Here’s something real that happened a while ago. Truth as I tell it but up to you what you make of it – that was what I was trying to get at in the previous post. The story is completely the property of the beholder. Not the writer or the government and when we’re told that this is true or that is true, well that’s when we need to stop reading and find a different story.
I saw Jesus today. And that’s saying something, coming from me. He had a smile that I could feel before he’d even lifted his head and which cleared from my facade all cynicism and doubt; the way a good window cleaner will wipe away suds and leave no trace of their memory. For the tiniest of instances I believed in him and wanted to follow him. In a heartbeat, if he’d asked me to, I would have abandoned a lifetime of dogmatism and skepticism and followed him, as he smiled and bade me good morning through that thick mat of beard and punctuated by the eyes of youthful wisdom and a tinge of unavoidable, yet wearing, sadness.
He walked with a slight stoop as though carrying a heavy load that I could not see but, in a more liberal frame of mind, might have guessed at the symbolism of, and he seemed to watch everything, to see everything and to understand everything in a way that I could only flailingly attempt to make sense of. I had never seen this man on that field before yet he walked with the air of one who owned all he surveyed and who welcomed all who perused. And then he walked off the footpath and picked out his own passage along the edge of the ploughed field. And he grew smaller and smaller and I could just make out the silhouette of his loose-fitting joggers and the white shirt that fluttered slightly in the breeze.
I didn’t feel humbled in the way an insecure man might feel following a brief encounter with a bigger, stronger, more confident man. But I did feel like I wanted to try and be a better person.
Though I see lots on these walks, it is rare for me to stop and take it in; to record the moment and to ensure that I am in it and a part of it and am trying to do something with it. What could I do with this moment though? How is a man to record an idea with the clarity that it is first played out? Is it a failure that is waiting to happen like a good joke retold badly that leaves the teller feeling more of a fool than if he’d never stood up in the first place.
From the distant corner gate I watched the slow and lumbering process of my jesus, stark and grey against the orange of the freshly turned earth. A symphony of birds that I had perhaps not noticed the clarity of until now accompanied my own reverie and the spring breeze gently kissed the budded branches high over my head. Whether consciously or otherwise there was no recourse in my mind other than to take the path that leads through the old church yard.
Though I cannot believe, I feel I should be welcomed here.
Too early for revellers in the weekly orgy of sameness, the churchyard was quiet of all human interruption, save my own footsteps on the soft ground. New daffodills, obscene in their occupation of every square inch of the ground, danced to the chorus that had, if anything, increased and continued to follow me. Maybe curious, as was I, at what might, just might, happen. It is clear to me now that this is why I took this path. Because I had been stabbed with the tiniest pin prick of, not belief – I’m a long way from that – but possibility. That’s why I was here; to see if this miracle would be manifested in a way more apparent, more obvious, requiring less effort on my part to accept. If it would happen, it would happen here. Wouldn’t it?
A sad woman, too old to feel hard done by, red eyed and utterly lost, was crouched at a grave. She thought herself entirely alone and, I expect, thought that whomsoever might have been buried beneath her feet, was somehow still there. Somehow could still hear her and was beside her at this second. We believe what we need to believe. It is a matter of self preservation. Maybe that was the miracle that I was to bear witness to: belief. ?
My jesus was still making slow progress along the wrong side of the field as I made my return. My path bordered his and was divided by bushes of thorn. I don’t know if he knew the moment at which we passed. I suppose he should have, all things considered, but I was aware and I wanted to focus on that passing and be aware of any strange occurrence. There was none. The miracle was in the way that the sun had risen again over those hills, made distant by a juvenile mist; in the lambs which had appeared at just about the right time; in the greenness that now surrounded me on all sides in readiness for the explosion of summer. Of my ability to walk through this and to see, if only from the fringes, that I have a share in it.
And also in the way that the sun glinted and winked from the silver crucifix that lay conspicuous and ominous on my path. Lost or discarded, now found.
What if Jesus existed today? How loud would his voice be? Would he find ways to be listened to or would his message be too difficult or boring for people to care enough about? I suggest the latter. Unless he has scored a few goals in the premier league or run a youtube channel on makeovers, I am fairly sure that his voice would not be one of those feared or adored (by turn) by the ruling classes.
This is Holy Week and the most important time of the year for the remaining few who still take things that they hear in church literally. It’s sweet that they do, I think. Sweet in the same way that people dress to go and watch Star Wars or Harry Potter and tweet about which house they’re in or what their petronus is…
It’s the power of story and it’s brilliant because it allows us all to find the story that fits with us and invites us to step inside. The story of Jesus was actually a series of short narratives from various authors written quite a while ago. The trouble is that this particular set of stories in that anthology hubristically entitled The Bible passed a line that other texts didn’t; a line that fatally blurs the important distinction between story (which is very private) and real world (which takes on an additional social responsibility).
All stories are based on some aspect of some truth, the collection of short stories that I just mentioned is no exception. But for some reason for two millennia, a lot of people have taken it quite literally. I struggle to understand the phenomenon and can only put it down to the simple human need for explanations and meanings.
It has stuck and so we have tons of public ploughed into it whether we believe it should or not. Let the believers have their celebrations and enjoy their stories; let them sing their songs and drink their wine. It’s sweet. But please let’s not take it like it’s real. Please.
We have had this discussion before. The BBC have called their new series ‘Our Planet’. I don’t like that: it smacks of the old imperial attitudes of superiority that this modern world seems to work so hard to counter. Tomorrow’s entry will deal with the planet.
