The fluff and the thread

Cotton is the second most important cash crop in Zimbabwe and its production is on the rise. It gives an income to thousands of smallholder farmers in the hottest areas of the country, for example, Binga, Muzarabani, Gokwe and Chiredzi.

But what is cotton? It is described as a ‘soft, fluffy, staple fibre that grows into a boll or protective case…’ It is the most widely used natural fibre for clothes and fragments of it have been found in India and Peru dating back 6,000 years. The invention of the gin – cotton engine to separate the threads – has revolutionised the production of clothing, making it widely and cheaply available.

Like so many gifts of nature, cotton provides us with something basic but it also gives us an image: fluff has to be sorted to provide a thread. As the media assaults us with pictures from Ethiopia and Afghanistan, we are dismayed and saddened beyond measure. How is it possible we cannot sort out what is happening and solve our differences without forcing our own views on others? Has it ever happened that violence has succeeded in permanently reducing people to slavery? Have we yet to learn that no state can oppress its people forever?

It seems we are reluctant to think things through; to see the strands, the threads, that run through history and teach us lessons. We go on repeating our mistakes. We admire great people but what is it that makes them great? Is it not the ability to follow through to the end the thread of something deep within? We can mention names, people that stand out for us. They are men and women who have listened to their head and their heart and they have set out on a journey.

If I mention Mary, the mother of Jesus, she may sound remote from the twenty first century and all its catastrophes. But it always strikes me that history moves forward at the behest of individuals, people who grasp the thread and follow it without deviating. She is one of those. They take the joys and the blows as they come. ‘They are despised and we take no account of them. And yet ours are the sufferings they bear, ours the sorrows they carry. They are pierced for our faults, crushed for our sins.’ There is so much fluff in our world. Can we draw out the threads that can lead to peace? This Sunday we celebrate Mary’s triumph. She knew all about joy and suffering and she can help us.

15 August 2021       Mary’s Assumption               Rev 11:19…12:10      1 Cor 15: 20-26         Luke 1:39-56

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