Still with the Beatles and the album that I think has the finest unbroken medly ever in British Music: Abbey Road. The stretch from ‘You never give me your money’ to ‘The End’ is a stretch for which adjectives were invented: sublime, elegaic, wistful, mournful and a whole host of other fine sounding words. I remember first coming across this album when I was 9 or 10 and being grabbed by it. I can still remember all of the lyrics.
Now this album is being repeatedly played by my youngest son.
This song is not from that stretch; it is ,in old money, from side 1. It is a piece of Macartney whimsy which the other Beatles did not like (I think Lennon refused to play on it). As my son says ‘I think it is a story dad’. What a story: ideal bedtime listening for a child about a motiveless mass murderer set to the sweetest tune.
And I love the child friendly animation…. as does he…
In the developed western world we live in, at least according to the ‘Gospel of Consumerism’ (TM), nothing of any substance really changes, apart from our car, our look (which apparently we need to ‘get’ as in ‘get the look’), our electronic toys or anything really. Children are bright eyed and trusting, teenagers adorably rebelllious and expensively gadgeted, parents happy and unfrazzled and the over 50s rarely feature (apart from in the wastelands of afternoon TV, where they smile but do not fall ill).
In the real world, however….
I made my yearly visit to North Wales last weekend. The place where I live now is probably much better for the children: village, connections, schools, friends close by……..but, but, I still have this longing, this ‘hiraeth’ for that part of North Wales.
I caught up with a few people: some planned, some coincidental and was more and more aware of changes: this time of a lot of sadness; a former member of a youth group who had been sectioned, a disabling stroke for a young-ish church organist, several deaths (including one in his early 20s and one in his early 30s).
I just wanted to record that somewhere; life changes, people get ill, people grow old, people die. I knew that of course and have known it especially in what I do for a living, it is just that this time it has really struck home. I know that the world is full of the glory of God and life is beautiful, but I know there is another side that cannot be ignored or minimised and any philosophy, theology, way of living that doesn’t face that isn’t worth giving any allegiance or credence to….
So there I was on Saturday in Ruthun/Ruthin (the bliss of a weekend away- is this what normal do?!) and I bumped into a retired minister whom I had not seen for some 8 years.
He was retired when I knew him in 1999-2004 and always had a reputation as slightly eccentric and an iconoclast. He was (and maybe still is) of a differing theological view to me (those things are increasingly less important to me now) but we always got on although he never toed the party line.
Perhaps I used to find that a little threatening. Now, as we caught up, I recognised more and more a kindred spirit: had he become less eccentric/iconoclastic or had I-at least mentally- become more so? I think the latter.
I found the realisation of that change both unsettling and also very affirming. Unsettling as I don’t know where it will lead….affirming as I don’t know where it will lead…
That is one of the jargon phrases of my Christian youth: something was ‘wordly’, or you were too concerned with ‘this world’. There was a certain hostility to things that were ‘not christian’. Unwittingly we can put this into our church services- at the end the person presiding says something like ‘Go back now, into the world.’ This produces the involuntary thought ‘What? Have we just been on a seperate planet?’ (and I have been in places where it felt like a seperate planet and not in a good way).
I have largely rejected this and tried to stop being bilingual: one language for church and one for real life. However, the opposite extreme is someone who is ‘Christian’ by which they mean ‘nice person’. This is not to say Christians shouldn’t be ‘nice’ (in fact I have met some who would benefit from learning to be ‘nice’), just that there is nothing distinct about us.
I was grateful for this thought from the LICC (London Institute of Contemporary Christianity: a group I respect a lot) last week, thinking about the example of Daniel in the book of Daniel (see, I made it easy for you):-
‘Someone once said that Christians in the world are sometimes chameleons, fading into the colour of the culture, sometimes ostriches with heads in the sand avoiding all contact, and sometimes porcupines, confronting with hackles raised. Daniel chose to understand the world he was in, to respond with courtesy and friendship to his captors, but also to establish his credentials as a servant of the living God.
How do we respond to the world we inhabit?’
It is a Bank Holiday: a day for ‘doing nowt’.
The past couple of weeks I have done what I normally do in August: slow catch ups, some core stuff but in general tried to avoid stuffing each moment with planning or facebook updates with how amazingly fulfilling my leisure time has been.
