Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I'll Find my way Home

It was Young Keith who kindly fixed up my record player the other day. Oh, how the Beaker Folk have complained as the scratchy sounds of the Commodores have blasted out across the precincts of Husborne Crawley. I noticed that my brother had left a few records from his collection down in the Library, so a couple of hours of early AC/DC didn't go amiss. Although it did draw complaints from Drayton Parslow. He's asked me to pass on his comments, which I do agree with in non-metal-related circumstances. So can I assure you all that Hell is, indeed, a bad place to be.

But at least AC/DC had a clear theological position. Because in my quieter moments I've been reverting to some Jon and Vangelis. Vangelis, you may remember, is the chubby bloke who made Chariots of Fire. While Jon (Anderson) is the skinny bloke out of Yes. That's how you tell them apart.

Their music was kind of early-Enya. Lots of vaguely spiritual feelings evoked, while never being too specific. In many ways a lot like Beaker theology. Or the chorus "I want to be out of my depth in your love". Which has the advantage, almost unique in Christian musical culture, of being completely vague as to the object of the devotion. Basically, it's a song that depends on context to be meaningful at all, Still, I digress.

So what J&V (if I may be so informal) taught me was this. You can have a slightly-spiritual experience, a sense that all's right with the world and the stars are God's daisy-chain, without any moral or theological content whatsoever. You can conjure up far and mystic horizons, without saying what makes them mystic. You can behold with awe Stonehenge on a misty morning and gasp at the sheer something-ness behind it - not just its age, but its mystery. The way it speaks of fears and aspirations we cannot, for all of some researchers' mundanity, grasp.

And what it gives us is the Nameless. I can build the Beaker Folk on Nameless, because it inculcates all the "right", saleable religious emotions of wonder, numinousness, joy. Without the inconvenient feelings like guilt, unworthiness and fallibility which would require valuable pastoral time, or real moral effort, to address.

I try not to let people peer too deeply into their souls. They might not like what they find. And in like manner I try not to let them think too hard about what Stonehenge and its environs might represent. Because if it's Neolithic and Bronze Age people's encounters with the Nameless, that's only because I don't know what Name they gave the forces they believed they encountered. Whatever those forces were, they were believed to be powerful enough to drag sarsen stones across Marlborough Downs. That Nameless one was apparently worth long years working out precisely where the Sun's annual journey began and ended.

It's that Nameless wonder that keeps the theology light and the spirituality worry-free. But sometimes when the Beaker Folk say they think there must be more, do I take the chance and say - go on, put a Name to this? The trouble is, if they do that there are consequences - decisions to make. Instead of a floaty "now" there's an eternity hanging in the balance. And the Beaker person has to decide whether an abstract faith in something is enough - or whether they need to get more specific.

At this point I normally find it's best to put some Enya on. Even spirituality-lite has its depths. And it might keep them placid for a few more years.

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