Monday, 11 February 2013

Hanging on in Quiet Desperation

It's always been one of my favourite lines - mediated via Pink Floyd from its original source. A phrase so good they actually said it twice.

It was the little preachy bit Prof Cox did at the end of his show last night that made me think about this. For the life of me I can't remember what it was that he said. It may have been "I think to myself, what a wonderful world" - but that was more likely the end of the TV version of "Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy", now I think about it.

It was a truly preachy moment, anyway. A shiny purple-clad Gospel choir would have set it off a treat. And then there was David Attenborough's claim in the first showing of his prog that parts of Africa had warmed by 3.5C over the last 20 years. The BBC edited it out of the repeat, and I'm sure Sir David was just reading the script. But it did just remind me of an Elderly Methodist preacher, warning the younger me and my associates in the 80s that hedonistic excess and rampant immorality were reigning unchecked in Husborne Crawley. We went out and checked, of course, but we couldn't find any. Maybe he just had a more interesting social life than we did.

OK, I'm stretching the point a bit with Sir David. But I guess it's interesting to pick up on when religious methodology is picked up for non-religious methods. It reminds me of the pompous over-done music of Disney's EPCOT centre, ushering us into a future Utopia that, as the name Utopia first reminded us, never happens - spirits lifted to an empty sky, encouraging us to indulge in great endeavours for the future of all life-kind, even though, as Max Quordlepleen reminded us "it hasn't got one." Or, if you're an old hippy, remember John and Yoko wafting about in white like two hairy, pretentious angels, Imagining that if religion were abolished,  we'd all be happy. Even the Champions League music does it - a great hymn to 22 overpaid young men hoofing a pig's bladder around a field.

Here in Husborne Crawley, of course, we use these sorts of tactics all the time. We know how important the right kind of music is to instilling moods of calmness, awe or fear as appropriate. We use the threat of apocalyptic climate change to tell people it's good news when we turn the heating off. And the lights. And the water.

But still, behind all sort kind of thing, we kind of expect God to be there. If preaching lifts our spirits, we suspect it's because we have spirits, and somewhere to lift them to. If music makes our souls sing, we'd like to think that's because we have souls that can sing. And if we can terrify people with stories about how much we're going to damage the earth - we will continue to believe that damaging an earth that will one day be a deep-fried cinder, with all water, all animals, all vegetation burned off, has a significance that somehow extends past the medium-term horizon.

I'm not saying you can't do all these things without believing there's some more Sense behind the Universe than the cold beauty of the Laws of Physics. And I'm aware that the inefficient harshness of the Theory of Evolution implies that if there is One behind it, it will be a wilder, more terrifying One than we normally give the Divine credit for. But that's OK. Personally I'm going to hang on in quiet desperation, whatever bad things I see in life, believing that there is a Sense behind the randomness, a Logic behind the chaos, and Personality behind a universe that could produce people. I'm gonna assume that the other hairy bloke who wafted about in white (not John Lennon, I mean the one who advocated no possesssions and actually had none) was the key component in making that clear. That as music lifts us up, so he lifted us up. That as preaching (religious or scientific) challenges us and expands our minds, so he challenges us. That the nowhere-place he promises, where wrong is made right and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which makes rubble of all of life's struggles and a mockery of all earthly ambition, turns out to be God's way of reminding us that we're not gods, is in fact the nowhere-place where he lives, where all makes sense, and where our spirits will be lifted up forever.

Have a good week. And may whatever you use to make sense of the senseless go with you.


  1. Last line certainly hits the spot better than Dave Allen's 'And may your God go with you.' People have some pretty strange God's these days!

  2. It's the English way...

    The second law certainly applied itself to Syd and Richard in rather unpleasant ways and sadly ahead of their time.

  3. who is the bloke who has suddenly appeared a the top of the page?

    1. George Herbert? I think he was just keeping out the road. It's safer for him in the hedgerow.


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