Category: Absurdity


The newspaper headlines proclaimed on the lampposts and airwave that caught my attention was “Sex workers do not go to Church” and “Woman bishops: Church of England votes no”. The latter set the blogosphere ablaze with articles highlighting the absurdity of being penis-endowed as one (the most important?) of the criteria for being a bishop.

The first headline did not have merely the same exposure as the latter, but read in conjunction with the latter, telling none the less. But before I continue my way of thinking on the interaction between the two headlines, please allow me a short side comment on my immediate context, the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. It would be easy to side step this debate on woman being part of the clergy because women have been ordained as ministers of the church for some time already. Such a manoeuvre would unfortunately not be the most honest appraisal of how licensed and ordained women experience the equality of the clerical playing field in the church.

It might not be surprising that sex workers, many of them being woman, don’t attend worship in the same place where woman are excluded from facilitating the worship. It might just be that in rethinking what church we desperately need to realize that we are all created in the image of G-d, that to be fully church we both need female and male voices, and that a more feminine approach might be the transformative power we desperately need in our current day and age. Maybe the time has come that we take the Holy Scriptures more seriously if it refers to the church as the Bride of Christ, intrinsically female. If we do that, how is it possible to exclude woman from clergy and make sex workers feel unwelcome?

It’s cold, very cold. This might be stating the obvious but I think that somehow we miss how cold it really is. As the cold front settles in and the effect of winter is clearly visible on frosted window panes and heater sales, we seem to be absorbed in how to stay warm. The result, we forget how cold it really is.

But maybe it is worthwhile to open ourselves to the reality of how cold it really is. This morning, stepping out of the house unshod was a real challenge but at the same time a real reminder that there was a bunch of people sleeping outside last night. Walking to the car barefoot in sub-zero temperatures reminded once again how privilege I am; a warm bowl of soup, followed by a warm shower and a warm and comfortable bed to spend the night.

At the same time the frost was biting at my toes I wondered how many people spared a thought for those who are not so privilege, for those to whom going barefoot is not a choice but the only reality. How many of those who laid siege to shops in search of heaters decided to invite a little discomfort into their own lives in order to gift someone else a little more comfort in theirs?

Traveling barefoot in the freezing cold I am constantly reminded, and made acutely aware, of how selfish (wo)mankind can be. Even as we talk about compassion and espouse self-sacrifice, we seldom dare to venture out of our comfort zones in order to make a real different of those who truly suffers. Indeed we are willing to help others, as long as they make some effort to help themselves and also only as long as it doesn’t really affect our own comfort.

Maybe the time has come that we choose to leave our shoes at home or to leave the heater switched off for one night (at least Eskom will be happy) or use one less blanket for a night. It might just be that we wake up the next morning with a little more gratitude which might just lead to each one of us doing one little thing that will make a big difference in the life of someone not so fortunate. And if we don’t, I venture to say that deep down there will always be that niggling feeling, that idea that we are not the great people we think we are, that we are indeed self-centred fools who are bend on our own destruction; at least we will be destroyed whilst being warm and comfortable.

Barefoot

With shoes we tread without a thought. We stomp around without a care in the world! There is no need; we are not discomforted by the place we choose to rest heavily for awhile. And more often than not we leave a small catastrophe behind with each step, blissfully unaware of the carnage, for our feet are encased in foot armour.

Going barefoot changes the equilibrium; no longer can we go blissfully unaware. We move to the other side of the equation, we are increated, acutely aware of what is underfoot. Stomping hurts, not only where we choose to stomp, but it causes pain to ourselves at the same time. Maybe we should rather say, the carnage is still the same, we just become aware of the effect of our tread, to others and to ourselves.

So please go barefoot, be increated, tread lightly, and live simply. Maybe such acts of simplicity and humbleness will allow others to simply live, and by grace, maybe, with an awareness of God.

People, especially those of faith, are strange. With the number of people on the Earth; trying to  catalogue the strangeness of them all will probably fill enough books to equal all the books written in the same place to date. I will therefore cast a cursory focus on the strangeness of people of faith, especially Christians.

