Sunday, 2 December 2012

World Aids Day

World Aids Day has a different feel for me than I suspect it must for many contemporaries. I spent my early adulthood in the late eighties and early nineties surrounded by the evangelical church and evangelical culture: I was exiled from a world where I could express my sexuality – an exile that left me with problems I am still trying to unpick – but it also protected me from the icy blast that was sweeping through the gay world at the time. And so, unlike many gay men of my age, I am not haunted by the young faces of old friends who withered away before their eyes, nor do I share the collective memories of a community under a terrible siege: memories of fear, ostracism, and anger.

So my approach to World Aids Day has to be different. While I share in the concerns expressed on intellectual and political levels, and while I recall and pray for those of my friends who live, now, with HIV, I have to find another story to earth the day in my own heart.

In 1994 I left the church community house I had been living in for 6 years, and moved out to stay with a kind friend in the suburbs. I was unemployed, lost, and fairly seriously depressed. I temporarily stopped attending the inner city church I was familiar with and which was the simultaneous cause of much of my stress but also most of my meaning, and started attending a large, thriving, evangelical church near where I was staying. I will not name it here, as that would not be entirely fair on the church in question, and I did receive kindnesses there. However…

It so happened that towards the end of my time in this neighbourhood this large church experienced something called ‘The Toronto Blessing’. If you are a fellow evangelical: do you remember that? If you’re not, well… Depending on whom you talk to, it was either a refreshing revival for the church in which the Holy Spirit visited congregations and healed hurting people, or it was a series of linked experiences of group hysteria. People affected in a meeting would fall down, start laughing wildly, weep uncontrollably, and sometimes make animal noises (though generally not all at once).

One evening I attended a service where the Blessing descended on the congregation. Everywhere I looked people were laughing, shaking, or falling over. Much praying in tongues was evident.

My feelings about all this were complex. Well, actually they weren’t really: I hated it. However, I did wonder: what if it was from God? If it was, why was I left out? I should say at this point that one of the leitmotifs of my emotional life is the feeling of being Left Out. Whenever I’m in a situation where I perceive this to be occurring, I generally go to pieces quite quickly. So, there I was (again, for I had had many experiences of this before), feeling myself to be observing a celebration, a party, to which God had not invited me. I was separated from the life around me by impenetrable plate glass.

I knew I needed to get out, and get out soon. This was less easy than it sounds, as I was afraid that if  I made any sudden moves this might be interpreted as the work of the Holy Spirit and result in eager Helpers coming to my aid. When I eventually picked a moment that seemed safe, someone started manifesting in the entrance foyer.

Some time later I was able to escape, and found myself on the pavement outside. I cannot remember if I cried, but I can recall being desperately miserable, and feeling very lonely.

And then I met an old friend. I will name him, because he deserves it: he was Chris P. It was odd to meet him there, as he lived in inner Manchester. I had not seen him for months.

He was one of a number of people that I and some other Christians had befriended and been ‘working with’ as part of the work of my old church to reach out to the marginalized. More about that story could certainly be told, but for the moment it is enough to know that Chris had not been instantly appealing. He seemed to be perpetually on the brink of taking offence at almost anything: as he also had a very bad stutter this could happen easily. He painted detailed posters for the church, which weren’t really what we wanted but which we accepted anyway, and drove the church minibus willingly but extremely badly.

My breakthrough with him occurred when he knocked a pot of his paint all over my bible, turning much of the Old Testament yellow. I had been furious and stormed out, slamming the door. He was so refreshed to have someone stop being nice to him and lose their temper for a change that our relationship improved considerably as a result. I learnt a certain amount more of his back-story, including a history of abuse from his father.

He was the last person I was expecting to see that evening outside that church.

We went for a curry, at his suggestion. He paid. I can’t remember what he talked about, but I do remember that I found myself disclosing my sexuality to him (a newish experience for me at the time), and that he told me that he was also gay. At the end of the meal we hugged, and parted.

I never saw him again.

Many months’, possibly some years’, later, I learned that he had moved to London, and after this had died, from Aids-related illnesses.

And so, at every World Aids Day, and at every Aids Vigil, I light a candle for you, Chris, you cantankerous, straggly bearded, paint-spilling, stuttering, mad-driving old thing. To use the words of a hymn, you held the Christ light for me in the night-time of my fear: you held your hand out to me and spoke the peace I longed to hear.

