‘The words English owes to India’ is a title of an article in the BBC News Magazine, reflecting on a programme due to be broadcast today on Radio 4 about a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India called ‘Hobson’Jobson: A Very English Enterprise’.
One of those words is verandah which is defined as an ‘open pillared gallery around a house.’ Some of my happiest moments have been sitting on verandahs in Africa as a child. I think we are also meant to have a verandah of the mind, although we often don’t.
A verandah opens up a house to what is going on in the environment in a 360 degree way. Many houses are designed in a closed way, there is no gallery around them, no openness to the world around. In the same way our minds should be open and aware of all that is going around in the environment, there is architecture there to enable this – but this architecture has often been buried away behind defences and walls and double-glazed windows.
Another word psychologists use to describe this lack of awareness and openness is automaticity or being on auto-pilot; as if we are sleep walking through life. A shuttered existence. A house, of course, only comes to life, when the shutters are thrown open.
Neuroscience says that contemplative/mindful practices create beneficial shifts in the architecture of the mind, the mind which is neuroplastic in design. You become more empathic and relational with others and less defended and fearful. A verandah of the mind is created where you can meet people, the world, and even God in a new way.
The pillars of silence, stillness, meditating on Scripture, memorising the living Word create a living memory within us of how to live life in all its fullness – as Christ did, creating an open gallery of goodness around us. A verandah of the mind.
Federer has won seven Wimbledon titles and seventeen Grand Slam titles. What you saw today was the legacy of living memory within his mind, heart and body of all that he had done previously, helping him to win again. This living memory is a distinctive of Christian mindfulness but can be seen in other areas, like sport. The Greek word in the New Testament for this living memory/remembering/mindfulness is mneme, from which we get our word mnemonic.
The good news is that Andy Murray is building that living memory within his mind, heart and body. In his own words he is getting ‘closer’. He has made a Wimbledon final, and he has won a set in a Grand Slam final for the first time – but he had other chances. He was playing someone, however, who had moved from thinking in playing to playing out of pure awareness without thinking – what the commentators have called the genius of Roger Federer.
I have never seen such support for a British player at a Wimbledon match, and many are saying that Andy has won an army of friends for his emotional response after the final. At a human level it was inspirational for all of us, because we all have fights we are involved in and we can be inspired in those fights, whether with health or other issues, to never give up.
This will be a living memory for many, that will transcend the dulling that time brings. Federer had to play his best tennis to beat Murray, who never gave up. Andy mysteriously when he won his matches looked to the skies and raised his fingers in the air. No one knows except him what it means. But the One we lift our eyes too can lift us to our utmost for his highest – He is the living memory we need above all things in order to see what has been called the Glory of God – a human being fully alive.