Malcolm Muggeridge – From Revolt to Respect

What a perfect set-up.  When I’m wide awake, late at night in Western Canada, TheOnlyCin is wide awake, early in the morning in South Africa.  We share the quiet, still hours of our lives when our needs hold supreme priority.

Well..maybe not 100%.  We each have pets with instructions for manipulation tattooed on their DNA.

Since Cindy is ten hours ahead of me, a handicap favors her.  She is refreshed and, if my intuition is properly turned on, she is, at that time, full of the proverbial ‘tinkle’ and vinegar.  As various topics poured from goblets of gab, one reminded me of the polished and prolific journalist/writer Malcolm Muggeridge.

With sleep finally demanding its due, I hunkered down with resolve to revisit my short time with Muggeridge.

Malcolm Muggeridge (Wikipedia)

During the mid 1970s, Mr. Muggeridge held a guest professorial position at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.  To help polish the career ladder, I studied Psychology courses at Western at night.   That was how I discovered that Mr. Muggeridge would be speaking to a small, informal and intimate gathering.

My interest in Muggeridge was primarily due to his spunk, both as a journalist and an authour, which spotlit his incredibly tumultuous and diverse life.  He struggled with poverty and lack of recognition.  He adopted communism until disillusionment overrode his loyalty during time in Russia.  He returned to England and became a spy during WWII.  Back into journalism following the War, he was fired by both the BBC and Lord Beaverbrook for daring and courageous articles attacking the British Royals.   He exposed sensitive issues so extensively that his politics defied definition.  In spite of being on the side of socialism, he was accused of hosting strong right-wing points of view.  Left or Right, he attacked with equal fervor.

I was born after the war.  Those activities were still a subject in history.  In my world, Malcolm Muggeridge was pure Establishment.  He dared to say the Beatles were “four vacant youths… dummy figures with tousled heads (and) no talent.”  He attacked the activities of my counterparts of the 1960s with put-downs and satire.  I had to meet this man, up front and up close, here, in the cradle of Canadian conservatism.  I had to see this man who survived world-wide denouncement with an aura of respect, dignity and charm.

As I sat, front row, Muggeridge laid out his life to a silence that surely caused him to wonder if we had a pulse.  His language, his turn of phrase, his verbal images, and his perfect timing mesmerized those of us who love words.  Regretfully, it was a time before cell phones and the average person did not walk around with a recording device.  It was still a decade before the date of the George Orwellian predictions.

Amazingly, Muggeridge chose to describe his conversion from agnosticism (with some atheistic leanings) to Christianity.  I

Mother Teresa (Wikipedia)

suspect Muggeridge was working on Jesus: The Man Who Lives which was published in 1976.

He laughed over his dismay at being asked by his Editor to travel to India and interview this fiesty little nun.  He was not a Christian and was not interested in having to spend time with anyone so obviously devoted to Christianity.  His Editor simply told him there was no one else available to take on the assignment.  Claw marks confirmed Muggeridge’s route to the airport.

His refined, controlled and perfectly groomed English face glowed as he described Mother Teresa.

Instead of being angry, Malcolm’s heart melted as Mother Teresa forced him to wait for hours while she tended to the sick and the dying.  Instead of hurt pride, Malcolm’s soul responded with love for the woman who deftly led an operation many times more effective than any operation in the outside world.  Instead of having to fend off the intensity of this tiny nun’s love for the poorest of the poor, he embraced her indelibly by writing Something Beautiful for God.  Wikipedia describes the outcome:

By the early 1970s, Mother Teresa had become an international celebrity. Her fame can be in large part attributed to the 1969 documentarySomething Beautiful for God, which was filmed by Malcolm Muggeridge and his 1971 book of the same title. Muggeridge was undergoing a spiritual journey of his own at the time.[66] During the filming of the documentary, footage taken in poor lighting conditions, particularly the Home for the Dying, was thought unlikely to be of usable quality by the crew. After returning from India, however, the footage was found to be extremely well lit. Muggeridge claimed this was a miracle of “divine light” from Mother Teresa herself.[67] Others in the crew thought it was due to a new type of ultra-sensitive Kodak film.[68] Muggeridge later converted to Catholicism.

Even now, I feel the familiar pull in my chest that affirms Spirit residing in my being as I write.  That Spirit or Love swelled as I watched his gentle demeanor. The softness of his facial features touched  me as he recounted stories of his time with Mother Teresa.  His eyes watered over the memory of her telling him to be the Lion of God.

Malcolm Muggeridge left me full of wonder.  A hard drinking, heavy smoking womanizer for part of his life, beneath his veneer lived a restless seeker.  Discontent with much of what he saw in life, he realized there was a different way to see life.

Much of his spiritual discovery, he attributed to Mother Teresa.  When asked for an example, he told of challenging Mother for wanting to set up the sisters of Missionaries of Charity in the United States.  He scoffed that she was going into the richest nation in the world.  She told him, “Everywhere I go in America, I see the poorest of the poor.  In India, it is visible.  In America, it is not.”

