A reflection by one of our Chaplains, Rev Gordon Campbell. Gordon wears many hats – he works in the University Finance Office (mainly on tax and insurance), is an auxiliary minister of the Church of Scotland, and minister of Perth Congregational Church.
If you visit the Riverside Nature Park, at the moment, there are signs asking walkers to stick to the footpaths because skylarks are nesting. Here is a picture of a skylark (Eurasian skylark – Alauda arvensis). Skylarks aren’t very large – bigger than sparrows but smaller than starlings.
What makes the skylark distinctive is its ability to sing loudly at great height – as rival males try to impress the watching females. Watching a skylark rise, one feels there must be an invisible elevator – because a skylark rises almost vertically, and can ascend to a height of 300m.
The poets Shelley, Meredith and Hughes all penned pieces about the skylark – Meredith’s poem inspiring Vaughan Williams famous piece of music The Lark Ascending.
Can you imagine would it be like suddenly to soar up and get a bird’s eye view – to understand how what you do fits into the bigger picture? Internal Communications and Professor Maguire try to help us have a sense of where we fit into the wider University family in their regular emails to us. Can you imagine rising even higher? In 1962 a young, French Catholic priest compiled a book to try to help people “to pray as relevantly as they try to live”. In the book Prayers of Life (1963), Michel Quoist wrote:
I would like to rise very high, Lord;
Above my city,
Above the world,
I would like to purify my glance and borrow your eyes.
The skylark doesn’t stay in the sky forever. Eventually it plummets to earth – only later to soar and sing again.
For our spiritual health we need to have that combination of being grounded, and having a bird’s eye view. It is sobering to reflect that it is possible to be so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly-use!