Making sense of a sense

My take on Psalm chapter 1 verses 1 to 3

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

The New Internation Version (NIV) renders the translation as follows,

“Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.”

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

I interpret it as, “ Live in accordance with ideas that are centred on the self without thought for the consequences of my actions on others particularly those which exploit others and may involve a level of fear and coercion.”

or stand in the way of sinners

It seems we are all sinners in that we have the ability to act in a way that diminishes us and others.

Thomas Merton tells a childhood story in his autobiography, ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’ in which he and some other friends are building a hut. His younger brother wants to join them but he refuses to allow him. His brother stands at a distance watching with sadness etched on his face.

Merton later in life recalls this incident and likens it to sin, the refusal to accept the love that is available. He considers that in some perverse way we see it as a weakness to need it and we believe it brings with it humiliation.

Can I recall such an incident in my life? Can you?

It is peculiar that once we ask the question an incident can come to mind. The one that comes to me was on the occasion that I was leaving home at 19 to go to Galway to study Theology. My mother asked if I would like her to see me off. I said no.

I had felt that most of my life I had to go after what I wanted. That led to a fiercely independent spirit which meant on this occasion I declined because in some perverse way I believed it would show I was not so independent after all.

Sinners could be thought of as the first stage of a spectrum that ends with wickedness.

or sit in the seat of mockers.

‘Mocking is catching’ is an expression we used as kids when impersonating another to ridicule. It could extend to a prank whereby another was a butt of a joke. Everybody had a good laugh at their expense.

The difficult thing when you begin to ponder on scripture particularly those related to sin, as I am finding, my own sins of mocking are surfacing from years gone by. In my sinning, I can see mocking and wickedness.

In our contemplative prayer group, we had chosen this psalm as a basis for our two-week contemplation. The psalm goes on to talk about the wicked. We were finding it difficult to separate people into groups of ‘The righteous’ and the ‘The Wicked’.

Earlier in the week, I had been on a Quaker on line ‘Meeting for Worship’. The subject of words also came up there which once again led me to consider that words are auxiliary to what we feel and think. We have ‘ a sense’ and then we try to use words to ‘make sense out of it’. But the words will never truly meet the experience.

I suggest David, who it is believed penned the Psalms, was doing that here having a sense and using words to convey it. Words can make things seem black and white but experiences are experiences.

We often want to separate ourselves from the other. When we do we talk about ‘them’ and ‘us’. While we may strive to do the right thing we do well to accept that both the wicked and the righteous reside in us. An inner battle that we probably see better when we look outside of ourselves.

The mistake could be that we separate ourselves from our experience.

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Gordie Jackson

Gordie Jackson

Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.