Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Told you so....

In the last entry I mentioned in passing the likelihood of technology biting back; its tendency to rear up on it masters. As I type this I face the dilemma of what to do with a car that is causing many hundreds upon hundreds euro worth of damage upon my bank account. A recently fixed timing belt problem has given way to a problem with high oil consumption, a 'soaked' ignition and a patchy performance, a number of breakdowns and much frustration and anxiety. And when one depends as much as I do on a car to get through an ordinary day's work, this is an unhappy situation to say the least.

I have loved driving ever since the day I passed my test. I had failed my first test, at about seventeen, taken in Belfast along unfamiliar and crowded roads, rather than the comforting well used routes of my own area. My then instructor - a sarcastic indifferent character who used to munch on sandwiches as he directed me impatiently to the home of the next student - casually remarked: 'Yes, I thought you wouldn't pass, you know.' Which comment I felt said more about him than about me. But my next time round a year later was with the genuis of driving instruction who had led many of my family members - first time - through their paces to an early and successful result. His first comment when I took my initial lesson with him astounded me: 'Well, you're not a bad little driver. No problem here I think.' This was the first encouraging thing I had ever heard with regard to my driving ability. So convinced was I by my last instructor that I was a hopeless case that to learn that I was just inexperienced but really all right with no reason at all not to succeed bolstered me immensely. Shall I give credit to my first tutor by implying that  my being 'not a bad little driver' might have been down at least some way to him? I'd like to be churlish and say 'no'. My new instructor's method was very different and opened the mysteries of driving technique to me in such a clear way, I feel confident that he would've succeeded with me had I come to him brand new.

Thus the difference between the encouraging word and the discouraging word; the affirming, interested and informed tutoring of the one, the casual, sarky indifference of the other. What a relief it was that I finally passed the test though I was coolness itself. 'Didn't you hear what I said?' asked the examiner, 'I've said you've passed.' I was only relieved, however, not particularly pleased except that I had achieved one of the things that young people my age generally set out to achieve.

'Okay,' said my mother, handing me her car keys, 'Go out and drive around by yourself.' I told myself I was exhuasted by my  trial and had no intention of being a car driver could I possibly avoid it. Being a fully qualified driver was one thing, but I hadn't any great desire to actually drive at this point. But she insisted. I took the car out, and as I trawled the roads and streets by myself, realized that my world had expanded in a delightful and powerful way. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted all by myself; no buses, no reliance on lifts. Me, myself. I had power over me and my journeys. And indeed activities, friendships, social life, and working life have all centred at some stage, and depended upon my ability, to master my own motorized destiny.

So, do I try for a new car? Do I patch up the old Zafira which has so far proved so completely right for my needs? Watch this space.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dipping a Toe....

Setting aside - for the moment - my usual suspicion of anything requiring more than than five candle-power to operate, I'm diving into the world of blogging. Well, dipping a toe. I have nothing against technology per se. I just fully expect that the very same devices and electronic/mechanical miracles which now rule our lives are bound, at some time, to rear up at us and bite us cheerfully and painfully on our very human and vulnerable behinds. I love the convenience of cars, computers, medical science and ATMS as much as the next victim; but I submit myself to the law that inevitably they will break, disappoint, crash and tyrannise, and that it is likely we are all on our way to that dystopia where - come the revolution - we will be the servants and our mobile phones will rule the earth. I jest, of course. I think.  But enough of that......

Not being under the impression that anything I write will necessarily be of interest, I tell myself I do this for my own edification. And the notion that I should find that exercise alone satisfying is not altogether as ludicrous as it sounds if one bears in mind I am an Anglican priest, arguably well used to the sensation of hearing my own voice and wondering, periodically, if anyone else is as well. This is not derogatory to my congregations, who are dear, good people, but rather a compliment to their good sense, that out of the huge fund of talking, preaching, smiling, shaking hands, small-talk etc etc which make up the budget of any normal clergyperson's life, only some of it can possibly ever be worth attending to with any degree of seriousness or attention.

Clergy are, by profession, used to living through the words they use; in worship, in prayer life, in public and private life. Our ideas on life, God and the universe are shared through words; whether it's a wedding or a baptism or a funeral it is words we use to control, contain and facilitate. We chair meetings with words, we teach Christian truths with words, even share our Holy Communion, which is a meal, with words; the right words that just have to be said otherwise it will not be a Holy Communion meal, but merely bread and wine! Words rule. Except they don't. Not really. Emotions, feelings, deep experience rule us. Inexpressible, unarticulated, unacknowledged shadows lurk in our sub-conscious and we are ruled by these shaded half-light impressions more than we realize. Words help us to maintain the idea we are in control of it all.

And perhaps that is what I'm doing with this blog. Well, partly....

Below I've quoted the poem from which I borrowed the title of the blog. There has always been something attractive in the idea that, one way or another, we always have 'miles to go'. Whether intellectually, spiritually, psychically - as individuals or as a species. It's an interesting thought, to me, that even as he approached the end of his time on earth while dying on the cross or defying death in the garden-tomb, even Jesus Christ had 'miles to go' having become a participant in this serious business of being human. I think we journey with him; I think we journey with God. But my journey will be different to the journey of the person next to me; and will be different to the journey you are taking.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost