Friday, 24 February 2017

On Reliability

Reliability: not the most glamorous quality, you say. Charm, energy, strength, creativity, self-expression being more engaging. Charisma and dominance stand out from the crowd. Spectacle makes an impression. Which would you rather be, impressive or reliable? Who would you rather trust?
            Unreliability in big public systems leaves thousands without power and takes down the phones. Health and communications need reliability. Unreliability in private curates anxieties and dramas. Reliability charges the batteries and fills the tank. Reliability watches your back.
             Reliability partakes of the virtue of justice, that gives back to everything what belongs to it. While we ache to be noticed and long to be stars, reliability is also divine. God is said to be plenteous in steadfast love: reliable attentiveness.
            Watchful attention, care and cultivation, being there at the right time: all are godly qualities. Picking up the pieces, setting out a wholesome order, healing, cure and holding on: assisted by reliability. Wouldn’t you like someone to do all this for you? And think of the skill, concentration, commitment and desire you show when you exercise the divine process of being reliable for others. Value it in yourself. Treasure it in others. On it the world spins.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

On Not Caring

The man in the street: ‘Oh, the refugees, they come from a war zone, blah blah, blah blah…’ This morning’s man in the street, bearded, aged, drinking coffee outside in the suburbs. A lot of people don’t care about a lot of things. Politicians Do Not Care about sections of the suffering public, proud to say so. A speeding driver might say I Do Not Care that someone was killed in the collision: I have my own problems. Homelessness, family violence, poverty, distant wars: why care?
            Caring is a subset of attention. We suffer from ethical exhaustion, it’s true; we have our own problems. We have looser and more burdened attention than we think we did. Attention, not merely mental activity, includes impressions of courtesy, consideration, persevering watchfulness. It has traces of the divine. Hagar says: ‘Thou God seest me’; the divinity pays attention to her case. God, of course, has endless ways and timeless hours for paying attention. We humans have to choose.
            We have our own problems. How much attention do they take? We live with others, knowingly or not. Do we hug our troubles so tight, loving them so dearly? Where does attention rest?

Sunday, 5 February 2017

On Saying

Many things are unsaid; few are unspeakable. I’ve seen enough sudden death, often of young people. Significant speech is hard to come by. I can’t confront it, engage it, or ameliorate it. It confronts you.
     Mourning is actually a virtue. It stands with mercy, peace-making, pure hearts and desire for right living. Mourning falls under the cardinal virtue of Justice, that gives back to every thing what rightfully belongs to it. What can the beloved dead require? Mourning gives back the treasures their presence gave to us. It’s an honest rendering of account.
     Suicide is not unspeakable, nor is murder. We live in an unjust world. It doesn’t only happen to other people, other families, other friends. It’s here. Closer than you think.
     At the crossroads, where we won’t be missed, or will we? the virtue of mourning may display how the most desperate will still be missed. Saying is saving. So few things are actually unspeakable. However unlikely it seems, we will be mourned.
     Find someone you can trust. There will be one person, perhaps not the one you expect, who can be trustworthy. For one honest soul, the Lord will not let the city be destroyed.

Friday, 27 January 2017

On Making a Mark

I remember being so young, I wanted to make my mark on the world. I thought if I could perform so well I’d win admiration and respect. The ancients thought of this as glory and honour, but significantly, these qualities spread to include not only self, but family and nation as well. You don’t win for yourself, but for all.
            The mark you make will be your own mark, as it turns out. It may be admired or despised, depending on your gifts, limitations, intentions, inspirations and chances. You always make some kind of mark. Some marks are faint, some regretted, some authentic.
             You may also erase the marks of others. This could be grave sin or needed correction. Laws may be rewritten, antiquities destroyed, lives liberated or encaged. Lao Tzu felt the less done the better.
            I’m fascinated by the marks Jesus wrote on the ground when confronting the woman taken in adultery. What does he write? His ministry was to bring sight to the blind and liberation to captives. The men accusing her were blind to their own faults and had to be enlightened. She herself was freed to make her fair mark. Make it so.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

On Work Not Grace

The argument that unemployed, sick, disabled, or aged persons aren’t worthy of government support, even where their taxes have filled government coffers, isn’t a financial but a theological view. Just because people seem atheistical, ignorant, secular, or indifferent doesn’t mean they have no theology. Indeed they may be more influenced by it than those who take a conscious position.
            In this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, politics provides ongoing evidence of the pervasiveness of work over grace. Where the signs of salvation (a limited quantity) are shown in hard work, frugality, and self-discipline, those who are born to fail display other qualities. The theology is of a judging God, a judging State. United States culture, due to Puritan influence, is vulnerable to this view.
            Where this is secularised, you get judgements such as: you should’ve saved against misfortune; shouldn’t have taken drugs; shouldn’t have lost your job; shouldn’t have married a violent man. Grace, which is the unmerited favour of God, would say: so this has happened; we will help you.

            We’re about to be living in a post-work world, as robotics advances. What then? Will peace be then on earth, to those of good will?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

On Plutocracy

‘If religion was a thing that money could buy the rich would live and the poor would die.’ I couldn’t find a name for the original writer of these lyrics, but versions were around throughout the latter 20th century. Version, itself a word that scares people. Version implies at least two views, with its meaning of ‘variant’ offering diversity, difference, mutability. That translation varies deeply threatens some. Who dares vary?
     The word plutocracy, first noted in the 17th century, links wealth and power. The reign of the rich. The three Magi, or kings, brought their precious offerings to the King, thus keeping their treasures within the circle of authority. This King had a variant view of the poor.
     From the worldly rich in their states of power we see the poor: disorganised, feckless, profligate, decadent. They fail the test of virtue: they fail to be rich. Plutocracy has no room for the poor.

     King Herod was troubled when the Magi appeared. Where is this treasure going? To the Benefactor of the poor, of women, cripples, sex workers, tax collectors. Tax collectors? Yes, we need to pay more tax. And it needs to go down, not up, into plutocracy. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

On 2016

It was the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, a synonym for mass slaughter. World memory of history was so poor that fanatics of all kinds arose, finding advancement and comfort. In 2016, Britain became an island, cut off from the main, although the bells were ringing continually. New epidemics blossomed. Governments were set in place without the consent of the governed. Musicians and actors, carriers of the culture, departed taking with them the genius of their times. Wars and rumours of war produced fleets of refugees.
             In 2016, liberation of the captives: 21 of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorists in 2014 returning home to their families. A few, but to those few everything. Terrorists, in spite of discovering new means of mass murder (especially trucks used in Nice and Berlin) must suffer more failures than success. Recovery of sight to the blind: Fred Hollows Foundation gave more than 890,000 sight-restoring operations, throughout poverty, war, and oppression. Medical miracles appearing. Acts of kindness and bravery. What gets reported is more often of fear than of hope.

Who proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord? We do. You want to find meaning and purpose in life? Get up every day, determining to do as you must to make today an acceptable day of the acceptable year: 2017.