I have a bone to pick with my daughter. In a recent FaceTime call she was appalled to learn I wasn’t familiar with a TV series called The Walking Dead. I reminded her that I do do dragons and wizards — and werewolves if Michael J Fox is one. I don’t do horror films or at least not since I was 14, when I “watched” Hitchcock’s The Birds with my jacket over my head. A book about vampires is okay, but I don’t want to read about or watch zombies.
Then while looking for a new series to watch I saw that Neon had just made The Walking Dead available — all ten seasons. Just to be more up-to-date with cultural references I decided to watch just one episode and then tell my daughter it was a waste of time. I’ve just about completed season four.… I am thoroughly hooked.
From my experience, one of the most difficult things to do in life is to cross a threshold. I would like to be able to claim that I do so bravely and boldly. Sadly, human frailty being what it is, that has often not been the case. Sometimes it has required tornado public transport to move me from Kansas to Oz. Sometimes I have crossed by accident while playing hide and seek with myself and my fears in the back of a wardrobe.
I have shared in the past that I was reared by, and infused with the values of, a staunch empiricist. Yet my scientist father was a highly committed and active member of the Episcopal Church most of his adult life. Furthermore, to everyone’s surprise, including mine, he parented an Episcopal priest who evolved into a Unitarian minister. As a teenager I could not untangle the mystery of how belief in science and faith could be embodied in a single skin. It was a conundrum. It was an impossible juxtaposition. It was mind-numbing cognitive dissonance. It defied an adolescent’s black and white view of reality.
To continue with Elizabeth’s Kolbert’s river metaphor, I am reminded of a gift a friend who knew me too well gave me at the beginning of my ministry. It was a poster of a landscape featuring a river. The caption beneath it read, “Don’t push the river”. This intrinsically Taoist wisdom taunted me from its primacy of place on the wall facing my desk. All my stereotypic male traits wanted to move the river faster; straighten its meandering nature; keep it carefully constrained within its banks. There was way too much to be done to accept the river’s natural pace. The river’s course might be more picturesque, but posters be damned, it wasn’t efficient or fit for purpose from my limited view. Time to push it.
Optical illusions are fun. In part because they are universal as far as I know. The word illusion comes from the Latin word illudere, meaning “to mock”. These illusions trick our brains into perceiving something different from physical reality. Three common ones are illusory motion (images that appear to be moving), double pictures (images that contain two pictures in one), and impossible objects (images that make sense when drawn on paper, but which could never exist in real life!).
A couple of separate events in the past week have come together in my musings. The first was the forty-second birthday of my youngest last Sunday. The second was the arrival of my new iPhone. The first boggles my mind. In a different way, so does the second.
A year before jumping from Anglicanism to Unitarianism, I exchanged pulpits for three months with the priest in an Anglican Church in Barcelona. It was not easy for either me or the congregation, for they were of the evangelical branch of Anglicanism. They were quite certain of their conservative Christian beliefs and were none too happy that their vicar had foisted a heretic from New Zealand on them.
My advertised title for today’s musing was “The elections are over. Phew! Now what?”. After the predictably chaotic US election I think a better title would have been “The elections are over. Phooey! Now what?” But. upon reflection, I am now leaning towards “The elections are over. It was a curate’s egg”.
You may not be familiar with the phrase. I wasn’t before coming to New Zealand. It goes back to a cartoon published in Punch by the Victorian era’s most celebrated cartoonist, George du Maurier, grandfather of novelist Daphne du Maurier. The cartoon shows two clerics having breakfast. One is a bishop and the other is a curate, the lowest of the low in Anglican Church hierarchy. The bishop apologises to the curate, “I’m afraid you got a bad egg. Mr Jones.” To which the curate responds, “Oh no, my lord. I assure you parts of it were excellent!” The joke of course is that if part of a boiled egg is bad, all of it is bad.