All Eyes On Scotland the Brave

September 18th, 2014

scottish stone
I hereby pledge to write an article about Scotland without mentioning haggis, kilts or Mel Gibson, well maybe just haggis which I find nicer than it sounds. What they are deciding in Scotland is serious business, and deserves more than cliches. By the time this article goes live they will likely have already voted and decided on their independence.

As for that, I can see it both ways, and wish them well whichever way it goes. On one hand, why build new borders in a world where we need more unity. On the other hand, why not manage their own affairs. My gut, for what it’s worth, and I don’t underestimate the challenges, says “Go for it! Be bold! Be free! And thrive!”

But all of that is out of my hands. Whatever happens, of this we can be sure. Scotland will be OK! The land is rugged, the people are resilient, and they have a sense of humor. There could be some bumpy beginnings, but they will work it out.

I’m most excited about the spotlight being on Scotland because it reminds me of all the things that inspire me in Scottish history and culture. It reminds me that I absolutely LOVE the Celtic mindset. Four things in particular.

1. The Shape of Life is a Circle

What goes around, keeps going around and around. We tend to get stuck in linear ways of thinking. That happens, and then this should happen. We get on a straight path, and stay on it, mixing with all the same people, believing all the same things. We grow up, get a job, retire, and pass on.

But life is not predictable and linear and so much the better that it isn’t.

My all time favorite poet, John O’Donohue said it well: “To the Celts, the circle symbolized the interconnectedness of everything. There are no hierarchies. Life is an unending circle with no beginning and no end. They never separated mind from body, soul from body, or God from us, or masculine from feminine, or nature from the divine, or time from eternity, but…had them all together within the one…circle.”

We go around, and hopefully add new friends, new understandings, and new freedoms, as we go, expanding the circle as much as our egos will allow. Then beyond this life, who knows?

As it will be for Scotland, so it will be for all of us.

2. There is More To Time Than Minutes and Hours

From one perspective time is linear. One thing happens and then another thing happens. Clocks keep ticking, seasons change and sand keeps passing through the hour glass. However in many indigenous cultures and traditions of the earth like the Celtic tradition, there is a sense that beneath linear time, there is eternal depth.

It’s like the story about the guy who has a conversation with God about time-
Guy: God, how long is a million years to you?
God: A minute.
Guy: How much is a million dollars to you?
God: A penny.
Guy: Can I have a penny?
God: In a minute.

In ancient Celtic culture, they had a different rhythm. They began their days, and their major festivals, at dusk rather than dawn, starting in the dark with time for introspection. Interestingly the Jewish Sabbath begins at dusk, which was likely also because of its earth based roots. The nature based view of eternal time was translated in the Christian tradition as an afterlife- but the notion of eternal life is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the space beneath or beyond time, where there is no future or past, just an eternal present.

This is also known as “everywhen”. It requires living with imagination, but not fantasy style imagination. It’s an imagination that sees beyond the illusion of control that we create with our tightly managed lives and schedules. It sees the connection between places and experiences, the unity that glues moments together.

When is the right time for independence? Everywhen!

As it is for Scotland, so it is for all of us.

3. Experience the Thin Places

iona 2Iona is a tiny, wild and windy island off the western coast of Scotland. The sheep easily outnumber the people. It’s a thin island, only about 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. And yet thousands of people flock there every year, like a pilgrimage, to experience it’s magical beauty.

There is something mystical about Iona. In the Celtic religious tradition they believed that gods and humans live in two parallel worlds but there are physical places where the two worlds almost intersect. These are called thin places, because when we experience them there are no words to describe the beauty.

Thin places can be physical places and they can be experiences, moments, or even inner realizations. They are often wild because they jolt us out of our habitual mindset and awaken something beautiful, pure and hopeful within us.

Contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge describes thin places like this,

“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.

You don’t even need to go looking for thin places. You just need to open yourself to the experience of right now.

As it is for Scotland, so it is for all of us.

4. Appreciating The Uniqueness Of Everything

One of Scotland’s great heroes was John Duns Scotus, a philosopher, Franciscan and contemporary of William Wallace (not to be confused with Mel Gibson, woops he snuck in). He was an inspiration for Jefferson in framing American independence. Among his many ideas, he talked about the importance of “thisness”. As well as appreciating trees, mountains, nature, people etc in the general, experience THIS tree, THIS mountain, THIS relationship, THIS moment in the specific. Everything has unique beauty that can be enjoyed. Life shouldn’t just be experienced in the abstract.

It’s a great reminder to appreciate each moment as new and unique. The decisions in Scotland right now are unlike any other in its long history. As it should be.

As in Scotland, so it will be for all of us.

Scotland has SO much to teach us about living fully. May the Scots be bold and free as always and for always. May we all be bold and free.

May we all know the peace of this Celtic blessing.

Deep peace of the running wave
Deep peace of the flowing air
Deep peace of the quiet earth
Deep peace of the shining stars
Deep peace of the Son of Peace.

Alba gu brath, Scotland forever!

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  1. Anne Dalrymple says:

    Yes, the Celtic spirit in me is alive although a bit tender.  As a Scot who voted YES along with 45% of the population, my passion is for fairness and equality.  I am also a believer in coming from a place of peace and silence.  In fact, 2 friends and I are travelling ‘across the border’ tonight  for a meditation weekend and I look forward to being enveloped in their love Deep peace of the running waveDeep peace of the flowing airDeep peace of the quiet earthDeep peace of the shining starsDeep peace of the Son of Peace.Saor Alba xxx

  2. ian says:

    much love to you and all your country people.

  3. Frankie says:

    Great piece of thinking. It settles so well like peace in itself. This is just who we are, what we have and what we don’t have…. a full circle indeed. 

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