Friday, March 30, 2012

Snow in April

A common understanding of inertia likens it to a snowball gaining speed and weight as it collects more and more snow on its way down a mountain. It would, in fact, be gaining inertia but not because it was rolling down a mountain but because it was gaining mass on its journey. As it gains inertia it becomes increasingly difficult to stop but, conversely, when it does stop it is equally as difficult to get moving again.

Inertia is the tendency to resist change, which applies to stopping something or someone doing what it, or they, are doing or getting them to do something they are not. And, in theory, they are both the same. We find this when attempting to stop bad habits or start good ones though they follow the snowball principle in that their inertia increases the further we let them roll.

This is an excellent principle for directing your life. For most of us there are new beginnings throughout our lives such as marriage, a new job, moving house, changing careers but the snowball principle holds throughout. Beginning from nothing can seem desirable but it's never a reality - if we are not carrying baggage from our past we're carrying genes from our ancestors. But starting from absolute zero would not be advantageous, as we would have no experience to draw on and no investment to build on.

As I write this I can think of people who have well paid jobs, a very nice house and substantial company pension, all built up over the years. They started out with a lump of snow at school or university and have steadily built their snowball. It seems like they can just cruise through the rest of their lives having built that inertia. My snowballs seem to have got no bigger than a large football before they fell apart or just melted in the sun. I've never built up enough inertia to keep me going under my own steam.

In all that I've done and experienced I've built up a wealth of knowledge and skills that, in some ways, are more substantial than bricks and mortar, bonds and company pensions. Snowballs build quickly once a substantial amount of snow has been gathered. It's not so much the size of your snowball that determines the inertia as the availability of snow. I don't have the luxury of massive inertia but with effort and determination I can rediscover my fields of snow even as we approach April.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Prohibition Notice

We are moving out. Its not that much of a wrench, nothing in the place was properly finished and we rattled about in a flat with much more space than we actually needed. In a way I feel robbed because I couldn't have afforded a comparable property in another location. It's like having two seats to ones self on the train and feeling a little peeved when it's legitimately occupied. Having what you need or deserve often feels like being short-changed.

It is kind of scary. Making a home is such a primitive instinct and giving it up unwillingly always has echoes of abandonment and loss regardless of the affection in which you hold it. I remember being made redundant in the full knowledge that another job was waiting for me. I knew it was the job, not me, that was being terminated yet I still felt a keen sense of loss. I think it's the feeling of not being in control - not being the master of your destiny.

Crises have either a purging or necrotising effect - they either force you to make life changing decisions or make the decisions for you, in which case you become a hostage to fate whose only destination is death. Isn't that what we ultimately fear? We have a saying, "it's not the end of the world you know," which supposes that this is a theoretical possibility. When God said to Adam that as soon as he ate from the tree of knowledge he would die, he didn't mean that Adam would drop dead at that moment but that he would be subject to death.

Once the prohibition order was placed on this building I became subject to the order. I am still here but my fate is sealed. The Greek word 'eon' (literally 'age') is sometimes translated as 'world' in the New Testament, so I could say my 'world' has come to an end. This is the end of a very short era. Once God had dealt with Adam and Eve they gave birth to two sons and that pretty well wraps them up apart from the having one more son. They must have had daughters too and, presumably, many more sons but from then on they cease to be part of the narrative.

Adam had the pleasure of tending to the Garden of Eden but his disobedience meant that everything around him was subject to death. He now had to deal with weeds, poor soil and disease. He was reduced from being God like to being a survivor and being the survivor of your own catastrophe is a bitter pill to swallow. God's very first words to Adam and Eve were a command to fill the earth with their offspring. Secondly, he said that they would dominate the earth, its flora and fauna. Interestingly it was Adam the survivor who fulfilled these instructions.

At the beginning of Jesus' ministry he was tempted to accept the dominion of the earth but it would have been obtained illegitimately. It was only through his death (subsequent to Adam's) that he could reclaim that dominion for humanity. Because of Adam's disobedience God placed a prohibition order (that we cannot overturn) on humanity so that we would no longer be entitled to eternal life. Yet Adam, by God's grace, still fulfilled the commands he was given before the fall. We are all survivors of a fallen world but by God's grace we can succeed, even in the shadow of failure.

