Life, food, air

BreadIt’s the really hungry who can smell fresh bread a mile away. For those who know their need, God is immediate – not an idea, not a theory, but life, food, air for the stifled spirit and the beaten, despised, exploited body.

Rowan Williams, as quoted by Sara Miles, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion


You get to decide what you worship

You get to decide what you worship …. Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of … life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Random thoughts

Very bad news for competitive blokes

Some admittedly rather varied passages from Julian Barnes’s book Nothing to Be Frightened Of:

The notion of redefining the deity into something that works for you is grotesque.

Here’s one that made me laugh:

We can compare the number of synapses that fire during the female and the male orgasm – very bad news for competitive blokes …

Barnes complains about the bureaucracy that has replaced folklore in hospital dying and tells the following story:

Registering my mother’s death, I was dealt with by a woman with a metronomic delivery and no skill – or luck – in human contact. All the details had been given, the signatures provided, the duplicate copies obtained, and I was rising to leave when she suddenly uttered four soullessly otiose words in a dead voice: ‘That completes the registration.’ She used the same mechanical tone employed by the humanoid bosses of the Football Association, when the last of the ivory balls has been drawn from the velvet bag, and they announce, ‘That completes the draw for the quarter-final round of the FA Cup.’


Fiction · Random thoughts

Where to put one’s gratitude

Zadie Smith’s On Beauty did never quite engage me in the way that I had expected, but here are what for me were the book’s three highlights:

… poetry is the first mark of the truly civilized.

And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people.

It’s like he knows he’s blessed, but he doesn’t know where to put his gratitude because that makes him uncomfortable, because that would be dealing in transcendence – and we all know how he hates to do that. So by denying there are any gifts in the world, any essentially valuable things – that’s how he shortcircuits the gratitude question. If there are no gifts, then he doesn’t have to think about a God who might have given them. But that’s where joy is. I’m on my knees to God every day.

In the last quote it is the book’s male hero’s teenage son speaking and displaying far more wisdom than his father ever manages. There is such profound truth in the equation of gratitude and joy. Being grateful to God – that indeed is where true joy is.