Saturday, November 04, 2017

Living Quietly

Image result for the recent past ravilious book

The exceptional writer Robert Macfarlane tweeted a "heads up" about the publication of a book of photos taken by James Ravilious in Devon, Great Britain. It is called The Recent Past and the photos are from nearly 80,000 taken by artist and photographer Ravilious within a radius of ten miles from his home during the 1970's and early 80's. They depict a way of life which is fast disappearing.

This caught my attention because my mother was born in Devon and I've been there several times through the decades. Also we lived in outport Newfoundland in the early 80's, and that unique rural life is fading away as well.

Someone from a little farmstead in the Pennines responded to the tweet and commented on one of the photos embedded of a shepherd in the snow with a coat cinched with binder twine, saying that they still do this. He said that they describe their existence as "living quietly," wanting little and holding on.

I thought the "living quietly" was a lovely description, and one which is both timeless and urgent.  The pace of our lives continues to accelerate, literally and psychologically. A decade ago my brother and I visited Devon with my Mom, a sort of farewell tour. The vehicles ripped along the narrow country lanes as though they were highways rather than the wagon tracks they once were.

But we also seem to be frantically attempting to keep up with the pace of technological change. Someone lined up for the new iPhone X for a day and a half even though it will cost more than several of my earliest car purchases. And of course the person who responded with "wanting little and holding on" is connected through social media the way his/her forbearers weren't.

It is essential for us to ask how we might simplify our lives, the way Jesus, our Good Shepherd, suggested we should, for the good of our souls and our planet. We can't return to the 1970's, or the first century, for that matter. Still, I like the notion of wanting little, although I'm just not as committed to the practice! If we don't, God help us.


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