The world record for Spinning Plates (note the use of capitals to imply pseudo-importance) is 108, set by ’The Great Davido’ in 1996.
Note to nostalgia: whenever you think ’TV isn’t as good as it used to be’, do remember that you used to pay the license fee to watch similar feats of circus wizardry on variety shows.
Metaphorically we relate ’spinning plates’ to dealing (or not) with the diverse challenges that life supplies.
My own theory on the origin of Greek Wedding customs is that the Greeks originally represented how to live a successful marriage by inviting the local village plate-spinner to perform, one plate labelled ‘finances’, one 'children’, one 'family’, one 'work’ etc etc.
The difficulty was, plied by copious amounts of Ouzo, a brand of household disinfectant, the Metaphorical Greek of Marital Success just wasn’t really good enough at his act, leaving most happily wed couples contemplating divorce within an hour, realising married life was just too tricky. Eventually the Greeks thought 'Stuff it, let’s cut straight to the plate smashing bit and save us all the misery of over-optimism.’ (incidentally, they’ve adopted the same policy in macro-economics).
I think I must be Greek.
I don’t think 'The Great Michaelo’ could get anywhere near 108 plates, spinning happily away, humming the resonant tuneful harmony of success. In fact, even if I could, do I really want to spend the rest of my life running around, keeping everything spinning, and not having any time for what life is really all about?
I need less plates.
It may not be such a terrible thing if something smashes, however life-damaging it first appears. Maybe I’ll be able to pay more attention to a 'plate’ that is teetering on the brink, but could recover with enough care and attention.
Perhaps I need to let some of my plates fall off, or perhaps I need to ask somebody for help when I’m just too tired to keep them all spinning.
And perhaps, just perhaps, God is stepping in when I don’t even realise it, giving me yet another chance to stand back, reflect, and intervene in the key areas of my life that need my attention the most.
May the God of Perfection help us to admit our imperfections
May the God of Power help us to accept our weaknesses
May the God of Purpose help us to allow Him to show us that which is truly important
During my many years of teaching, August Bank Holiday was always a pivotal weekend. It heralded a transition, from holiday relaxation to work preparation, from family time to professional pressures, and often from the long, lazy, hazy, sunny days of summer to the receding days of autumn.
As a parent, it also heralded that mad dash around cheap school uniform retail outlets, and numerous ‘pleasantries’ exchanged (particularly in the teenage years) on the choice of shoes, trousers, shirts and hairstyles.
The curious dissonance between ‘calendar year’ and ‘academic year’ seems to have originated to allow children time to harvest seasonal crops, clearly not a determining factor for many communities today. One positive consequence is that children, parents and teachers alike often see a new school/university year as another opportunity for a new start, with academic and achievement targets for some, and anxiety and stress of the ‘what-ifs’ for others.
So, we start again with a blank page ready to be filled with the New Story - how ironic as, during autumn, the evenings darken and the natural world experiences death, decay and recycling.
I find this quite an interesting metaphor for the stage of life I’m in, mid-life, as arithmetically challenged people optimistically call it. One recent Facebook piece of ‘heart touching fun’ I read was “Middle age: That time when you finally get your head together - - - then your body starts to fall apart!”
The second half of the aphorism is probably true, but I’m not confident in the first!
As a younger person, we naturally focus on establishing identity, achieving, and performing – sometimes on ‘acquiring’. But, and it’s a big but, (often is in mid-life …) as we grow older and get into the ‘autumn term’, we encounter new challenges, deep flaws, a changing world that we don’t always like, and unavoidable suffering that can knock our foundations.
An understanding of how the story so far can become stepping stones to fulfilment in the second half of life is not a foregone conclusion.
I do still remain optimistic though, there’s a great deal of past experience to draw on, and that can be the foundation for ongoing spiritual growth if we allow it. But beyond the idea of ‘self-development’, I’m drawn to the life of Jesus, the ‘Author and Finisher of our Faith’. Words from Isaiah 46:4 further highlight the confidence that God doesn’t give up on us as we go past our prime!
“Even to your old age and grey hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you, I will sustain you and I will rescue you”
The Autumn term report is yet to be written, the pages of the journal are pristine and crisp – so let’s look forward to ‘going back to school’– whatever we need to learn!
This year at El Palmeral, we’re following the ‘Colman Readings’ from Celtic Daily Prayer. Some quotes from this morning’s reading “The Psalms are honest … pain, doubt and despair also express something of God’s greatness, love, compassion and salvation. We give voice both to our faith and to the real experience of our struggle”.
Sometimes we feel confident, fulfilled and happy, but on other occasions, pain, fear, anger or bitterness may leave us alone 'in the dark’, waiting for the 'Christ-light’ to illuminate our present mood.
“I watch you wait for the pain to go
I watch you wait for the love to flow
I watch you wait for your heart to know healing”
Iona 'Healing’ from the ‘Album Beyond these Shores’
Well, a bit ironic typing this on a Sunday I guess, but the news item makes interesting reading. If you are like me (at this point 99.99999,,,,% of the human race shout ‘NOOO’), work/life balance can be quite tricky.
Facing a backlog of tasks, whilst carrying on with the 'day job’, is certainly stressful, and possibly even counter-productive. I suppose when on holiday, your colleague can’t walk up to your desk and ask you a question, expecting an answer, even in 2 weeks time. Email circumvents that, allowing total access.
Quite a few of us (cough, cough) easily say 'I’m not touching work email on holiday’ - but should we go further than that, and should our employers accept that it is legitimate to refuse information all together. After all, it may as well sit in their out tray, rather than my in-tray.
I can’t recall the exact quote from Peter Brierley, but it was something like “After the Third Day, God didn’t say,
'If I’d worked a bit faster, I could have fitted in the fish as well’”
What he is 'reported’ as saying is
“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work.”
So if you’re reading this today … .
… what do you think?
Valencian Paella - We’ve been in Spain over two years, but the recipe keeps changing. Trial and error to start with, but on a competition day in La Foia village with some local friends including Rafa, the master Paella Cocinero, he showed us the basics.
We can be satisfied with that which we’ve always known, but sometimes the Master can show us the Best. It may not be easy to duplicate, but it’s an example we can always learn from and try to follow.
It is a difficult
lesson to learn today,
to leave one’s friends
and family and deliberately
practise the art of solitude
for an hour or a day
or a week.
For me, the break
is most difficult …
And yet, once it is done,
I find there is a quality
to being alone that is
Life rushes back into the void,
fuller than before!
Anne Morrow Lindbergh