25th January 2021

On the birthday of the Scottish Bard, Rabbie Burns, surely it’s not inappropriate to turn our thoughts to poetry. A working definition of poetry could be something like ‘the use of language and rhythm to express value and meaning in the consideration of the human experience that might otherwise be difficult to articulate in everyday speech’. That last, unlovely sentence illustrates the difference. It targets itself mainly on the intellect and is essentially concerned with fact and precision, whereas poetry aims more towards the heart, addressing the ‘feel’ of things which, in turn, the reader or listener instinctively grasps. That said, while I like poetry, I do find some of it quite impenetrable at times!

We look to science to help us understand the universe in which we live – what is the ‘stuff’ of which we’re made – how it all works and fits together. That’s what’s enabling us to get on top of the pandemic, albeit slowly and painfully, and we’re in no way helped by the false rumour-mongering of the anti-science brigades. But knowing the underlying mechanics of a situation only takes us so far. What does the present crisis mean? What does it say about the way the world is run? Is the pursuit of ever greater material prosperity leaving us vulnerable to nature’s retaliation? To answer those kinds of questions we need the help of poetry every bit as much as the scientific research paper. Some of that necessary poetry is provided by our faith, not least by the words and example of Jesus Christ; nothing impenetrable there, just a life lived for God and others.

Ken Stewart