Hello and a really warm welcome to the July issue of the Voice for Arran. We hope you are well and enjoying the prospect of (hopefully) stepping into the summer months with a bit more freedom than we have been used to in recent weeks.
I’m sitting here with a bit of a problem, a tricky but not unhappy one, where I am wondering how I can do justice to the wonderful articles that have come in for this issue. My heart feels full from the pieces that have arrived – accounts of compassionate activity and dedicated work going on in Arran, on Holy Isle and further afield, that are helping others and our planet during this time of lockdown and wider ecological crisis. From news of free vegetable boxes that the Arran Community Land Initiative are organising, to Niamh Dillon’s account of her experience of lockdown on Holy Isle, to Alice Maxwell’s article on LifeLines, in which she describes her personal journey writing to a prisoner on death row, there are messages of real beauty and hope in the pages that follow. One focus of this issue is Holy Isle which developed over the last few weeks and began with Jim Henderson’s history. A couple of other related pieces came so that I then contacted Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, founder and Director of the Buddhist Centre for World Peace and Health on the island, to see if he would be able to write about Holy Isle too. Happily he agreed! As the Holy Isle articles formed one thread, the connections between the pieces grew as well – around interfaith communication and understanding, our interdependence, even notions of “oneness”, which the the Dalai Lama spoke of recently.
There is suffering apparent in the pieces too. This is no more evident than in the experience of death row prisoners, but we are also taken to it by Cicely Gill’s words and poem in the piece, ‘What’s on my mind? Well BLM of course’. With her words, we are reminded that while the recent and horrific event of George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed are not on our doorstep, even here on a small island in the west of Scotland, we are not apart from it and our interconnectedness is revealed over and over. Alice Maxwell reflects on this theme in her article, ‘We’re in this together’, a piece inspired both by our enforced isolation due to a virus we are all vulnerable to, and by the practice of isolation that many spiritual traditions have observed over the centuries. In revealing our connectedness through this practice, Alice quotes the famous poem No Man is an Island, by John Donne, and his lines – Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind – speak right to the cause of BLM and to this issue as one of and for humanity. Understood from this angle we see how we are all responsible; it becomes so close it is painful.
In other pieces in this edition the urgent message to protect our environment stands out. Last month the Animals and Wildlife Bill (Scotland) was debated in Holyrood, and the Committee on Climate Change sent its progress report to the UK government. At this time when we have a chance to rebuild our economies post-Covid, the CCC strongly recommends that “Ministers seize the opportunity to turn the Covid-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change”. Focusing on environmental matters closer to home, in his article Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, describes the ecological work that has taken place over the last 30 years (and which continues on the Holy Isle) and Sally Campbell calls for stronger measures to be implemented to safeguard the UK’s Marine Protected Areas.
So rather than for me to say much more, I will leave the articles to speak for themselves, and I hope their messages connect with you as they have with me. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, another Buddhist master, whose poem Please Call Me By My True Names, opens the issue, may the juxtaposition of joy and suffering that we are so often exposed to in life, help us to “wake up”, and as we recognise ourselves in all these situations, “so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion”.
I hope you have a wonderful month, Elsa