Honouring the Prophets: Noel Ginn

Reprinted from The Common Good, no. 27, Easter 2003

Into the Light

I am not actually listening to anything or looking at anything and the other messengers and commentators in the employ of the body are around somewhere, apparently doing little. Nor am I thinking of anything in particular, when, without warning, a wave of generosity — that is the nearest word — rushes in and takes over. It comes from an unknown source, it washes in from an unknown sea. It is something other than me, but so completely adaptable and congenial that I am perfectly at ease with it. It is no use trying to portray it, for it contains all dimensions and gives the feeling that nothing is left out. I just pause quiescent, in an indescribable embrace.

I feel that, as scientists have got inside the atom, those who have experiences like this have got inside time. It is as if time is porous and between one moment and the next are other worlds. What is this experience then? It is far too complex for me to grasp, hence I cannot think of defining it, but instead I can indicate some aspects but when my description assumes too concrete a form I know that it is suspect, for form is hard and delimiting and this experience is quite otherwise.

It is an experience subtle enough to slip between two moments; this does not make it unattainable, for we have mastered many subtleties. It is with us in latency and the number who have experienced it is larger than we think, while others go all their days not knowing it, or pushing it aside. It is not conscience; in face of its hugeness conscience seems too careful and rule-bound, but it has links with conscience. What is it then?

It is the golden moment that dances before us like a firefly. Who can seize it and who can ravish it? We all can, but it chooses the time and it does the ravishing. It is unfathomably deep but is as accessible as our mother tongue. It is an inalienable opportunity, closer than breathing. Nature will see to it that we never lose the capacity to experience it for it contains life’s compass. It is not fantasy. Those who find it have unconsciously prepared themselves for it.

It contains all reconciliation and intuition, and it is a source of energy. It is too knowledgeable to contain conflicts. It is such a marvel and compendium that it can bother us, and we fling over it a net of distraction to protect our illusions. Many, including scientists and artists, have experience of it without realising.

It is the place where authenticity resides and is where students make their discoveries; and when we know it and relocate there, we can survive any bewilderment or adversity without too much dismay, for it is the place of ultimate approval. He who cleaves to it leads a delightful and alluring life. It is the place where we ourselves fill with light, and in that light we can see through the form.

Let it speak for itself. What does it say? It says ‘All must return to me, into my light, for I come to you through time, but am myself the timeless present. All that occurs takes place in me. ‘Come’, it says, ‘I am expecting you’.

Noel Ginn

Noel Ginn

by Albert Bollard

Noel Ginn was an active Methodist Bible Class member in the years leading up to WWII, with an enthusiasm for life and a love for the aesthetic. As a Christian Pacifist he found himself in a variety of penal institutions in those tragic times. In those tumultuous times of the late ’30s St Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Ghandi were among our heroic figures. Most of Noel’s poems and letters were first written on toilet paper as blank paper as any attempt to communicate with the ‘outer’ were firmly disallowed. We had a Bible and a hymn book for our library. We were allowed a half hour run separately, around an enclosed compound of six huts, most days. As a poetry lover himself he began corresponding with the young James K Baxter sharing poems and comments from 1942 to 1946. Recent researchers discovered a treasure trove of letters, saved by Baxter and considered significant enough to be published in Spark to a Waiting Fuse. After the war Noel became a horticulturist and largely ceased writing. He later moved to Australia and in retirement lived in India. At 80 Noel began writing again. His collection Dweller on the Threshold, was published in 1998. His poems reveal the child on the edge of the adult world, the pacifist at odds with a world at war, the New Zealander encountering Indian culture, and the octogenarian reflecting on life and death. Noel is now 87 and under constant care and despite having lost his ‘mobility, dexterity, speech and ability to eat solid foods’ – still enjoys visitors and reading. The piece above was written by Noel and was the final chapter in a book (unpublished to date) written during the last ten years of his life, mostly in India.

Jack Rogers was a conscientious objector imprisoned during WWII and has been a long time Christian Pacifist. Jack lives in Christchurch.

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