Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Irony and the Sorrow

A nice little blog-post from Kelvin (yes, I find the pop-up annoying as well, but the blog's worth it) on should churches use email - or indeed blogging?

What worried me was the comment " The blogs that are lasting are, unsurprisingly, those where the author has a clear idea of what they are trying to communicate."

The problem is that, after approximately seven years of this blog's existence (including the first 12 months or so, which were lost in the Time Wars) - on reading Kelvin, I wasn't sure I had the faintest idea what this particular blog is trying to communicate. The first blog post (which survives, expanded, fairly roughly in "An oasis of fuzzy thinking") was meant to be a searing critique of "Celtic" Christianity (I never know which word to put in inverted commas - it depends upon the context, I guess), but you can't make a career out of insulting "Celtic" Christians. Apart from anything else, you'd be surprised how much money they can pump into litigation, and they have some particularly aggressive lawyers. Those little books of home-spun liturgy mustn't half sell.

Above all, I suppose, what I am trying to communicate is - why not send me some money? It's completely tax deductible, at least until the Charity Commission launches another politically-motivated attack. And I promise I won't spend the money on land-mines, bombing countries we should leave well alone, or MPs' duck-ponds.

Or, if you won't spend the money, maybe what I try to communicate is this - there's an irony at the bottom of everything. Beneath our hapless beliefs that we will achieve Nirvana if we vote for this or that political party, or if we buy a particular brand of deodorant, or our conviction that driving the right 4x4 will cause our partners (and others') to become more sexually attracted to us - is the irony that it's all useless. As Ford Prefect put it, "burn down all the trees!"

This species may have a few million years left - or possibly less, the way it's going - and all the great things to which it aspires: all the high-rise tower-blocks, all the job promotions you might think about going for, all the cereal-advert lovey-dovey families you can only dream of; all the glossy houses with 10-acre grounds and heated swimming pools you might want to buy; all the friendly, funny, wacky neighbours you see in sitcoms that you wish you had, instead of the grumpy, unfriendly ones who get so shirty when you move the boundary fence a mere 6 feet closer to their house than yours; they'll all be nothing one day soon. All your dreams and visions are as the mere wind, which blows the sawdust into your face from the fence post you're cutting back to size, before your neighbour gets yet another lawyer involved in your already over-litigious life and you have to put the best smart suit on yet again while the deeds are checked in court.

So you work 20 hours a day to prove how good you are at your job, and a stroke stops your career in its tracks. You take the experts' advice and create a gravel garden to tolerate the globally-warmed future, and the snow that you thought was never going to fall again has killed the bloody olive tree and the yukka and the bay laurel. And a freak hailstorm puts dents the size of tea cups in the roof of your new Audi that you spent five years saving for and twenty years dreaming about.

But underneath the irony, underneath the futility, way below - where the bitter laugh of the icy wind blows through the holes in the tatty jeans of your self-stitched yet oh-so-trendy philosophy, there's something else. Gazing up through the sorrow, from the bottom of human existence, where the irony is so deep that you can't even see what could be funny any more - are the sorrowful eyes of the man of sorrows, the One who sees the deepest irony of all.
"Man of Sorrows"  from wikimedia commons.

That the Divine could descend to this - that the One who brought stuff into being should become stuff. That the source of Life should die - should descend to the death that Life never conceived - that the one who gives light to all humans, should have his light extinguished - that the one who sits surrounded by angels should be surrounded by thieves and murderers, Roman oppressors and grovelling, conquered, toadies - if you want irony, that's as far as you can get. If you like irony, what more irony could you want?

I've come a long way away from Kelvin's blog, Apart from the jumping-off point, perhaps. This blog is dedicated to the communication of the simple fact that this universe - glorious, ordered, terrifying, and apparently eternal - is - at heart - flawed, broken, incomplete and - ultimately - ironic. And in that irony, is its salvation.


  1. "...that the One who brought stuff into being should become stuff". That's it... Well, since "brilliant" and "stunning" have already been taken, I can only add THANK YOU <3

    1. That's all right. Sometimes the crunch where chemistry meets theology is worth it ;)

  2. Thanks. I was having a spiritual wobble in the wee small hours last night (one just shouldn't try and imagine what the Creator God looks like unless one is wide awake and fully operational). Thank heavens, thank God for The Man Of Sorrows to give me something, someone, to hold on to when I find I'm getting lost, can't find my compass and the satnav has run out of battery.

  3. Isn't it ironic, don't you think, like rain on your wedding day, its a free ride when you've already paid...

    Sorry AE, that just popped into my head when I read your post and I had to get it out there, you'll be humming it all day now... ;)


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