Tuesday 4 June 2024

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE - MEET ALAN NEWTON, A MARAZION QUAKER

 

Frank Musgrove, who was professor of sociology at the University of Manchester when I was there as a postgraduate student in 1976-77, had a memorable line that has resonated with me from that time to this. ‘The health of a society’, he said, ‘lies at its margins’.

 

Becoming and being a Quaker identifies the person who has taken that path as being different from the mainstream. Quakers live at the margins of society, seeking to change themselves and the world for the better. That’s why we can be a force for good. At our best, we are the health of a society.

 

All of which brings us to Alan Newton, clerk at the Marazion Meeting House, who has recently accepted clerking duties within Cornwall Area Meeting. When I first met Alan my judgement was that he was a good, kind man with a quick wit and accomplished in his role as a clerk. He seemed a modest man, confident in some ways but self-effacing. Now I know his story I can appreciate his character more deeply. Alan has lived a life at the margins in a fashion which I find inspirational. More people should know about his alternative take on how to live well, how to live the good life.


Living the good life in the home that Alan built - June 2024 - Alan Newton and Beryl Brookman, with a Friend, Louise Donovan, in silhouette between them, sharing a simple lunch  


Alan was born in 1958 in Hornsey in north London before it became gentrified and posh. When he was five years old, the family moved to Wimbledon into a house that had been inherited from an aunt. Their new home was in a middle-class street with bankers and city commuters as neighbours. Alan’s dad was

Thursday 16 May 2024

MAKING SENSE - REMARKABLE INSIGHTS FROM PROFESSOR MARTIN STANTON

Those of you who follow my blogposts will know that my journey - my odyssey through my lifetime - has been enriched by discovering the writings of Richard Rohr (Silent Compassion, 2014/2022) and Hugh McGregor Ross's analysis of George Fox as a mystic (George Fox - A Christian Mystic, 1991/2008). I have also found Ross's studies of the Gospel of Thomas a deep source of wisdom, but as yet have not read enough to create a post on these matters. Here are the relevant links:

For Ross: https://robdonovan.blogspot.com/2024/01/fruits-of-marazion-quaker-library-hugh.html

For Rohr: https://robdonovan.blogspot.com/2023/11/fruits-of-marazion-quaker-library_21.html

I can now add the ideas and writings of Martin Stanton to my list of guides to a deeper understanding of how best to make sense of the odyssey we all make by virtue of being alive. 


Martin Stanton - circa the 1980s


Making Sense (2020) is Martin Stanton's remarkable critique of mainstream psychoanalysis in its academic and clinical ideology and practice. Martin is the child declaring that the emperor's clothes are only imagined. Professor Judith E. Vida in Los Angeles hits the spot when she writes:

'Making Sense  is a radical proposal that the real life complexity of thought, emotion, and experience will always resist closure, resolution, fixing, getting over it, interpretation, diagnosis, and so-called 'normality'. Martin Stanton generates poetic new metaphors for living that are as supportive as they are expansive, providing morsels of practical wisdom, each at once juicy, sweet, and savoury - and full of new nourishment.'

I should also say at this point that I did not find Making Sense an easy book to read. Martin has more learning than I do. My grasp of Greek mythology is only basic; Martin moves with ease and fruitfully

Thursday 9 May 2024

EXPLORING NEW WORLDS - OUTI PIESKI AT TATE ST IVES - AND REDEFINING BOUNDARIES

The boundaries of our world shrank during the Covid pandemic, as did those of the rest of the world. Much of the world has now forgotten those self-protecting days of isolation - but there are still many, including Louise and myself, whose boundaries are more limited than they used to be. [The official Covid-19 Inquiry is now taking place and will eventually issue its Report; reading my work 'Dying to Know' (2022) will give you access to the bits that the official report will gloss over or leave out altogether. Press this link here if you are interested in buying a copy.]  

