Taking our past into our future

By Simon Barrow
August 3, 2011

That was the title of a book by the late Bishop Hugh Montefiore, who at various times in his life was seen as 'turbulent priest' and a trouble-maker... but who also, interestingly, ended up being seen as a staunch proponent of traditional Christianity.

The key thing was that he didn't look at the ancient and the new as contradictory, but sought ways in which the wisdom of the past and the wisdom of the present could coalesce, dialogue, correct or inform one another.

The necessity to hold on to that perspective is a thought that has been very much going through my mind in preparing for the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality & Peace (6-29 August), which kicks off this weekend.

Some of what is on show during the Festival looks shiny and new. Some of it dates back centuries, from cultures and civilisations very different to our own.

The idea that "there's no point in looking back. You have to look forward" is part of the neurotic energy of the times. It assumes that what we build tomorrow will be unrelated to what we attempted before - and that's simply not true, factually or historically.

It all depends how you look back, I guess. Wallowing in nostalgia may not help with the challenges of today. But a sense of history, of gratitude, of inspiration carried forward, of lessons learned, of friendships made, of wisdom stored, of possibilities nurtured, of gifts harvested, of decisions made and re-made? Those are surely forward-thinking positives.

There's an old Aboriginal tradition which says that you need to "back into the future", because while no-one can quite know what will happen next, you can gain a good sense of the direction you need by looking at what has been shaping the journey so far - and that way you can stay in touch with all who have brought you to this point in the road while simultaneously seeking to move forward.

* The full Festival programme is at: http://www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk/

* Spirituality Peace and News: http://festivalofspirituality.blogspot.com/

* More on FoSP from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/festivalofspirituality


© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia, and is helping with media enquiries for the Festival of Spirituality & Peace 2011. Ekklesia is also sponsoring three 'conversations' at the Festival. Write to: spiritualityfestivalmedia AT gmail DOT com

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.