Thinking for the world?

[Warning: I’m about to use the word ‘praying’ as part of an attempt to have an original thought. Be patient – this isn’t really about religion. Well, not as we know it.]

Did you hear Sister Wendy on Desert Island Discs?* She’s praying for us all, she said. Praying is what she does. Every day, for hours and hours and hours. Alone.

Tears welled up in my eyes.

It’s an odd feeling, believing someone is praying for me, even though she doesn’t know me. But she is, of course, because she’s praying for everyone.

And I’m one of everyone.

There’s a strong religious tradition of isolation from the mainstream. Christianity (to name but the one I’m most familiar with) has its contemplative orders of monks and nuns. It has hermits. Anchorites. And anchoresses.

All those quiet, prayerful men and women should have been bolstering us up, unasked, for centuries. A cushion of grace. A chorus of prayer curling around us all, making things better. Maybe it has been. We might have been worse – even worse – without those selfless voices.

But now, I think we need a brave new breed of contemplatives. Not for prayer, but just for casual, everyday, yes-but, what-if, well-you-know thinking.

It’s not entirely an age thing, though I guess it’s more likely amongst the older folk, but don’t you worry about when people think?

Earphones, iPhones, headphones, trombones. No, sorry, that didn’t work did it?

But here’s my point. People – many people, if not most – take their distractions with them wherever they go.

No time to chat to the check-out person, must discuss the cat’s bald spot with my weird cousin five times removed.

No way I’m going to ride my bike and just listen to the birds sing, nah, I’ve got Elbow on my iPod.

Dinner with the wife? Must Tweet that starter, sounds disgusting. Pin a pic on Pinterest too. There.

What did you say?

Come on, tell me, when do people think? When do the random thoughts (from the random thought generator in the sky) make it through the noise of it all?

So this is it. My new role for writers. The new monks. Or nuns. Or hermits.  Not sure I want to be an anchoress, mind.

*[Sister Wendy Beckett is a nun, for 40 years a hermit, who lives in a caravan in the grounds of a Carmelite monastery. She is also an art critic. I’ve sort of paraphrased what she says about praying for us all. Desert Island Discs is a BBC radio programme in which the subject being interviewed chooses 8 ‘discs’ with which to be marooned on a desert island, a book and a luxury. You can find out what Sister Wendy’s luxury is if you listen to this all the way through, or skip to the end if you must! It’s fantastic. You can listen to the programme on the BBC until December 2013. Follow this link:


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2 Responses to Thinking for the world?

  1. Yes, I have wondered what happens for people when they plug-in for extended periods. Perhaps they are listening to thoght-provoking music or pocasts.
    Also the notion of someone praying for me – I wonder if it subtley alters my world once I know.


    • Yes, I find it somehow heart-warming and reassuring when someone says they are praying for me, but I could imagine some people might not like it, find it – I don’t know – intrusive? I think we could all benefit from quiet time, room to think the big or small thoughts- or just none at all.


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