The past few days have been a bit difficult. The twelfth in the present series of chemotherapy treatments seems to have knocked me out well and truly (and some of the earlier ones were no pic-nic, I must confess). However, while I wallow in self-pity, life goes on; but I see it through a slight haze, as though at one remove. It isn’t only illness that gives one such a perspective. The elderly sometimes say that they feel ‘out’ of things; those who are struggling financially often make the same observation; and those who have suffered a bereavement know only too well how the loss of someone dear changes everything, at least for a while.
Time was when I thought of this distancing from the life around me as something to be regretted, fought against, but I am beginning to see it in a more positive light. Just occasionally, being slightly out of things can be helpful. It enables one to ask questions one would otherwise have no time for. In my own case, during the down times, when even the most trifling matters require huge effort, I find myself reassessing my priorities, and the priorities of the community as a whole. It is a case of being down but not completely out, engaged but not immersed.
Today’s feast of SS Philip and James has as its introit one of the most beautiful pieces of plainchant ever composed, Tanto tempore. ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me?’ Even an apostle can fail to see what is right under his nose, until he is startled into doing so. Sometimes those periods of being a little out of things can give us a glimpse of what lies at the heart of things. Let us treasure them.