Writing and the Sacred – a short essay by Stephen Kingsnorth

In my understanding, how writing and the sacred are connected

I can speak with hindsight only in relation to my own pilgrimage and companionship, as one won over by the gospel witness statements to Jesus of Nazareth. He himself of course was highly critical of the interpretation, exclusivity and practise of his own tradition by its elders, and praised numerous practitioners of other faiths. He did not intend to found a new religion, but breathe life into fresh understanding of life’s purpose, pose questions as to how our humanity might best be fulfilled. Those with insight of other faiths may empathise with aspects of my manifesto, though promote other emphases, or even demur from my core sensibilities. So be it. I remain confident in my uncertainty.

Poets seek to express, with the tools of their craft, questions drawn from their perception of where their humanity mixes with the divine in that thin atmosphere offered in the sacred moment. The mix pervades everything, whether recognised or not. The moments occur repeatedly. Whether that glimpse is grasped, briefly, or passes by unnoticed is, like the wind – a murmur, breeze, gust or gale – beyond our control, yet more readily to be realised in the common round of life – a given for all, and celebrated by divine creation – rather than the presumptuously religious.

But as I search to re-set gospel, release its forged boundaries, limited by my own hinterland, I explore more freely the communities of Galilee and Jerusalem, and on to the ends of the earth, and maybe beyond. When I remove, as far as I am able, the theologies imposed upon them, I see more clearly The Man and his questions. I re-type The Type. When I recognise that searching for the historical Jesus is as one staring down a well and seeing a reflection of themselves, then I am better prepared to discover fresh images. Am I prepared to excise assumed models? Have I the courage to dismantle the framework buttressing my assumptions? Do I risk the declined permissions of others who thus far tolerate my idiosyncrasies? I am after all, in good company, following the way of one despised by leaders of religious orthodoxy.

So, in the face of humanity, individuals and community; in the interactions of living things within its scenery; in possibility and despair; in these I find the yeast for reflective poetry.

All I would welcome, posing questions to myself, is to have others looking over my shoulders, those who might themselves further my enquiry through their own probing, interrogations, examinations. What ‘eroteme’ marks will I permit to hang over each conclusion that I thought I had reached, journalist of life? Am I ready to be disciple – learner, in companionship – sharing bread, with my fellow pilgrims?

The good news I read relates to a second sight, a grace of blindness replaced by insight. However poorly that light filters, though we may need a second touch, and countless further ministrations, we may seek to record through pulse, breath, sound, economy of codes, seams mined at different levels, the rhythms and revelations pumped into our blood.

Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by a dozen on-line poetry sites, including Amethyst Review, and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader & Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

This essay is part of an occasional series in which contributors reflect on connections between writing and the sacred. Please send in your thoughts if you would like to contribute a short piece, I would love to hear them!

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