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Monday, 29 April 2013

The Itch They Need To Scratch

Every now and then I get letters from well meaning Christians. They tell me how they miss me, how they think about me, how they would love it if I turned back to God. I've come to regard myself as a kind of itch these people feel they need to scratch. I expect they've thought long and hard before putting pen to paper, prayed about it, procrastinated some, before finally plucking up the courage to proceed.
I cannot fault their sincerity. It is genuine and heartfelt, but in all honesty I'm left feeling nothing whatsoever. Sometimes they might tell me what convinces them, or admit to having doubts. Perhaps this is cruel of me, but I simply do not care. If you want to believe this stuff then ok. Believe it, battle with it, party on. You've made a life choice to do that. But I don't have a dog in your fight. I don't have an interest. It's just that simple.
You see, there is no God shaped hole in my heart. No spiritual vacuum. I thirst only to know what's true and honest, which is a space no religion could hope to occupy. Now I know some Christians read my blogs, and to you I say simply the following. I've moved on, grown up, chosen to accept reality as the unsteady and turbulent thing that it is. Happiness and sorrow will be my companions through this life, good fortune and poor fortune will accompany me to various degrees. Your God is of no interest to me, and your concern is wasted. You see, I just can't shirk the conviction that what you believe is silly. Silly and nonsensical, and I cannot in good conscience pretend otherwise. I accept that people get their kicks in different ways, and if religion is one of yours then so be it. But please understand, I am as fulfilled and intellectually nourished as I've ever been. My thoughts are free to engage with the world in all it's awesome splendour. Chain yourself to your dogma if that helps you to get through the day, but do it quietly, privately, and leave me to get on with my life.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Words You Should Have Said?

Consider the following; you are the parent of a four year old child whom screams continuously whenever they do not get what they want. As a parent you hate the distress this causes, and you often capitulate. Example two; you are the sister of a person whom is morbidly obese, and the affection you have for them dissuades you from raising the question of weight.
Example three; some of your closest friends are evangelical Christians vehemently opposed to stem cell research or abortion, yet you remain quiet when they wax lyrical about their stance on these matters. And finally, you are the partner of a person no longer making any effort to build or sustain their relationship, yet you fear hurting them and delay the tricky task of raising the issue.
In your estimation, is your lack of response a gesture of love?
Let's consider potential real world outcomes for the above. The child raised without discipline knows nothing of boundaries, and then struggles to adapt to a world full of them. Your overweight siblings health deteriorates in gradual increments over time, reducing their mobility, their vitality, their quality of life. Your Christian friends actively obstruct potentially life saving research into treatments for congenital medical conditions, deeming that the rights of a three day old blastocyst equal those of a teenage burns victim. And then the silent partner, indolent as a relationship crumbles, watching all the warmth and desire deflates from it like air from a tyre.
Still think your silence is a good idea?
I of course take these worst case examples merely to illustrate a greater point. That being; our silence can sometimes be every bit as corrosive as the wrong words spoken in haste. Now I, for my sins, know a thing or two about speaking in haste, and I've said more than my fair share of stupid things down the years. But perhaps you would fare better, and perhaps there have been times when you wished you had said something rather than remaining mute.
You've already got an example in your head, haven't you?
So today I want to issue the following encouragement, laced with a note of caution. If you love people, if you desire their greater good, don't always leave those difficult conversations for later. Have the courage to cross that line, to breach that taboo, even if this comes at a risk. There is, to be sure, a type of person that will respond badly when challenged, and you may be left with initial regret. Yet if regret is unavoidable ask yourself whether you want to regret that which you did say or that which you did not? I don't promise happy outcomes; you might create a real atmosphere. May even change the dynamic of the relationship itself. But by saying those words you'll at least have been authentic. People will know you have invested in them, and who knows, some might make changes as a result. Best case, and just using the examples above, you could have a more rounded child, or a healthier more self aware sibling, or a Christian who's consciousness has been raised, and perhaps a partner waking up to what's at stake.
Worth a gamble?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Ghost Of Martin Richard

Images of 8 year old Martin Richard are wherever you look right now. What a beautiful young boy, what an angelic and pristine face. Gone now. Extinguished. Snuffed out by virtue of minds surely so deranged that rational souls cannot contemplate them. I wonder, what does it take to reach the point where one thinks that an act of barbarity is the clearest message that can be sent? What calculations churn within the mind of a bomber, a gunman?
I cannot fathom such things. I’m glad that I cannot. And I have frankly no idea how we eradicate such people from society.
But then perhaps I do. Perhaps we all do. Perhaps the clearest message we can send is to seek to live the best of lives, the most compassionate, the most real. On a planet of 7 billion people we can expect more than a little disagreement, but wherever we exist we share a common bond of humanity, and of course a common ancestry. As you hug your children tonight do so in the knowledge that people from every culture are doing the same, and that these people have desires, needs, fears. It would be so easy to be idealistic at this point, but rather than succumb to this I suggest that the fast track to compassion begins with the simple recognition that almost everything we do has an impact. The words we speak, the choices we make; our very existence is a single strand amidst a vast web of human experience. That’s not to suggest we have to tread on eggshells and do nothing to rattle the cage. As if I’d say a thing like that. In fact real change has been brought by cage rattlers down the years, people unafraid to be unpopular, to take the narrow pass rather than the wide road to conformity. Imagine where we would be if we’d lacked the courage to overcome communism, or organised religion, or racism, homophobia.
No, to elicit change is to rock the boat. But how we do it will be the truest measure of our humanity. And the thing about the bombers and the gunmen of this world as that they have left all humanity at the door the instant they choose to express themselves this way. Yes they can hurt us. Kill us, even. Yet ask yourself, the sounds we hear further to this Boston atrocity appear to magnify the better angels of our nature. Compassion, courage, a will to resist evil. Perhaps when evil rises as it has done, it creates the very thing that unifies us most. Amidst the debris I see human beings. People like you, like me. People in need. And I care. And I want to help. And I want to be part of a world where no life is extinguished in this way.
How about you?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Torch To Light The Way

