I’ve just been watching on the BBC website pictures of people fighting and pushing and yelling around items in supermarkets on so-called black Friday. Tesco’s et al should be ashamed of themselves it’s demeaning of human dignity and respect and it’s a tragedy in the sense of who we are. For we are more than consumers, much, much more and yet the culture is restricting and narrowing our vision of who we are to what we own and what we can get for basically nothing. Watching a particular scene of people with their hands outstretched for TVs was rather chilling and reminded me of similar pictures where the starving have their hands outstretched for a bowl of rice. It’s the system that grinds us down – the post capitalist era is reaching a new low and clearly can’t continue. I guess I think it’s immoral and we all become players (whether we shop on Black Friday or not) manipulated in some terrible game of profit and of course of destruction… Because our level of consumption is both unnecessary and not sustainable.
And for those of us who are Christians there is something so cynical and so calculated or perhaps also so true in the naming of the day as Black Friday which is in bleak contrast to Good Friday where the image is of Christ stripped of all – yes and his dignity – but nailed to the cross in absolute surrender to the will of God.
I’ve been struggling for a while to finish the book The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos… I don’t quite know why it has taken so long to pick it up again. It seemed that I was always leaving it for something that seemed more exciting or easier so in the end I stopped reading it. I think it may be because this book contains much to reflect on about both the world and faith. It is deeply counter cultural and so very much not of the 21st century…. and that in itself is a challenge
But I am moved to share the ending where the writer speaks of the strange mistrust that one can have about oneself. By the end of the book he feels that has gone and that the conflict is done. He writes,’ I am reconciled to myself, to the poor shell of me.’
He goes on to say how easy it is to hate oneself and that true grace is to forget.
‘Yet if pride could die in us, the supreme grace would be to love oneself in all simplicity – as one would love any one of those who themselves have suffered and loved in Christ.’
This seems so similar to the achievement sometimes discussed in psychoanalytic work of feeling compassion for oneself – a genuine compassion not self-pity or narcissistic melancholy but rather an understanding and appreciation of who one is despite everything.
Life seems very one-dimensional if there is no allowance for the spiritual. There is now a sense in which the rational has to prevail and everything is black or white or any shades of grey are more about a best-selling book than about ambiguity. The spiritual is both ridiculed and denied; and without it the world is a disenchanted place. The church is largely discredited and there are many good reasons why that has happened but it is still somewhere where people can go to allow for the mysterious. At Sung Eucharist this morning we acknowledged our place in the mystical body of Christ – outside there’s the sound of the secular world going about its business but inside as we drink Christ’s blood and eat his body something else is going on. And experience is all and who is to deny what happens in this feast? For something is going on and something that feels so ‘other’ from the norm. Allowing for the spiritual allows for the expansion of our psyche and our self and mystery. There is also the sense that we are part of something bigger than we can imagine and something so much more than ourselves: indeed this morning we welcomed the saints and the cloud of witnesses that surround us all the time. The non-rational need not be something that we are ashamed of but rather it is the stuff of life and needs to be understood as contributing to ourselves as at least two-dimensional or if not three-dimensional beings.