Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Yuletide Effect

It is December the 15th, and I had my third party of the season. A good party, too, full of bonhomie, good food, drink, music, bopping, a well-lit Christmas tree and lots of twinkling lights. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, Christians and agnostics alike. There don't seem to be many serious atheists around right now. Makes me wonder how Christmas affects non-Christians. Does it really irritate them, because of its universality and global influence? Like no other religious or non-religious festival. Or do they just take on the Santa story, adopting it into their own religious or secular/humanist celebrations? After all, Santa was certainly a decent, well-intentioned chap, and the story has attributes of altruism, care for the unfortunate, and rewards for responsible behaviour. The addition of the magical enhances the Santa story for children, while many adults, if truly honest, will admit to a passing yearning for the story to be true on Christmas Eve; probably a throwback to the day they first learned that it was a myth. It is such an unbelievably all-encompassing myth; of worldwide proportions, of breathtaking connivance, into which every aspect of life and culture colludes to uphold it.

The dual stories of Christmas - the birth of the Christ-Child, and Santa's gift-laden journey, both involve miraculous events, justifying its celebration in every land. I remember decorating Christmas trees in childhood in India, as my parents did in Burma and Singapore. Hindu, Muslim and Jain friends gave each other Christmas presents, knowing that it was a celebration of the birth of Christ. 'He was a good prophet, wasn't he?' they said in defence, dismissing the fact that He wasn't their prophet. So did Christians celebrate Durga Puja, Divali, Holi and Eedh in the same way?

I re-visited childhood memories and thought hard about that one. And 'No!' is my considered response. I recall being convinced of the differences to my own religion. Being surrounded by other faiths had no impact on my own religious life, but it did instill in me a strong respect for the rest. Perhaps it is how people of other faiths see Christmas.

I think that Yuletide introduces the possibility of, and longing for, the miraculous to enter the world of the ordinary, where normality can be sidelined, kindness and love can be demonstrated without apology, and where truth and beauty can shine through tinsel haloes and glitter stars, because mankind needs such a time as this - at least once a year.

Wishing you all out there a very happy, joyful Christmas time. God bless you richly.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nearly Christmas again!

Nearly Christmas again..... and looking forward to 2010. Isn't everyone after this difficult year? Hope you are all coping with the Credit Crunch in all its splintering ramifications. For those who are really stuck, Christians in Poverty is expanding and doing a fantastic job, for everyone hit by the recession, not just Christians.

And one must find the blessings amongst the problems, of which there have been several. Regarding the Exhibition, the two newest paintings have been photographed, and the commentaries done. They will be posted onto the website very soon. Hope you will all like them. They have been a long time coming, and I hope you feel that they were worth waiting for.

My personal news is less interesting. A year of plodding, sorting and re-adjusting. I didn't realize how traumatized I felt after moving from the bungalow, and haven't been able to paint in the 18 months since leaving there. It held a lot of memories, and was the place where the Cancer Centre started. A very inspirational space. The old cliches about leaving the bricks and mortar and carrying your memories with you are cold comfort on a rainy day. But where I live at the moment is very pleasant, a refuge in many senses. This is a beautiful house, with a lovely garden and lots of wildlife. My friends are very kind to me, and I have been made very welcome. We held a garden party in aid of the Cancer Help Centre in Purley, where I work, and raised almost £1,000, even though it was one of the wettest days of the British summer. A memorable day! So now I am feeling better, and looking forward moving on, after this period of recovery.

Looking forward to my sabbatical in 2010, with lots of plans for the year, and hopes of more paintings. There are now 39 pictures, and I am hoping to do 40, but there is nothing definite in view yet. I want to take another look at my Ph.D options, too. I would have loved to have done some work on Theology. It has always fascinated me, and I've done a great deal of reading on various aspects of it, but nothing formal. Even learned Hebrew so as to read the Pentateuch in its original tongue. Science and Religion discussions always hold me. They are my most interesting subjects. I never realized it until I hit sixty. About time I learned a bit about myself, if a bit late! There is so much tosh bandied about on Science and its impact on religion, Christianity in particular, with the so-called apologists tiptoeing about, trying to be PC instead of telling it like it is, and defending their God properly.... especially against protagonists like Dan Brown and his fairy tales, the BBC's sponsorship of Dawkins, and all the guff about Darwin's theories in the year of his centenary.

I read some of Richard Sheldrake's books this year, and would have made it to one of his lectures, if I hadn't got very lost. He does explore some fascinating stuff, things that everyone has experienced but kept quiet about, in case they were straightjacketed. The dogs who know when their owners are coming home, and the pets that signal danger for their masters, or illness, and even warn of imminent epileptic fits. Thousands of people [maybe even millions down the ages] know these things, but so many right-wing scientists pooh-pooh the ideas, or dismiss them by explaining them away with unworthy theories. I love getting into arguments over this kind of stuff. Got to fight the battles, even though we know we will win the war. Sheldrake has some unusual explanations, and he was a top scientist until the hardliners took him down. He still draws the crowds though, and is a practicing Anglican, even if he has some controversial views. Don't we all?

Hope to keep posting these blogs more often - about once a week, and get more feedback from all of you out there.

God Bless,

Best wishes, Joy