2. Keith's Letter

Dead or Dormant?


In August, the death was announced of Sir Ken Robinson, described by the Daily Telegraph as “an education guru who emphasised the need for risk-taking and creativity”. He is also famous for a TED talk, delivered back in 2006, which has been viewed more than 66 million times! Part of that talk was included in the tribute which was part of Last Word on Radio 4. He made reference to Death Valley, one of the hottest places on earth, and so named because its arid soil, combined with the lack of water and extreme temperatures, means that nothing grows there. But in late 2004 there was a sudden rainfall of several inches and in 2005 the valley was covered in flowers in what is called a super-bloom, and Robinson drew the parallel between the apparent hopelessness of horticultural flourishing in Death Valley and the way some children can be sadly written off by the education system. His phrase was that the gift in such pupils was “not dead but dormant”.

I was reminded of my own experience in 1996 of walking on the floor of the Ladybower reservoir near Sheffield. Following the very dry summer the soil was exposed to sunlight for the first time in more than 50 years and the grass started growing! And Robinson’s words also took me back to the famous chapter in the book of Ezekiel, where the prophet is transported to a valley full of dry bones. And God asks him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Dead or dormant? And when Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones, amazingly they begin to join themselves together, and become covered by muscles and flesh and, when the Spirit of God came into them, they lived and stood up!

As the year 2020 enters its final quarter, so much of what constitutes ‘normality’ still awaits a re-start, and any notion of what the ‘new normality’ of which many have spoken might look like still feels a long way off. Similarly, the more tolerant and understanding attitudes, which many would hope to be the basis of our society, have been pushed to the margins and replaced by more polarising voices and actions. In such a setting, Ken Robinson’s question as to what is dead and what merely dormant strikes me as timely. My guess would be that not everything will return to how it was and that in itself will not necessarily be a bad thing. But if the things we care about are to be part of the future, then simply waiting for the dormant bones to join themselves up again, take on flesh and begin moving is unlikely to bring about new life. That will require of all of us some creativity and risk-taking.

With every blessing

Keith Albans
Methodist Minister


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