You were Christ for me that evening, Chris, and I honour and remember you.

Friday, 16 November 2012

'Cyril' – A Postscript

'Cyril' – A Postscript

It turns out things weren’t quite as bleak as I thought they were.

I hadn’t missed the funeral; it had just taken a while to arrange. And I was able to get time off work to attend it, and the committal.

There were more people there than I had expected: a gathering of, mainly, neighbours and nurses and social workers. Mr Mohammed was one of the pall-bearers. There were no relatives.

One of the hymns was ‘I, the Lord of Sea and Sky’, which includes the lyrics:

I the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

[Daniel L Schutte, b 1947]

The words serve as an inspiration and encouragement; and a gentle reproach…

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Elegy for 'Cyril'

Last month an old man died: I shall call him ‘Cyril’. He was my neighbour.

He was from the Caribbean: I don’t know which country. I don’t know his surname. He had a wife, I believe, but they had separated many years ago and were not in contact. On very rare occasions an adult son would visit, but not stay.

I do know that he used to work as a welder, for many years in a local factory – now closed down. Some people say he used to work night shifts, and that this was why he was most active at night and often slept during the day.

During the ten years or so that I have known him he has never been away, never been on holiday, In fact he very rarely left his house, except to go shopping with a battered old shopping trolley.

He kept the front of his terraced house tidy, until near the end, painting the windowsills and the top of the wall around the tiny front garden (which was filled with a mixture of wheelie bins, boxes, and odd pieces of hardware).

Most frequently, though, he could be found on his front door step, or at the gate in front of his garden-terrace house, generally dressed in a chaotic assortment of the sort of clothes one might expect to garden in, (or in some cases to sleep in). He would greet passers by (everyone seemed to know him) and was keen to chat.

His conversation was of the style that is generally referred to as ‘holding forth’: he was not a good listener. His main theme was the extent to which a wide variety of persons and institutions had ripped him off in various ways: banks who had stolen his money, plumbers who had walked off with his tools, relatives who had let him down. Everyone he encountered seemed to be ‘boogers’, as he put it, out to exploit him.

Despite this, he was generally affable and friendly to me, and to the other people who stayed to talk (or, rather, to listen). He was something of a hazard if one was going out and in a hurry, as there was an implicit expectation that one wander across to ‘say hello’, an activity that might cost ten minutes or more. I sometimes used to peer nervously from my spy hole, and wait for him to disappear indoors before venturing hastily to my car.

He liked to know about everything that was going on, which did mean that our street had a sort of one man neighbourhood watch, but, on the other hand, also meant that I couldn’t receive a single houseguest without comment and questions. When indoors and awake, he would frequently stand at his upstairs window peering at the world outside, and unashamedly watching me as I pottered around in my study, which always left me feeling a bit unsettled, as it would have been the height of rudeness to draw the curtains.

About a year ago Cyril was diagnosed with lung cancer. He told me (proudly, it seemed) that the prognosis was poor and that he was expected to die from it, which indeed he did.

The initial period of the illness seemed to mainly consist of a new opportunity to identify new targets for his complaints: nurses, social workers, care assistants.

It did seem, initially, that he had some cause for complaint. A promised, and much needed, oxygen cylinder and mask failed to arrive for weeks. However, it soon became clear that things were a bit more complicated.

Apparently the house had been found to be cluttered and messy, to an extent that left no room to safely install the oxygen tank. Worse, the house was filthy: mouse droppings lay deep over every surface, the fridge and freezer were full of decaying food. Some workers, understandably, refused to visit.

Enter, stage left, ‘Mr and Mrs Mohammed’, Cyril’s next-door neighbours. They took it upon themselves to clean his house for him so that the carers and nurses could visit, and so that Cyril’s needs could be addressed. This was a literally thankless task: Cyril resented their intrusion into his home, his life, and when Mr Mohammed bought and fitted a new fridge-freezer to replace the previous noisome monstrosity, Cyril was convinced that he had overcharged him for it: in fact, the fridge was considerably more expensive than Mr Mohammed told him, and he had withheld the bill to protect the old man’s pride.

The scene was now ready for the caring services to take full control of Cyril’s life. The oxygen cylinder arrived, a rota of home carers started to visit. It was decided that Cyril would benefit from improved kitchen and bathroom facilities, and the builders arrived.

