Time out in the quiet lane

29/10/13 | Posted by Ian Black

I never cease to be amazed at the wisdom which politicians seem to be able to draw on after they have left office. This is not to say that they are completely foolish while in office, but I find myself agreeing with even those whose policies I have deplored or just disagreed with at a fundamental level. Perhaps it is the release from the shackles of having to tow a party line. Perhaps it is that they have grown into the shoes they have been seeking to occupy. Perhaps, as Tony Blair the former Prime Minister put it in a Q&A published in The Independent, it is that they ‘start in office at their most popular and least capable and leave it at their most capable and least popular’.

 ‘Quiet Lane’ sign

On the subject of Twitter and Facebook, blogs and instant comment, he observed that the world has changed rapidly in recent years.  Anyone wanting to lead it and relate to it has to keep up.  But the downside he observed is that there is a lot of noise being generated and not all of it is real.  By that he meant that not all of it is based in a genuine movement of opinion and wisdom.  Some of it is just debris on a passing breeze.  The danger for leaders and politicians is that they don’t have, or don’t take, the opportunity to stand to one side and reflect, to be still and know what is what.

The pressure to comment instantly is enormous as is the pressure to make quick decisions.  One of the problems I felt with the Church of England’s move towards women bishop’s was that when it hit problems in July 2012 the response should have been to take the summer off, dig sandcastles and let the brain recover.  What they actually did was plough on, produce a plan that pleased no one and it all derailed in November.  There has been a more sober assessment now and the plans to come out now look more realistic and honest.

All the great spiritual traditions know the value of time out to reflect and restore, even find, perspective.  The ancient psalm writer phrased it as ‘be still and know that I am God.’  Reflection enables us to connect with the spiritual, recently defined by TV personality Russell Brand in a piece in The New Statesman as recognising our connection to one another and to the planet.  For people of faith that is grounded in a connection with the divine.  It is by listening to those connections that we are able to start assessing what is ‘real’ and what is really just passing on the breeze.

Time out to reflect is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of wisdom.  But would voters respect a leader who said ‘I need to think about this’ or ‘we need time to take in what has happened and where this leaves us’.  We get the leaders we are prepared to let them be.  So the quiet lane is there for all of us.

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