Monday, December 31, 2007

At the turn of the year

As the year ends, I have the benefit of solitude for reflection, as festive fireworks erupt an hour early over the neighbourhood, and the 'Calennig' fun-fair thumps away in Cathays Park, a quarter of a mile away. I think rides and attractions are fewer this year. A sign of recession maybe? Funfairs rely on many having a little extra cash to throw around. Taking a funfair on the road is a costly, risky business, and may well be extra sensitive to the chill wind of recession.

The weekly retail statistics from the city centre manager don't indicate a big downturn, but suggest continuing economic slow-down, even when the negative impact of city redevelopment is taken into account. It could be worse, but huge promotional efforts made by city business and management have compensated. A real sign of economic slowdown would be Cardiff's club culture waning and closures increasing rather than being the occasional blip associated with improvident management. With what sort of economic initiatives will the city government and businesses respond, when the going really gets tough?

Over reliance on consumer activity without means to generate real wealth is dangerous. Do we have sufficient courage, enterprise and imagination to make the most of Cardiff's scientific and technological wealth-creating capabilities? The city's economic development plan proposes a suitable framework, but where will the confidence to innovate come from? If recent sports achievements are any indicator, Cardiff and Wales in general has much to worry about in performance ability and inspirational leadership. Our Victorian ancestors achieved so much in creating world class industries and infrastructure. What are our new assets, and how can we sell them? We're much better off than our parents were on the back of old enterprise. Our expectations have outgrown those we inherited. But where does this take us?

The planet pays, through pollution and climate change. The kind of growth and development that has continued unabated for two centuries could now destroy us. The will to apply new ideas and technologies grows piecemeal, not yet globally. Economical growth is rarely matched by moral or spiritual development. Violence of one kind or another continues to be the preferred option for resolving problems despite its evident long term ineffectiveness.

At the heart of all religious traditions is a path of non-violence, yet religions still let themselves be hi-jacked and used as an alibi to defend violence. To those who rely on their rationality religion is the problem and needs to be done away with. Yet, rationality also delivers violent solutions to human problems within its terms of reference. When religion and rationality both lose touch with their source in the divine life, violence is the outcome.

How can religious believers engage better with others and help faith-abandoners to realise how to open themselves up to a way of being that makes a difference to everything in life? I don't speak of rituals or religiosity as such, but of that openheartness to the Beyond at the core of authentic discipleship.

However it's done, it can't be achieved as it was in previous generations. The external world, language, thought forms have changed too much for conventional religious language to fulfil its role. Do those of us who sense the burden of the call to evangelise, see that today we are stuttering and incohate in our efforts to convey the ultimate truth of our being to our contemporaries?

Perhaps we should.

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