During an anti-clutter purge I came across a card that has been missing presumed lost for the best part of three decades. This ‘Picture Meditation’ is entitled ‘The Pathway and is No.8 in a series published by Mirfield Publications, House of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire.
The Mirfield Monastery and its fund-raising publications are still going strong and a Google search reveals that this card is still available for purchase online at a modest price of £0.50. I can’t recall where I bought it but I probably found it in a cathedral bookshop.
As an atheist this is not something I would normally spend money on but I found the text attractive because it accurately describes the state of self-doubt I often feel when contemplating change in my life. Once you exclude the entreaties to God (addressed as ‘Lord’) it is remarkably secular and plain-spoken. Here is the full text with [—-] in place of ‘Lord’ to exclude the Christian slant:
[—-], I seem to have somehow lost my way. I keep trying to follow the old familiar ways that I have known for so many years, and now they no longer lead me anywhere. Most of the time I find myself back where I started. I want to move out from where I am, and I just seem to be going round in circles.
I am still the same person that I was, and I still feel that is I found the right path I would recognise it at once, and I would go on from there. But at the moment I am stuck, and all ways look alike to me: none of them seems to be the right one.
I have tried asking other people if they can help me, but they each tell me to travel in a slightly different direction. I am left to find my way alone. This begins to make me feel afraid [—-]. Supposing I never find the right way and go on as I am, confused and unable to move? At times I am even tempted to think that there is no way out of this muddle, and that al the effort and energy spent on looking for it is a waste of time. Sometimes I think I might as well go to sleep and forget all about everything. Maybe if I did, it would all be different when I woke up: everything as clear as daylight.
Yet, [—-], I know deep down, that I must not give up hope like that, nor must I expect magic to change everything. I need to wait and try hard not to be afraid. I need to believe that a way ahead will become clear eventually, and when it does I will recognise it at once. Help me [—-] to be patient, help me not to be afraid and show me the path that I must take.
What I like about this text is the way the focus is more on doubts than revelations – on problems rather than solutions. Only at the very end with the request to “show me the path that I must take” is there any hint that the problems can be delegated to a deity. Up to that point all the uncertainty bordering on desperation is couched in individual terms : “I must not give up hope, nor must I expect magic to change everything”.
Appealing to a spirit in the sky is, to non-believers like myself, a cop-out in that it spuriously suggests a magic intervention is possible.
Also, why should my humble prayer get priority treatment in a divine IN-tray when there are millions of more pressing, and more specific problems in the world?
‘Show me the way’ is the classic plea but in a human-centred universe the only person who truly knows which path is the right one is the traveller. I can appreciate that by putting in to words the state of feeling lost can be useful and is preferable to bottling up the pain. I don’t believe any Lord will guide me to choose the correct path in my life but it helps to give voice to the dilemmas.