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Tea and Theology

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beauty

間 – ma (space between)

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ways in which difference is held together in Japan, and the Japanese understanding of beauty and stillness. I have been struck by the number of people from other lands who have made Japan their home for so many years, as well as reflecting on my own story, and why I returned to Britain after living here for four years. There is a mix of ancient and modern, secular and sacred, stillness and disturbance, each held in such close proximity.

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There can be invitation alongside hostility…

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…it can feel like two parallel universes; equally as a foreigner here, all that I have known can feel like it is from a parallel universe, one that is presently inaccessible.

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Rituals and respectfulness can demonstrate the beauty of the soul.

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Often blue sky and sunshine can elevate the soul.

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Equally, without warning, unfortunate events unfold; those that you would much rather leave behind or not have to receive, like ‘bad fortunes’ that can be left in the safety of the shrine rather than accompanying you home.

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Then there are customs which bring you to your knees, like these prayers for children – especially those who did not have very long with us – given hats and bibs to keep them warm, as well as windmills to offer relief from the sun.

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It seems that there is nowhere quite like this wonderful place of contradictions amidst harmony – where space or stillness is sought after within a busyness that I may never truly understand….

Cracked vessels

I’ve been thinking about how people are a little bit like cracked or imperfect vessels. Each vessel is imperfect in a different way, and that may be more or less noticeable, but each is imperfect none the less.

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Some might be too small to be of any real use…

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Others might look beautifully ornamental but not have a purpose…

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Some might just be the wrong shape for what you intend to use them for…

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Or not deep enough to contain the growth that is happening…

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They might have a good side, but damage on the other…

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Or not be very good at allowing light to shine out, even though that is what they were designed for…

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Too big…

 

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Or whilst perfect when they’re new, they rust once the weather gets to them!

Whilst these criticisms are specific to vessels, how does imperfection and brokenness manifest itself in people – in you and those around you? Is it easier to see in others? Are we quick to judge those around us whose imperfections may be slightly more obvious than our own…do we convince ourselves that our imperfections are not as damaging or as bad as those of others?

What if we try instead to see the beauty in others? What if we look into the eyes of those around us and searched for what they hold inside them and for the things about them that we love?

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Brokenness into Beauty

The room was huge – bigger than
you might be able to envisage,
stretching as long as it was wide
It seemed to go on and on…
goodness knows what it was
before this destruction?
A banqueting hall perhaps,
which would make more sense
of the ceramic debris covering the floor!
Eyes took a few moments to adjust
to the poor lighting as they looked in
from the old heavy double doors.
Windows, covered by dense curtains,
allowed only a few shards of light
to break through the cracks
and the electricity of the industrial
revolution was yet to arrive
in this once fine and grand palace.
All that remained of such grandeur
were these shattered pots now
littering the floor, buried in dust.
Different shapes, sizes,
colours and patterns
reflected the diverse range
of ceramics they had once styled.
And now this was all just rubbish,
they could never be pieced together
to return to their previous existence.
They were broken and useless
with no further vessel potential…or was there?
What might it be like if each of
these pieces were gathered
together to form one single vessel?
The vision, small at first, grew beyond
all reckoning – it became an obsession!
Slowly initially, then more intentionally,
hands gathered individual pieces and
gently wiped away dust and traces of decay
before placing them carefully
and purposefully alongside one another.
Dust stirred up as feet tentatively pushed
broken pottery aside, deliberately
taking care not to add further damage
to these precious pieces, as they moved
deeper into the room to seek and gather.
An initially small and seemingly
insignificant workspace spread
as clutter gained a sense of sequence.
The sound of steady breathing alongside
a light chinking and clinking of ceramic
pieces making contact was all that
accompanied the silence
in the vast banqueting hall.
The divine artist worked unceasingly
to form broken fragments into a
vessel of unique splendour and artistry;
pieces fused together with golden lacquer
took on a greater depth and charm
than had ever emanated from them
in their previous existences!
Brokenness led to beauty as
the divine artist gathered, shaped
and moulded the pieces of pot like clay.
Never before had anything like it
been crafted or created but as eyes
observed the work of their hands
and saw the immense light that the
powerful vessel had been built around,
they looked and saw that it was good.
And then they rested!

Finding beauty

#682 #findingbeauty in our new #suburban surroundings…perhaps not as picturesque as Cuddesdon, but there was something lovely about this #sunset at the #naturereserve 

Master Tent Maker

#672
Master tent maker
Divine creator
Of people, places
spaces and species
Of all that is
Needed and known
Homes from leaves
trees and wood
From things grown
Out and open
To bricks, mortar
Fashioned and finished
Never to move
Is this intention
Divine and inspired
Or shaped by
Mere mortals
When did life become
Static and stagnant
Lacking natural flow
Movement, adaptability
In worship and work
Bring back the
Master tent maker
That we might live
And worship amongst
Created beauty
Sleep under stars
Awaken to dripping
Rain on canvas
Ever reminded of
Our protector
And Sustainer
Divine creator
Master tent maker

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Catch the Light

#643 The sheer #beauty of the #illumination which occurs when #light intersects with #darkness makes me wonder whether both are necessary…if there was no darkness, would we appreciate the light for its power and beauty?

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Simple beauty

#632 #bluebells as a reminder of the simple #beauty in #creation and a firm promise of #spring 

If this sky could talk…

#540 #creatorgod #beautyinnature If this #sky could talk what would it be saying? What #wisdom would it offer the world it looks down upon? Would it be pleased with all it sees?

Sunset drive

#512 #sunsetdrive through #derbyshire – a reminder of #lightoftheworld #beautyincreation and the need to #taketimetobe Amen.

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