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.
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
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. 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. Others in the crew thought it was due to a new type of ultra-sensitive Kodak film. 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.