I was at the theatre the other night. The play was dull, but I was struck by some of the audience. In particular, the older couples that were out together. Now I'm assuming that many of them will have been together for years, and I confess I had a real admiration for them. People in their 60s and 70s, still hanging out and doing things together, as couples, still building after so much water has flowed under the bridge. I freely admit that I have been going through a tough time for a while now; specifically I've been having those pangs of boredom, of flatness, of wondering whether the best years of my marriage were behind us. I've been asking a lot of questions about whether Joy and I are still compatible, and just doing a lot of soul searching. Any mature couple that has been a unit for as long as we have go through this; lulls in the appreciation of our partner, perhaps even resentment for not quite ticking all the boxes. It's too easy to imagine the green grass and white surf of new pastures, and I'd be lying to deny I haven't thought this way. Thing is, fifteen years ago I made a choice, I made promises, and that means something to me. More than that, with children to raise I recognise that stability is good for them. And let's be honest, I've built a life with Joy over the past decade and a half; we've walked a road together, and to forsake that would be just insane. And now I see those grey and elderly couples I realise that a few years down the road I want to be like they are, health and marbles permitting. I want to get through the silly male stuff that's wrecked potentially salvageable relationships down the years. I'm not easy to live with; I have quirks and eccentricities and enough double standards to make you dizzy. But, and this is the important bit, I just can't help feel that all the best relationships need not just building but maintaining. The path gets slippery when we take people for granted, when we think the worst but never dare share it with our other half. Now there's a phrase; "Other half." It implies that without this other entity we're only half complete. Now I cannot predict the future, and I won't deny that the path won't sometimes be rocky, but when the track gets hard, when the waves crash in, I'm going to imagine those older couples still building together, still making their relationship fulfilling and worthwhile and enriching. For all my foibles, through my inability to see beyond my own selfish needs, perhaps they can be a torch to light the way.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

United In Grief

I was distraught this morning to hear that the 27 year old son of Mega church pastor Rick Warren had taken his own life. From what little details I have the lad was suffering from mental health and depression related issues. Followers of this blog will know I have been a critic of Rick Warren, but today I want to stand alongside him and offer my sincerest heartfelt condolences. No father should outlive their child; no parent should have to stand at the grave of someone they bought into the world. Ideological differences are white sound when confronted by such tragedy, and I wish Pastor Rick and his family the very best as they come to terms with such an abyssal loss.

The Gravest Sin Of All

How many radical feminists does it take to change a light bulb (You need to imagine you're at a feminist convention when asking)
Answer) That's not funny.
This is my favourite joke at the moment. It distresses me how few people get it.
I'm not a feminist. I'm not the male equivalent, either. I just take each person on merit, and if they happen to be a shit-bag then it's their problem and not mine.
Confession; most people bore me. Tedious creatures, nothing original or engaging to say. Same old recycled crap filtered through a different voice box.
I think I get irked at how so many just don't want to think, or speak plainly about how the world is. I loathe the pretence and the disguise and the double standard, the grim conventionality of it all.
I just can't do it. Tried conforming. Fuck that. It's as much as I can do to tolerate it for most of the time. Perhaps you think I'm having a dig at you personally. I don't much care what you think, but for what's it worth I'm more intolerant of what we, as a species, have allowed ourselves to become. I bet a good many of you are bored out of your minds a lot of the time, and that you accept it in quiet desperation. Why? Isn't there something you can do to make your life better, richer, more engaging? I'm not saying we should all jettison our responsibilities, and if you were thinking that I was then you're an idiot. No, what I'm saying is stop settling for less. I mean it, stop succumbing to the banal, the dull, the life sapping, and make your journey one that's worth living.
You are going to die. You have this amazing stage before you now. Who of sane mind wants to live it as some perpetual self deception? Who of sane mind will sit idly as the clock ticks, not seeking new horizons, not challenging bullshit, not looking others in the eye and being genuine and honest, without fear of reproach. Worst of all, who's permission are you waiting for? Those closest? Peers? The great sky fairy some refer to as God? For goodness sake, take some personal responsibility, get off your indolent arse and make your life one you can be proud of. Make it vivid, make it memorable, make it as meaningful as you can. As far as I can tell, to do otherwise would be perhaps the gravest sin of all.