For a while Cyril continued to appear, occasionally, at his front door, ready to rail against the injustices visited upon him. More often, he would open the door and flap it open and shut, moaning loudly as he tried to fill his dying lungs, as unashamed of this as he had been, in the past, of gazing keenly across at me in my study.

Then he stopped appearing. I never saw or heard him again.

He was admitted to hospital, where some neighbours visited him. He should have stayed, should have died, in hospital, but he complained that he wanted to go home, so his wishes were complied with, and home he went.

I continued to see the flickering light of the TV in his downstairs front room, and the procession of carers in, and out.

Then one day Mr Mohammed came over to me. He told me that he had heard Cyril banging on the party wall. He had gone over and found him, soiled and hungry. The home care worker had failed to attend, and he had been left, unfed and lying in his own shit, for 24 hours. Mr Mohammed cleaned him, and fed him. I later saw a visiting nurse, and raised my concerns.

The next day he was seen at his front door, shouting and begging for food.

The next day he was dead.

Mr Mohamed told me and another neighbour that he hoped to find out the day of the funeral, so that we could attend, but either he was unsuccessful or he forgot to tell me. My understanding is that none of his family expressed an interest in attending. I believe that a social worker took his ashes back to his Caribbean home.

I’m not writing this to complain about how he was treated by the authorities: I believe, on the whole, they did their best for a difficult old man in difficult circumstances. I think I am mainly writing this because I think his life, and his passing, should be acknowledged.

But I am also writing this because I am ashamed of my part in this story: my complicity in a society that allows someone to die like this.

I do not, on any significant level, grieve for him, very much. My life goes on, much as before. He was a walk-on part in the play of my life. I don’t think anyone will be grieving for him much. He was not very useful, liked but not greatly loved by his neighbours, and as he died he watched the small castle he had built around him get dismantled, piece by piece, until there was nothing left.

The manner of his death diminishes me: forgive me, Lord.

Rest eternal grant him o Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Embattled and Far from Home

I’m feeling a bit embattled today. Everywhere I look I hear and read people to whom a materialist world view is self-evidently the only plausible one. Their arguments are compelling and I feel out-gunned. Of course, the person who wins an argument isn’t necessarily (or even normally?) right: they could just be a better arguer. But it still has a wearying effect.

(It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that one of my weaknesses (strengths?) is that of being easily convinced by anyone who is confident in their own position. Thus I will spend time in the company of a believing friend of mine whose intellectual horsepower appears to exceed my own and feel my reposts crumbling to dust, then meet an atheist friend and find exactly the same thing happening. I end up thinking how similar the two people are, and how different from me. And yes, I am one of those people who (briefly) believed it when I was told that the word ‘gullible’ had been removed from the dictionary…)

Mind you, it’s not surprising that I’m feeling a bit vulnerable at the moment. I’ve been overworking for months (last week 46 hours for a 35 hour contract) and it’s now a bank holiday Monday and I’m alone, so there is plenty of scope for an unhealthy reactionary ennui (i.e. I’ve kind of flopped). Also, a much anticipated trip to Egypt, due to begin in about 2 weeks time, looks like being cancelled due to a new advisory from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Both my parents are rather unwell. I have a tiresome chesty cough. And I am dissatisfied with my last post, which ran out steam before the end.

I’m tempted to grasp hold and cling to my faith as a person in the sea would grasp a log (or a frightened child a teddy-bear) but I try not to. Apart from anything else it’s undignified. I try to let the waves carry me, to accept the apparent bleakness and let it lead me into wisdom.

But, to all you atheists and materialists out there, I ask you to remember one thing. Yes, for believers faith is a comfort (sometimes: other times it’s a colossal inconvenience). We live believing things for which there is no scientific evidence. But be careful. There is no scientific evidence for free will, nor for our sense of time as progressing from past to future. Yet you live as though there were and your heart believes that there is. In fact if you tried to act as though there weren’t I suspect you’d end up as a psychopath.

On a broader level, we generally believe that what we do matters, in the infinitesimally short and tiny flickers we call our lives. But in the grand scheme of things, cosmologically speaking, it’s hard to see why. Yet to believe that what you do doesn’t matter is generally a clear indication that your mentally unwell.

In other words, I contend that no-one really thinks as rationally as they purport to.

But back to me.

