I like September. I’ve heard it said that for many of us, it has more of a sense of new beginnings than January, and for obvious reasons: school, university, return to work after a summer break. Now traditional New Year is linked of course to Christmas – which (slightly tenuously) leads to my ‘wish list’ theme. Not though just a list for Santa, but for life. What do you, what do I, really want from life? And is that desire big enough?
I’ve been reading ‘God is not great’ by Christopher Hitchens, and am intrigued by his notion, not uncommonly levelled at religious belief, that it’s based on ‘wishful thinking’. Behind the charge is of course the implication that there are no grounds to believe in what’s wished for. But we are all creatures of wish and desire, so for me the deeper question is, what is it healthy and legitimate to desire? And what am I doing about it? Or to put it another way (even if it sounds a little odd), am I a wise steward of desire?
A couple of ‘wishes’ spring to mind associated with this time of year. One is to hunker down and enjoy some autumn season telly. How we love to get immersed, lost even, in a good drama with great characters. Or in the case of reality shows like ‘Strictly’ or ‘Bake Off’, it’s like sitting down to rip open a very glitzy looking present, or savour an exceedingly enticing cake. I’ve never actually seen a full episode of Bake Off, and am not sure I’m the worse for it. But there’s still something distinctly innocent and child-like about such viewing pleasures.
Then there’s the love of and desire for nature: chill mornings (and evenings), vivid autumnal colours, crisp walks wrapped up in hats and mitts.
You may wish to add other items to your ‘favourite autumn things’, or indeed autumn ‘wish list’. The speedy approach of half term for instance. How about, keep ‘British Summer Time’ and don’t turn the clocks back. Fast forward Christmas perhaps? Or finally terminate ‘The X Factor’…
And then… there’s spiritual desire – which in our contemporary culture can so easily be suppressed or diverted down dead ends. But here’s a quotation that evokes its power:
“It was when I was happiest that I longed most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.” CS Lewis, Till We Have Faces.
I believe that many aspects of our everyday lives, not least nature and story, are (besides being intrinsically marvellous) signs and pointers to a reality beyond. They have a power to awaken deeper, spiritual longing. I’m free to either suppress that desire, or allow it to breathe, and lead me on a quest and a journey. I find the bible to be like, say, the map of a richly textured landscape – a metaphor for the inner life. If I merely stand in judgment on this book of books with a narrowly rationalistic outlook, it can appear dry and puzzling. But if in humility of spirit I immerse myself, open up, even as has been said ‘allow it to read me’… I find myself embarked on a thrilling adventure, with fresh revelation around every corner.
Now that sounds like something to wish for.