Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Take Tory MP Ann Widdicombe who was asked in a recent broadcast about her visits abroad. Her only regret seemed to be that she hadn't been to more places and in particular 'I'd like to see the penguins in Antarctica'. Miss Widdicombe often promotes herself as a devout Christian woman with self-denial as a major component of her moral and spiritual life. Yet is not her wish to travel the globe to spend time with a flock of flightless birds the most shameless fantasy of self-indulgence? What possible good would accrue to Antarctica, its inhabitants, or the planet as a whole, from such personal extravagance?
Another interview, this time with Michael Palin, in which he shared his experiences in foreign lands, concluded with the question, 'Is there anywhere you'd still like to go?' But why are such people never asked, 'Don't you think you've done enough globetrotting? Do you think it's necessarily a good thing for you, the human race and the environment, that you should continue your international perambulations?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
One of my dearest friends has written to tell me that in his opinion I'm a 'good egg'. Am I flattered? No way. To reduce my struggle with life and its meanings, my ambiguities and ambivalence, my high ideals and my often abject failure to live up to them, my painful honesty in the face of organized lies and half-truths, to the epithet 'good egg' feels like the worst kind of pat on the back. What makes it worse is that the friend I speak of is one of the kindest people I know. With any luck we'll have many hours to laugh at my sanctimonious pomposity.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Book of Common Prayer, originally published in 1549, has affected me more powerfully than any other book I have ever read. I hope to have it with me when I die. Best known in Britain in its 1662 version, and in the USA as The 1928 Prayer Book, it is the now-forgotten third pillar of written English, alongside the works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. Excerpts from it occupy more than 15 pages of the Third Edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, yet - since it is now hardly used by the Church of England or its cousin, the Episcopal Church - those who quote from it, or use its phrases and cadences in their language, are mostly unaware of the fact that they are quoting at all. It is, amongst other things, the refutation in practice of the idea that religion is a resort of the stupid and the illiterate. Its marriage service is the constitution of private life, expressed in numinous poetry. Its burial service is a raw, uncompromising confrontation with the majesty of death.
But it is in its regular, ordinary services of Morning and Evening Prayer that, with a sweet persistence, it softly asks the listener - who is also often a participant - to consider, reasonably and carefully, the alternatives to the bare, comfortless tedium of materialism, and to reflect on his place in the universe. The apparently simple phrases quietly slip into the mind and compel thought. No revolutionary manifesto ever equalled the Magnificat's scorn for earthly greatness.
And running through it all is the knowledge that almost all of this, especially its repeated calls for God's help in the struggle to be good, 'forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee', was written or compiled by a rather bad man, Thomas Cranmer, Henry VIII's highly political Archbishop of Canterbury. This is not the work of some unapproachable, impossible saint but of a married man, wily in worldly affairs and capable both of great cowardice and of astonishing courage.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Then I read this, and wanted to blog again.
Hope it lasts.
- The only faith that makes sense to many people is one that offers a story to resonate with. Belonging to a community, and any promise of life after death [or even of a god who loves even you, you dirty rotten scoundrel], are no longer draw cards.