depression and the church Baptist Times online article by Cathy Wield
The Baptist Times Online has recently run an article by Cathy Wield, about the church and depression. The link is above, as is the link to her own website. Out of her experience of depression she has written a book called A Thorn in My Mind, Mental Illness, Stigma and the Church, published by Instant Apostle.
I have met Cathy and read the book in one sitting. It is an extraordinary book which left me full of hope, but also stretched my windows of tolerance for dealing with other people’s pain. I came across these words this morning by theologian Boros, ‘He (Christ) created within himself a place for every encounter. He was unreservedly receptive.’ (‘Encountering Reality’ by Bishop George Appleton & Debbie Davies, published by Amate Press, Oxford, p. 13).
I know that I don’t have a place within that is able to be unreservedly attentive to every encounter. But that is an aspiration. That is what it means to be mindFull within the Christian perspective.
One of the lessons of the Lindisfarne Gospels was their slow, contemplative making. We can apply this practice to our children, marriages, work, relationship to the book of nature, peace. These things need a slow, contemplative making.
Michelle P. Brown’s book The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality and the Scribe would be one of my top three Christmas buys this year. In talking about the meaning of this book she says something deeply profound.
‘Jennifer O’Reilly has drawn attention to the patristic concept of the ‘inner library’ and the necessity for each believer to make him or herself a library of the divine Word, a sacred responsibility which Cummian referred to as ‘entering the Sanctuary of God’ by studying and transmitting Scripture. Books are the vessels from which the believer’s ark, or inner library is filled.’ (pp.398-399)
This says something about the meaning of our own lives, that there is to be a guiding inner ark. This ark carries not just our little self, but other things of the world, as the first ark carried breeding animals to save them. In our inner ark we are also to carry the presence of God.
What struck me was that this is a real carrying of what is there in the world. I might want to save the gerenuk, or Lindisfarne otters, and as I slowly contemplate them and grow in knowing about them, I begin to carry them with me in a way that might save them – because I bring this knowing to others.
Michelle P. Brown’s book was I believe a slow, contemplative making – and I write in praise of slow making. Inner arks, like books, are a product of slow making as well.
You could also read Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow.
‘The wild otter I saw would no doubt be out of the water and making tracks to its own musky holt, to curl belly upward, in a home of roots, peat and rocks. I imagine him enfolded in his fur, dreaming of water; a tight sleep-knot, enjoying the deep sleep of one who exists totally in the moment.’ ( Miriam Darlington, Otter Country, pp.40-41)
‘Up and down the banks are the complex root systems of ash trees, which otters particularly love to use as holts as they provide hidden shelter and easy access to water.’ (Otter Country, p.175)
As I read these words I imagined the roots of the ash tree making a coracle, floating the otter to sleep in its hidden shelter. So I drew this as a coracle sleep-knot.
The ash tree root
for the otter
of the wild
not going meek and mild.
Rare sharing OtteR tracked to British Library. Read about how OtteRs share their country with us in Miriam Darlington’s Otter Country and how we can share their country with them. For OtteRs swim where they will.
Miriam Darlington, a poet, has written a beautiful book called ‘Otter Country – in search of the wild otter’, published just recently by Granta. It is a book to be read slowly, with a chocolate-covered cappucino and lemon tart. Perhaps only a chapter a day as a treat to be savoured and tasted.
I have read just the first three chapters so far but I am captivated. Like all good poets, through awareness, attention, and observation she has got under the skin of the otter. Miriam, along with all poets and nature writers is mindful of nature, and demonstrates that mindfulness is a universal human capacity. Within our mindful brain we all have the capacity for wise present-moment awareness that sees far and true.
Her words melt the padlocks of your mind and suddenly you are free to slip into the book as the otter slips into the river or the sea. Read it and see again.