Monday, July 15, 2013

Something to believe in

That's what I need: something to believe in. 

The big question for me about Christianity is not just "What is the Good News?" but "What could possibly be Good News in a world that entails such terrible and gratuitous suffering?" What, in other words, would make human life worth living in spite of all that is painful and wretched about it - not only worth living but worth propagating?

What I come up against whenever I try to answer this question is not only my own suffering, nor even just the sufferings of others. What disturbs my attempts to make light of, rationalize, or avoid thinking about our adult traumas are the tears of pain and grief on the faces of children encountered in the flesh and depicted daily on page and screen, innocent and uncomprehending.

Woody Allen is quoted as saying that if God exists he'd better have a good excuse. But can an excuse, even the best, be good enough? And is anything better than an excuse imaginable? Is Good News possible?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

We're not going

We're all going on a summer holiday, sang Cliff Richard. Not us. Not really. Perhaps a few nights away visiting our more distant family members. But hardly a holiday.

My wife remembers posing the question as a girl - What are holidays for? What are you meant to do? Where to go wasn't the problem back then. It was for parents to decide. If lucky, you were simply taken..

As a boy I always knew what holidays were for. In a word - Escape. Escape from routine, especially the dreaded daily routine of school attendance. I never liked school. To wake up in the morning free of that ghastly obligation. What bliss!

But now, at my age, novelty makes me sad; leaves me asking why I have not done this, been here, before. Revisiting places and experiences, even reading again much-thumbed books, is more satisfying. In particular, since retirement from parish ministry I have nothing and nobody to escape from. My centre of gravity (and how I love gravity) is here at home.

A sober contemplation is that one day I will indeed be taken, bodily removed, from my home and the blessed company of those who share it with me, for a long, long holiday, an endless rest. Too long. Too soon.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's harder when you're old

One of the things I've noticed about being old - did I tell you I've just turned seventy? - is how hard it is to avoid the company and conversation of those who only want to talk about their ailments and their holidays. Lacking curiosity about the first, and having little appetite for the second, can put you at a social disadvantage. 

Which is why we started our own Book Group.

I've always been a non-fiction type myself but in the group we have been mostly reading novels. I'm presently convalescing after a bout of exposure to Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus'. Reading it I found was like being caught up in a magical whirlwind. As with the circus of the book, leaving it you are left wondering whether the dream is on the inside or the outside.

Some religious traditions seem to recognise that the external world may be hallucinatory. European philosophers of the Enlightenment acknowledged as much. The imaginative work of writers like Morgenstern awaken us to a strange reality we too easily take for granted.