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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, October 30, 2003
    The brilliance of dedicated simplicity
    It's a measure of the reach of the internet that I managed to find Tom's name on it at all. This man doesn't have a telephone. He lives in a large house which, thirty or so years ago, his architect brother and he designed and built with their own hands. It's within the city boundaries but, given that, as hidden a place you could imagine: on a turn in one of the city's fastest arterial roads there is a tree with a white circle painted on it - the house is in a deep clearing some way along the wooded track this signs.

    He lives among others, Tom, in a religious order. Devoted to a disciplined life with a routine of prayer at its heart. At work in the kitchen making simple bread and soup for visitors (and there are many of those), in the garden carefully planting, nurturing and gathering the ingredients for that homely fare, and in the grounds caring for the animals, stock and wild who share that space with Tom and the brothers.

    Tom's engaged - not maritally, but politically. Typical of so many people who live lightly on the earth, he's far more aware of world events and sharper in his perception of reality than most mobile-carrying, Google-eyed, Amazon-resourced media junkies, ie folk like me. That can be a cliche but in his case it really is true. He once wrote a small, insightful book on politics and prayer; last time I saw him he was giving daily reflections at a national conference on globalization.

    I think of Tom and his community sometimes, not least in the winter when the cold and darkness invite contemplation, warm soup and - I would suggest - hibernation. In looking his address up for a friend I realise I haven't visited Tom's place for many years, and feel I've probably been denying myself a great pleasure.

    As my modem blinks menacingly at me and Outlook Express locks up again, sending waves of frustration through my upper body, I lift my keyboard hand in thanks for those who don't need any of this, who without any arrogance at all demonstrate the brilliance of dedicated simplicity.