We have become a society that is governed by the voices that shout the loudest; by social media and the dying traditional media. There has always only ever been opinion but until now it was centralised and generally trusted for want of better option. In a way the mass media took over the role of religion in that it was so grand; so big; so powerful and awesome in its monopoly of knowledge that resistance was futile…But not so anymore. A single twitterer can reach a bigger audience in seconds than a mainstream newspaper in a week. Gary Lineker has a wider audience for his opinions than intelligent and learned men and women who actually know what they’re talking about (or have opinion more firmly rooted in study and experience).
The time is upon us where whole swathes of society are guided more by celebrity opinion than by actual reason – and this is a problem because it skews what we think we know. Even the political establishment is guided more by these publically floated mass of opinions than it is by trust in its own long-earned belief on process.
And this is hugely problematic for a number of reasons – not least because the loudest and most vociferous of these faceless voices, despite being what often changes policy, do not actually reflect the voiceless majority that only come out when there is a chance to vote. Huge surprises in recent elections were surprises only for this whose heads were stuck in the media cyclone. For the main the street there was no surprise – just relief that his voice was heard. He (and I also mean she) doesn’t have time to sit on social media being clever; he has bills to pay and money to worry about; he can’t sit outside parliament all day saving a placard; he has a job to spend his days at. I’m talking about ordinary man and woman.
Another reason that we should be wary of politicians being so entrenched in the bleating voices of social media is because the motivation is skewed and questionable at the very least. There s no longer any faith in the idea that politicians do what they do for the love of their country or even out of a desire to do the right thing. There is absolutely no faith in that at all these days. What most people see now is a privileged class of expensively educated and connected men and women with an extraordinary amount of power an exquisite lifestyle that lifts them above and out of reach of the plebs yet paradoxically, and very inconveniently, at the mercy of these peasants. The squeaky wheel, they say, gets the grease, and the political class listens. The men and women in power listen to the loudest voices; react to the voices with the biggest followers on whatever platform they have and react. That’s what they do: they react rather than act. They make knee-jerk decisions about what effect a reaction, as opposed to a non-reaction, might affect their standing and career. That is what all down to these days. The opinions of the few rule what the rest of us have to put up with. The ruling class is so desperate to preserve its position of privilege that it dares not upset this view or that because of the amount of followers that will also be made aware.
And so it goes. The illusion is created that the politicians are following the will of the people but this is total bullshit because what it’s actually doing is following the opinions of the tweeters that they’re too afraid to upset.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
It was written on small signs low to the ground and, at intervals, on the ground itself. The girls saw the instruction a hundred times a day; so many times that the words meant nothing any more. All that mattered was making it past the house and resisting the urge.
But they didn’t need the signs; they knew well enough what it meant to flaunt the simple rule and none of them ever did.
Well, not until Evie.
They watched them drag her away; watched her heels kick up the dirt of the flowerbed and scatter petals like litter.
They watched her with their heads down; some of them their eyes straining to fill the frame, others their eyes on the floor. But they all heard her as they pulled her out of the line. Words that resonated like a blasphemy in the still air. Words that stung at some place so deep inside as to be beyond reasonable explanation.
“Look up!” She was pleading. “Look up you idiots!” But nobody did.
When they brought her back a few days later something had broken. She was poked back into place in the line and walked with the rest of them but her gait was heavy, like she was carrying some enormous weight and her swollen eyes were fixed on the ground.
Every time she passed one of the little signs or the writing on the floor she shuddered and drew in a sharp breath; seemed to fold herself into herself yet further.
“What did you see?” They asked her in muted tones. “What’s up there.”
Evie didn’t flinch when they spoke; didn’t turn to look at them, just kept her eyes on the ground and mouthed the words in silent prayer.
“Don’t look up. Don’t look up.”
The teacher stood, shaking his head. “I’ve got a bad feeling about it.” He was standing next to the window on the third floor looking down at the drop. It was sheer and continued past ground level to the flagstoned floor of the basement passage. Maroon metal railings spiked menacingly upwards.
A plush pouf was pushed against the window; a favourite with the girls as they flopped wearily back into their study at break times.
“It wouldn’t take much for one of the girls to lean back and go tumbling. It’s a long way down.”
He was talking to himself; the idea would not let him go. It gnawed at him in the dark hours and stole his sleep. In his dreams he saw it in painful detail. The overbalance; the scrabbling hands, the panic as she fell. The scream. It would not let him go.
That was why his route from the car park each morning took him past the house; so that he could look up at the window and reassure himself that no one was too close; that no one, god forbid, was leaning back against the frame.
And it was always ok, until today. Until this morning when he looked up.
She was slumped on the pouf with her back to him and, worse, the window was open. Had been pulled high up on old runners so that not even the thin skin of the glass protected her from the fatal fall.
He felt his own panic rise in his throat; saw the sharp teeth of the maroon railings grinning, waiting.
And he screamed.
It was the scream that he had heard in his dream and such was its force that it jolted the girl sitting at the window; made her turn and look for the sound. Made her overbalance, scrabble uselessly and topple outwards.
He saw the panic on her face as she fell; saw the iron railings waiting greedily to receive her. Saw them just as he had seem them in his dream.
The scream, however, was his own.
I was thinking about where I’m going to charge my phone when it all kicks off, you know. When it all goes to pot and the lights won’t turn on. At the moment there’s about a day of charge in it and it’s clear now that this is all part of the deal that’s about to go down.