Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Swedenborg’s influence on Sibelius

Sibelius, the famous Finnish composer, wrote ‘Finlandia’ and seven symphonies and so much else. He was married to a lady called Aino, who was very much into everything spiritual and supernatural.

His recent biographer wrote a three-volume in-depth life of Sibelius and mentions that Sibelius bought a copy of Martin Lamm’s ‘Life of Swedenborg’ and said that he completely devoured it. And he (Sibelius) went on to say that Swedenborg’s idea of everything being in divine harmony helped him to complete the writing of his 5th Symphony which he had been struggling with.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


By Julian Duckworth

Today, care for the world around us comes high on everybody’s list. This is something we all share and must take responsibility for. We’re learning fast that the world’s resources are not endless and we must clean up the planet and conserve our use of virtually everything.

This stark fact can help to remind us of a number of important things. One is that the human race lives in one community around the globe and none of us can afford to live in isolation or stay unaware of the effect we may have on everybody else. Today it is becoming possible to ‘seed’ rain clouds above heavily populated cities to provide water, but the effect is to lessen the amount of rainfall in the surrounding region.

We have been – and still are to some extent – greedy in terms of consuming resources and taking so much for granted. We are slowly realising that the world works in a very balanced way and to take too much not only deprives others from having enough to survive on but harms the overall harmony of the planet.

At the beginning of the Bible there is the story of the Garden of Eden, obviously a statement about a world that is functional as well as beautiful. It says that God put human beings in the garden to tend it and take care of it. This is how we need to be viewing the world around us, basically as a garden in need of tending.

The present generation are not the ones primarily affected by the longer-term consequences. We need to conserve and sustain the living planet so that our children and their children can look at green trees and blue skies and live safely and healthily in this world which is still a remarkably beautiful and richly-resourced world in which to live. 

By Julian Duckworth

How unbelievably hard it is to lose someone you love because they have died. You are still here but they are no longer with you, at least not physically. It feels like you have lost part of yourself. At such times, words are not very helpful to us, yet when words say the right thing they can be very powerful and healing.

When someone loses someone they love – which is almost certainly going to happen to all of us in our life – it is very hard for the people who love you to know how they can best help or when to be around. But it is very important not to be too much or too long on your own in your loss. It is important to allow your loving friends to be there with you even without much to say to you. It is also very important to make sure you have your own time alone.

A common experience when you lose someone you love is to find yourself moving through all kinds of different feelings. You may feel anger, or emptiness, or a strange sense of peace, or such things as guilt or blame on yourself or others. These will come and they will go, because they are the way in which your mind is managing this shock to your system. It is running through and trying out every emotion. Let it do that and don’t be troubled by it all.

It’s often said that time is a great healer when death happens. That is really the case but you can’t set the timetable. It will in all probability take a full year to begin to get back into being yourself which surely is what the person you love would want you to do. And don’t be surprised at a number of personal changes that come to the fore, because life is going to be different from what it used to be.

Many people believe in life after death. Let them help you in their way at the right time for you. This belief is universally shared by all religions across the world. Let it help you.

By Julian Duckworth

Sometimes, when people laugh, it’s at someone else’s expense. That’s a rather cruel kind of laughter, though. A nicer laughter is to be able to laugh at some of the foibles of life and not to take it all too seriously. Being able to laugh like that eases everything and it’s a good place to be. Perhaps we could stretch this idea even further and say that seeing and sharing the funny side of life is the normal way we’re meant to be because it is healthy and healing. It immediately dissolves tricky moments and tensions that come along.

It’s lovely watching a group of people, perhaps over a meal, being together, and noticing the relaxed friendly laughter coming from among them as a group. They are right into it and nobody seems at all self-conscious but catching everyone’s fun. Laughter is contagious of course. They say it even does our body good, lowering blood pressure, letting off steam and having a good chuckle. There are even groups of people who get together, say in a park, simply to be together to laugh.

Jesus talked about having joy. This isn’t exactly the same as laughter, but it still suggests a lightness of being, a feeling of well-being through having joy in yourself.

