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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Blessed be the Creator of the Universe...

who has put me where I am from all time and eternity. May I come to better understand Him through the beauty of His creation, our mother earth. May I hear His voice in the bird’s song and thunder cloud, see His handiwork in the delicate violet and mighty oak, smell heavenly perfume in the scent of pine and falling rain. May every breath I take honor Him, and refresh my body and soul. May I give and receive love, just as I breathe in and out. May I manage the gifts of nature and be a good steward of these gifts. Let me treat my body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit, making sure that the food that goes into my mouth, and the words that come out of it, are wholesome and pure.

May I learn the balance between venerating the old and embracing the new, seeking new opportunities to be of service to all living things, especially the least of my brothers and sisters. May I always appreciate the priceless quality of all life, especially that which is most vulnerable. May I be guided to the meaningful relationships and activities that will make me a better person. May I always be grateful for life, for human relationships, and experiences that help me learn and grow. May I be appreciative of second chances and gift of forgiveness when I make mistakes.

May I learn to let go of sinful tendencies that may hinder my spiritual growth. May I accept the graces given me, act upon what is right, and reject what is wrong. May His love fill me with a desire to teach truth and create beauty, as a sub-creator sharing in the wonder of bringing forth what is new and refreshing what is old. May I find a balance between passion and discipline as an artist and an activist. May I be inspired by all that is good, coming from the Hand of the Greatest Good.

May I never forget that I was born into the world for a purpose, and never despair that I am loved by my Creator. May I always seek His Will in my life, following His call to be a force for good in the world through a specific vocation. Though the path may be mist-laden, may I have the peace of mind to take it one step at a time, knowing that God will reveal all things in time. Through free-will, I am a co-creator in the Providential plan. Let me never violate this trust in may by straying into darkness. May His Spirit transform and inspire me to reach my full potential as His Daughter. May the artist within me create truth and beauty through words, images, and the magical weave of music.

May I be thankful for the current of Providence running through the journey of my life, and may I be filled with his unconditional Divine Love so that I may extend it to all those I encounter. Even to those who see themselves as my enemies, let me turn the other cheek and show them the love of God. May I never lose my awareness of and connection to the spiritual world, no matter how strong the pull of this earthly plain may be on me. May the Great God of Mercies heal any generational wounds that may have been caused, and help me to show mercy to every living thing. May I have clarity of objective judgments, but be wary to make subjective judgments of others, leaving that to the Searcher of All Hearts.

May I love and honor my parents more deeply, and embrace my position in my family and working harder to be a proactive member of that unit. May I appreciate their wisdom that comes with experience and the love they have shown me since my birth. May I forgive their short-comings as I forgive myself for areas where I fall short, realizing that God forgives us, the slate is wiped clean and we start over again. May my love and honor of family extend back through the generations, as I pray for their souls. My I see all of humanity as my family, since we are all Children of the same Father, whether we are here or there, in this world or in another.

May I learn to accept the things I cannot chance, but never lose vision of the way things should be, nor the passion to bring about that which I am able. Never let me lose the force of will to battle for a better world, and may an evening star ever shine ahead of me on the lonely road. May the Light of the Son ever cause the shadows to fly away, as an oil lamp dispels the darkness. May I learn from the world around me, while never losing my innocence. May I unite all my sufferings with the Crucified Redeemer and those suffering throughout the world. May I never become cynical, and learn to move on after events that wound me.

May I love my community and give of myself to better the lives of those nearby me. Let us all learn the power of unity and diversity, knowing that whether in prayer, work, or social endeavors, our unique talents and attributes better and stronger joined together. Let me help others, but also never be too proud to accept help myself. May I not seek praise and recognition in the good deeds I do, but for the joy of being of service to others, and to inspire others to do likewise. May I be guided to meaningful events to involve myself in, and friendships to forge. May I see each occurrence and situation in my life as part of a greater whole. May I never despair, knowing that, in the end, justice is inevitable in the overall scheme of things.

May I have the strength to forgive all those who have hurt me in the past. May I have peace in the midst of strife, joy in the heart of sorrow, and the power of discernment to know when I am being called upon to act. May I be given the strength to overcome evil with good, and be a peace-maker in the midst of anger. May I speak the truth with compassion and clarity, keeping channels of communication open, and never giving up on dialogue, even when difficulties occur. May I have focus on finding solutions to problems through positive and proactive responses. May I always work to restore relationships shattered by misunderstanding, and to appreciate differences while holding fast to my own beliefs.  

May I be given the Words of the Holy Spirit when I am called upon to speak, and may the flame of love burn my lips and the arrow of love pierce my heart. May I have eyes to see the beauty around me, and honor that beauty. May I focus on all that is true and noble, and banish dark thoughts. Let me see the inner beauty of myself and all people instead of by physical attributes, reaching out to them as a “soul-friend” and basing our relationships and transactions upon integrity and sincerity. May I take responsibility for my actions and not blame others. May I accept the criticism of others and work to be a better person.