Even in Adam's deathly winter God planted seeds of hope that would bud in the day of Jesus' resurrection and will bear fruit in the everlasting kingdom of God, which we can enjoy if we accept his gift of life.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Home Thoughts

For the last 10 months I've been living in Ignorance. The building in which I live has been declared unfit for human habitation on the grounds of fire risk, a risk that has been present since the day I moved in so I'm now living in Danger. The postcode is the same but this house is no longer a home (officially). In this situation the council are obliged to ensure I'm not left homeless but that could mean putting me in a hostel. Its ironic that I'm being asked to move from the place that feels most like home at the moment to somewhere that would feel more like a prison to ensure that I am not homeless.

We can define 'home' as the place where we live but very often it is merely the place where we are 'homed'. When you think of the refugee camps in Lebanon, people have been homed there for decades yet they are still referred to as refugee camps, full of refugees, camped. They are sojourners, in transit, hoping and praying that, some day, they will be not merely re-housed but be allowed home.

By the rivers of Babylon the Israelites sang laments for their homeland. They had been re-housed in a prosperous, thriving country yet they wept for the city of Jerusalem, which was now a home for jackals and peasants, a city in ruin to which none of them would return for another 50 years. The Negro slaves in America sang of the land of milk and honey on the other side of the Jordon. Canaan, for them, was not a location in the Middle East but heaven where their souls would be liberated from the bitter struggle of life.

For the human heart, home is not a physical location but a place of rest - not a rest from work but from strife and distress. One of our most primitive fears is that of abandonment; to be excluded, banished or just neglected. Children would rather be punished than ignored. Many people would rather live in dysfunctional relationships than be left on their own. Suburbia is full of homeless people, living in houses surrounded by hundreds of others yet spiritually exiled - refugees camped in their own front room.

I've been homeless for the last 3 years. I've not been walking the street or squatting but where I've laid my hat has not been my home. Like the exiled Israelites I've sung laments for my beloved Jerusalem (Jerusalem means 'city of peace'). It seems that when the heart cannot be where the home is it creates its own version of home in cherished memories, a picture, a poem or a song. This is no better illustrated than in Home Thoughts from Abroad by Robert Browning. And who better to present it than our own John Hurt (see link).

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Lib Dem in the Coalition for Marriage

I would like to point out that this is not party political and I'm comparing my position to that of the Lib Dems within the government coalition and not with respect to any policy.

It seems the coalition are committed to allowing gay couples to officially get married. While civil partnerships are recognised in this country they don't have the status of a married couple. This is considered by many to be unfair. After all, if we are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual preference in the larger arena of public life then why should gay couples be treated any differently than heterosexual couples? This makes a good deal of sense and people of all persuasions can only presume that any resistance to gay marriage can only be a homophobic reaction born of ignorance or religious dogma.

The fact that the church is the main voice of opposition only strengthens this opinion with the danger that the established church is seen as increasingly out of touch with society and irrelevant. However much sense Dr Carey makes and however persuasive his arguments, his dog collar will speak louder than his rhetoric. Anticipating the media circus that will be the public face of this stand off I fear the church will not come out of this very well in victory or defeat.

When the Coalition for Marriage was presented to me I signed the petition immediately and posted my action of facebook. I am of the opinion that marriage is the union of a man and a woman - till death do they part - and that the union of two gay people, no matter how legitimate it might be in itself, is not a marriage. I'm not homophobic or against civil partnerships but let us call a spade a spade. A gay couple is two people of the same sex who cannot procreate or even have sex in the way a man and a woman can. If they adopted children of different sexes only one child would have a parent of the same sex.

I have deeper theological reasons that would take too long to go into (not the abomination thing), but the simple truth is that gay people cannot be married in the way that a man and a woman can. If gay marriage were recognised as such we would then have to discriminate between a traditional married couple and a new, gay couple. To even imply that gay marriage was not the norm would be to negatively discriminate and possibly land oneself in legal hot water. Life is complicated enough.

Getting back to the Coalition for Marriage. They asked the married folk to send pictures of their weddings as a symbol of our celebration of marriage but this raised some serious questions in my mind. Being separated I'm not really in the mood for celebration and with the divorce rate being what it is I wonder how positive a message this will be to the nation. Would it be like presenting Westminster as a symbol of honesty or the City of London as a symbol of generosity?

I've been campaigning against the privatisation of the NHS and I would be happy to stand up and be counted as a supporter of our national institution. No one can accuse me of having any hidden agenda or vested interest (apart from the obvious one). I wouldn't feel like I was forcing my beliefs on anyone and I wouldn't lose any sleep over being accused of bias against private enterprise. However I can't help feeling that with the Coalition for Marriage I'm defending myself and with the niggling doubt about my own insecurity. And how do I hold marriage up as a high ideal when I'm in the middle of a car crash?