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)