May I reach out to others in friendship to everyone I meet, and act responsibly towards all living things, knowing that it is a great honor to be alive and that I am made in the image and likeness of The Creator. May I have a depth of compassionate and a yearning to aid all those in need throughout the world, whether I know them or not. May I respect all forms of life, and act in a way that attracts respect from others.

May I learn to be contented with my station in life, however simple, and appreciate the richness of life in ever act of my day. Let me keep my focus on the present moment, and aware of the large and small miracles around me. May I always appreciate the interconnected web of life and providence, and extraordinary events that make themselves manifest at just the right moment. Let me have faith in the power of Providence, that right will win out in the end, and all things unfold for a Divine purpose. May I cultivate patience, waiting on God and submitting to events beyond my control, and maintain serenity in the midst of frustration.

May I find balance in all things, and help me to discern it, finding stability in the midst of change. May I overcome the of fear death and embrace it as a door to a new life when the designated time comes. May I be prepared at that moment, and the times when I must lose loved ones through it in this world. May I always remember that those who have gone before are more real than ever, and that the Divine Life is beyond time and space. May I never forget them during our separation, and never lose hope of seeing them again.

May I find comfort in the ebony cloak of night, and the music of stillness that wraps the earth. May my heart feel peace in the silence, marveling at the sacredness of the Divine Creator, of my eternal soul, and my connection with all living things. May I appreciate the gift of sleep, another form of inner stillness to revitalize my body and soul. May my thoughts be of peace, and my dreams be of peace, and may I arise in the morning with renewed purpose to be the best I can be in this Creation of the Divine Creator.


(Note: The bulk of these reflections had their origin in a New Age meditation CD that I adapted to fit the Christian perspective. If the early missionaries like St. Patrick could take a stab at it, well, so can I!)


"Blessed be the Creator of the Universe..."
  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Age Movement....

is hard to pin down into any definite set of beliefs or rules of the road. It is a montage of spiritual traditions form around the globe, plus some new interpretations made by meditative modernity. But judging from the brand most commonly found in Organic Food Magazines, there are some similarities that can be broadly grouped together under the airy-fairy title of “spiritual awareness”.

   Basically, according to Buddhist tradition, the only way of finding true fulfillment in life is by tapping into an inner divine force that each person is supposed to possess. Once it is found, people are supposed to be “at one with the universe” and have the power to drive away negativity and will positivity into being. This divine force is said to connect all living things and bind us in commitment to one another. Being a “conscious” usually also means trying to achieve both spiritual and physical health and wholeness. Yoga, Reiki, and pressure-point therapy all forms of this. Also, there is an emphasis on mind-over-matter, as seen in the arts of self-defense utilized in Kung Fu and Karate. 

    There is also a deep consideration for the natural world and a desire to “get back to nature”, eating organic foods and taking herbal remedies, plus taking an active part of preserving wildlife and endangered species. As to their perspective on duties to their fellow human beings…it varies. Some place a rather ridiculous emphasis on their own ability to obliterate negativity from the world by merely not adding to it, and therefore doing nothing to stop it. Others, as demonstrated in the series Kung Fu, actually take the idea of trying to bring truth and justice to the world very seriously.

    The New Age people realize that there is something more to reality than the mere physical, and they are willing to search out the truth about the mystery of our lives and our relationships with one another. That much I respect them for. I also respect their desire not to bring any unnecessary negativity to our planet, and as an organic eater and near-vegetarian who loves animals, I also sympathize with their dietary choices. Plus, I will confess to generally enjoying the Serius XM Channel Spa, which plays music broadly considered “spiritual”, ranging from Loreena McKennitt to LotR themes to meditative instrumentals to chants from every religion under the sun.

    But I feel that while they may have the best of intentions, the New-Agers have made a serious miscalculation: namely, who’s running the show. They say that human beings have “divinity” within them; but I would counter that it is merely a reflection of our Creator, who is truly Divine. We are made in his image and likeness, with a great capacity for virtue and an inherent attraction to truth and beauty. Indeed, being spiritually “conscious” is abiding by this inner desire for goodness and ultimately perfection. It is understanding that we must love and respect all living things, and work to heal a broken world and cultivate that which is noble.

   And yet, as wondrous as human beings are, we are still deeply flawed and perfection eludes us. We cannot just will that all suffering should cease and expect it to take place. That is not in our power. We must not turn inward and worship ourselves; we must not expect to find all the answers through mere meditation; that would be a betrayal of our own quest for perfection. Even done with the best of intentions, worshipping any part of ourselves is a dangerous perversion, settling for a reflection rather than the reality.

    So I would propose that those engaged in the New Age Movement would try to look beyond themselves in their quest for the Divine. They are on the right track when they say that there is something connecting “all the universe”. Basically, everything is made by the Creator, the ultimate source of goodness, truth, and beauty. That human beings are special among all other living things is because we have intellects and free wills in His own image, and as such we have a great responsibility to live up that by choosing good over evil. Sadly, we don’t always do it, and all sorts of “negativity” is brought into the world through our own deviation from that which is right. There’s no way of just wishing away all the evil in world – God will not even do that, since it would be a violation of our own free will.

