Love for the Future – review
Love for the Future: A Journey, by David Osborne, June 2013. Wild Goose Publications, 280 pages, ISBN: 978-1-8495-2263-2. RRP £13.50
Literary accounts of journeys have a long history, and are as popular today as ever. They often include personal, social or spiritual reflections associated with places on the journey. And Christian examples of the genre usually evoke the idea of pilgrimage.
This book is really an account of several journeys that are intertwined. Firstly it is about the author’s walk from his home in Shropshire to the island of Iona in 1992. The places through which he travels, and the people he meets, prompt perceptive comments on social, moral and ecological issues.
A second strand is Osborne’s own life ‘journey’, which has ranged through varied territory geographically, spiritually and emotionally. In choosing his route northwards he deliberately included places of personal importance to him – places that were associated with significant events in his life both tragic and joyful.
Osborne has drawn from a wide range of spiritual traditions – mainly Christian but not exclusively so – to form his understanding of the spiritual pilgrimage. He recognises that not everyone can or should attempt long journeys on foot. Short walks, crafts and gardening are some of the other ways of connecting with the earth. They can all help us to be attentive to where we are, both physically and spiritually.
A third important thread concerns our world, ‘moving into a different and challenging future’ as a result of the complex and threatening situation brought about by our broken relationship with the natural world.
Weaving these diverse strands into a unity would seem to many a well-nigh impossible task. Osborne has succeeded in producing a rich and readable narrative. Inevitably the discussion sometimes includes past as well as present situations. Occasionally we might be left uncertain where we are in the sequence of events. The milestones and cross-references are there, but a lapse in concentration could cause one to miss them.
To facilitate the division of the book into themes, the thread that traces the physical journey inevitably includes a few twists and turns. For example two accounts are given of the traveller’s arrival at the Tibetan Buddhist centre at Eskdalemuir. The first relates to the theme of compassion, the second to faith. Both are relevant to the occasion. Again, feelings of disorientation may occur if one has failed to observe the signposts provided.
Osborne’s concluding summons is to love, which is of course at the heart of the Bible and the Christian tradition. I take this to be the significance of the book’s title – not that we ought to love the future (whatever that would mean). But as we face the unknown future, God’s love should be foremost in our hearts and minds.
Osborne expresses the hope that this book may provide, not an escape, but a shelter on our journeys, so that we can continue refreshed on our way. For this reviewer, that hope has been fulfilled.
Editor’s note: In addition to being a journey narrative, this book is also a resource containing materials for personal reflection and group discussion, pointers for further reading, and practical suggestions.