Monday, December 19, 2016

Midnight Special and a farewell to 2016

Some of the better stuff I've learned from this rather disappointing year were blended and encapsulated beautifully in the excellent Midnight Special.

This sci-fi film received mixed reviews last year. It follows a supernaturally and dangerously gifted boy, adopted by a cult and rescued by parents who have an alternative vision for his future that frustrates doomsday believers and war-mongering governments.

Tension is maintained by superb acting and an unsettling chase to the end, when a world within and beyond our own is dramatically revealed to claim the child. It is a tale of learning to let go of the very thing that seems to offer hope and power, in order to let it survive.

This year, our government led us into a disastrous referendum simply in order to grasp at straws of temporary power. Our media and other opportunists used this as an excuse to manipulate the most vulnerable simply for the kick of holding sway (and profit). The results are terrifying. Closer to home, churches prioritise empire and legalism over the sanctity of human freedom; I grasp at opportunities for influence and admiration with scant regard for the wellbeing of others.

It is so important not to obsess over and cling to everything we can get. Our lives are peppered with beautiful, breathtaking moments and people and powers and pleasures and it is understandable we want to capture them. But when we try, they are destroyed or they become destructive addictions.

Life can be a terrifying journey of letting go of the things we thought we needed to survive. Advent is a great reminder of this. It focuses on a tiny baby, born in poverty, whose journey to adulthood comprised steps of courageous surrender and whose ending was self-sacrifice; it focuses on the possibility of living an authentic, beautiful and eternally-significant human life.

It's understandable to respond to 2016 by fearfully grabbing as much as we can to guarantee a better 2017. May Advent and Midnight Special show me a better way.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Waiting room.

Advent gets swallowed up by Christmas, which wastes lots of the lovely stuff we could get out of early December.

It's a conversational favourite, isn't it, how November and December - and earlier - are nibbled out of our hands by manic shops and beautifully deceptive adverts; school nativities; summertime populating of the holiday calendar?

It is too easy to criticise these superficialities, to have a dig at Other People who indulge in or force us to indulge in ever-earlier shopping, planning and decorating. Really, we are all guilty of coveting a future Christmas; of stunted courage and imagination. We while away the cold, dark, wet days of the present with our plans for a perfect future that never arrives quite right. And is sometimes dreadfully disappointing.

My chosen Advent book emphasises the nobility of a waiting state of mind, describing the best kind of life as one of a 'chosen unfulfilment'. This sounds (unappealingly) abstract but it is easy to apply.

In my case, one way I fail to wait is in my relationships. I am always managing them towards something different and better. I allow myself to be consumed with irritation at a loved one because they fail to behave right, enjoy my hospitality 'properly', treat me with indulgence or act healthy and happy at my convenience. I hurry selected friendships along, failing to make space for the 'I'm not quite sure about you yet' phase. I try to manufacture Christmas perfection in my relationships. So, I am always disappointed.

For you, this may not be an issue - but I'm sure different forms of management, control and 'rush' towards an ever-evasive future will be relevant.

Advent is a rich resource because it is the seasonal symbol of the mortal 'present'. It gives us special opportunity to think about the incompletion, the 'not yet' of our moment. To consider how we waste our lives by forcing them to become a Future we can never control or even reach. To consider how to live hopefully but not imperiously.

Savour it, if you can.