    But that very “negativity” is still turned to good, because inevitably people will rise up to oppose evil and make sacrifices on behalf others. And as God is the Prime Mover of the Universe and Ultimate Cause of All Good, everything ultimately falls into His Providential Plan. As human beings, we are sub-creators in a fallen world, and it is our calling to become “spiritually awake” – but not to some divine force of our own, but by the Power of the Holy Spirit who enkindles in us the Fire of Love. Now, with this understood, there is certainly nothing wrong with choosing to respect all of God’s creation by “green-living”, and respecting our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit by eating organically and using herbal remedies. As far as I’m concerned, natural living is a form of growing close to God through the wonder of His creation.

    And there is certainly nothing wrong with using spiritually-evocative music for meditation, or lighting candles and incense for that matter, as long as we are worshiping God and not our “inner divinity”. But again, all this must be viewed cautiously from the perspective of a Christian, especially when it comes to certain exercises such as Yoga which were designed specifically for Eastern religious meditation. Opening certain doors that can lead to subliminal self-worship can be spiritually perilous. Nevertheless there is certainly no reason for us to be intimidated when we encounter those who ascribe to the New Age Movement. Far from it. We should do our best to dialogue about our commonalities on the spiritual journey and clearly point out our differences, encouraging the development of personal relationships and minds open to the truth.


Meditation, fine; self-worship, not so!

    

Thursday, October 30, 2014

People often ask me...

what my dreams are for the future. I suppose dreams are different than plans to some extent. For example, now that I’m finished with school, I plan on trying to find some customer service work that I can do from home on the computer and phone. And yes, certainly I should love to have more opportunities to explore my abilities in the arts, and publish my books. But I’m sure that’s a way in the future. As it stands, I really can’t plan too far into the future, but must take one step at a time. However, that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. So I shall let you in on two of my main dreams now.

    The first does have to do with finding a “soul mate”. And that doesn’t mean a White Knight for me; it could just as easily be a college nerd who desperately needs someone to look after him! As someone who has had no brothers, I honestly think that whoever I agreed to spend the rest of my life with in holy matrimony could not just be a flirt or romancer (I get turned off to such methods rapidly), but also must be a bit like the brother I never had. It would have to be someone I completely trusted, with my whole self, and who I would naturally want to spend quality time with.

    So my idea of a truly enjoyable “date” spent with someone would involve some sort of outing. Something adventurous, but not too strenuous. Just exploring small towns is enjoyable for me. Of course, finding special events – festival commemorations, concerts – is always better done with someone tagging along! Just sharing the moment, however insignificant, is worth the world. Another thing I would like very much is the idea of going out into nature, on some mountainside or by a lake, and having a good picnic or barbeque, collecting pieces of nature, accompanied by good conversation and a camera phone.

    I am also the sort of person who finds writing with others the very best way to get to know them. I love the creative sparks that fly, yes, even if things get heated at times! I love the long hours of brain-storming, the muddled product that we know needs rehashing, the cough drops and herbal tea from tug-of-warring it over details, the instrumental music belying of the wildness of our trends of thought. The unity such an experience produces, the pride in the finished product, is not to be matched.

    Indeed, I would never marry a man I could not write with, who could not draw the same electric current from working to create something true and beautiful through the clickety-clack of a keyboard. Another thing I should enjoy doing would be to cook with someone. Yes, shop for a bunch of oddly assorted groceries, bring them into a kitchen, and whip something to together! It doesn’t have to be complex or from scratch, but just something fun for immediate enjoyment. I’m visualizing such delicacies as English muffin pizzas, salad, and carrot cake, with vanilla Madagascar tea!

    And far be it from me to forge the pleasures of TV. I love movie marathons, with a conglomeration of utterly unrelated cinematic gems. Bring on period pieces, creature features, westerns, cartoons, and whatever else might be hanging around at the time! The hokier the better! There’s nothing like the unity of yelling at a TV screen together. Digging up music on YouTube is always fun too. Basically, just the concept of being around someone I’m comfortable enough with to tease, and be teased by, to squabble and make up, to find thoroughly impossible and love to pieces. Of course, some commonality in taste certainly would be helpful, but I don’t want a clone of myself. That would be no fun at all!

    Now, onto my Second Great Dream: It has always been the fondest desire in my heart to visit Britain as a pilgrim. I want to cross the island from Land’s End to the Orkneys, feeling the soul of the place, the people. There are so many things I long to see, hear, feel, taste, even smell! So many people I want to meet, to look into their eyes that I have never seen. I don’t want to just experience the grand things, but the small ones as well. I want to explore the towns and villages with the old churches, pubs, and ruined castles, and I want to meet the real people going about their daily lives.

