Rowan Williams: On Rediscovering Our Humanity

Your humanity is more alive than you can imagine

Extract from an interview with Rowan Williams

Joshua Malkin from Network of Wellbeing interviewed the Former Archbishop of Canterbury at the 2016 Resurgence Festival of Wellbeing London


Could you say a little more about the crisis we find ourselves in?

Rowan Williams:
“I think we are at a point of genuine cultural crisis in the West where we are in danger of being strangled and stifled by what we think is knowledge and what we think is expertise.

We are bound into short term problem solving, anxious control oriented policies in every single area of our lives – from education through to technology and that is making us dis-eased.

It is possible for people to live with about five to ten per cent of their humanity really engaged – lots of people do. And that’s really not good enough. Human beings deserve better. They deserve to have the fullness of their humanity engaged. And it’s as we discover more and more of what that humanity really entails, that we find we have more room for one another, more room for compassion, more room for imagination.

A lot of this begins, not in asking what’s going to make me happy, but I think it begins in attention. The time taken to attend to someone else, not with an agenda that comes from inside, but letting your mind, your imagination be shaped by what you see – letting them set the agenda not you – as you take that in.

Now that needs a discipline of taking time, of giving space for that. It means setting aside a bit of time during the day for attending to something. Often it can be a simple matter of attending to our eating and drinking – making sure that if you are making a cup of tea, you sit down and drink it slowly, and you don’t try to find something else to do while you are doing it – by wandering around the kitchen with a cup in your hand  and while reading the newspaper  – and thus absorb it.

I think for me, as a religious person, it’s the ground base of meditation – you  try to make yourself present – be there where you are. And I think also, exposure to the reality of the world – the feel  of earth and grass, the feel of rain. And we want to protect ourselves so often from those basic physical things

If there is a big message in all of this I think it’s perhaps that your humanity is more interesting and more alive than anything you could ever imagine and consequent on that – give yourself the time you need to discover that.

And in discovering that you actually find new ways of connecting with the earth and with the people around you – and I would say too, with God.

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