Monthly Archives

February 2017

Thought For The Day – Pancake Day – 28th Feb 2017

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Today’s Pancake Day. I hope you’re busy practising your flipping skills. My husband has a very cunning twist on the traditional pancake – he bathes a slice of white bread in pancake batter and fries that – it results in the most deliciously fat pancake!

The Christian custom of pancake making on Shrove Tuesday is to finish up rich foods like eggs, milk and sugar, before the traditional fast of Lent, which starts tomorrow. Like advent before Christmas, it’s a period of preparation for a feast day, and has traditionally been about giving up bad habits. At least for Lent, that is.

But rather than a test of your willpower where chocolate is concerned, Lent is supposed to be a workout for your soul. So how’s your soul doing, and would it pass its MOT? I’m not sure how much you think about your soul. It’s a funny sort of concept. We glibly talk about ‘soul-searching’ and ‘soul-mates’ and ‘soul-destroying’, but I’m not sure we think about what that means very much.

And maybe the soul is more important than we tend to think. For instance, there’s been a lot of talk recently about robots stealing our jobs. If you think about it, your soul is the one thing you have that no robot can take away from you, no matter how brilliantly programmed it is to copy your cognitive and emotional functioning.  So maybe we should nurture our souls a little more.

I have a teenage niece. It’s quite extraordinary how much time she spends gazing at herself in the mirror. She’s very beautiful, so fair enough. But if the eyes really are the windows to the soul, maybe it would be helpful for us all to rediscover our inner teenager this Lent. I think most of us have a fairly perfunctory relationship with the mirror – just a quick check to make sure there’s no toothpaste or shaving foam left. But rather than regarding staring at ourselves as an act of vanity, stopping to look into our own eyes may tell us something important. And it may be that observing Lent in some way, by giving something up or taking something on, could be the beginning of us seeing ourselves in a different light.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.

Thought For The Day – Groundhog Day – 2nd Feb 2017

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Today is Groundhog Day in the United States. In a few hours’ time, the people of Pennsylvania will be clustered around the hole of their famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. If Phil comes out and sees his shadow, that means six more weeks of winter. If Phil emerges and doesn’t see his shadow, that means an early spring.

Lots of cultures around the world have a tradition like this, to mark the transition from Winter to Spring.  It’s really a way of learning from nature: if a hibernating animal thinks it’s time to come out, they’re probably right.

But Groundhog Day has become famous because of the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray. In it, he gets stuck in a time loop. Every day is the 2nd of February, and he seems doomed to repeat it for ever. The story soon becomes a parable. He starts by behaving badly, knowing that his actions have no real consequence. Then he gets depressed, and drives himself and the groundhog off a cliff. But still he wakes up again on Groundhog Day, so eventually he decides to use the knowledge he’s gained about the day, to improve the lives of those around him. Choosing to act with love and kindness finally sets him free from his purgatory. Paradoxically, it’s only when he blesses his day that he can be released from it. The shadow has turned to light, so Spring can now come.

And light is the theme of another significant date in the calendar today, which is Candlemas. For centuries, people have been bringing their candles to church on this day, to be blessed for use throughout the rest of the year. A candle is such an extraordinary thing. Just one, turns a dark room full of noises and hidden dangers into a familiar and welcoming space.

Sometimes our world can feel very dark and scary, and it feels like we should hibernate, or prepare to defend ourselves. But our job is to keep being that light. It’s only Groundhog Day for ever if we let the shadow win. As it says in John’s Gospel: ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.