   I want to see all the little historical markers, and meet the historical societies. I want to walk the “common land” – that wild side of Britain – to see the woods and marshes and lakes and the ocean that gave birth to a hundred thousand tales of triumph, defeat, and rejuvenation. I want to see where red coats were made, and the great oak in Sherwood stands, and I want to track Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert Bruce. I want to stand on the deck of The Victory, and see the lakes of Beatrix Potter and the Cotswold’s that exude Jane Austen. I want to find the “real” Middle Earth in the shires of Tolkien. I want to try to speak Welsh with native speakers.

  I want to visit those vestiges of Catholicism: Walsingham, Cardigan, St. Ethedreda’s, Brompton Oratory, Westminster Cathedral, Tyburn Convent, and all the other small abbeys, convents, and churches that might welcome the pilgrim in. And I also want to see what is now Anglican: Westminster Abbey, Oxford University, Cambridge University, the ruins of Glastonbury, Canterbury Cathedral, the Isle of Iona, and all the other charming places unlisted. And yes, of course, beyond all the romantic quaintness, I shall see the cities too, powerful, bustling, billowing, and sometimes disturbing, yet always with a teeming vitality.
  
    I know my musings may sound like some airy-fairy dream, but it is one that I cling to. It has been said that Britain is whatever someone brings to it. Perhaps that is the case with me. I pray there may be peace when I come to Britain. Indeed beyond all the political struggles that I have engaged myself in is a desire that the British people may find peace with themselves, instead of constantly fighting to tear themselves asunder. As one Scot I know queried, “What have they done to my county?” Scotland must not turn into another Northern Ireland. I hope that all people of good will, no matter how they voted in the referendum, will put aside the past and help with the reconciliation process, to move forward for the good of all.

    When I visit Britain if I ever were to hike across, or take a camper across, or a little of each, I should like very much to have a companion along the way. Preferably, I would go with someone of like mind, with at least a reverence for the spiritual or perhaps even a devotion to the Catholic Faith. Perhaps I could get some of my British friends to accompany me on different legs of journey. Perhaps it will be a friend from America with the same burning intent. I cannot explain the origin, or even the ultimate end, of that intent; it either is, or it isn’t. I believe God puts it there.


The Isle of Iona

    

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Story of Marian Devotion in Britain....

is rich and diverse, filled with legends and romance, persecution and hope for the future. The earliest Christian missionaries to the British Isles brought their love of the gentle virgin to the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon peoples, and it spread like wildfire, infusing older Pagan traditions and locations with new Christian meanings.

    In the Highlands of Scotland, a Neolithic stone structure regarded as sacred by the pagans was renamed “The Praying Hands of Mary.” In Glastonbury, England, a site resounding with pre-Christian mysticism, the mythologized chieftain Arthur Pendragon, who defended Christianity against the aggression of Pagan tribes, was said to have seen a vision of the Holy Mother and later borne an image her on his shield.

    She was also given the title “Our Lady of Glastonbury” in honor of the tradition that Joseph of Arimathea planted the first Christian church in Britain on that site, along with the Glastonbury Thorn which blossomed every Christmastide and Eastertide. In Cornwall, it was even said that she had physically visited with the Christ Child during one of Joseph of Arimathea’s journeys as a tin trader for the Roman Empire, giving rise to the carol, “I Saw Three Ships” and the old Cornish miner’s cry, “Joseph was a tinner!”

    It was recorded that King Alfred the Great had a deep devotion to Mary, and in keeping with this spirit, G.K. Chesterton depicted Our Lady appearing to him on the Battlefield of Ethandune: “Seven swords were in her hearth/And one was in her hand”. Likewise, on September 8, 997, it was recorded that the city of London was saved from a Viking invasion through her intercession on her birthday.
   
    During the Middle Ages, England was called “Our Lady’s Dowry”, and “Lady Masses” in honor of the Virgin became increasingly popular, with glorious polyphonic choir pieces performed in her honor. The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which housed a miraculous statue of her, was a major site of pilgrimage for royals, nobles, and common folk alike, earning it the title “England’s Nazareth” and becoming renowned for its famous silver seal. In Wales, The Shrine of Our Lady of Cardigan housed a mysterious wooden statue of The Virgin found by the riverside with a taper in her hands that was always kept burning.

    Likewise, the earliest ballads about involving Robin of Locksley, who took to Sherwood Forest as the champion of the oppressed, reveal that he had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and was often found “telling his beads/all in the greenwood among the green reeds.” It has even been speculated that Maid Marian is actually a covert reference to the Maiden Mary. The chivalric code of knighthood always placed a high emphasis on Mary, and thus on the respect owed to all women. Whether to celebrate the turning of the seasons in harvest festivities or preparing to launch a charge in a bloody battle, in was traditional to call on “Our Lord and Our Lady” in one breath.

