading a brilliant book (The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane if you’re interested!) when suddenly the peace was brutally and abruptly shattered by a fighter jet roaring through the blue cloudless sky. It was gone before I had a chance to look up, but the noise remained for a while after and I was thinking about the reality of war for the second time that day. As that noise gradually faded into the distance I was brought back to where I was by another sound – the birds singing in the tree I was resting under. I was then thinking about birds and trees and birdsong which are a constant presence in this world.
I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this but I do think it’s important to be able to see, hear and know both war/fighter jets and love/birds exist in the world we live in, and it seems that without knowing love and being able to appreciate the beauty of nature, I don’t think we can even begin to imagine a world where war isn’t a thing, or hope that this could happen, or dare to believe that we can be part of making it so.