BY RICHARD WHITE
My wife and I have moved from Collaroy on the Northern Beaches of Sydney to Cootamundra, on the South-West Slopes at the edge of the Riverina. The move was plotted and planned and all was going roughly to plan when the animals began reacting strangely.
The dog, Mate, had been expressing grief-like reactions before we left. This was to be expected. The cat, a stray called The Future, is an independent, self-sufficient animal known more for her arrogant insouciance than any clinging tendencies. Our fear was she would not adjust to the new home and “go feral”, another rabid enemy of native fauna.
The new home, the new house, the new routine, are producing novel behaviour from both of them. We thought we were a twosome, Leigh and I. We have become a foursome.
Previous independence, inter-animal hostilities and dog-eat-cat dynamics have given way to surprising amity. They get on better together and we have been included in their new-found friendship. We have become a foursome. But, what has that to do with the Resurrection, apart from it all happening over Easter?
The philosopher Martin Buber has an expression, “all real living is meeting.” As with the content of his little book, I and Thou, it seems so ordinary a statement, so commonplace as to not merit a second thought. But, I have only to reflect a little on the non-meetings in my life and in the culture of which I am a part to realise how much “real living” is absent.
When I worked for the funeral company we prided ourselves in our business contacts establishing and honouring relationships rather than becoming networkers. Relationships were often more personally demanding, more enriching and more human. Networks and the inevitable exchange of cards often ended there, a card in a file not a person in one’s world.
If “all real living is meeting” then so much non-living flows from non-meeting, the tangential or protective encounters. What is insidious about this non-living is that it can become a part of one’s life, a kind of creeping death that enshrines distance, fear and hostility. Then comes the Resurrection.
There are two images I want to finish with, the first is from George Herbert’s “The Flower”. This image has been with me through those days and years of non-meeting, non-living: “who would have thought my shrivelled heart could have recovered greenesse . . . ?”
For me those few words were a refrain, a leitmotif, what Gerald Manley Hopkins called “a vein of the Gospel . . . a pressure, a principle, Christ’s gift”. Both an anchor and a nourishment, a goad and destination, a map and a promise. Whatever happened to Jesus can and does happen to me as St Paul says. Not only to me but to the whole world of meetings and non-meetings, to the real living and pseudo-living.
Secondly, there’s that phrase from the Sequence for Easter,
Life and Death contended
Combat strangely ended
Life’s own champion slain
Yet lives to reign.
We thought we were a twosome but we’ve become a foursome. Thank God for the animals! We are never a twosome or a onesome, never fully isolated, lost, dead. Shrivelled hearts continue to recover greenesse because Life’s own champion lives to reign.
Richard White blogs from Cootamundra in southern NSW.
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