I remember one night last week; I was in the field at the back of our house with my children. It was sunny, early evening; I did not have to go out to a meeting (I am beginning to detest a lifestyle where I am often out in the evenings/weekends and family life is squeezed into the gaps) and time stood still. We had not planned anything; life just happened. In most senses we were ‘doing nowt’.
And, you know- I don’t often just do nowt and it is bliss…..maybe as yesterday’s post hinted, there has to be more space for this to be trully ‘effective’.
I have a lot of time for Rev Giles Fraser: former marxist/athiest but not fundy and still lefty (the Dean of St Paul’s who resigned/was pushed out over the Occupy protests).
This really helped me this week:-
Prayer is about being where the light can get at you and helping you adjust to the truth of how things really are
Rowan Williams once brilliantly compared prayer to sunbathing. “When you’re lying on the beach something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you’re trying. You’re not going to get a better tan by screwing up your eyes and concentrating. You give the time, and that’s it. All you have to do is turn up. And then things change, at their own pace. You simply have to be there where the light can get at you.”
Too much prayer is seen as effort, as an attempt to make things different by some mental act of will. But the world does not revolve around you or me. And I can’t make it or other people dance to my tune by strenuously wishing things were other than they are. There is no magic involved. It’s not about mysteriously offering up some shopping list of proposals to an absent-minded deity who might not have thought about them had you not suggested them first. It’s not cosmic lobbying. The fundamental move is to give up trying to be in control.
So, lots of fancy words, but does it work? Certainly not when it stays trapped in self-indulgent navel-gazing. And not when it is all about feeling sorry for oneself either. Of course there are tears – a form of prayer that the writers of the Bible described as lament. But all of this has to drop away too. Religious sunbathing is a great deal about adjusting our eyes to the nature of how things really are, adjusting to reality rather than constantly fighting it. ……
We are unaccustomed to the truth, and acclimatising one’s eyes takes time. But it is only the truth that will set us free. …… For a few moments at least, I have given up trying to conscript reality into my own furious plan of action. And I glimpse that all will be well.
I like that- I have been around many people: Christian, athiest, agnostic whose motivation has been ‘to conscript reality into my own furious plan of action.’ For a Methodist Minister, post Sept 1st, that is always tempting….
I don’t do motivational twaddle as a rule, but I like this. In August, freed from the shackles of admin and all the stuff that leaves me colder and colder as the years go by, I am often reminded of the stuff that motivates and fires me. Most times then, work does not feel like work; I often think ‘And I am getting paid for this?!’
I hope to find more and more of that post September 1st, motivated in part by a large time spent clearing uneccesary junk out this past week…
My 8 year old son is seriously into the Beatles: in particular post 1966 era Beatles- the time whn they got interesting. He prefers the original albums and not compilations. Funny thing is, although slightly older, this era also marked my musical awakening. I also preferred the original albums (I have never fully understood people who only want ‘Greatest Hits’ of any group- listen to a full work: it’s highs and lows).
So this is another Friday music in tribute to him, who when it comes to music I often say ‘I am your father, Luke’.
This track also used to be my favourite Beatles track- it is his as well.
For nearly 4 years since the existing landlords took over, this has been as near as I’ve got to a ‘local’. I have drank here most weeks with friends, ate here, held meetings here, met a researcher here, conducted a funeral visit here, been to wakes and celebrations here and experimented with open Bible groups here. The landlords were friends (their son is a friend of one of my sons) and were good to local groups and made something of the place.
Last Saturday, suddenly it closed. There are many reasons for this, but this is not the place for airing or discussing them. Now is a time to mourn the loss of a village facility (I believe it has been open continuously for 200 years) and a place where people gathered and a place that was warm and open; not least to stuff I am involved in.
I suppose a village of less than 2500 is fortunate to have 3 pubs- even 2- and who knows, maybe it will rise again….. but just for now, this village does not feel the same.
So: after a vicious (for me) purging of my study I am left with a room that,although ramshackle, is relatively neat and tidy. Perhaps neatness is overrated: I well remember a poster that went something like ‘A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind’. However, I like it this way.
Maybe this will lead to more creative thinking, unencumbered by clutter.
Maybe, just maybe: perhaps a change in lifestyle is more than mere window dressing….