It is Good Friday. I once again maintained a Furneaux family tradition quite alone by eating far too many Hot Cross Buns. I am anticipating chocolate eggs on Sunday and looked forward to having the family around me for a few extra days over the weekend instead of finding myself alone at the computer all day.
And then this morning, instead of the usual Homes Under the Hammer or Animal 24/7 with my coffee I found myself catching the final few minutes of Bettany Hughes discussing forgiveness, and how hard we have to work to say ‘I forgive you’ or ‘I am sorry’ with any true meaning. I cannot say my life has been transformed, but my morning certainly has been. I remained seated for the first part of The Story of Jesus, examining the man’s life from an historical perspective and reading of the four gospels. Suddenly, the day seemed to have some significance beyond buns and chocolate. As my husband continued with some dubious puns and general mocking of religion it occurred to me that the increasing secularisation of society might have some direct correlation to increases in stress, anxiety and depression. I am sure this is not an original thought, but it crystallised for me the idea that my search for a place in the world, my anxiety about the future and my desperate need to find peace of mind and a place of safety might relate to my relationship with society as a whole.
This thought may not have been prompted by Bettany Hughes at all. I felt the first stirrings yesterday; once when I went to browse in Marks & Spencer and saw a whole range of chick and bunny decorated kitchenware. Who needs (or has the money for) tea towels, tea pots, cereal bowls, etc etc specifically for Easter? Christmas has long been lost to rampant commercialisation, but there has always been something rather more reserved about Easter, shocking though it is to see chocolate eggs in Sainsbury’s in January. I also thought shops had to remain shut on Easter Sunday, but on checking opening times for my daughter I found that Clarks Shopping Village in Street is open all day. Is there now no day in the year where we have to sit quietly with our own thoughts? Or does society now demand constant opportunities for distraction? Is our need for chicks and bunnies to celebrate one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar more to do with our love of childhood; our nostalgia at the loss of innocence?
I have never been able to commit to organised religion. I have long suspected that the need to ‘find God’ related more to my desire to shift responsibility for my life on to someone else than a real need for his spiritual presence in my life. However, listening to Bettany Hughes; drifting along on the calm voice of Archbishop Rowan Williams; feeling uplifted by the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; I felt more strongly than ever that we all need to find some peace in this mad world.
I believe, though, that to find peace you need to find truth. A real truth and an understanding of what is truly right and wrong in this world. With the increasing commercialisation of every aspect of society and the state of the British media how can we succeed in that search? Only yesterday the Daily Express printed figures about the number of people on long-term Incapacity Benefit owing to what they clearly saw as ‘lifestyle choices’ – obesity, drug and alcohol addiction. The words were then taken across internet news channels and supported by Conservative politicians. Apparently these ‘scroungers’ are costing us billions of pounds a year. Apart from the fact that as my friend wurzelmeone pointed out these claims amounted to less than 4% of the total, are these people seriously suggesting that people are staying on drugs, ruining their lives and relationships with addictions and eating until they can’t get out of a chair just to avoid work? Shouldn’t we be berating the fact that the budgets of voluntary sector organisations supporting these people out of self-destruction have been slashed in recent months whilst investment bankers continue to reap the rewards of their own destructive behaviours – gambling with our money? Or looking at our enthusiasm for another war in the Middle East where our oil interests lie when there are dictators in other areas of the world who can continue to persecute their own people without our intervention?
How can I, or anyone in society interested in finding a way to reconcile opposing values in the years to come, find the ‘truth’ necessary to offer the calm atmosphere necessary for clear and rational thought?
I have on many occasions been ‘accused’ of ‘thinking too much’, of being ‘too sensitive’. ‘Life isn’t like that, get on with it!’ is a phrase thrown at me on suggesting there ought to be a different way.
Well on Good Friday, whether you have an interest in established religion, seek a spirituality of your own or just ‘get on with it’ I think we ought to take a long hard look at the way we live now. It is not only me that needs to find some place of safety in this mad world.