Merry Christmas

According to Alexander Gilchrist, William Blake's first biographer, the painter, Samuel Palmer, visited Blake one day, towards the end of his life, and found William and his beloved Catherine, clothed 'as Adam and Eve in paradise' under a vine in their back yard.

Palmer, always a more conservative soul than his older friend and mentor, was not a little shocked at the Blakes' revealing of our naked state, recapitulating the paradise that is always ours, pristine and present to us, if the eyes, through rather than with which we see, are cleansed.

Palmer's own painterly journey was of vision gained, lost and re-found. He stepped into a vision at Shoreham in Kent of a world transfigured where the Holy Family can rest on their way to Egypt amongst a landscape 'actually loved and known' for the archetype is timeless, the history merely incidental. Later, in search of worldly confirmation of his gifts, Palmer mislaid them and became a good landscape painter, amongst many other such, scrabbling for commissions, until a final disillusionment restored a late flourishing to his art.

Blake was a benign mentor to Palmer, encouraging him as much by listening as by giving advice, by a quality of his aged presence rather than learning directly from his philosophy of life (that in any case would have threatened Palmer's conscious, High Anglicanism).

John Linnell, Palmer's father in law, a highly successful painter, largely forgotten, who introduced Palmer to Blake was a mentor of a wholly different kind: certain in his opinion, trenchant in his criticism and mostly corrosive of the younger man's talents.

One of the pleasures of this past year has been the opportunity to coach a small number of senior managers, occupying often lonely and challenging positions; and, having to re-learn the art in virtually every conversation of simply listening and speaking only when strictly necessary (and how hard that is)  - creating a space for people to find their own vision and paths of making that vision real and living.

Nurturing vision is an awesome responsibility. It was Christ's primary responsibility: 

How do I, Jesus, enable this frankly job lot of disciples to see through me to the Father and in that vision discover their own calling to a life fully alive, through which too God can be seen? 

Practising the incarnation of vision, the vision that brings us truly alive (and, thus, according to St Ignatius of Antioch, visions of God) requires the presence of others to guide our path, to listen compassionately to its unfolding, to nurture its coming through every opportunity and challenge. This would be my Christmas wish for all of us - to be present to heartfelt listening that awakens the spirit within.


  1. Helping people to discover or rediscover their "calling" by creating a sacred space where peopke can hear themselves (and therefore heal themselves) is such a wonderous gift! All the best for a wonderful Christmas snd a heal-thy new year!


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