Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pause for Thought
The Zoe Ball Show
BBC Radio 2
Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Where I come from in Quebec, you drive through the Laurentian Mountains just north of Montreal and you know you’re about to hit a town because you can see the spire or steeple of the church. You see it long before you see the white metal roofs of the village houses nestled in the hills.

Church steeples and spires don’t only represent competition between towns (or religious denominations) for pre-eminence with respect to height. They are visible symbols both of hope and defiance.

They’re the great “up yours” to the idea that this is all we are – labourers in the employ of the local landlord, humble creatures who live out their lives shackled to drudgery before they die.

Like an enormous dinner party, like a bottle of really good red wine, like a concert at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, like some art hanging against the back wall of the Church behind the altar there are probably more economical ways of cooking food, or quicker ways of fermenting grapes or less arduous ways of making a statement with paint on canvas.

But they don’t do the same thing.

If you go to hear Handel’s Messiah this Christmas you’ll notice that when the choir starts belting out the Hallelujah Chorus the audience stands up –the semi-employed, the newly abandoned, the underappreciated, those condemned to being ordinary – they stand up. And a finger – the finger in this case of the composer or the artist – points up and beyond.

The human being is noble. The human being is the object of God’s love. People who are stuck in one place can look within themselves or beyond themselves and find a place for their foot to take another step.

A church spire or steeple may only be wood or iron or bricks or stone but it points in the right direction.

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. PFT begins 0:21.23 - just a little way along the audio bar.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pass the Popcorn!

Notwithstanding the fact that theists and atheists alike might be lining up to say...

"Hold on a minute, this individual doesn't speak for me because... (insert whichever ad hominem comment applies best)"

...the fact that two people well used to jousting from a podium - Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens - are going to be squaring up on opposite sides of the following statement:

Be it resolved: Religion is a force for good in the world....

may make this something worth watching. Tickets at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto are now, apparently, sold out. I see a link to a live and archived feed (at $4.99 CAD a pop) but nothing immediately evident which will allow me to watch it afterwards for free.

I guess it's Tony's speaking fees which are keeping this behind the wall.

I might have to be satisfied with the summary or the blow-by-blow. If anyone finds a good pirated post-facto link, let me know.

An article from the Globe and Mail includes pre-debate interviews with both men and a few other snippets.

This side of the pond sees an article in today's Independent outlining what the two arguments might be.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Communion on the Moon

Something I missed along the way and did not know.

Buzz Aldrin, the second astronaut to set foot on the moon:

"I unstowed the elements in their flight packets. I put them and the scripture reading on the little table in front of the abort guidance-system computer. Then I called Houston: 'Houston, this is Eagle ... I would like to request a few moments' silence. I would like to invite each person listening in to contemplate for a few moments the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.'

For me, this meant taking communion. In the blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine. I poured wine into the chalice my parish had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever to be poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were consecrated elements."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Object Lessons from Men in Tall Hats

While Prince William was announcing his engagement to a young woman he's known for some nine years and then flying off to rescue people with chest pains from the mountainsides in his helicopter (part of his day job), the blogging Area Bishop of Willesden was venting his spleen on Facebook about the royal wedding, what it would cost, how the marriage wouldn't last, and what philanderers the Royals were at the best of times anyway.

People who are fond of Pete Broadbent, the offending bishop, have been tilting at windmills for the last day or so about how even Bishops have a right to their opinions, how the Daily Mail had misquoted him or pointing out (quite rightly) that the Daily Mail was no friend of the Royals at the best of times and were guilty therefore of significant hypocrisy in chiding the bishop for his comments on his personal Facebook page.

Well sir, today the Episcopal Gentleman apologised on the Bishop of London's website. People who are fond of Pete Broadbent were quick to point out the nobility of this apology but I suspect that his boss, the Bishop of London, had pulled his mitre down over his head and threatened to put a crozier where the sun don't shine unless such an apology was forthcoming.

Several notes to self about inside thoughts and outside thoughts have been generated. Nothing better than a good object lesson from one's betters.