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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Dare I Mention The C Word?

November 25, 2018 24 comments

Christmas is coming

I expect many of us learned that little rhyme when we were children, which harks back to a bygone age in which Christmas was still relatively innocent, and less swamped by today’s rampant commercialism. The ha’penny referred to is in fact the old British pre-decimal halfpenny coin, which ceased to be legal tender in 1969, and the rhyme pre-dates that by centuries. As I picked up my iPad to download my digital newspaper (yes, I move with the times!) I noticed that today is the 25th November, exactly one month till Christmas, and this got me thinking about what the big day means. As I have said before, I veer towards agnosticism rather than any particular religion, but I respect the fact that this is a Christian celebration: Christ Mass, Jesus’ birthday. I also respect the fact that for those of other faiths this is probably not a day on which you celebrate, although I would imagine that it is hard to avoid if you live in a predominantly Christian country! Over the years, many traditions have developed to celebrate Christmas, both in a public sense and within families. I know that the way my parents celebrated Christmas wasn’t exactly the same as others in our village, but at its core was the same thing and there is nothing wrong with bringing a little individuality to it: what works for some may not be right for others, but the important thing is that it has its meaning for us.

The point of today’s post isn’t to look back in a haze of nostalgia, though. I want to look ahead, to what this Christmas will mean, and every succeeding Christmas. Much has been said and written in recent weeks, months and years about religion being at the root of conflicts across the world. This is terribly sad, even more so when you consider that it is nothing new: in the 2000+ years of our calendar system there has been a conflict or war with a religious element to it in around 1500 of those years, somewhere in the world. What I fear is that we are losing the ability to respect each other’s religions, cultures and traditions. I worked for twenty years in one of the most culturally diverse areas in the UK, and have been part of celebrations for other religions, such as Diwali and Eid, to name but two. What always struck me was how people of different faiths welcomed others into their celebrations, and how this engendered mutual understanding, respect and friendship. Yet somehow, the great and the good seem to think that others may be offended by these celebrations, giving rise to such lunacies as Birmingham City Council having rebranded the season some years ago as ‘Winterval,’ or the widespread use of the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ which I think started in North America. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think so!

Why can’t we all celebrate our cultural and religious diversity, rather than attempt to water it down to avoid offending someone, to the point at which we lose sight of the true meaning? I know that sounds ridiculously naive, given what I have just said about religion as a factor in conflicts, but I don’t really believe that the zealots who kill in the name of a religion are in any way upholding its true spirit. Nor do I accept that the more evangelical approach is necessarily right either: it can also lead to a blinkered view of religion and its place in the world, coupled with a great deal of hypocrisy.

But I digress. Is it too much to hope that those of us for whom it is part of our culture can celebrate Christmas, however we choose to do it, without having to worry what others may think, and to hope that even if it isn’t part of their tradition they feel included and able to take part? Equally, is it too much to hope that all religious and cultural celebrations can be respected and enjoyed by all? It probably is too much, but I’ll continue to live in hope. This will be my celebration for 25th December:

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I hope you can share in the spirit of this, as I would hope to share in the spirit of your celebrations, whatever they may be and whenever they take place. And I hope that your preparations will go well: you can’t be any worse off than I am, as the realisation that there is exactly a month to go is coupled with the knowledge that I haven’t even started yet!

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Why Shouldn’t We?

November 2, 2018 5 comments

This post from three years ago today just popped up in my Timehop feed. It wasn’t a post that gained much attention at the time and if I’m honest it isn’t one I’ve thought much about since I wrote it. But it is interesting to me – and, I hope, for you – to see how thoughts of belonging and believing can strike us. Often, as was the case for me at this time, they can be prompted by the lyrics of a song, and I’m not thinking Agadoo here! Three years on, I don’t think I’m any closer to finding the answers I was seeking, but I have the rest of my life for that so there’s always hope.