Comparing grumpinesses with the rector at church yesterday (he was the one who had arranged the trip to Egypt) he pointed out that Egypt has an odd place in Judao-Christian thought. It is the place God’s people try to escape from, it is a place of exile, like Babylon, far from home, a place of suffering, exclusion, and barrenness. Yet the Israelites time in Egypt was a very necessary part of their experience. Their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land was, arguably, what came to define them. I’m an exile, far from home. At the moment I feel far from home. But maybe I should welcome this…

Saturday, 4 August 2012


(This is the post I was going to make  on 14th July but then didn’t, because I diverted myself into issues of honesty [link]. These thoughts were prompted by an experience about a month ago: fortunately, though, it’s rained quite often since to remind me about the experience)

(Hence, though, my use of the Historic Present…)

I am sitting, alone, in my conservatory, and it is raining. Heavily. Water throws itself against the windows and pours onto the roof. It dances on the patio outside, each drop appearing to leap up from the ground before falling again. The door is open so I can clearly hear the rain hissing as it lands, and feel the freshness in the air (while my doormat gradually gets wetter and wetter and a dribble of water grows towards me).

Sometimes the storm appears to ease a little, but sometimes it increases, abruptly, in intensity, like a child having a tantrum who suddenly puts their whole being into their screaming, like a heavy metal fan turning the volume to ten, or a driver finding a clear road ahead and putting their foot to the floor. It’s full-throated, exultant…

Except that it’s not, of course. It’s just rain. Water droplets, accumulated from water vapour suspended in the atmosphere, falling when they are too heavy to stay up. The  variations in intensity are simply due to complex and chaotic, but explicable, local circumstances.

Even today, knowing what we do, it’s hard – impossible? – not to anthroporphize a rain storm. We can’t help it. How much more so would people in the pre-scientific era attribute personality and emotions to the weather. How could they not infer the existence of a rain god?

This train of thought is clearly a troubling one for theists like me, for obvious reasons. It’s not hard to see how humanity could start attributing personhood and power to the weather, to the sun, to the seasons, etc, and end up with the monotheistic belief systems we know and, er, sometimes love today.

Troubling, but not, hopefully, surprising. Any believer in possession of a reasonably serviceable brain who hasn’t considered such things is plainly only paddling on the edge of the sea of intellectual rigour.

But wait a moment: where does this stop?

I attribute emotions and personality to the people I meet: I sort of me-morphize them. Obviously neither I nor anyone else could function if we didn’t do this. But doing this is based on an assumption; that people are basically the same as me. It’s a reasonable assumption (especially if one takes into account what astronomers refer to as ‘the principal of mediocrity’ which says that what is local to me is likely to be true elsewhere as I’m unlikely to be unusual). But it is an assumption.

And what about myself? I attribute emotions, personality to myself. I believe that I make decisions that effect what happens next. I believe that there is, objectively, something called me. Obvious. Well, maybe. Certainly we all think like this (I presume?). But it’s hard to see where these things come from in a deterministic universe.

Note: I am not saying that because the concept of personhood is a mystery that rejection of the theism is illogical: that would be silly (I think). I’m simply saying that the rainstorm set off some very unsettling thoughts…

Saturday, 14 July 2012


I was going to tell you about something that happened this afternoon, but unfortunately although this was this afternoon two weeks ago I haven’t got round to doing anything about it until now.


I was going to pretend that it had happened on the day I wrote it. No one would be any the wiser (especially as it relates to rain, which in 2012 seems to be happening most of the time).

But then it occurred to me that another principle that needs to run through this blog is one of honesty. Honesty with regard to what I believe, what I think, and how I behave, but also with regard to simple facts.

Actually, I think it’s impossible to be completely honest. Any human attempt at communication cannot avoid some distortion of the truth: it’s impossible to avoid putting some spin on what is said/written/expressed.

If you don’t believe me, try it (and be honest with yourself (insofar as that is possible…). Review the last thing you said. Even the most trivial.

‘The bathroom’s free’. OK, the core factual statement is true (unless you’re particularly perverse). But how do you say it? Do you put an explanation mark at the end, to try and show a friendly demeanour? Fair enough. But note the words ‘try’ and ‘show’. In a tiny way, you’re playing a part, attempting to project a facsimile of how you feel towards them. And it may be a very tiny way indeed. But it’s still there. Even the most spontaneous communication must involve some element of choice, of consideration. Without that it’s just a response, a reflex.

