Skip to main content

On reflection

Right, I need to stop subconsciously assuming the characters of the characters of every novel I read. So much for all that chat about being intentional, thoughtful, processing stuff carefully, etc etc -- apparently that only works if the fictional examples I encounter behave likewise. Latest example, The Post Office, by Charles Bukowski (a postmodern triumph!). Lots of drinking, lots of fearless bluntness, lots of job dissatisfaction. Cue an evening of unchecked work-misery-plus-too-much-red-wine-fuelled mouthing-off and generally being an arse. Followed by a morning of self-reproach-plus-back-to-work-fuelled misery, and a definite longing to chuck it all in and turn poet, if only I had Bukowski's lyricism -- I never saw such stark, brief language used to such effect!
In the morning it was morning and I was still alive.
Maybe I'll write a novel, I thought.
And then I did.
Thing is, Bukowski's three-quarters-autobiographical lead character, Chinaski, actually hides a good deal of unexpected warmth and depth beneath his messed-up, seemingly careless presentation. Me, on the other hand -- I push what little good I can find in myself to the forefront, so if there's nothing immediately positive to be said for me at any given moment (as was most definitely the case on the evening in question) don't bother looking for it in hidden depths.

Why do I screw up so obdurately and self-destructively? If only I could write, I tell myself, the world would let me off for being such a mess. In fact, it would be almost mandatory. What great artist wasn't greatly troubled? Shame the implication doesn't work both ways.

So, anyway, there is one book I should be changed by every time I read it. As James says in his letter to the churches: doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
 And Paul makes it pretty clear just Whom we should be 'imitating':
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I guess/hope there is hope in that 'as beloved children' bit, even for me. It's not just something we do in our own strength -- as Paul says in another letter, "[He] is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). I don't think that grace runs out -- but I do run out on it sometimes, which saddens me more than a little.


Popular posts from this blog

An autobiographical poem about walking on water

A decade ago, give or take – feeling at crisis point in my mental health and desperately socially disconnected – I "went up for prayer" at a church I was visiting. (I find it hard to do this at my own church when I feel desperately socially disconnected. It's hard enough even to be at my own church at such times). And the gentle, kindly woman who placed her hand on my shoulder and prayed some simple, general, healing words to suit my simple, general, hurting plea looked thoughtfully at me afterwards and said "just, if and when you can, keep taking each next step towards Jesus, whatever that looks like," or words to that effect. It seemed as good a plan as any, so I did. (Not instead of getting medical and professional help, I hasten to add; seeking out and receiving whatever support is available has always felt more like an action of faith than a compromise of it).

Since then, stepping towards Jesus has taken me (slowly, often painfully, and usually the long w…

The Sin of Onan

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10) According to Google's answer to what (let's face it) must be right up there among the most-asked questions since the invention of the search engine, this story is the closest the Bible comes to saying anything directly about masturbation.

And it isn't a story about masturbation. It's not even a story, not really, about birth control methods – although they feature. It's a story about the denial of ju…

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.  (T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land, part I: The Burial of the Dead,1922) These lines have lingered in my mind the past few days. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in the years following the First World War, when the landscape of humanity seemed perhaps particularly stark and bleak. The poem resounds with disquiet and despair: all glimpsed respite turns out to be illusory or faltering; it seems improbable that any grounds for real hope exist at all. Eliot …