A new book by Bishop John Bluck 'Seeking the Centre: Living well in Aotearoa' holds reflections taken from his last ten years’ broadcasting audio series for Radio New Zealand.
Here Bishop John shares some thoughts for Anglican Taonga on his approach to the book and its hard to pin down subject - a nation's spirituality.
Talking about spirituality for a secular New Zealand audience is a delicate dance. You risk falling over if you slip into religious language, yet there is a huge hunger for finding what helps us live well in Aotearoa.
What lets us delve into the mystery and the beauty of belonging here, healthily and hopefully – there’s an audience for that.
I’ve learnt a lot about talking to such an audience from ten years of broadcasting short series for Radio New Zealand. Not sure what you call them, but there are eight series of audio essays, 168 pages covering everything from shifting to the country from the city, planting gardens, walking the beaches, driving the roads that run through us and across the land, watching movies, enduring illness, learning what it means to be a Pakeha and how we belong here.
In all of this, I’m seeking some sort of centre that will hold.
W.B. Yeats, writing back in 1919, couldn’t find such a centre in those chaotic post war years. I'm optimistic we can in Aotearoa, even after Christchurch and March 15.
These essays argue that in spite of all our antagonisms, a new culture is emerging here that is hybrid, dynamic and conducive to being well.
Twenty years ago, I wrote a book called “Long, white and cloudy – in search of a Kiwi spirituality”. Sir Paul Reeves wrote a foreword for it, in which he said: “New Zealand Christianity is not the only spiritual tradition on the block. It should no longer live by an assumption that it is nearer to the truth than anyone else. Christianity’s task is not to deny the reality of other people’s sense of God, but to listen, to learn and to clarify.”
These essays try to do just that, not so much through one spiritual tradition against another, but rather through the places we live and work in and walk and drive though; through the stories we share, the movies we watch and the cultures that shape us.
In all of that, what is it that nourishes our well being as New Zealanders? Where do we go looking for soul food in Aotearoa?
The hints and glimpses I offer lie not so much in theology as they do in making compost, club sandwiches, long walks and a tikiti to the pikitia (a ticket to the pictures).