Friday, 9 December 2016

Santillana del Mar...

I remember a conversation I had with my brother Alistair when I was 4 and he was 8, about cars. My Grandfather had just bought a new car, a Wolseley 6/80 to replace the 1927 Pontiac he had owned previously. I asked Alistair when the new car would start turning square. It was a sensible question. I had noticed that new cars were small and curvy and old ones were large and square. Obviously cars, like people and trees, changed their shape as they aged. I remember it took Alistair quite a while to explain the evolution of automotive coachwork, and I remember the odd, enlarging sensation as my knowledge, not just of cars, but of time shifted.

No one had taught me, obviously, that cars changed as they aged. I'd noticed things in the world around me and made up a story which explained how these facts fitted together. Which is what we all do, all the time. No one has told Noah that the universe is a set of nested layers, but the story making mechanism between his ears has constructed such a universe out of the interactions he has with the world. We all do this, all the time. We make up stories. When we are awake these stories are more or less tethered to the world around us, or at least to our perceptions of the world. When we are asleep the stories are not tethered and are more free- form. Sometimes our stories are reasonably congruent with our experienced world, but mostly they are only approximately so. Soon Noah will learn that the layers story has some deficiencies and he will replace it with another one, just as my stories of the construction of cars have grown progressively more sophisticated.

Our story making capacity is developed in childhood through play. It is expressed in adulthood through yarn telling and novel writing and film making and blogging. Or theology. Or scientific enquiry. Very early we make a momentous discovery, that by consciously adapting our stories we can hide inconvenient truths or promulgate as fact things we have invented. We learn to lie very early, and we learn, or most of us do, to distinguish between the stories we have consciously constructed as falsehoods and those we have constructed believing them to be accurate descriptions of the world "out there". The fact is though, that the difference is not as clear cut as we assume. Almost everything we believe about the world will one day be shown to be like my four year old's theory on automotive ageing.

"I have come to bear witness to the truth," said Jesus, when Pilate held his life in balance. "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free," he told his opponents. The Gospel call is to allow Jesus to do for us what my brother once did for me: shake loose our ridiculous ideas in order that we might be free of them; that we might be enlarged; that we will be drawn closer to reality and thus made more real ourselves. The process of following is one of letting go, often of things which we had no realised we were capable of surrendering. It is a process of dying, in other words. But as I discovered when I was 4 the dying is, in reality, a doorway into something bigger and better. What is required of us is consent, for God will do the hard work of transformation in us and lead us to the points of relinquishment if we are prepared to allow God to do it.  We are asked for consent, and this consent is best found in us when we make an effort, as best we can, to follow truth and eschew falsehood. Which is what I learned, finally, after all these years, in the Town of the Three Lies.  

1 comment:

Elaine Dent said...

Praying for wisdom in how to speak truth.