One thing in particular struck me about what I’d written: that there was so much hatred in the world. Sadly, if anything, that has become worse and more overt since I first wrote this piece. Maybe we all need to take some time for reflection?

Take It Easy

As I often do when I’m in a reflective mood, I found myself yesterday evening playing music to match. Unlike the days of my youth, when this would have also given me some physical exercise in getting up to change the vinyl disc on the turntable, nowadays it is very easy to sit comfortably and go from album to album, track to track just by clicking on your device of choice. I use Apple Music for this, and have a vast library to choose from! It will be great when they deliver on the promise to extend the limit you can have in your own library from the current 25,000 songs to 100,000, as this will enable me to be even lazier about storing what I want to hear! Skipping tracks or moving to another album has never been easier, and I do it a lot!

I listen to a…

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Why Shouldn’t We?

November 2, 2015 14 comments

As I often do when I’m in a reflective mood, I found myself yesterday evening playing music to match. Unlike the days of my youth, when this would have also given me some physical exercise in getting up to change the vinyl disc on the turntable, nowadays it is very easy to sit comfortably and go from album to album, track to track just by clicking on your device of choice. I use Apple Music for this, and have a vast library to choose from! It will be great when they deliver on the promise to extend the limit you can have in your own library from the current 25,000 songs to 100,000, as this will enable me to be even lazier about storing what I want to hear! Skipping tracks or moving to another album has never been easier, and I do it a lot!

I listen to a lot of singer/songwriters and one of my favourites is Mary Chapin Carpenter, whose every album is in my collection. I alighted on the song Why Shouldn’t We, from her album The Calling, and played it several times. It is a simple, beautiful song, like so many of hers, but this was the first time I’d really listened properly to the words. I also found a lovely live version of it on YouTube, which I’m sharing with you in case you don’t know the song:

The song starts with the simple message of why shouldn’t we believe in something or someone that we can’t see, i.e. God, and moves on to a range of other intangible elements of the human spirit, asking the same question. I was brought up as a Christian, attended a Church of England primary school, and my stepmother is an ordained priest, so I’ve always had those influences. But I’ve tended to regard myself as more an agnostic than a true believer. I want to believe that there is a spiritual guiding force, but find it hard to reconcile that with the amount of hatred and hurt in the world. I also think I have a limited imagination – you should see my pathetic attempts at writing fiction! – and this does, I feel, present a barrier to my acceptance of a faith. But as I get older, having retired and enjoying lots of time to think, I’m beginning to wonder whether there may be something here for me after all.

I’ve always tried to be the best person I could be and would hope that everyone does this, although in some it appears to be hidden more deeply than in others! Do I need to attach myself to a formal religion or faith to do this? Well, I’m 62 and haven’t really given this much thought for the best part of fifty years, so perhaps I don’t? But, listening to MCC’s words which, as always, are intelligent and meaningful, I’m beginning to think that I may need to find something. I’m not looking for a magical epiphany moment, and don’t really think I have enough spirituality for that to happen anyway, but I have this nagging feeling which is beginning to gnaw away at me that there may be something more that I need in  my life.

I suspect that this is some kind of response to my personal circumstances – divorce eight years ago, a change of lifestyle with my retirement, and a spell of depression four years ago which has left me on anti-depressants until now. But hopefully my doctor will agree that I don’t need to take these any more when I next see him, at the end of this month, and my current dosage is very low in any case. I am asking myself why that happened, was there a reason for it, and was I supposed to learn something from it. I don’t know, but I am thinking more and more about it.

As the old Johnny Nash song says, there are more questions than answers. I’m not sure that anyone has yet even got close to finding all of those answers. I know I haven’t! But I intend to keep looking, and suspect that I’ll return to this topic at some point.

I hope my rambling, and MCC’s more concise and meaningful words, help you to think about that for yourself too. I feel that there is much we can all do to enrich our own lives, and the lives of those we care about. At the very least, we can all try!

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