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Prince Charles
"Life is a more profound experience than we are told it is"
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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 17:01 GMT
Charles's message of hope

Prince Charles Prince Charles records his message

This is the full text of Prince Charles's message on BBC Radio 4's first Thought for the Day of the new millennium.

I suspect many of us will have been wondering how to approach the millennium, wondering what it actually means in the midst of our daily lives.

I daresay many of us will have decided what it does not mean.

Will it, for instance, be an experience, the dawning of an exciting moment when we step boldly across a threshold marked 21st Century and emerge into the golden promised land of a perennial future, where there shall be no more wailing and gnashing of teeth, where water flows uphill and the whole of humanity is genetically re-engineered?

Or will it perhaps provide a sacred moment of reflection as we celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of that unique occurence when the word became flesh and dwelt among us?

Will it remind us that each new year represents, as did Christ's mysterious birth, a microcosm of the vital process of renewal that dominates our existence?

For although our everyday lives seem to be dominated by linear time, one day following the next and year following year in an unbroken line, each new year reminds us of the importance in our existence of natural cycles, of events which continually recur.

But of course there is all the difference in the world between renewing what is old and replacing old with new.

The millennium provides us with an opportunity to abandon the poles of blind optimism on one hand and total despair on the other, and to rediscover a much older emotion - hope.

Hope belongs to a world which recognises the idea of limits - going with the grain of nature and cherishing and learning from the best of what we have inherited from the past.

In this sense, the dawn of a new millennium should not be the excuse for a bonfire of the past, but a chance to rediscover the profound wisdom of those who have made the difficult journey through this life before us. Those who, like our Lord Jesus Christ, taught that this life is but one passing phase of our existence and that the reality lies within each one of us.

Or, as Rilka put it, death is the side of life turned away from us.

In an era when we are tempted to believe that science knows nearly all the answers, it is instructive to recall that Einstein understood the close connection between wonder and the sacred.

To him the sense of wonder was the most important sense to open ourselves to the truth, the immensity of the mystery and the divinity of ourselves and our world.

He wrote that "a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his abilities, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their supra-personal value".

As we enter a new millennium with all its hopes and fears, I pray that we may come to realise that life is a strange paradox and that the art of living it lies in striking a balance, and that it is a sacred thing to compose harmony out of opposites.

Two and a half thousand years ago Plato was at pains to explain, through the words of Timaeus, that the great gift of human rationality should not be disparaged. Far from it, he said, it should be exercised to its utmost, but it must not make the mistake of believing it has no limits.

In an age of secularism I hope with all my heart that, in the new millennium, we will begin to rediscover a sense of the sacred in all that surrounds us, whether in the way we grow our crops or raise our livestock on the land that God has given us, whether in the way we create places for people to live in the countryside we have inherited, whether in the way we treat disease in our fellow human beings or whether in the way we educate or motivate our young people.

But to do that we must first of all understand that life is a more profound experience than we are told it is. After all, the likelihood of life beginning by chance is about as great as a hurricane blowing thorugh a scrapyard and assembling a Rolls Royce.

Perhaps, in the midst of all the celebrations and the hype, deep down inside many of us may feel intuitively - to paraphrase a wonderful passage from Dante - that the strongest desire of everything, and the one first implanted by nature, is to return to its source. And since God is the source of our souls, and has made it alike unto himself, therefore this soul desires, above all things, to return to him.
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See also:
26 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Time for Einstein
01 Jan 00 |  Wales
Prince accused of 'Welsh nationalism'
29 Dec 99 |  UK
Charles to head cancer charity

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