We no longer have the desire to cross the continent of Europe in an aircraft to reach Athens and then take a ship to cruise the Aegean to reach the holy island of Patmos, a journey we first undertook in 1988 and then repeated in eighteen of the thirty years before SARS-CoV-2 struck. These pilgrimages brought rest, rehabilitation, and a touch of wisdom - but we have moved on. The memories remain - and the inspirations.

If the motivation to travel distances has declined, the love of discovery has remined intact. It was therefore a joy to accompany our friend, Stephen Vranch, on a visit to the new exhibition at Tate St Ives, featuring the work of Outi Pieski, in March this year.  


Outi Pieski 


Outi Pieski is a Sámi visual artist based in Ohcejohka (Utsjoki), Finland. 

Pieski's paintings and installations explore several themes, including the culture and identity of the Sámi people – who live in the region of Sápmi, which now includes the

Saturday 16 March 2024

FRUITS OF THE MARAZION QUAKER LIBRARY - DAVID OLUSOGA (2020) 'BLACK AND BRITISH - A SHORT, ESSENTIAL HISTORY'

     David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian and broadcaster whose professorship is at the University of Manchester. In 2019 he was awarded the OBE for services to history and community integration. 


In this book of over 200 pages, David Olusoga has achieved what he set out to do: he has written for a readership of children the history of Black people in Britain. The version for adults had already been published to acclaim; now there is a text for younger readers - and any adult such as myself who has not read the earlier work can get so much from reading this book with its short, straightforward sentences and unearthed details. 



Professor David Olusoga - New York Times photo



I will shape this blogpost around ten points that I discovered for the first time in reading Black and

Sunday 3 March 2024

MY LATEST BOOK: 'MINE TO DIE' HAS A DAY OUT IN TRURO

 I'm writing this blogpost on Sunday morning, 3rd March, in my study looking out on the scaffolding that appeared on Friday. Yesterday, Roofing Legacy took the roof off our home as part of a masterplan to stop the leakage of water through the ceilings of my study and the landing when the heavy rains come and the wind is blowing in a certain direction. Hopefully, no more need for buckets now. Today, they are due to put the roof back on with new tiles.


Scaffolding for the roofers 


All this roofing kerfuffle has delayed the production of this blog. My day out in Truro was last Tuesday, 27th February, and when I got home I knew I wanted to write about the day. My personal copies of Mine to Die arrived on Wednesday and the book has been very much in my thoughts. The week before, I had visited the only bookshop left in St Ives to see if they were interested in stocking my latest work whose official publication date is 28 May 2024. I showed the two women on the front desk the flyer of the front and back covers (image below) and was thrilled when one of them exclaimed: 'How extraordinary! I was looking at that image only a couple of hours ago'. She had already ordered a copy after seeing details on

Wednesday 21 February 2024

WHAT PRICE SECURITY? WHERE ARE THE THREATS COMING FROM?

 OpenDemocracy provides some useful detail, asks the right questions - and comes up with the obvious answer:


GLOBAL WARMING 



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Thursday 15 February 2024

FRUITS OF THE MARAZION QUAKER LIBRARY - JULIAN OF NORWICH - Part Two

 I am publishing this second post on Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love a day after the first post in order to give more detail about the contents of this extraordinary work. I find it breathtaking to record that this medieval book of Christian mysticism containing 87 chapters of devotions is the earliest surviving example of a book in the English language known to have been written by a woman. 


MDCLXX = 1670. This is the year of the first publication of the book. 


Julian's book is centred on the sixteen mystical visions or "shewings" she received in 1373 when she was thirty years old. She had become seriously ill, probably from a form of plague, and was not expected to survive. The visions appeared to her for several hours in one night, with a final revelation occurring the following night. Later, fully recovered, she wrote in her vernacular language, Middle English, an account of each vision, producing a manuscript now referred to as the Short Text. She then developed her ideas for decades whilst living as an anchoress in a cell attached to St Julian's Church in Norwich and completed an extended version of her writings, now known as the Long Text


Her work remained very largely unread for the best part of three centuries. The first publication of the