The Fool on the Hill (Part 2)

Day after day, alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin is sitting perfectly still
Nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

John Lennon/Paul McCartney, The Fool on the Hill


What am I in the eyes of most people? A nonentity or an oddity or a disagreeable person — someone who has and will have no position in society, in short a little lower than the lowest. Very well — assuming that everything is indeed like that, then through my work I’d like to show what there is in the heart of such an oddity, such a nobody. This is my ambition, which is based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Even though I’m often in a mess, inside me there’s still a calm, pure harmony and music. In the poorest little house, in the filthiest corner, I see paintings or drawings. And my mind turns in that direction as if with an irresistible urge.

Vincent Van Gogh, from a letter to his brother Theo, July 1882


We are fools for Christ’s sake…

1 Corinthians 4: 10


Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:25


Van Gogh, poor, in need of healing, gives to us and heals us still.

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night

The Fool on the Hill

“Finally, though, I got undressed and got in bed. I felt like praying, or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn’t do it. I can’t always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I’m sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard.”

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him…

Mark 5: 1-6 (KJV)


If you are more of a lunatic than a disciple, don’t be dismayed.

There are two kinds of people in the world

—the lunatics and the disciples—

but they keep swapping places!

It’s as if we are all playing in some vast cosmic game.

The healers heal and the needy need, but the needy heal the healers and the healers need healing more than the needy.

You can be Christ to someone by being poor and vulnerable and in need like He was.

You can be Christ to someone by helping and healing as He did.

And when we see in faith that Christ is both in us and everyone we meet, giving or receiving, needy or fulfilling needs,

—lunatic or disciple!—

we see that our earth can be heaven.



In The Depths

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

Psalm 130: 1 (KJV)


“… [T]he new humanity that is created around Jesus is not a humanity that is always going to be successful and in control of things, but a humanity that can reach out its hand from the depths of chaos, to be touched by the hand of God. And that means that if we ask the question, ‘Where might you expect to find the baptised?’ one answer is, ‘In the neighbourhood of chaos’. It means you might expect to find Christian people near to those places where humanity is most at risk, where humanity is most disordered and needy. Christians will be found in the neighbourhood of Jesus—but Jesus is found in the neighbourhood of human confusion and suffering, defencelessly alongside those in need.

…So baptism means being with Jesus ‘in the depths’: the depths of human need, including the depths of our own selves in their need—but also in the depths of God’s love; in the depths where the Spirit is recreating and refreshing human life as God meant it to be…

That surely is one of the most extraordinary mysteries of being Christian. We are in the middle of two things that seem quite contradictory: in the middle of the heart of God, the ecstatic joy of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and in the middle of a world of threat, suffering, sin and pain. And because Jesus has taken his stand right in the middle of those two realities, that is where we take ours.”

Rowan Williams, Being Christian


Two Gifts

“I consider that the honest telling of my life experience is the most authentic gift I have to offer.”

Caroline Jones, ABC broadcaster and author


“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.

Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”

Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace


When I tell my story, it is a gift, “the greatest gift I have to offer”.

When I truly listen to the story of another, it is a gift, “the rarest and purest form of generosity”.

It is through the giving of these two gifts that we escape the prison of ourselves.

And in that escape, we find God.



The One Thing

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 10: 38-42 (KJV)


“But one thing is needful.” Only one thing is necessary.

What is the one thing?

You don’t love someone because they are useful to you. That wouldn’t be love.

You love someone for their own sake.

Our relationship with God is not some kind of deal—any more than our relationship with any other person should be—and it involves no use or exploitation on either side.

God loves us for ourselves. We must learn to love him for His.

The one thing that matters is God in himself, just Him.

The one thing that matters to God is us in ourselves, just as we are. He wants us, not our good works.

Mary has chosen Jesus for his own sake. Jesus wants Mary for hers.

That is all that is necessary.



Pupil of Rembrandt, Christ Conversing with Martha and Mary


Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.

Luke 9: 58


If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

John 14: 23


Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see.

John 1: 38-9


Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.

Luke 24: 29


Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3: 20



His home is in us

and our home is in Him.


13321914_10209018756207495_744831524517441593_nIllustration by Sydney Smith from The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, Walker Books, 2016

So Let Them Say Your Hair’s Too Long

“But who do you say that I am?”

Matthew 16:15


“‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.'”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship… or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you… Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings… ”

David Foster Wallace, This Is Water

“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Bob Dylan

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Mark 8:36


It’s so easy to lose your soul.

The most efficient way to kill it is to live without integrity, to believe one thing in your heart, and obey another.

In fact, all you have to do, to leave your soul gasping for breath, is live according to somebody else’s beliefs.

It doesn’t matter what other people believe, what society worships, what your mother thinks!

The most urgent question is: What do I think?

Who do I say He is?




Grief is Love

Poor in spirit…





pure in heart

Matthew 5: 3-11 (see previous post)


If you feel unable to act,

or that your actions are ineffective,

or that they are too little to be of any worth,

don’t lose heart.

There is a blessing in yearning, in grieving, in feeling,

in being as well as in doing.

There is a blessing in your disposition alone.

“It is only with the heart that one sees truly.”

“Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.”

Every poor, mourning, gentle, yearning, merciful, pure heart

is one more light

in a dark world.




The Land Where Our Treasure Is Hidden

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5: 3-11 KJV


How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: “What is my poverty?” Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! “How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.

Henry Nouwen, Bread for the Journey



The Little Way

Father TED: Dougal, you know you can praise God with sleep?

DOUGAL: Can you, Ted?

TED: Yes. It’s a way of thanking him for a tiring day.

DOUGAL: God, there’s lots of ways you can praise God, isn’t there, Ted? Like that time you told me to praise him by, you know, just leaving the room.

TED: That was a good one, yes.

 Father Ted, Hat Trick Productions, 1995-8


And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.

Colossians 3:23 KJV


Serving God might not always be as hard as we think.



Father Ted (Dermot Morgan)