One telling statistic that has emerged is that little children laugh (with that wonderful open children’s way of laughing) about 300 times a day, but adults on average only laugh about 15 times a day. Something got lost in the business of growing up and we’ve forgotten the therapy and spontaneity of this precious gift of laughter.

So let’s aim to reverse that dreadful statistic and allow ourselves, more and more, to be caught up in letting laughter do us good.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


By Julian Duckworth

This is a situation we all have to cope with from time to time. What is the best way to deal with someone who, for example, gets angry or is rude to you? Or it may be as simple as someone who never gets around to doing what they said they would do.
Perhaps it will help to appreciate that in some way we are probably all a bit difficult to deal with at times. You may be habitually unpunctual and always turn up late – how annoying that can be. I may be someone who never puts things back where they go. That can be maddening! These situations just need a bit more courage and clear communication, to let the other person know that their habit is something you aren’t prepared to accept. Say it and then get over it. If it still happens, say it the same again. But don’t smoulder over it or else everything about that other person will submerge under one grievance, which is a great pity.

But some situations can be more full-on, and be almost a direct attack, or feel like one to us on the receiving end. There are some techniques that can help when it’s like that. Having an opening phrase perhaps – Excuse me, can you tell me exactly what your problem is? Or, Look, if I’ve upset you, it certainly wasn’t intended.
You have every right to stand your ground and be assertive against unwarranted aggression.

Jesus said, Love your enemies. He did not mean be soft with those who oppose you. He meant something quite simple. When we do not retaliate but keep love as our energy towards every other person, this takes away the energy coming to us and makes it truly powerless. Anger feeds on anger but it can’t cope with love.

by Julian Duckworth

Maybe asking yourself if you are contented is better than wondering if you are happy. Being happy implies being cheerful and bright, and nobody can be like that all the time. But we can be basically contented even though easy times and hard times come their way, as they do.

Contentment is about being glad to be who you are; it’s about accepting yourself and feeling satisfied with what you are like, what you are able to do, and your overall circumstances in life. It helps us to make the most of everything and it keeps us away from all those niggling comparisons and envies. It can lead us to be very thankful for what we do have, and make us more compassionate and generous towards people who have less than we do. We can then start to help other people towards their own contentment and acceptance of their life.

God makes each person completely unique and different from any other person around. God knows that each of us is a special person and he loves us as if he only had each one of us to love.

When you come to know yourself reasonably well, and find out what you are good at doing and also what you can’t do very well, then you’re in a position to find your best niche in life. Then you can throw yourself into life, enjoy being yourself, make your contribution to what’s happening around you, and trust the whole process.

And perhaps in the end the question we first asked ‘Are you contented?’ starts to disappear because you’re no longer needing to ask it or to wonder if you are. Getting on with life leads on to contentment so that if someone asked you the question, you’d stop, pause and think, ‘Well, yes. I guess I am contented.’ And that is a good place to be.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

 by Julian Duckworth

It may sound obvious of course that we should always try and do our best. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded about this from time to time. It gives us a personal standard to set ourselves and if we adopt this it can also bring us a real peace of mind. I did my best – who can argue with that?

You might well ask, though, how do we ever know what our best possible is? Perhaps we don’t nor ever will. But doing our best is not asking us to be perfect or superhuman; it’s simply asking us to be sincere and well-intentioned. We can’t guarantee how others will feel about the way we do things; that will vary from person to person, and even though we do our best we might find that some people don’t like what we did. We need to leave that problem largely with them, and, if we feel that we did our best, it allows us to avoid feeling guilty or blaming ourselves for the way things turned out.

The only person we have full responsibility over is of course ourself. We need to be true to ourself. It will help too if we adopt the idea that other people are probably doing their best because that stops us from blaming them.

In the Bible, Jesus talks about new beginnings. It is a marvellous thought that whatever has happened in the past, any moment can become a brand new beginning based on our decision to do our best.

And more: if we do our best rather than accepting our second-best, we become a good example to people round us who feel that we have integrity and mean what we say. They might not ever tell us to our face how good we are, but they, just like us too, gain so much from being with people who can be relied on and trusted to do the best they can.

No one can ask for anything more!