I said ‘human’ communication before: is that one reason why some of us like dogs? That their communications with us (appear) unconsidered? Is this true for all animals? Is part of what makes us human the inability to be completely truthful (‘I lie, therefore I am human’)? Or, to put it another way, is it inherent in language that truth cannot be communicated without some untruth as well?

There is here, perhaps, a parallel with the Sufi understanding of ‘veils’*. Put simply, this considers that all created things are veils that hide the Divine, but that, because all things are from the Divine, they also show what it is like: they simultaneously obscure and reveal. Maybe, for us, our language consists of the veils we wrap around ourselves, both revealing and obscuring our identity: crucially, even the way our communications distort the message tells the hearer a lot about us.

Of course, the kind of dishonesty I’m talking about here isn’t blameworthy. It’s unavoidable. For us (presumably not God) there is a spectrum, with necessary distortion at one end and blatant lies at the other.


I need to aim to remove unnecessary dishonesty from what I say, leaving behind only that which tells you more about me than what I’m actually trying to say does.
I’ll talk about what I meant to talk about when I started in my next post…

*See, for example, ‘Sufism: A Short Introduction’, W C Chittick, Oneworld, ISBN 1-85168-211-2

Monday, 25 June 2012

On (Un)Certainty

Are there two kinds of people in the world: those who are sure of things and those who aren’t? Or is it more complicated?

I have friends – good friends – who are atheists, to whom it is obvious that there is nothing beyond what can be explained by science, to whom thinking otherwise is ludicrous, or even perverse. They appear to find the fact that I believe a conundrum: I seem outwardly intelligent, logical, and down to earth, and yet I purport to believe such tosh. Fortunately, because we are friends they come to accept it as (I think) a charming eccentricity, part of the weirdness that makes me me.

I have other friends – good friends – who are, well, ah, I think I’ll call them Assured Believers for the moment. To them the existence of the Divine is self-evident, as is a clear and definite relationship between the divine and themselves. Prayers are made in the expectation of their being answered, and seeking day-to-day guidance from God is de rigueur. I am not so sure how they regard me: are they disappointed at my liberal tendencies and lack of assurance, sad that my early flush of evangelical zeal seems to have withered away, or just accepting that I am different? (Maybe I should ask them.)

The odd thing is that both types of friend seem to me to be incredibly similar. When in the presence of each their arguments, their beliefs, seem powerful, natural, compelling. Their confidence that they know the way the world is constructed* are impossible to distinguish in kind. Sometimes I envy them: both of them.

For I cannot be like them. I cannot even imagine being like them (except in the sense that when with them I tend to pick up the pattern of my surroundings, like some flat fish (but not chameleons!)). What is it like to be sure?

One of the purposes of this blog is to try to effect a reconciliation between the two world views characterized (caricatured?) here, at least inside my head if nowhere else. But I think it also has to explore reconciliation across the other axis: between being certain and being doubtful. Otherwise I risk living my life on an island between two landmasses rather than being a bridge between them.

*I initially mistyped this as ‘constricted’…

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


This post isn't really a proper post at all: instead it will serve as a page to store all the principles that crop up as I continue...

I am not an expert


Monday, 2 April 2012

I am not an expert

Dear me…

In my first post I made, and recorded, a commitment to write every post at one sitting. What I forgot to mention was that I had also made a commitment to post at least once every week.

Hey ho…

However, one of the great things about being a Christian, in theory, is that you can always start again. Although the past cannot be changed, everything can be made new. Hurray!

So, here I am again.

All I want to do hear is to make one thing clear: I am not an expert – at least, not in the things I plan to think about in this blog. The only thing I’m really an expert in is British social security law, and I don’t intend this to be a major area of thought here. I am not a theologian, or a philosopher, or (except by training) a scientist. I therefore apologise for any of the above who read this stuff; for my presumption in trespassing in your garden. Having said that, I hope that you’d like to feel it's open to the public.

Shifting the metaphor slightly, I think of myself rather as a cheeky magpie, hopping from garden to garden picking up nice shiny things and bringing them back to my nest…

Just in case you think this is false modesty, I’ve recently been reading that Rowan Williams’ philosophical position is generally opposed to the French post-modernism of Derrida et al, when to me they seem to be mutually compatible [Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan Williams, by Benjamin Myers, Continuum].