      During the Protestant Revolt, there was a violent overthrow of past religious and cultural traditions by radical adherents to the iconoclast sect. Monasteries were despoiled and church interiors were stripped; the statues of Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of Cardigan were burned, along with countless other religious articles and relics of the saints. Even the supposed bones of King Arthur were destroyed, so associated was he with the Catholic England was past generations. Recusant Catholics were designated as “Robin Hoods” because of his own devotion to the Virgin Mary, and the legends of the Prince of Thieves temporarily fell out of fashion.

    But Mary remained a comforting presence for underground Catholics as they struggled through generations of being a hunted and ostracized minority. St. Edmund Campion, known as “The Diamond of England” for his brilliance and charisma, claimed to have seen a vision of Our Lady in Belgium before he departed for England disguised as a jewel merchant to minister to the persecuted Catholic community there. She foretold that he would die a martyr, and a year later he was captured and condemned in a mock trial before being dragged through the muddy streets of London to Tyburn Tree where he would be hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason.

     As he was dragged under Newgate Arch, he caught sight of the statue of Mary standing there, too high for the Protestants to smash. With his arm spasmodic from torture, he still managed to raise it in a salute to his Heavenly Queen. “Come rack, come rope, I will not talk”, had been his famous statement as the rack-master had tried to make him divulge information about his fellow Catholics. Now he took those secrets with him in death. It is little wonder that the Campion flower is also called “Our Lady’s Rose.”

    Now the story has come full circle through the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to help those Anglicans who wish to be received into the Catholic Church while still retaining their cultural and liturgical traditions in keeping with the fullness of the faith. Walsingham and Cardigan have both made been turned into centers of ecumenical reconciliation and devotion, and perhaps most poignantly, there is a medieval statue of the Madonna and Child that still stands on the outside of Westminster Abbey, built by St. Edward the Confessor in honor of Peter, Prince of the Apostles. She seems to be reminding the British people that even if they may have forgotten her, she has never forgotten them. Perhaps it is a call from her to come Home to her Son at long last.


The Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Farewell to Politics....

for the time being! Oh, sure, I'll be back on it sooner or later; probably with some commentary on Britain's general election next May, and the unfolding of the constitutional reform movement. And when our American elections roll around, you'll hear from me as well (especially since I'll be voting for the first time!). I'll also continue to make known my opinions about some controversies in the news.

    But still...over the course of this referendum battle, I came to realize that I really am not cut out for political commentary as a calling. I'm not the type who enjoys competing and quarreling as a hobby; that's why I don't care for athletic sports or debating clubs. At heart, God made an artist, with a verve for creating and reflecting on beauty, and bringing people together through it. So that's what I intend to spend more of my time doing now, and writing about those things instead. So up with literature, cinema, drama, art, travel, cooking, philosophy, theology, history, and cultural traditions the world over!

    As an appropriate closing post in the epic saga of The Scottish Independence Referendum 2014, I'm going to post two poems from Robert Burns, that go a long way in summing up the Scottish and British identities. Long may they both endure. Together.

~

Scots wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled
Scots wham Bruce has often led
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory

Now's the day and now's the hour
See the front o' battle lour
See approach proud Edward's pow'r
Chains and slavery

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or Freeman fa',
Let them follow me!

By oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free.

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in ev'ry foe!
Liberty's in ev'ry blow!
Let us do or die!


~

Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
Then let the louns beware, Sir;
There's wooden walls upon our seas,
And volunteers on shore, Sir:
The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
And Criffel sink in Solway,
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!

O let us not, like snarling curs,
In wrangling be divided,
Till, slap! come in an unco loun,
And wi' a rung decide it!
Be Britain still to Britain true,
Amang ourselves united;
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!

The Kettle o' the Kirk and State,
Perhaps a clout may fail in't;
But deil a foreign tinkler loun
Shall ever ca'a nail in't.
Our father's blude the Kettle bought,
And wha wad dare to spoil it;
By Heav'ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!

The wretch that would a tyrant own,
And the wretch, his true-born brother,
Who would set the Mob aboon the Throne,
May they be damn'd together!
Who will not sing "God save the King,"
Shall hang as high's the steeple;
But while we sing "God save the King,"
We'll ne'er forget The People!


    Bobbie Burns the Bard


Monday, October 13, 2014

We won the battle...

Now we certainly can’t afford to lose the war. And there’s no logical reason to predict that we’re going to, not if we keep faith with our own ideals and keep a keen grasp on the ways in which we can secure them. We won by 10%; maybe not the largest margin in the world, but certainly not the smallest. I personally thought the outcome would be more along the lines of Quebec, which turned out a 2% lead for “No” in their independence referendum.

    And while Parti Quebequois may hem and haw over having a re-match someday, they haven’t managed it for some 20 years and it looks unlikely they’ll get another chance any time soon. Frankly, aside from the hardcore secessionist die-hards, most people living there don’t want it, even if it was offered to them. Too many economic concerns, with companies pulling out for fear of independence. Too many emotional concerns, with families and friends put at odds over the issue.

