It is a long book. It sounds like its author. Slow, discursive, self-referencing and needed a strong edit (which it has not received). It also captured my attention. It is built around three themes: Unity, Peace and Holiness
Whilst Hughes claims it is not a biography. It is biographical. He thinks back over the story of his life spotting various themes as they emerged and developed.
However, there is a surprise.
Hughes suggests how the book should be read. At the conclusion of each chapter there are brief questions based in the Ignatian way of prayer and thought. The process can be summed up as: read – pause-feel-consider – pause – and what next for you? The result is a book that is to be pondered not simply probed. It is a book to be read slowly. Hughes invites his reader to engage with his material at a level deeper than the intellect. He does not want us simply to engage with his ideas but rather the substance of the experience from which they emerged.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
“When I now in old age, reflect on my past life, I know that what I really longed for was not to amass knowledge, but to engage with life. One direction in life which has enabled me to keep on track of this engagement is an interest in Ecumenism/Unity. It is no longer, for me, a process; it is an attractive way of being and is constantly surprising me, because it keeps revealing connections in life of which I was previously unaware. It is something freely given, not a reward for virtue or our good deeds. It costs, however not less than everything, but it becomes a price we long to pay with every fibre of our being”.
He now would ask me to ‘feel’ my reaction to what he has written. To be quite candid I felt irritated, envious and wistful. My experience of official Ecumenism is one of the abiding disappointments of my Christian experience. His biography meets mine and they argue. But he invites me to go beyond what the authorised representatives of venerable traditions have done with Ecumenism. There is a liberation awaiting me if I am ready to ask: so what next?
I have decided that this is a good book for me to digest. It will be my companion as 2015 begins. More later.
I have decided that this is a good book for me to digest slowly. It will be my companion as 2015 begins. More later.