Introduction

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake

“Where was I?” I asked

We are sitting across from one another, on either side of the brown dining room table. Through the open french doors leading into the garden, white birds can be heard cooing softly atop a redwood dovecote as the amber light of a late afternoon sun shines through the leaves of the tall cherry tree. It is June. I am 23.

“You were telling me about something you saw in your dream,” she replied.

So, it begins as so many conversations have. It could be important or not important at all, but for the one explaining the dream, me, it feels important and so it is.

“Not something I saw in a dream. It’s a dream I have.” I said. “One of those kinds of dreams.”

That was then. This is a conversation or the kind of conversation, I have been having on and off for more than 20 years. How I got here, how I got this far without making a clear commitment then; well, that is the story.

“Bold acts”, I would oftentimes say “are the safest.”

These are words taken from the Burma Memorial found somewhere along the Victoria Embankment in London not too far from where Cleopatra’s Needle stands proud. Interestingly, my grandmother’s grandfather remembered the needle being floated up the Thames on a giant barge; but that is for another time I suppose. There is only so much room to digress in a book of digressions.

“Bold acts are the safest.” Is that true? If it is, why had I not taken this most recent decisive step forward way back then?

Like so many things lately, I have gone over in my mind everything that passed between then and now. So many reasons for doing what I did and more importantly what I did not. You’ll observe that I used reasons, not excuses. Of course, they are different and at times, too many times, important things could only be found in the distinction between the two.

Rest assured though that this is not a story made of excuses. There will be no exhumation, no autopsy of life; rather a tip-toe through the remnants of influences, motivations, enablers, inhibitors and interventions of the still-smoking embers otherwise called life so far.

What is the purpose then? Is it about catharsis and if so, is that sufficient in and of itself? Maybe. In any event, it is an invitation, an open door to a journey you can join me on, where your presence or absence does not affect the route we take or the choices made.  Since by now, they have all been made.

Take off your shoes, make yourself comfortable and we will begin, but do be mindful since as has been the case since prehistoric times sitting around a campfire, the pleasure of a story, especially when told by someone else is to discover the ending all by yourself. That then is as good a purpose as any to continue for both of us.

As is so often the case, to go forward we must first go back to a time even before the beginning. To understand who we are, and how we are all indeed greater than the sum of our parts. We must then untangle the parts; observe them, understand them and see how they all fit together.

We can each and all look at ourselves, really look; stand naked if you will, and look. Who you are is the result of literally hundreds of generations of ancestors’ lives, decisions made, food eaten, challenges overcome and diseases survived. Each of our lives is a story of insurmountable odds being overcome and us finally being where we are in our reality. Now. This thought I find reassuring. It places a kind of incentive upon me to make the most of what I have as if that were needed.

The past calls to us back as we simultaneously ride the crest of its echos in our drive to move forward through the perilous game we are presented with. A giant game where choices have consequences of risk or reward and where what appears beyond the horizon is anyone’s guess.

Sitting at that table, I had no notion that the world I had grown up in, that reality I had assumed was perpetual was soon to end with the life of my mother. She was 48 when she went. But this is not a story about her, even though from time to time, she will feature just as a walk-on character in a play. That will have to suffice.

This is then the beginning of my complicated story; my story of the ‘Road to Ordination’ as I like to call it.  Did it begin at the dining room table, chatting to Mum, or was it much earlier watching Bing Crosby in black and white as he depicted the role of the priest in “The Bells of St Mary’s?

I cannot be sure, but it is something that has been with me, an intrinsic part of me for as long as I can remember.