Christians proclaim a faith which centres on grace, given freely by the Father through the working of His Son and enacted by His Spirit. The Earthly example they are bound to follow is that of Jesus the Christ. A man who walked the Earth approximately 2000 years ago; caring for the sick, dining with the outcasts, forgiving prostitutes and other sinners, whilst creating enough disturbance to justify his execution. (So much for a brief confession of faith.)

What gets me, is the way that Christians seem to forget the very example they proclaim to follow; the very core of what constitutes their believe. It seems that more often than not this liberating truth is traded in for a stagnant dogma, which it seems, is more concerned with discriminating between those who tout the party line and thosewho  upset the apple cart.

Christians, instead of embracing the simple life, loving their neighbour, caring for the down and out, spreading grace and dining with the Divine, seem to be on a modern crusade of identifying the cardinal sins, stringing up homosexuals, crucifying those who disturb the gravy train and ignore the marginal.

It is somewhat of a revelation that the sins identified are always those that points the finger at the Other, rather than looking at the Self. It seems you can abuse the Earth, as long as you are not gay; you can covet everything with greedy eyes, as long as you keep the “consumer” faith, and you can love the self at the cost of others as long as you drive by with darkened windows.

It seems that we, (wo)mankind as a whole and especially the faithful, are in serious need of a conversion. It is time that we turn from our torpid laws, on who is in and who is out, to lives filled with mercy, grace and love.

Questioning Reality

“Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one”      –              Albert Einstein

Juxtaposing God and reality is one of the popular statements of the day. God is un-visible and therefore, the argument goes, not a reality. However, before we commit ourselves to this statement too quickly; let us, for a moment, think what reality is.

The term “reality” originates in the Late Latin word realis which refers even further back to res; which might be translated with a thing or object or a matter, affair or circumstance. It was only in 1597 that the meaning of “actually existing” and in 1647 that “real existence” was ascribed to the word reality. Before these dates reality wasn’t purely used in terms of that which is visible.

Modernity seemed to coerce people into accepting the visible as the only reality and that scientific proof is the golden definition of the visible. Proof of reality is however not as easy to come by as it sounds. Before scientific proof is accepted, as the last word on reality, we do have to question how we know that the world, as we experience it, is not a projection of the mind.

Do our bodies exist, do others exist, does the earth exist, do natural laws exist, do others have feelings, thought processes and experiences like ours and do we use language in the same way? These realities, which form the basis of our world and sciences, are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to proof. Using any of our senses as proof, results in a circle argument; very similar to the one religion is accused of.

The reality of the answers to these questions are not based on proof but on acceptance or faith, a throwback to the original meaning of the word reality; that which refer to an object, matter or circumstance of existence.

Each of us accepts the answers to these questions in different ways thus creating our perceptions and, as the saying goes, perception is reality. This makes it impossible for us not to acknowledge and respect each other’s realities and not to realize that Reality might be more than the sum of our realities.

Language of Absurdity

This blog is wholly dependent on language. It is me, the writer, communicating with you, the reader, through the means of a written word, in this case English. This written is translated into a soundbite, physical loud or mental loud, which is then connected to a whole meaning. This meaning is in turn grounded in context, a journey, a history, a personality.

Thus language becomes a mumble-jumble of misunderstanding, educated guesses (sometimes more, sometimes less), understanding one another becomes an absurdity. If all of this holds true, I need to take time to explain how I use absurdity. Webster’s defines absurdity as “having no relation or orderly relationship to human life; lacking order or value”.

I use absurdity in an expanded sense of having no orderly relationship to human life. Absurdity in my context is closely related to reality. Where word interact with word, being with being, misunderstanding with educated guess; where despite all Life still happens, where me and you understand in the midst of misunderstanding. With all the many challenges of communication and taking into account the ever changing dynamics of language it seems that we are doomed to misunderstanding; yet we do understand.

When this absurdity becomes a reality for us, we start to have more sympathy with ourselves and with others. We strive to understand more, with humility and patience. At the same time it creates awe and awareness in the intricacy of life. We begin to understand something of the other logic; what is true for me is not necessarily so for the other, even though we have a shared humanity.

The challenge before us is therefore to live with confidence and awe, to seek to understand and to be understood, risking to be misunderstood and to misunderstand, with humility and grace. It is where we live with this reckless abandonment that we start to understand something of the Absurdity.