Friday, September 28, 2012

Ways of reading

They each read different books. Not just different - of different kinds.

She was a lover of fiction; he of non-fiction. She always had at least one novel on the go - sometimes more. He was reading, or re-reading, or referring to, works of philosophy, theology and psychology, to inform and guide his own thinking and experience.

He was typically reading aloud from his books, enthusing, seeking to share the insights he had gained, or thought he had gained, and relate them to people and circumstances they knew. She was more often lost in her books - lost to him - as if for now in a closed and complete and separate world - self-contained, set at a safe distance from duty and the mundane.

He read books as he had learned to do bible study in church groups - seeking wisdom, guidance, searching for meaning and new ways of being - listening for a voice, a message that would change his life for the better, show him who he was and who he might become.

She read, and was charmed, amused, entertained, distracted, educated and informed. She read to increase the circle of her friends - those fictional characters who populated her imaginative landscape. This was friendship for its own sake. She was happy to be with them, and to reflect upon the nature of that being. No hidden purpose or ulterior motive came between, or behind, them.

See them on a quiet afternoon. Two people. Two open books.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Something greater

When people talk about believing in something greater than themselves they are usually taken to be alluding to God and religion. But why? Lots of things are greater than you, me and the human race - the known universe and everything that exists, to name but two. We seem strangely reluctant to concede this. In fact most religious teaching is not about something greater than ourselves. It's about other people like ourselves, and how we should deal with them, respect them, take care of them, love them. It's about other people as the object of our ultimate concern.

The Christian message that I was brought up with and came to teach and preach myself was something very like 'God is Other People'. In my declining years, as I drift into irrelevance, this begins to feel constricting and the thirst for 'something greater' remains.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Order! Order!

One of the things I noticed when I was taking anti-depressant medication was that I was able to see, hear, attend to and do one thing at a time. This will surprise people who suppose that they know me. They have probably never seen me do more than one thing at a time - anytime.

But that’s only partly true. Inside my head - in my mind and imagination - I am so busy. Voices. Ideas. Views. Opinions. Perspectives. Meanings. Interpretations. Experiments. Crowding in. Swirling around. It’s like the House of Commons - only noisier.

And it’s all very distracting, and makes it nearly impossible to give proper undivided attention to the immediate task. Simply reading a novel requires a major effort of concentration. Having a serious conversation, the only kind I really care to have, can be exhausting.

Medication, like Mr Speaker in the Commons, can restore order, but some of the side-effects are ruinous.

I had to find a better way.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Death in January

Although I have no plans to die at all, I did find myself looking back upon my father's untimely death. Untimely because I never wanted to lose him, but also for me out of season - for me if not for him.


I'd rather not
Die in January
Like my Dad

If you or You don't mind

It might have been alright for him
Dying in January
It gave him one last chance
To enjoy Christmas and
Have a good time
Enjoy a drink or two
And remember better, younger days
Of merriment he knew

For him it would have been
like a bonus
a golden handshake

For me
To die in January
Would be more like
Having to endure the torture
Before the coup de grace.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What have I done?

If it's true that I do not really know what my past has been, because all I have is a collection of memories, none of which I can verify for sure . . . 

If I do not know the significance of what I did in the past, nor have any way of telling whether I could have done otherwise . . .

If moreover in making a judgement about what I have done I do not know how many relevant factors there may be which I did not know, and still do not know, and may never know . . .

How on earth - or later in heaven - can I be held accountable for my life and what I have made of it? And why does the Church in its liturgy invite me on every possible occasion to own and confess and repent my individual wrongdoing?

Individual responsibility may be no more than a necessary fiction. But if so what kind of necessity is this?

Saturday, September 01, 2012

In Praise of Money

Celia Green argues that a very good analytical case could be made out for the desirability of money, on the most idealistic grounds - but never is.

The charms of money are distinctly under-represented in literature. There are no songs or poems extolling its virtues.

She offers this:

Money which soothes my woes
Faithful and never-failing support when all else turns against me
Constant and reliable when men betray and deride me
Ever-attentive to my smallest wish
Providing me with a fortress of refuge much better furnished than
my enemies would wish me to have
Respecting all my needs which I could not possibly explain to a
social worker or my GP. . . .