Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Sense of Time or a Sense of Place

I went to a very good lecture last Wednesday: Reading the Ordinary: Walking the M62 by the Rev'd John Davies, Vicar of The Good Shepherd, West Derby. He walked from Hull to Liverpool in 2007 as a sabbatical project. Since the Theme of this year's Lenten lectures is Religion and Pilgrimage it was interesting to look at this experience as a kind of modern pilgrimage.

Davies carefully explained that he did not literally walk the M62 -- to do so would have meant certain death! Rather, he used the highway as a marker to guide him through alternate roads and pathways and took his time -- over two months to complete the journey. He wanted to experience people and places and the spirituality of those people and places in a new, perhaps mystical, way. I was particularly interested in the Ghost of Ghoul and the idea of the spirituality of 'place'. And also of the end of his journey being Liverpool, where he grew up and how much he wanted to experience his 'home town' with new eyes. He seemed a bit uncertain as to how successfully he had done that.

I have often felt that that places do have a spirituality and have often mused about that aspect of churches and particularly cathedrals. Canterbury and Chartres particularly resonate for me, York Minster does not. I love old houses, old towns and cities, because of the spirituality of place that I experience: a mystical sense of being connected to the passage of time. Rome is for me the most sensational and most mystical of experiences. I've yet to get to Greece or Egypt, but expect the experience could possibly be overwhelming for a time!

Which brings me to a recent observation. Now that I am grouped among the 'elderly' and as I see my generation giving way to the younger, as I more and more often join with the 'grumpy old men and women' of this time, I conclude: I belong to my time and my time belongs to me. And I wonder if that means that I belong to the time more than the place. I can certainly adapt to different places over a period of time, but that sense of who I am, that is I think more to do with the time that belongs to me. So my question is what part of our natures can transcend our time -- our place in time?

A great deal of the discussion following the lecture was about the pilgrimage home -- what is the wish/need to do this. Davies commented at one point during the evening that he was glad not to have found the answer to that ... it would have been interesting to hear more about that. I do not have a sense of coming from one place as much as I have of belonging to three places: New England, Southport, and Aynac, France. New England is my 'home place' and if I have to describe myself I would say I am a 'New Englander', rather than a Connecticut Yankee or a Vermonter. Unlike most people, I lived in different states growing up, but from the age of 2 until 18 I lived in New England.

So does that mean I have been deprived or does that mean that I have been liberated -- or is about something else altogether?

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