Monday, June 24, 2013

The timely train

In Switzerland for an impact investing conference, I took the train from Zurich to St Moritz yesterday evening and it was a beautiful journey, with the unseasonably damp and misty weather heightening rather than reducing the effects; especially with the fast flowing streams, cascading below you through narrow valleys and the mountainsides appearing and disappearing with each shift of cloud. Needless to say, being Switzerland, the train kept impeccable time.

Whist in the tunnels, I was re-reading Kyriacos C. Markides, 'The Mountain of Silence' on the Orthodox mystical tradition. I had forgotten how good it is. He as the cultured representative of 'the West' - academic, curious, skeptic and his interlocutor, Fr Maximos, the monk from Mount Athos, restoring the tradition to both men's native Cyprus.

If anyone asks me for an introduction to this tradition, this is the book I suggest. It is by no means 'conventional', Markides has a pronounced interest in 'signs and wonders' that can distract as well as allure, but for its conversational style, both 'authors' ability to tell poignant and illustrative stories and for getting the basics so right and wanting you to know more, indeed, I think, encouraging you to the necessary spiritual practice that makes genuine spiritual knowledge possible.

It is a timely book, reconnecting me to a way of life, which not my own, I partake of in the hoped for continuing practice of the Jesus prayer and an understanding of the world that is wholly congruent with it. The patient toil of recovering the likeness of our image to that of God's: how distant a prospect, how close a reality.

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