Malcolm Muggeridge finished his tenure at Western and returned to England.  Again, Wikipedia describes the outcome:

In 1982, he joined the Catholic Church at 79 along with his wife, Kitty. This was largely due to the influence of Mother Teresa. His last book Conversion, published in 1988 and recently republished, describes his life as a 20th century pilgrimage – a spiritual journey.

I fell in love with this older gentle man who sat before our expectant youthfulness and fed what our souls most needed to hear. He didn’t talk about politics.  He didn’t delve into the hardships he endured.  Instead, he gave us a legacy.  It was left to us to determine its value.

Whatever our journey, whatever our passions, the spiritual path of our choosing lies before us, ever ready to burst into flame.  We just have to say when.  Or uncle.  Whichever is easier, and in some cases, whichever comes first.

The Guides’ message will appear soon.

25 thoughts on “Malcolm Muggeridge – From Revolt to Respect

  1. Thanks to whatever force guided you – with the click of my mouse – into my life. Now, rush on, 9am … I need to phone my librarian and ask her to get me the Muggeridge films and books.
    Sleep tight, my friend, sweet dreams.

    • Thank you for tweaking my memory re MM. I suspect the old dear knew exactly the effect he would have on our willingness to explore. In the mid-70s, it was amazing to hear a person of his ilk speaking so openly of spiritual experiences.

  2. This is a remarkable piece of writing. What strikes me, first and foremost, about what you have shared here, Amy, is how much we often judge people by what someone else says instead of giving them a chance to reveal themselves to us. We forget, so often, that we are all on a journey to grow.

  3. Amy, this gave me goose bumps reading it, I read in English lesson textbooks growing up, about Malcom and how he was annoyed first by how Mother would ask him to wait and then that he eventually melted into her kind spirit! It is such a great read for me personally, and of course with your, “Claw marks confirmed Muggeridge’s route to the airport.” … For which I can’t help but ROFLMAO!

  4. Hi Amy .. what a beautiful post – I remember hearing Muggeridge on the radio on various shows – but was not in those sort of discussion leagues .. but now! I was so interested to read this summary of parts of his life .. and the book that has just been reprinted ..

    It’s interesting what comes around comes around .. and how we’re all realising that the early pioneers (if you can call them that in the 1900s) – were free thinkers, always changing and challenging their own ideas.

    Thanks I enjoyed this and am so pleased to read more about Malcolm Muggeridge .. Hilary

    • Interesting how time changes attitudes and perceptions so dramatically – for both the subject and the observer. May my edges be even slightly as well honed as some of the dignified people from whom I have learned.

  5. It’s been years since I read Something Beautiful for God and then lost touch with Muggeridge. In the late 1970’s I was stationed in Detroit when Mother Theresa opened her mission there. I had the opportunity to meet and HUG her. What a powerful woman she was…and so softspoken. Life is so full of blessings. Thanks for this lovely reminder.

  6. I love this “Whatever our journey, whatever our passions, the spiritual path of our choosing lies before us, ever ready to burst into flame.” Looking forward to the bursting into flames and hopeful that I’ll be guided to know when and if I need to say uncle.

    • I’m going to sneak in an opportunity to remark on the great video where the hippo is saving other animals who are floundering in the river! I love any proof of animals being capable of this sort of caring.

    • Amazing what stages our bodies take us through! Now that I seem to be finished with working for other people, I’m finding all kinds of natural (read “weird”) schedules.

  7. One of the many great things about blogging and the Internet is that we get to “meet” so many fine folks who remember the same people and the same times.

    Loved this. Thank you! So, I have to tell you, I have a friend who went and worked with Mother Theresa – now Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, actually being considered for canonization – for a year. My friend told me that if it didn’t have to do with the people she served, Mother Theresa wasn’t interesested. She had a single focus. She said Mother Theresa was more like a general than a “mother.”

    My friend got TB working with the patients there. She still has it. It’s “contained” – whatever that means. Anyway, Mother Theresa told her that she was especially selected by Christ for this, that most people just got disentary, but this is special. A gift. Make of it what you will. The other nurses took care of my friend. Eventually she got well enough to return home.

    Mario Cuomo, the former mayor of NYC, tells about visiting Mother Theresa and bringing her a dozon bakery cookies. She ate just one. He encouraged her to have another and she refused. She said they had to be shared.

    My trivia for whatever it’s worth. Thanks for a great post.

    P.S.: Love Muggeridge. Just love Cindy too. She IS the one and only Cin. 🙂 And love SoulDipper Amy! 🙂 🙂 Thanks for your wonderful blog.

    • What a treat to be able to share such marvelous life experiences, friendships and insights with you. I agree with the joy of the Internet. Imagine being able to hear, first hand, about life with that little dynamo, Mother Teresa. I believe she would have to be like a little general – how else would she have accomplished everything? That reminds me of her demands to the City of Los Angeles when they gave her a hospital. She apparently would not accept it until it was stripped of “extras”. They would take the sisters’ time and attention away from the needy – the example I remember was some sort of carpeting and too much plumbing.

      Yes, we are blessed to have all these connections and people to share. I feel especially blessed to have you in my cyber life, Jamie. Thanks for your love and all your encouragement. I hope you can feel my love for you, too.

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