2021 re Grateful Disciples of Truth. Tom Hamill
Scripture writers, especially St John in the Apocalypse, ‘use metaphors to stir the power of The Imagination and shake The Unconscious’, says Richard Rohr in one of his Reflections.
It reminds me of Tom’s attention to Words:
Words spoken and listened to; words written and mulled over; their sources and contexts; the many-nuanced and layered meanings, uses, associations and expressions from different languages and cultures, the etymology of words as well as the significance and position of Each Word in his chosen Title for a Workshop or for a Poem offered.
Tom used words ‘recombining them in fresh ways so that an old truth is freshly perceived’ or ‘A Truth that has been eroded to platitude by careless usage is set in motion again’ so to help us interact with it in new, revealing and imaginative ways.
Remembering all this brings me to Tom’s Poem:
Grateful Disciples of Truth
The first two lines alert us to what
‘tapped at the window and rattled the knob’
and when ‘your Granny might say with a sigh: We’re not half thankful enuff’
We can imagine Tom, before reading this poem aloud for the group, giving us a little exercise: write down the 10 people or 10 events or 10 things that you are most grateful for: and in the writing we would begin to get-into the feeling and heartfelt understanding of the first word: Grateful.
But a further unimagined Awakening would happen as we listened to Tom read aloud in his much-nuanced-metaphoric language his own list of ‘Thanks for’, within the poem, a list that hints up both Biblical and Body-Mind-Soul-Spirit- Images and ‘The Many Doors-to-Creativity’, the doors to our own imaginations being nudged open all the time.
The poem’s listing of ‘Thanks for’ through the second stanza reaches a climax
in the third with:
‘Thanks for The Spirit-that-Interpenetrates & Embraces & Nourishes-The Manyness-of-Each&All!’
It then asks the provocative Question:
‘Has anyone, except perhaps Jesus, glimpsed
The Unexplored, & Unrealised Gift
Of The Holy Spirit, Breath-of-All-Breaths…?’
‘Yes! Behoves each one of us to realise!
Our utter giftedness: The Breath’s a symbol!
Yes! A truth that’s forgotten before it’s uttered…’
The final three lines, appropriately for this Easter-to-Pentecost and Covid-time
Express a Prayer, a Challenge, a Warning, a Hope, a Call to all
Grateful Disciples of Truth
I find echoes in this poem with another of Tom’s Poems: The One Deepness:
A poem requested for the Book: The Poet’s Search for God, Published 2016.
‘As this 21st Century unfolds,
A blessed truth’s beginning to tap on the window’…
Awake and Realise and Manifest!
Response to “Grateful Disciples of the Truth”
Mindful of Tom’s complete avoidance of what he calls the “usual guff,” couched, or indeed smothered, in theological or more churchy jargon, I am half afraid to offer some reflections on this deep and powerful poem. The title obviously offers us a key to the central themes of the poem namely gratitude, discipleship and truth, themes that are inextricably linked in themselves.
True to his word, Tom unpacks the “usual guff” that would state for instance that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God by affirming that the truth that Jesus embodies comes and “taps on our window” or “rattles the knob” of the doors of our inner being. It is a Truth that often disturbs as well as comforts us. Again, the Truth that comforts us offers us sustenance at the Table of the Lord. The poet prefers the word Eucharist, a word Greek in origin, which means “thanksgiving” to the term “Mass” which derives from the Latin phrase “Ite missa est!” or “Go you are sent!” In the old days there was a big emphasis on going forth as disciples and living the Word we had heard preached rather than sharing the joy of the sustaining communion with the Saviour in which we had participated.
However, Tom’s poem is essentially one about gratitude which he sees as an essential Christian quality to which we should all aspire. The medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart summarised the essence of prayer and gratitude thus: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” It seems to me that this powerful poem is a call to prayer, a call to give thanks, indeed a call to be truly grateful for all the gifts and blessings we have received in our lives. The poet invites us to be courageous, to “take the first step” and to “whisper thanks.”
He spends most of the poem listing in litany fashion those things for which we should show daily gratitude, the “dance” of life, the seven rituals or sacraments. Again, the poet obviously favours the more earthy word “ritual” to the more theological concept of “sacrament.” The poet surprises us, too, with wonderful imagery, this time an aural one where he says that we should be thankful for “the crooning awesomeness of the night sky” – that is, the heavens, as it were, are gently singing us into the embrace of its majesty and mystery.
Furthermore, we should acknowledge with gratitude all the paths that are open to us that lead us into “higher levels of consciousness.” We must pray that we become open to these avenues to higher consciousness as they are not all that obvious to many of us. The very riddle of life that binds body, feelings, soul and spirit together, the poet suggests, is the miracle for which we should be truly grateful.
This deep poem requires three or more readings to come to grips with its message of grateful acceptance of the gift of discipleship of the Way. Lastly, a method of embracing this poem in its full import would be to read it aloud to savour the words and let them “tap on the window” and “rattle the knob” of the door to our inner self or soul. Such an attentive reading will open to us the depths of our being where the Lord of Life for every Christian shelters. Let us start with a “whisper” and take courage to eventually shout our thanks to the Lord of Life for all the bountiful gifts we have received.