Richard Chartres: Society will only advance if individuals within it find their soul

Share
Related Topics

bishops are often accused of talking rubbish. Tonight is probably the first occasion on which a bishop intends to talk rubbish. "Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song, Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long."

You will recognise those encouraging lines from T.S.Eliot's poem The Wasteland, published soon after the First World War in 1922. It is one of the genuinely prophetic statements of the 20th century not in the sense that it foretells things to come but in that it is a "forth-telling" from a level of awareness of what was buried beneath the surface of a civilisation, which in the 1920s appeared to have recovered its hectic pace and gaiety but which in reality was exhausted – a wasteland.

There had, of course, been a profound crisis of faith for more than a century before the dreadful self-mutilation of Europe in the Great War. Widespread loss of awareness of the presence of the divine had created a vacuum in which political religions had established themselves. Nationalism, fascism and communism all promised a way out of the wasteland but their utopian experiments merely created a vast graveyard.

Still for good or ill, however, religion was seen as part of the world we had lost. It was not seen to be any part of the answer. Even on the part of people who hung onto their inherited beliefs, the assumption was that religion was destined to fade away, to become the marginal leisure interest of a handful of enthusiasts while secularisation and modernisation marched together hand in hand into a future designed by science and reason.

Many people experience the way we live now as existing in the wasteland with a suppressed fear of death and a hectic lifestyle developed in the hope that living faster will mean that we get more out of this short life. This is why rhythm in life has been abolished by 24-hour shopping and the season of fasting has been swept away in favour of perpetual carnival with no ensuing Lent.

We have to re-learn that wisdom and meaning come with a progressive diminution of egotism and the discovery that serving others is the road to freedom and fulfilment. The more you let go of self the more you grow in soul.

This is an excerpt from a speech given by the Bishop of London at Gresham College last month

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?