• Susan Bowden-Pickstock

Open your whole self (June 2021)

One of my favourite Shakespeare quotes is from the beginning of ‘Hamlet’, where Hamlet says to Horatio:


“There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy”.

I like the idea that it is good to be open to the possibility that we haven’t got it all sorted, and that new insights that we don’t yet have may be out there.


I came across a poem recently by a First Nations American called: ‘Eagle, about Prayer’. In it are these words:


To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound.


I’ve been reading a book about how our brains work and how the two hemispheres of the brain influence who we are and how we act. It’s fascinating. Neuroscience is still a world where we are learning all the time. I learned that neuroscientists, linguists, archaeologists and anthropologists together believe that at one time we probably didn’t talk at all.


We know that ancient humans expressed themselves, by the extraordinary cave paintings that you may have heard about or even been fortunate enough to have seen. We once saw a cave in the Grampian hills in Victoria, Australia. There a whole surface of rock was covered in ochre coloured hand prints. That was it, just handprints. It was so simple, and yet so expressive, so profound.

Was this a group saying: ‘This is us, this is who we are’?


Was it a covenant to something particular:‘ We the undersigned are doing this’ …?


And it felt so profound. I had the instinct to add my name; to add those of our small group of friends. Despite the millennia between us, we would have been the same as they. Expression is innate in us. I learned from my book that it is thought that language came from gesture: a hand extended, a palm turned out, arms crossed over your chest. Gesture was how we communicated. Even better: not just gesture, but gesture and music. So ancient humans sang to one another: a rhythmic musical sound. They didn’t use syllables or words or sentences, but the pitch, the rhythm, the pace and the depth of the music communicated to the one listening.


To pray you open your whole self

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;


God is what I tend to call ‘Other’. God is a force and an energy for good - but not easily pinned down or knowable entirely in our terms. This gives me hope, for there is more in heaven and earth than just myself and the material world I live in. Perhaps I need to return to a more primitive mode to hear better this God that I:


Can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound.


Meanwhile enjoy all the material wonder of nature in June.

Bless you

Susan


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