Still gently fretting about Obama – and afraid that he might not win.  Have you read his book – The Audacity of Hope?  I approached it expecting to find a piece of campaign pulp.  But it’s a very intelligent, thoughtful and elegant statement of his political philosophy.  I take some comfort from the widely-expressed view that Sarah Palin has become a liability outside the republican heartlands – I suggested some time back that she would cost McCain the election.  But I suppose what niggles is this … that the polls in Northern Ireland were almost always to the left of what happened when people went into the polling booth.  So the polls tended to overstate the strength of the centre ground.  But when people went into the polling booth …

But of course there are other fascinations in there.  Sarah Palin’s passing from the political scene will remove an obvious way in to talking about creationism and fundamentalism.  And then I found myself wafting home in the faithful Passat late one evening from somewhere or other listening to an erudite Radio 3 discussion about the irrationalist tendency in American politics and religion.  Well irrationalism isn’t confined to America – but that’s for another day.  But the egg-headedness of the discussion rather reminded me of that lengthy and wordy lecture I must deliver some day …  on the use of silence in worship.


  1. Yes, absolutely – we are all on the same spectrum –
    and that is the heart of our belief – that we are all loved –
    we are all able to love because we are loved –
    we are all equal in love –
    we can all come to God – whoever we are – all those lovely widows and ill people and children, in the Gospels – they are equal in love – if not in power, health, wealth ..

    I feel for your loss of that Being-alongside people. It is one of the greatest joys in my life to Be with my boy – it feels like the most real living –

    but the loss thing – it’s like Jonnie wrote on the back of his invitation:
    ‘Adam and Eve in the Christian story, fell from the Garden of Eden because they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. This human desire for knowledge forever drives us to ask questions. Rarely do we simply meditate on the beauty of the natural world into which we are mortally bound.’

    Meditating on Nature or being alongside people. As he says, so rarely do we do it. And it’s perhaps only when we have, that we value what we know we have lost.

    So you have lost something whose value you recognise. That’s okay. That’s just temporary estrangement from Eden.

    There’s a funny corollary to this, about how close to the surface, in most people, there is that Being that is goodness and kindness.
    Today I discovered I had sent out 700 catalogues of Jonathan’s beautiful work, with the wrong postage.
    There was a real risk of hundreds of these beautiful copies of his pictures and poems by Laurie Lee and Gerard Manley Hopkins, ending up in bins, not reaching their destinations.

    I had to admit that I had made an awful mistake. Had to face the shame of it in rather a worldly world. I was afraid that people were going to criticize, sneer. But I knew I had to do it. And I could. Cos of that faith thing that we are all equal in our vulnerability.

    So I rang and emailed round and such wonderful support came back.

    So there was a bonus at the end of a fraught day in receiving your reply. Thank you.

  2. My goodness – that’s very interesting!

    The silence material points in a number of directions. For example in the extent to which faith depends on intellectual understanding. Because all of us live in partial understanding – ‘then shall I know even as I am fully known’. Very young children and Louis and some older people are just in a slightly different place on the same spectrum. – not on a different spectrum.

    And then there is silence. I think of my time as a Hospital Chaplain sitting by bedsides with people who were struggling with all sorts of things. And I gradually learnt that I should let the words come to a natural end but sort of stay there in the silence with them. And that kind of silence says, ‘There is nothing more to be said. No facile words of comfort like ‘It’s going to be all right’ mean anything. I sit here sharing the pain of this with you to remind us both of God’s presence and love.’ In a very strange way indeed, I miss the challenge of doing that more than I can say. Nothing else comes near in terms of putting you in touch with the very heart of what this is all about.

  3. On holiday in Canada in summer, I watched a TV interview with McCain and Obama. The format was for one candidate to go first (Obama) while McCain remained somewhere out of earshot – and for the same questions to be posed to each.
    Listening to Obama was like watching somebody play tennis well – he was focused and intelligent and grounded enough in his own values and policies to have plenty of time to hit the ball – and therefore truthful and clear about them and yes! elegant and humourous, though I don’t mean that as a superficial style comment.

