Time for Reflection

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13th January 2010.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 2:30 pm, 13th January 2010

Good afternoon. As always on a Wednesday, the first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is Father Robert Hendrie of St Luke's church in Banknock.

Father Robert Hendrie (St Luke's Church, Banknock):

St Matthew tells us:

"where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

When I was a child, I thought as a child and spoke as a child, especially at Christmas. I wanted, as a child does—without any qualification—this, that or some other thing. And if I got whatever it was, by now, I wanted something else. Eventually, I put aside childish things, but I did not put away wanting; I just wanted different things, and not only at Christmas. I say that not to beat myself up. There is nothing abnormal about it. We do not differ that much. We are not just rational animals; we are wanting animals. In one way, it is our peculiar glory and the driving force of all human achievement. Still, it is peculiar that we are never satisfied.

What do we want? I want what? Even if we want for nothing, we still want something else. It seems that it is never enough just to be ourselves—something more, we think, might complete us. That is a surprising thing. Now we think of it, we are always surprising ourselves. We are a mystery to ourselves. Nothing that we want seems to be enough. That can be simplified into more of the same. It is better to be realistic about this, as we have to live with it. As the poet asks, why have we immortal longings and all we long for mortal?

The paradox goes to the very roots of our humanity. We are always ambitious for higher things. As a result, it is easy for us to get fixated on something or other that we think will fulfil or content us. We are no longer children, but we still find that, even now, what we thought would satisfy us does not. A better house? More money? A job we have hankered after? More power? A new relationship? More stuff? Whatever. Yet that constant discontent can be seen as our glory. It is the reason for all the great achievements of the human race.

We have to live here and there are things to be done, people to love and serve and ideals to be striven for. We want something greater than we can imagine because anything that we can imagine is not enough. Ultimately, we want that than which nothing greater can be thought, which is Anselm's pointer towards God. As Augustine puts it:

"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you."