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Columnists

In existing beings

Lucy Winkett

WinkettThe visionary artist and poet William Blake was baptised at St James's Piccadilly and so his anarchic spirit and inventive mind seem to be around still.

Before I came here, I had  a little understanding of Blake's work, mostly through the hymn known as 'Jerusalem'. You know the one: one wag has described it as a two- verse hymn, the first verse of which is a set of questions to which the answer is no; and the second verse of which is a set of statements to which the answer must be 'Get it yourself'.

Now that I have got to know him a little,  I find that Blake with his colossal imagination and relentless challenge to any perceived orthodoxy, is a helpful companion in what seem to be apocalyptic times. One of Blake's contentions was that 'Without contraries, there is no progression', that is that paradoxes are the stuff of life and it ill behoves any philosophy or religion to try to reconcile or harmonise everything as this smacks of social control and  totalitarian tendencies.  It was the energy between seeming paradoxical statements or beliefs that energised Blake and he was convinced that the 'just man' and the 'villain' are often found in the same person, and that our lifelong task is to learn to live with ourselves as we are; a mixture of self regard and generosity, cruelty and kindness, meanness and delight. When these contraries are accepted rather than ignored, then we shall live abundantly. His was a religion of the poetic charismatic Jesus of Nazareth rather than what he characterised as the moralistic Christ of history that he thought was presented so damagingly  by organised religion.  

With Europe still struggling to cope with its greatest crisis since the war, with a million young people unemployed, with the tectonic plates of morality and community shifting in an age of renewed protest at the gap between rich and poor, the church appears to be struggling to engage with the issues of the day.  But the chance to do this is in our own communities, unashamedly speaking of the spiritual realities of life and taking part in practical action to accept and acknowledge those contraries.   

At the beginning of the new yYear which begins with such uncertainty but which will be dominated, here in London anyway, by the Olympics,  the spirit of Blake is a helpful one, reminding me that the life of the Spirit is revolutionary, wild, ungovernable and that all action taken in God's name is underpinned by the energetic anarchic mercy of God.  

Is not God alone the Prolific? I answer, God only acts and is; in existing beings. Resolutions made and broken will be made in the light of the presence of God and in this is comfort and relief. Blake had a way of explaining that all our efforts (important as they are, as a life lived in action was vital to him) were in a greater context. His words are good advice: when he has done this, let him not say that he knows better than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine.