I look back, and it has been a month since I last stepped out of the door to greet the world – that piece of it that knows about this bloggery of mine. I don’t know where the time has gone. How often do we hear or say this? Days dawn with their busy-ness mostly pre-ordered, and they progress through routine and arrangement and appointment, pottering and vacancy, and suddenly the week’s gone. I try – sometimes to the point of coercion – to make each day productive, to be able to justify myself to whatever internal policeman lurks within my habits. And I try, more or less successfully, to meet obligations and commitments. And so the time goes.
I heard someone the other day say ‘I don’t believe in time’. My brain has returned to this, very much inclined to quarrel with it, trying to make logical, workable sense of it, and failing. My spirit knows that I belong to the same camp, and whether or not it is a symptom of the numbers of Springs I have been here I cannot tell. Repetitions are what mark our progress from child to sage. Some are tedious, some are painful, disorienting. They are small often – the daily journey to work or school. But even these bind us. We arrive at work, or yoga (no, I don’t), or choir practice (yes, that one), and we are once again among that group of people, a factor in the life of the building. The repetition accentuates the belonging or the isolation we feel in that context, and the word ‘always’ creeps in to our patterns of thought and speech: ‘it’s always like this’. Patterns repeat and become truth.
But we don’t live in fairy stories. There are no – or few – ‘happy ever afters’. However good, bad or tedious the place we have arrived at, while we still walk the earth there will be, can be change. There is a dance between repetition and change, a parodic rhythm that may be a truer measure than what we think of as time. In this part of the world season follows season in a fundamentally reliable pattern, but while Spring might come to us each year, the blackthorn may be a little late, the hawthorn a little earlier; the camelias may be blasted by frost, or not; the warmth may come early or late. Alongside the ‘always’ there is also a ‘now’.
And some of the repetitions are huge. The coronation. Seventy years since the last one – so there are few for whom it was a personal repetition. But beyond personal recollection there are the reverberations of centuries of practice, ceremony, precedent which roots today in the earth of what has been. Much of the ‘has been’ is not acceptable, not pretty, not conscionable in our now, but we are responsible to the earth, and we cannot change if we do not acknowledge what we are changing from, we cannot grasp the value without feeling its roots. The roots, the ideals, the principles of responsive, responsible leadership are carried, asserted and re-asserted in the ritual and ceremony. These things are weighty, their expression should carry weight. Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic. I do get the arguments about extravagance and waste and privilege, and they jostle against the unbidden response of heart to the choir singing, as choirs have for four centuries ‘Prevent us O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name.’ The words, the voices, the music, the repetition that pleats this into all the previous iterations open moments into history and assert fundamental values. If we heeded them more, the earth would be in a less parlous state. They bear repetition.