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  • Canon Adrian Daffern

Divine Discontent

I am delighted that Great St Mary's is part of this year's Cambridge University Festival of Wellbeing. As with all such events (illegal raves excepted) it is online. Our daily live broadcast of Compline is a part of the Festival. In addition, every day, there will be a opportunity to spend ten minutes at Great St Mary's, enjoying the space, with some meditative music, and some (I hope) inspirational words. Those words are not sermons, or meditations, or even readings from the Bible. I wanted people of no faith, as well as those who have faith, to feel able to step inside and hear a poem or piece of prose which would lift their spirit, without making any religious demands of them. I hope I got it right - you can make up your own mind by joining in: you'll find the recordings from Monday at https://www.wellfest.admin.cam.ac.uk/recorded-events and we'll also make them available on our YouTube channel.

I wrote back in early April about the importance of poetry, and know how much it matters to many of you. But one of my five choices wasn't a poem. It was a piece of prose from a great work of theological insight: The Wind in the Willows. If you've never read it, you can count yourself blessed, as there is a real treat in store: tolle lege. If you haven't read it in a while, then I encourage you to read it again. While ostensibly written for Kenneth Grahame's own son Alastair (whose own short life was to end in tragedy), I was glad to read it, not as a child, but as an adult. Adults have not always 'got it': when it was first published the reviewer in The Times wrote 'As a contribution to natural history the book is negligible'. Adults who do 'get it' will be sensitive enough to the hidden and not-so-hidden darknesses in the tale of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger.  They will also be amazed that the story begins with resurrection. Mole is hard at work underground, spring-cleaning. But in the midst of all his dust and darkness, something is moving. Spring is calling, and the spirit of Spring is not only moving in the air overground, but underground too, with what Grahame calls 'its spirit of divine discontent and longing'. I have never thought this description anything less than astonishing. Mole, unlike George Herbert's servant, does not find drudgery divine: quite the opposite. In the sunlight, he not only finds meadows, hedgerows, copses and, best of all, the 'sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal' that is the river; he also finds friendship. Friendship turns out to be a complex business - but, as we oh-so-sophisticated adults know, it always is. The One I try to follow teaches that only the child-like 'get it' where God is concerned. In the limbo world of less lockdown, a child-like openness to divine discontent is worth cultivating. Jesus teaches that this requires humility - an elusive quality for many of us. But necessary for our wellbeing. And essential if we are to 'get it': 'it', surely, being resurrection? 

 

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