    Scotland made her decision on the 18th, and chose her destiny to remain a part of The UK. Indeed, as our nationalist friends insisted over and over again in the course of the referendum, “This is democracy in action.” So let’s be practical. If things had gone the other way, even by the slightest of margins, can you imagine how the Salmond regime would have handled us Unionists if we started clamoring for a re-match? There’s no question about it, we would have been branded as neo-fascists refusing to accept self-determination and subverting the will of the people. And yet now they are trying to do the very same thing to us now.

    And for a moment there I actually thought Salmond might adopt at least the trappings of noblesse oblige, abide by the decision of the Scottish people, and accordingly work to make Scotland-in-Britain a better place. But no. Almost as soon as he announced his resignation, he was back again, claiming that promises would be reneged and trying to stir up trouble between the Scottish people and the Westminster Government. The Panda Bear is a Big Fat Rat, and the rest of the SNP nut-balls and their anti-British minions who refuse to give up the ghost are in the same nest with him. 

    Because here’s the thing: these people don’t care about compromises and settlements. They want independence for independence’s sake, no matter who it will hurt or what it will destroy. Most the SNP big-wigs seek this because they believe they will gain ultimate power; many of the others do so because they have come to see the very existence of Britain as a great injustice in the world. I have encountered some Yes voters even trying to play the part of prophets, saying that the dissolution of The UK is somehow part of the progress of humanity and must come to pass.

    I have to smirk hear because that’s exactly what Napoleon and Hitler said when they struck their commemorative medals for the planned take-over. One thing we can say with accuracy: islanders are resilient, and have a cheeky way of cheating fate and befuddling their most daunting enemies who believe they’re out for the count and should be obliterated for the ostensible good of the human race. Britain has proved her metal and her worth to the world on countless occasions. That’s what she just proved again this September.

    It’s ironic that the word “FREEDOM” has become the rallying cry of this sect. As one Scottish friend of mine queried as she observed it smeared across her neighbor’s fence, “Freedom…from what?” I agree that these types do need freedom, but not from the British government. They need freedom from their own small-mindedness. But sadly many people (including my fellow Americans) continue to view the whole “liberation” movement as hopelessly romantic. They sound disappointed that Scotland failed to break away, and brush it off with an explanation about big-bad-businesses teaming up with the big-bad-British Government and pressuring the Scottish people to betray their dream. And most of them were only old people with pensions, don’t you know?

    After all the hard and heart-felt work so many people put into saving the union (myself included), this sort of rubbish is really pretty insulting to the reasoning skills and backbone of the Scottish people. The simple fact is that an overwhelming majority of people living throughout The United Kingdom really do want the union to work because it represents so many different things to people: identity, security, opportunity, a homeland, a haven, and a dream. This is not so very different than the way Americans see our own country comprised of many states and peoples.

    The best thing for us to do is to take Nationalist rantings with a grain of salt and focus on reunifying the kingdom in spirit. They really can only hurt us if they throw us off our mark, so we must stay focused. Also, a little word from Call-Me-Dave and Company couldn’t hurt, reinforcing the fact that this referendum was a “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity” for the Scottish people to “choose their destiny.” Now that they’ve chosen in a fair, free vote, that destiny is settled, no matter much that Nats are doing everything in their power to belittle its historical significance.

    Beneath the felt-banner-fury, I think many of them realize the difficulty of their position too, but are almost in a state of denial. As time marches on, the eager-beavers they won over to the independence cause in the last few weeks before the vote will melt into the status quo crowd again. And when devo-max begins to take effect, another group will be successfully mollified. Without the dynamic Salmond at their head (although certainly not out-of-the-picture), some of the electric verve has already been sapped. So no, the situation doesn’t look particularly cheery for them. A small pocket of ultra-coo-coo-birds are even revealing their desperation by advocating a push for non-referendum separation. But nothing would come of that but their own political demise. If “The Dream Continues”, as nationalist headlines insist, reality is another matter entirely. For the foreseeable future, the game’s over. Time to move on now, chaps?

    And on that subject: what might be in store for the British people in years to come? As one American headline announced: “No to Break-up – Yes to Reform.” As Cameron made clear on Referendum Morning, “more powers” for Scotland must be complimented my “more powers” for the other nations of the UK as well. The time has come to decentralize powers from Westminster, and create a sturdy form of localized government throughout Britain. To put it simply, it’s time from the country to go from being a unitary one to a federal one. This will likely bring about the need for something the Brits have proudly done without over the course of their long and zany history: a written constitution.

    Is any of this going be achieved by “a fast fix”? No, certainly not. It’s going to take years to hammer things out in an equitable way for all four parts, fostering a sense of individuality and unity at the same time, against the backdrop of party squabbling and the ongoing debate as to whether or not Britain should remain in The EU. I will admit to having some concerns that the Nats will play the part of saboteurs during the course of this project, demanding the impossible and than taking every opportunity to paint the Westminster government as the Villain. British politicians are going to need all their wits about them to keep the ship on the right course.

