Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rowan Williams on Living with Others

Seen coming out of the
Jerusalem Chamber
Rowan Williams gave a fascinating lecture last night at Westminster Abbey about the implications of the Benedictine rule for modern governance.

He points out that the key Benedictine virtue is Stability and this is not based on the idea that things won't change but on the very fundamental point that other people won't go away.  He suggested, wisely in my view, that much of what is wrong with modern political discourse can be summed up by the view that if only [X group of people] would just go away everything would be much better.  The group X is of course a group of people you disagree with or disapprove of.  But when you accept that X won't go away and that you need to find some way of living with them despite your disagreements and disapproval (which is very probably mutual) then real progress can be made.

He drew out the themes of Honesty, Peace and Accountability and suggests that these created the conditions under which this kind of stability could flourish.

And he quoted a writer of whom I was shamefully unaware, Donald Nicholl as saying that a priest visiting a university to conduct a mission had listened carefully to what academics talk to each other about to find out what kind of verbal currency they exchanged and found that the common currency was grievances.

He wondered about how we could engage more effectively with others at a national level without just expecting them to go away, what could be done about the massive financial instability, and whether we could get more honesty about the inevitable fallability of leaders?

The talk made me realise how my work on financial stability connected with my Benedictine spiritual background (how very obtuse I have been not to notice this!) but also suggested to me that the G20 could be seen as a kind of Benedictine Community with a rotating Abbot: we all have to live with each other despite our radical disagreements and get along. This was a new thought to me and to Rowan and worth pondering!

Afterwards there was a small reception in the Jerusalem Chamber and I spoke with Rowan briefly about the G20 but he rightly had more time to speak with Daughter who knows him much better having won the inaugural Peter Peckard Prize which he awarded.

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