    He didn’t just answer the questions, he evaluated them first. ‘Tell me the three people you would turn to for advice’ said the interviewer, ‘Leaving aside your wife.’ ‘And my grandmother,’ added Obama, going on to describe quickly her part in his upbringing and her values that had shaped his commitment to people. Then he went on ‘Well I wouldn’t restrict myself to three people and I wouldn’t restrict myself to Democrats either ..’ he then named several individuals from both parties –
    When McCain was asked the same question he took it at face value and rattled off two military guys and a politician.

    ‘What are you most ashamed of about America?’ was another question –
    Obama’s answer was wealth inequalities and lack of health care and social care provision
    McCain’s was the threat to bring troops out of Iraq before the job had been finished …{I think I recollect that correctly}

    So although commentators say these staged interviews are preoccupied with style and not with issues – I found it more illuminating than that – many issues were raised – and in watching and comparing the two candidates address the same issue – the values and priorities of each came through.

    Perhaps I am only adding more to what you already know .. Also on America, I have just read a collection of Noam Chomsky essays ‘Interventions’ – written as 1000 word essays for broadsheet publication on the page opposite the editorials – they have been little used in major US papers and had been gathered together and published by Penguin. The themes are Iraq, nuclear armaments, Israel-Palestine – it seemed to me to be such a sane voice, and the issues it raises are so grave, one can only pray and hope for America to find itself in time to vote for Obama and the greatest chance of becoming a country where this voice would be printed and respected amongst political circles.
    (Another great book on the United States is Martin Chuzzlewitt – published a hundred and fifty years ago)

    I don’t think this was where the blog was heading when you wrote it – your comments were on the difference between polls and outcome and the gap in between where we can all be rather afraid.

    I suppose that is where we can pray.

    And then you spoke about the use of silence in worship .. and to that, I would expand .. through my knowledge of my son with his cross of profound intellectual impairment – I would say .. let us explore the use of communication once we have stripped out intellect ..
    and then Louis comes into his own, because he shows us, crippled with our words and sentences and arguments and fears .. how to throw that away.
    I say to myself:
    How would we explain a complex argument .. or even the start of this blog to Louis… who can understand very simple concrete words and phrases .. but not tenses and abstract qualities – or abstract figures, somebody he hasn’t met – isn’t good at adjectives ..

    who says ‘eeeee’ to mean he loves somebody .. or that he is connecting to them .. by implication that something is good .. trustworthy
    I think we might describe what Obama is trying to bring about like this ‘Er, Louis, listen!’ ..’uh’
    ‘Louis .. it isn’t easy .. but we’re going to try ..’ ‘aye’ ‘That’s right, we’re going to try .. and Louis,’ ‘uh’
    ‘The Teletubbies love each other very much .. eeee’

    I am afraid that much of the political world – the world of power – would just not know how to communicate with Louis – and by that I mean him as a metaphor too – the children of Palestine and Iraq and Afghanistan – and their grieved parents …
    and I really do pray that we can encourage our leaders to be people as well as politicians .. so that we can work on a communication level of empathy and shared human experience .. which requires ‘the people’ to grow up too .. to take on the responsibility of democracy – not dumping power on leaders – and standing back until they fail or fall off the pedestals – but for all to work together at all levels – and to offer up fear of the unknown – the Louis’ of the world – as their own obligation in return for privilege and normality and freedom from the burden of poverty and disability and war ..

    anyway, I expect this blog is now seriously off course and I better go to bed to finish Chomsky’s last essay.


  4. Anthropomorphic? Maybe. But after 167000 miles, one does get a little attached. And I do like the idea of a car whose value rises and falls with the length of MOT which is left.

  5. Some sad individuals follow a website called Pollster, http://www.pollster.com/. Obama was well above the 270 electoral college votes last week, the latest prediction is much closer.

    The experience in Northern Ireland was that polls always understated support for the DUP and Sinn Fein, perhaps their supporters did not want to admit their allegiance in the face of people they perceived to be ‘liberals. McCain’s support is possibly also similarly understated, particularly in the South.

    Are you becoming anthropomorphic about that car? “Faithful Passat”? You will be giving it a name next!

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