   And of course the very best way to help would be to get as many SNP politicians out of power as possible. For federalization to work properly, the people running the home rule bodies must have dedication to the plan as a whole, and must be loyal to the federal government (i.e. the Maryland state government is loyal to the US federal government, etc.). For all those who want to make extra sure you never have to deal with another resurgence of separatism that divides relationships and jeopardizes you country and security, pick another party to vote for – anything but the SNP! In this spirit, I believe it would be advantageous to introduce a new oath for politicians to take – not just to the Queen, but to The United Kingdom as well as to the individual nations they are representing.

    Meanwhile, what about cultural reunification? First off, British history and culture needs to start being taught again in British schools, and the whole of it, especially the time period surrounding the Act of Union in 1707 and how the union went through a rough start to be a genuine success story of human endurance and ingenuity. If you feel your schools fail to give a proper overview of British history, take it upon yourself to start free-lance programs that do so in schools, libraries, shops, etc. It is vital that the next generation should feel British and proud of it.

    The next plan on the agenda would be to start taking back some of the symbols that the Nats have possessed, especially the Scottish Saltire. Lately I’ve been observing the way that we Americans fly Old Glory and our state flags side by side on most public and many private buildings. Why can’t the same be the case in Britain? Don’t choose either-or, but both-and! Make it a point to fly the Union Jack and the Cross of St. Andrew (or the Cross of St. George, or the Red Dragon, or the Harp and Crown) outside your house to show that you believe that the UK can work with healthy diversity and individuality. So come on, Better Together Crew, now’s the time to start handing out flags for free and encouraging a resurgence of them for the world to see!

    Finally, I’ve got to mention music. It’s always been an important part of politics and national identity, and now more so than ever. With federalization on the horizon, there will probably be more consideration about individual anthems for the nations of the UK. For the sake of reconciliation, I would advocate starting a movement to change the anthem of Scotland from “The Flower of Scotland” to “Scots Wha’ Hae”. I don’t think that’s so unreasonable, considering that they are both about the Battle of Bannockburn and Scottish valor in the face of a past English invasion. The main difference is that the former adds an unwarranted lament about the present state of affairs and the need to “be a nation again” – as if it is not one now! Come on, people of Scotland, you’re too good to be identified in song by that garbage. Hold your heads high; be proud of the fullness of your history and culture. And be proud of the decision you made on the 18th of September. It’s your victory; don’t let anyone take it from you.

    There’s one final thing I have to add: I strongly believed that Britain was preserved for a reason, and has been preserved countless times across the centuries by the same Power. I know I was praying my heart out for her; and I’m sure there were many others joining me. Through that mysterious relationship between providence and free will, we have all been given a second chance to make Britain a better place. We must take full advantage of this and forge onward into the future. God and Our Lady of Britannia save us all.


Now that you've kept it...fly it!!!



Friday, October 10, 2014

The Lord of the Rings...

 means so many different things to an assortment of wildly different people who take it into their heart. This was what J.R.R. Tolkien intended when he wrote – basically, an intention to intend nothing directly but the creation of well-spun yarn in honor of his native England. But of course his personal sentiments and experiences did in the end get downloaded into the manuscript, from his involvement in the two world wars to his Catholic world view to his romantic attraction to the culture of the ancient Anglo-Saxons.

    Although he would go on to holler at C.S. Lewis for making his enchanted realm of Narnia something of a mythological alphabet soup, Middle Earth is certainly something of a hodge-podge in its own right. And while it may not have been an intended allegory, Tolkien was all too well aware that people would create allegories of their own. But that’s what makes it relatable, and why people continue to see something new in it each time it’s taken up. So getting to my point and my source of comparison…

    As most of you know, I recently completed my stint working as a political activist for the preservation of the UK and the prevention of Scotland breaking away. My reasons, put simply, were as follows: I love the British culture, created by the merging of English and Scottish ones; I realized how important Britain is to world, especially in these increasingly unsettled times, and knew losing her as a united force would weaken us all; I knew a split would hurt my British friends, emotionally and economically; I detected something deeply wrong, perversely twisted in the perspective of the independence advocates, in perverting history and current events for their own gains.

     So I cast my lots on the side of the Union Jack, and I’ll admit it was a wild ride and continues to be. But all the work paid off when the unionists won the Scottish Independence Referendum this past September. So with our recent victory being the main topic of our conversation, I was speaking with my friend Laurellian, another fan of LotR, who also happens to be a British Unionist. I mentioned to him that there were a number of things in the course of the campaign that brought to mind Tolkien’s story. Before long his quick wit was turned to it and he started making allegorical comparisons between the different characters. For the fun of it, I thought I’d share with you some of the connections we made.

