How do we keep some perspective on life when every day we are bombarded by some tragedy, disaster or act of senseless violence. These can make us doubt whether our world will ever get its act together. The mess that we make of living together is not new of course. It’s been going on since ever humans appeared on this planet. But I guess in my innocence I thought that when I reached my time of life (it was my 84th birthday last Friday!) that we might have got a little further along the road to creating and sustaining a global community founded on justice and peace.
But despair is not a virtue. We have moved a good way towards health and happiness as a world – and there are many fantastic acts of kindness and sacrifice which occur daily.
And then there is the small matter of Christian faith which is founded on what David Jenkins many years ago called belief in ‘the glory of man’. The language would today seem a bit sexists, but what he was saying is important. At its best the creation of the world we have is a massive achievement undertaken in an open partnership with a God who has offered us the gifts of a kingdom community – life, liberation, love and learning at their fullest.
We will get saddened and discouraged by Syria and Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Venezuela, and a host of other inhuman situations. Yet, without contracting out, we also need to keep some perspective on the forces that at times seem to be so destructive. How do we do that?
Three ways to get things in perspective
Three ways work for me. The first is not to take ourselves too seriously. In The Book of Joy which narrates an extended conversation between Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama, it is the chapter on the importance of laughter which struck a chord with me.
The second bringer of perspective is music. As Sue, my wife, would say, Bach restores her sanity. And the third experience which, in my case, gives me confidence that love is ultimately unassailable, are the many times I have been able to experience the power of beauty and the depth of timelessness in the Peak National Park on our weekly walks.
Perspective is not the whole bringer of peace – but it is mighty important if humankind is not only to survive but to flourish as God means us to.