Thursday, 2 June 2011

Chapter and Verse

At the end of another Can Openers in Bristol Central Library, a group of poets sloped off to the tea room in the neighbouring Cathedral and supped in the sunny cemetery garden.  After a while, the conversation turned to Christianity and Richard Dawkins and so on.  I didn't join in much.  It seemed strange that some of them were atheists when, to me, poetry is a sacred thing, inherently bound up with the literal tying together that is religion.  How else are we supposed to make sense of love and the human condition than to conclude that there is more to life than we can possibly know on this side of it? 



Every now and then people wandered off around the graves.  Summer flowers had been allowed to swamp them with colour and life.  One poet observed that the stone at the foot of one should be marked exit rather than entrance.  


The grave nearest the Chapter House was covered in wild strawberries and the fruit tasted sweet.




As everyone left,  I popped into the Chapter House. It is one of my very favourite spaces in the world and if I'm fated to haunt anywhere, I hope it's here.  Sublime glass and sumptuous honey-coloured stone, quilted by Norman masons, and the whole infused with an atmosphere of warmth and love. Very different from the considerably more austere Cathedral.  

 Then home to my younger boy and my dog - two of the creatures that make this small life worth living.  



4 comments:

  1. Thanks, Deborah, especially for photos of the Chapter House. "Atheist poets", oxymoronic as that seems, reminds me of a passage from René Guénon's Studies in Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage I read today: "...atheism in Masonry is and can only be a mask, which no doubt in the Latin countries and particularly in France temporarily had its utility---one could almost say its necessity, ....---but today it has become rather dangerous and compromising for the outward prestige and influence of the Order. Nevertheless, this is not to say that one must on that account, in imitation of the pietist influence that still dominates Anglo-Saxon Masonry, demand of the institution a profession of deistic faith, implying a belief in a personal and more or less anthropomorphic God....But the symbolic formula of recognition of the Great Architect of the Universe contains nothing of the sort; it is sufficient, all the while allowing everyone perfect freedom of personal convictions (a character it shares moreover with the Islamic formula of Monotheism), and from the strictly Masonic point of view one cannot reasonably ask for anything more or anything other than this simple affirmation of Universal Being, which so harmoniously crowns the edifice of the Order's ritual symbolism." ["The Great Architect of the Universe"]

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  2. I actually think that the impulse towards religion is a profound one in humankind, tied up with the need to make sense of this beautiful, unpredictable world and our place in it. And that the 'simple affirmation of Universal Being' is actually the nub of faith.

    I believe that even fundamentalist atheists, confronted with their own mortality, might well offer a prayer up to something outside of themselves. That's why I'm happier with the term 'agnostic'.

    As for me, I'm very religious in a pagan-y, hair streaming to the wind sort of way. With a dash of 'love one another' thrown in. Works for me.

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  3. That seems an apt self-sketch, as your lovely blog gives ample evidence. I'm a rather mercurial (or half-assed) student of comparative relgion and poetry---so last week I found myself jumping from Pam Ayres to René Guénon, still unable to shake my generic faux-British accent. The slightly ponderous but precise Guénon quote was written for a craft publication of his sometime in the first half of the last century. Great stuff for long rainy days.

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  4. 'Oh, I wish I'd looked after me teeth!'

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