Friday, November 30, 2012

Francis, Thomas and my Canine Friends

I'm told that Thomas Aquinas held that animals have no souls. St. Francis for his part could talk of sister/brother dog and I have had so many canine friends that I'm in no doubt that, if it is a soul that makes one a person, dogs have souls. I'm sure about that. Of course its true of horses too! And probably in a different way cats!

Well anyhow I've often thought it would be interesting to hear a discussion between Francis and Aquinas. So if my recent near death experience had a downside I suppose it was putting off to a later date the much looked forward to debate.

Then in what did not feel at all like a dream although it might have been. Perhaps a vision of the night (whatever one of those is!)  this:

I was with two other children of men who I knew to be Francis and Aquinas in a wide meadow - the Elysian Fields ? - and with us were  all the dogs I have ever known. Not just my friends: Spot my godfather's dog with whom the 8 yearold me went rabbiting; Toby my cousin Sue's Black Lab an inseperable friend; Brandy who ate socks and passed them through at the other end darned as Uncle Tom would quip. No among them all was Squirty Bertie a dacshound with bowel problems who lent his name to any sauce my family topped ice cream with and a not to be trusted Dacshound who sunk his teeth into me when I was visiting a recently bereaved and newly drunk widow!

All these dogs, known and loved, some with really bad traits, were romping through the grass - Billy, Jacqueline and Darren's Springer was flying his ears as he sprung clear of the grass line and following him were his Springer replacement brothers, Bracken and Barley.  And Benny, my long legged Jack Russel was there too! In life he had one bad trait,  he hated all other dogs - no that's not true I think it was all other quadrapeds -  but now he was transformed and seemed to enjoy the company. I'd catch a glimpse of him with William the Jack Russel companion of Uncle Tom's later years who would attack the postman and post van and was always in the process getting run over with little or no effect!

Janie's dogs the threee legged Muffin and the randy Weaver could be glimpsed in the throng and her recently deceased Red Setter Sienna added class to the the gathering.  And quietly by my side sat Gyp Sue and Tim's cattle dog waiting for me to kick a stone towards him that he could chew.

And Thomas and Francis and I wreathed in smiles and saluting at a passing figure. Was that the Archangel raphael with his dog?!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


West of Sheringham, on the North Norfolk Coastal Path, there’s a hill with amazing views.  From the top, next to the old Coast Guard lookout, one can see as far as the eye can see and sometimes a little further!  On a sunny autumn afternoon it was the first hill I’d climbed in weeks.

Putting one foot in front of the other and fighting for my breath, I thought of the last hill I remember climbing.  One’s summer’s evening I’d taken the rocky path from Castleton, in Derbyshire’s Peak District , up through a darkening Cave Dale and on to sunlit heights. From the hillside I’d watched a shepherd tending his flock in the fields below.  It is very much 23rd Psalm country!  

Little did I guess I’d soon find myself  passing through valley of the shadow of death !  A cardiac arrest started me out on a journey through first aid, to a hospital bed  and onto a life saving operation.  Overall, the experience has felt less like a passage through a dark vale and more like walking along a cliff top, or a mountain ridge!  The path brought me perilously close to the edge but it has given me a unique perspective!  

As in other pilgrimages, there were rich relationships on the way.  Good Samaritans - friends, paramedics, nursing staff, doctors and surgeons – saved my life!  I am amazed at people’s kindness and skill!  And immensely thankful to those who accompanied me on the way.  As in the Emmaus story (Luke 24.13 and following),  there have been resting places when my companions and I realized Christ’s presence and times on the road when new understanding blazed with  shining light.

When I first  came to in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, the chaplain gave me a holding cross.  It came with me to  Papworth Hospital and its still by my bed.  I thought I knew all about holding crosses. I’ve given them to people myself! They are a small wooden cross one can keep in one’s hand , as a way of prayer when other resources are low. Something to hang on to when times are hard!  

What I discovered was that it was not so much that I held the cross.  Rather, the cross held me! In the gloomiest times it was a sign of the presence of the Good Shepherd  guarding and guiding as I travelled a rocky road.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Cloud of Prayer (?)

Three and a half weeks after bypass surgery and  five and a half weeks after a cardiac arrest I'm beginning to get some perspective.
So much good will from so many people!
Standing in my Christian culture I'd call it prayer! It feels like I'v been upheld by a great cloud of prayer!
But the prayer has not been limited to fully paid up Christians, the good will transcends all the barriers and definitions!
Maybe Carl Rogers has a phrase I can borrow - Unconditional Positive Regard!

Yes, that does it! And I think the effect on me as a human being has been the sort of effect that Rogers imagined. I have a sense of myself as a more fully functioning human being: 

1. Open to experience: both positive and negative emotions accepted. Negative feelings are not denied, but worked through (rather than resort to ego defence mechanisms).
2. Existential living: in touch with different experiences as they occur in life, avoiding prejudging and preconceptions. Being able to live and fully appreciate the present, not always looking back to the past or forward to the future (i.e. living for the moment).
3. Trust feelings: feeling, instincts and gut-reactions are paid attention to and trusted. People’s own decisions are the right ones and we should trust ourselves to make the right choices.
4. Creativity: creative thinking and risk taking are features of a person’s life. Person does not play safe all the time. This involves the ability to adjust and change and seek new experiences.
5. Fulfilled life: person is happy and satisfied with life, and always looking for new challenges and experiences.

Mcleod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology - Psychology Articles for Students. Retrieved from