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Fr Paddy: We need each other

Couple hiking help each other silhouette in mountains, sunset and ocean. Male and woman hiker helping each other on top of mountain climbing, beautiful sunset landscape.

Carole King’s fabulous song Tapestry begins with these words: ‘My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue, an everlasting vision of the ever-changing view, a wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold, a tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.’

Those few words speak of the tapestry of our lives in a simple yet direct manner.

There are high points and deep troughs, colourful days and drab occasions, tears and laughter – all come together to shape who we are, painting the picture of our brief lives.

How might we determine the consequence of our last twelve months of lockdown crisis, with all the pain brought about by viral infection?

If we have learnt anything it could be summed up in one word – interdependence.

Day after day we have been faced with our dependence on others, medics in our health service caring for the sick, essential workers in our supermarkets, home delivery drivers bringing goods to our front door, teachers supporting home tuition and many more. Even in lockdown we are not self-sufficient, we need the help and support of others as we live through a radically changing pattern of life.

Meditation on a rice bowl
Thich Nhat Hanh

After supper one night, Thay held an empty rice bowl and said;
Think of all the threads that are passing through this bowl.
Think of the people who made it.
Think of those who taught them their craft.
Think of the people who played a part in learning to make a bowl that could last through many meals.
Think of the people who dug the clay.
Think of the fire that making this dish required.
Think of the wood cutters.
Think of the people who made the meals and of those who taught them their skills.
Think of all the meals that have been served in it.
Think of the farmers who grew the food we eat from this bowl.
Think of all the light that has brightened this bowl.
Think of the water that has washed this bowl, water that has fallen as rain and disappeared into rivers.
Think of the oceans and the water risen into the air as clouds and then fallen again as rain.
In such thinking you are only beginning to see this bowl.
The whole universe is present in this bowl.

This is a story developed round the simple rice bowl, a common enough pot in Vietnamese culture, handled day after day without a second thought.

Yet each line explores the back story that made this simple bowl available for everyday use.

Those directly responsible for forming the shaped clay that gives substance to the bowl, the skill of the potter, the craft of an artist acquired over many years.

But he didn’t work alone. Others dug the clay from the earth, gathered the wood for the fire that baked the simple small shape in the kiln, giving it permanence in order that it might fulfil its intended use.

Yet, when finished it remained empty until the culinary skills of the kitchen cooks prepared food to fill it for others to eat.

The raw ingredients, gathered from the skill of farmers, transformed by their experienced hands in to a meal to feed strangers.

The text concludes with reference to the water cycle that all life on earth depends on. It tells of the evaporated moisture from the oceans falling as rain to earth for our nourishment and use.

Truly as he concludes ‘The whole universe is present in this bowl’. In a few words he shows us simply and without fuss how we depend on each other in our daily lives.

Maybe that is the greatest lesson from the pandemic that has swept our world causing so much havoc and confusion.

Our response has been to realise how much we depend on others in our time of need.

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Fr Paddy is a curate in the hugely vibrant Portlaoise Parish. From Carlow town, he was educated in Carlow CBS and studied Business and Politics in Trinity College Dublin before training to be a priest in Carlow College. He is the youngest priest in the Kildare & Leighlin diocese and writes for a number of media outlets. He has almost 14,000 followers on Twitter.