   So our Sauron had to be Alex Salmond, the leader of the movement to dissemble Britain by pulling Scotland out of the union. Charismatic, arrogant, and none-too-worried about making outlandish promises he has no way of keeping, the gentleman has also proven himself to something of a spoil-sport in recent weeks, going back on his word to work for the unity of Scotland-in-Britain by trying to stir up trouble between the Scottish people and the British government all over again. But he was defeated, nevertheless, and had to resign his post as First Minister of Scotland. The application is this: while Sauron saw the Ring as the ultimate key to power, Salmond seems to have seen independence which would have made him a big fish in a smaller pond. But in both cases, their arrogance was undone by people willing to take their chances and stand up against his bid for that power.

    With the fire-eye finally extinguished (or at least dimmed), Salmond’s minions of fanatical followers who refuse to abide by the will of the people and continue to champion break-up we dubbed orks. The Scottish Nationalist Party leaders orchestrating the movement have to be uruk-hai. Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s likely successor, we fondly knighted as Gollum. And as for Sir Sean Connery, the intrepid Scottish martyr for the cause of freedom (er…actually tax-exile in the Bahamas…), we gave the illustrious position of Witch-King. Actually, when I think about it, his voice would have perfect for the part in the movie…but onto the application: it was a close fight. Even holding status quo, we actually had a lot against us, mostly a false romanticization about utopia that would be established in the wake of The UK’s destruction and the constant cyber-nat-ing and ranting trying to throw us off our game. But we pushed them back just short of the gates, and have lived to fight another day.

    Moving on to “the good guys”, it was settled that Alistair Darling should be our Frodo. Pretty much the antithesis of Salmond, he is generally laid-back, unassuming, and not given to outlandish displays. Okay, I’ll be blunt: the guy’s an ultra-nerd with thick-rimmed glasses and black eyebrows that need brushing and starkly contrast with is white hair. But he is intelligent, steady under fire, and by all accounts a decent guy. Over the course of the referendum, as leader of the campaign to keep the Union together, he really did have to walk “a lonely road”, and very nearly went down with the ship for his lack of charisma and being overly courteous to the emotionally extroverted Salmond in debates. But his slow-and-steady approach was apparently not lost entirely on the voters, and there was nothing quite as moving as hearing him announcing victory over the radio, saying that Scotland had remembered the bonds of unity between herself and the rest of The UK. “May they never be broken.” He may have been a bit like a hobbit, small and dorky in comparison with the epic forces at work. And yet he stuck to his guns to saw it through, just like Frodo.

    Gordon Brown, the former prime minister and MP for Kirkcaldy, was our pick for Gandalf. After all, just like at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, he did come riding into the fray last minute when things were looking increasingly desperate, and managed to connect the “head and heart” arguments why Britain should not fragment, but continue to exist as a force for good in the world. As for our Aragorn…well, I’ll admit that Laurellian and I might not quite agree on this one, but I’ll nominate the Prime Minister David Cameron. I know he’s made a lot of mistakes in the past, on any number of issues, but still. This whole thing probably cost him quite a few years off of his life. I mean, who wants to preside over a country that breaks up because you gave the secessionists a binding vote? But in the end he did come through, making the needed offers of compromise and surviving the long night. And his commanding speeches on BBC did have a kingly air to them…don’t tell the Queen I said that! ;-)

    I fancy the rest of us to be like the riders of the Rohirrim and foot soldiers of Gondor. Sure, why not? All the writing, planning, the arguing, the hustling about. Even for me, on this side of the Atlantic, the whole thing felt like a small war. For people who had deal with it in their faces day after day in their native land, it must have been more than heart-wrenching. It still is in many ways. No one has had the chance to recover, and yet there are glaring signs, jeering rallies, ominous threats. Hopefully these after-effects will gradually decrease in time, but everyone must still keep their guard up. They may still be out there, but the point is we’re still out there too.

    And what would Tolkien think of all this conjecture, you might ask? Well, I’m sure he would expect it after such a momentous event. I honestly don’t know what his personal opinions would be on Unionism, since he was culturally quite an English nationalist and hated garbling “Englishness” with “Britishness”. But somehow I don’t think he would have rejoiced to see a perfectly good marriage of nations crumble in a veritable no-fault divorce. He was too much of a Catholic in world view for that. And I can’t believe he would have favored the manic depressant attitude that the independence people have adopted to invalidate the concept of Britain. No, how could he have after infusing his stories with such a glorious thread of hope amidst despair?

    Tolkien’s own time was a rough one for Britain. Two world wars with only one generation in between, economic depressions, and the collapse of a profitable empire left the Brits at the mercy of other nations to help them regain their bearings. But they would never be top nation again and that hurt British pride. In literature, there was a rise in depressive story lines about loss of identity and the unstoppable crumbling of society such as the 1954 dystopian novel by William Golding called Lord of the Flies. But Tolkien was a different man than Golding. He had a deep and abiding belief in the theological virtue of hope, that things can change for the better, that individuals can build up as well as tear down, and that there is a Light that can never be extinguished even when things looked the darkest. Britain needs that spirit now more than ever. As I’m sure Tolkien would heartily agree, the most important thing for her to do is to turn to God for strength and direction as she struggles to renew and reunify in the years to come.

  
The Creator of an Epic of Hope