I think the time is right to drop the curtain on ‘Signs of Emergence’ / ‘The Complex Christ’ / ‘Der Jesus Faktor’ and move on. The idea of this blog has been to give some space to extend the ideas presented in that book, and, personally, I feel that’s been successful.
But you shouldn’t keep flogging a dead horse. There have to be periodic moments of silence / jubilee / death / hidden-ness if the moments of speech / action / life are to have any meaning.
So I’m going to stop this blog, and spend some time working on a follow-up book.
The idea, as it stands in various sketches in my note books, is for an extended meditation on the idea of ‘the other,’ leaning left on the poetry/theology continuum, and hopefully drawing on the stories of some fantastic people I’ve met.
I’ve been pondering Jesus’ summary of the Law to ‘love God, and love your neighbour as yourself,’ and re-phrasing it as ‘love the other, love The Other.’ The other within the Self, the other within our communities, The Other that is immanent and beyond all… It strikes me as the core of everything we are about as people of faith. Indeed, since the birth of consciousness, it’s at the core of everything we are about as people.
And yet, with the continuing rise in anti-social behaviour, teenage stabbings in London, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, theological schism, global terror threats and clinical depression, it seems that in our fluid, multicultural, melting-pot, border-less, easyJet world, we are further from accepting the other than ever before.
Yet, despite all this. I think there are signs of hope. And we need to be those signs of hope. Personally, communally, locally, corporeally, we need to be communities that have this love for God and other at our core.
No, I haven’t got a publishing deal, or even spoken to anyone about one. I’m not sure how much that matters, to be honest. I’m just going to spend some time thinking and writing. And if you have any thoughts you’d like to throw in on the theme, any good books to read, do get in touch, come for a beer, leave a comment, or whatever.
Doubtless I’ll be around online again at some point… No idea when. But you’ll find out ;-)
This sign appear outside my local church the other day.
And I just wondered, does anyone actually believe this? Do the people in this church really believe it? I know that in my more evangelical days I had a more 'hotline' view of prayer - but surely this idea that we can have immediate access to God is just a bare-faced lie? I'm tempted to 'go inside and find out more,' because I'd be interested to know how they would explain to someone who was sick and got immediate access to God that God was very likely to tell them to just deal with it.
Perhaps some people do have this sort of day-to-day experience of prayer. I'd have thought most were on some sort of dial-up. Or worse. We are obsessed with immediacy of connection, of course - higher speeds and more wide coverage. But its helping no one to try to pretend God behaves the same way.
The people at 'Boredom Research Labs’ have designed ‘the world’s first webmail service using real live snails.’
Yes you read that correctly.
Actually, the thinking behind the project, or at least post-event justification, is to slow technology down, as a form of discipline or meditation. You send your email in the normal way, and this is then stored in a device in the snail’s tank. When a snail, fitted with a RF chip, crawls by, the data is loaded onto the chip. When that snail eventually passes another device, the information is passed from the RF chip, and the mail is delivered as usual. You therefore have no idea when your message is going to eventually be delivered.
This month’s Believer documents a strange case from Hungary of audio-kinetic synaesthesia. The subject, whenever he hears certain words, ‘sees’ them as discrete and definite actions or gestures.
Colour synaesthesia is more common: sounds or numbers are seen as distinct colours, and some estimates reckon that around 1 in 23 experience it.
And I just wonder if some of us suffer some kind of soul-synaesthesia. All these sounds, words and senses kick off an involuntary response in the spirit that wonders why and how, and wanders, in wonder…
I enjoy most things about city life, but one of the perennial frustrations is noise. Light pollution, on the micro scale at least, is fairly easy to manage. We can shut our curtains or buy special blinds, and shut our eyes if need be. And, while some objects are foul to look at, we only need turn our heads...
Sound, on the other hand, is a far more difficult sense. It doesn't 'shadow' well, and is extremely difficult to insulate against, far harder than light. Noise is therefore a far more antisocial thing than colour or design. If my neighbour paints their house fuscia, I needn't think about it much. If they play loud music, I have no option.
Cities are noisy places, and I think this does contribute in no small way to the general tension, and thus propensity for anger and violence, that cities are also guilty of. Traffic noise is perhaps the most pernicious, particularly since it is almost impossible to control (the infuriating 2-stroke scooter been driven past has long gone before any law-enforcement might arrive) and is also so widely accepted.
But perhaps help is on its way. Mathematicians and scientists have developed a theoretical material which would cloak an object in total silence. The implications for this are enormous. Houses that are properly sound insulated. Engine casings that would render vehicles quiet. Headgear, even, that would drop you into a calm oasis of silence amidst the noise and haste.
I wish them all the best in the trials that are to come. And want to sign up for a sheet of it to go over my back fence. Or round the boom-box in the boot of my neighbour's car.
I finally got round to watching 'Reverend Death', Jon Ronson's documentary about George Exoo, a Unitarian minister who has performed around 100 'assisted suicides', mainly for those who have been turned down by other organisations practising legally in places/states where it is carefully controlled because they do not have terminal illnesses.
Most of the people he seemed to help were suffering depression, or from ME. The film followed him 'helping' one woman who had chronic fatigue and 'couldn't go on', though half way through the first attempt she started buttering a bagel, and announced her house-mate was due back any minute. This sent the guy packing quick-sharp: what he is doing is clearly illegal, and this was taken up in the film as the FBI chased him for extradition to Ireland to face charges of assisting a woman in Dublin to commit suicide.
It is possible to see Exoo as a very prolific serial killer akin to Harold Shipman - a British doctor who ended the lives of perhaps 215 people, most of whom were nearing the end of their lives too. Certainly, it seemed he got some sort of thrill out of 'fulfilling his calling' - which is precisely how Exoo saw things.
One thing he would do for all his clients ('because', as he said many times in almost Pythonesque comic style, 'you've not done this before') is give them a copy of 'Life After Life' - a video detailing the near-death experiences of a bunch of characters (some of whose stories didn't quite seem to hold up).
Exoo's reasoning is that 'death is a great adventure to a wonderful place'. And this is where things get interesting. Because if, as Christians or otherwise, we really believe in some after-life, then should we be critical of Exoo, or of euthenasia at all? (He claims that Jesus practised some sort of suicide, which Stanley Hauerwas refuted, before being able to come up with any proof text to show God didn't approve of suicide.)
I was watching the programme with someone I am close to, who trained as a nurse. She mentioned that in practice, in hospices and elsewhere, euthanasia is pretty common.
She then revealed that as she had watched her father lie dying of cancer in the 60's, his GP had passed her a suitable amount of morphine and told her to 'stop his pain.' She thought about it for a very long time, and then did gradually increase his dose to relieve his pain, knowing that this would kill him.
I personally think this was an incredibly brave and humane thing to do. I don't think it excuses Exoo, or his associate who does the same for a $7000 fee (Exoo takes no money) but I do think if we are to state that we believe in an after life, we need to do so in an active sense, by which I mean making sure that we fully value this life, and don't simply cheapen it as a blip before the 'real' version begins, while permitting people the option to humanely end life at an appropriate moment in a dignified manner.