Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Anthony & Ann Gimpel
At Quaker Meeting House, Queens Road, this evening for the launch of Anthony Gimpel's new book, My Jewish Soul (published by Christians Aware).

There are more than 60 people in the room when Barbara Butler (Executive Secretary, Christians Aware) opens the meeting, inviting David Patterson to speak first. David is a neighbour of Anthony Gimpel and his wife Ann in Loughborough. He speaks about Anthony's influence on the way that Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated there and how this is informed by Anthony's personal engagement with the Holocaust, as described in the book.

In the worldview Anthony espouses in his book, forgiveness must come before understanding, not the other way round as has long persisted in the classic British liberal model espoused by influential figures such as George Eliot and John Stuart Mill. Understanding oneself comes before understanding others. So  it follows that in order to understand oneself, one must forgive oneself.

Anthony - and of course his book - are deeply influenced by Quaker spirituality. The book is a search for his own inner soul, but at each stage of that search, it shows how he is engaged with the outer world: family, community, society, the world, always leading back to himself.

Next to speak is Ruth Fraser. She, in common with Anthony, describes herself as a Jewish Quaker. She offers the memorable observation that for a Jew to dwell on the Holocaust feels like applying a Brillo Pad to the soul.

David Clark, speaking next, says that he would locate the essence of Anthony's book on page 57: but he won't say what that is, or read the passage to us. If we want to find out for ourselves, we should buy the book! For the sake of the blog, I prevail upon him later and he points out the following paragraphs:
A friend was asking me about prayer. I answered saying that perhaps prayer is what happens when your heart genuinely wants something and the universe responds. It is instructive to hear my friend's comment: She said something like "you mean when I really want in my heart to do something." No, that is not what I meant. You may think it is what I said but listen carefully and notice the addition of one little word in her comment: I. It is quite different for your heart to want something and for you to want something in your heart. In the first case the universe responds: in the second the universe remains silent. That is why "I want never gets."
So what then do I mean about the universe responding? Being aware of what your heart is saying may allow you to be aware of the response of the universe but that is not a given. The response may or ay not accord with your conscious understanding. You may or may not want what the universe if going to give you. Do you really know what your heart wants? Is your ego happy with this? Will you accept the consequences? Only you can know and the universe is not particularly bothered whether you do or not. The key is your self awareness. Your ego and your conscience are irrelevant. It is neither here not there.

Just before this meeting, early news reports of the incident in Woolwich begin breaking. I get the feeling I'm the only one who knows about it, from the simple fact that no one else mentions it. Something of a contrast to what's been going on here this evening, I'm sure you'll agree, faithful reader.

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