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Why the title? II (the first bit)

 It’s considered appropriate to tell someone to ‘Get Real’ when you think a proposed course of action is certain to end in disaster, or, alternatively, when you think what someone believes is preposterous. I suppose it is shorthand for ‘You’d better adjust your plans/beliefs to reflect the world as it is, not as you’d like it to be’. It’s normally said quite aggressively, as part of a campaign of treading heavily and proprietarily all over the garden of someone else’s dreams.

I, however, would like to convert into something a little humbler but, perhaps, a little deeper. In writing a blog in which I am encouraging myself (and hopefully, others) to Get Real I think I mean:

Firstly, through how I think, how I behave, and what I do, to become closer to the person I ‘ought’ to be to become, and be, as truly Me as possible. I realize this statement is fraught with questions. Is there a sort of ‘platonic me’ of which I am an imperfect copy? Where does the ‘ought’ come from? And how, and by what yardsticks, do I measure my progress in this ambition? I might try and tackle these questions a bit more in later posts. At the moment, though, all I can say are there times when I feel more genuine, more three dimensional as it were, and times when I feel more as though I am playing a part, being less me; diminishing myself into two dimensions, as it were. I imagine that other people sometimes feel the same.

Secondly, by trying to comprehend, to understand, to grasp, or, more realistically, to simply persist in wrestling with the fundamental mysteries that hover forever on the boundaries of the banal little worlds that we construct around ourselves. Sufi Islam frequently refers to the Divine as simply ‘The Real’, and for good reason. I do not discount the possibility that believers in the supernatural are mistaken: possibly the outcome of this journey will see me leaving belief for atheism or agnosticism, although I think this unlikely. However, it is crucial to note that a purely secular naturalistic worldview does not enable one to dispense with these questions of horrifying profundity: in some ways it makes them more acute. That I inhabit a universe which appeared (or has always existed) for no particular reason, other than that it simply is, and in which a tiny, momentary, flicker of conscious life briefly exists is, to me, an abyss as terrifying as that of a necessarily existent God.

It is pretty obvious that these two aspirations are linked: it might even be argued that the interplay of the two is what religion is all about (although this hadn’t occurred to me before writing this post!). 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Why the title?

Good question. I’ll deal with the second bit first.

There are so many ways I could define myself (many of which will, I hope, emerge during the lifetime of this blog): so why highlight being Christian, and being gay?  Here, in no particular order, are some reasons that come to mind…
  • They are, I think, the two main points of friction between me and the world around me (although rarely at the same time, thank goodness). In a broadly secular world my Christian-ness is something that sets me apart. Christians, and religious believers generally, are increasingly seen as a little odd, in the UK at least. The prevailing culture amongst the intelligentsia is that belief in the supernatural is something that we have (or at any rate ought to have) outgrown. On the other hand, being gay also separates one, even now, and of course especially in the church. I think there are gay people who have never experienced any angst because of their sexuality, but my impression is that they are still rare.
  • Not many of us live in that Venn-diagram overlap of being both gay and Christian. This is not surprising. Gay living growing up within the church frequently either run away from the church, or run away from their own sexuality. I have experience of doing both.
  • Christianity seems to be a part of me that my culture seems to believe harks back to the past, whereas being gay is often thought of as one of the new things (the reality is, of course, more complicated). As a result each stands for rather more than itself in a sort of internal battle between tradition and post-modernity.
I don’t really like the word ‘post-modern’. Apart from anything else I’m not 100% sure I know what it means. At the moment I am, I suppose, using it as a short-hand to describe the world I find myself in. This is a world where claiming to have the monopoly on Truth is getting more and more difficult to sustain (as does the use of the capital T). Science digs increasingly deeply into some very strange ‘hows’ but society struggles with the ‘whys’. A local Muslim butcher (wonderfully!) advertises Halal Christmas turkeys; monks are called in to calm angry spirits before Bangkok’s new state of the art airport can be opened (in 2005); freedom of choice is regarded as a fundamental right, and yet the current scientific world view strongly suggests that free will is an illusion. How do I – how does any of us? – navigate through this web of contradictions?

Now the first bit: Getting Real. 

That will have to wait until the next post…

(I have made myself a rule that each post has to be written at one sitting. Hopefully this will encourage not to procrastinate, and not to wait until each piece is deathless prose before its uploaded. It should also limit each post’s length!)

(Actually I cheated with this one: it took two visits to the keyboard: but it is my first one)