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It takes a special kind of person to still know how to use a semi-colon whilst simultaneously blind drunk and desperate for the loo; like this post if you are that person.

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I think short stories are more honest than novels, because short stories don’t have to resolve.

I am scared, of course

there may be no chemistry

only alchemy,

as golden hopes turn to lead.

 

In the meantime,

like a fool

I fall for the idea of you;

the Fenchurch-ex-machina in these words of yours,

And my heart already lodged between the cogs.

 

Its like we found us in the midst of the storm,

and we are both equally lost.

If i cling to you now,

will we sink like a stone?

Or grab each other’s bootstraps

and fly.

If you have ever, as a child
Whined “Its not fair”
At some lost party game
Or the imposition of bedtime

And if, in response
Your Father sighed
“Life’s not fair”
In weary resignation you do not yet comprehend

And if your response
Exasperated
Was to cry “don’t make it worse”

Well then,
What will you do
For the children who go to bed hungry
Who take it in turns to eat
Or the mother who still cannot feed them
after long hours worked?

IF campaign: http://enoughfoodif.org

Today, the twenty-first day of January in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen, is a day that will live long in the memory.

Oh not cos of some shenanigans with a President across the pond, or at least not only for that.  Not even for the fact that its Martin Luther King day, although that’s pretty cool too.  No, today will live long, in my memory at least, because today is the day that i saved my lampshade.

I didn’t set out to save a lampshade.  Like so many of the best stories, the purpose of my journey only became apparent in the midst of it.  My initial intention as I schlepped out in the gathering slush was to buy plumbing bits and to look at blinds.  It wasn’t until I’d finished with the blinds and embarked for the plumbing aisle that I discovered the subject of this tale.  It was obscured by three superficially similar but ultimately entirely different lampshades, that had initially attracted my attention.  I needed a lampshade for my bedroom and these looked like they might fit the bill.  I liked the design – one of those wicker ball type things – and the colour was perfect, but… they seemed poorly put together; there was something just not quite right about them.  And this was when what is now my lampshade caught my eye.  Maybe it was from a previous batch, or perhaps even a different supplier… whatever the reason, this lampshade had a much denser and more even weave.  It had a look to it that felt right and I knew I had found my lampshade! 

All was well, except of course that the path of true home decor never does run smooth.  The lampshade had lost all its packaging and a few of the threads that made it up had become worn and come loose.  No big deal in itself, but crucially, the clip that would hold the lampshade onto the light fitting was missing.  My lampshade, whilst beautiful, was essentially useless.

I think most people at this point would have bought one of the similar lampshades, come home and fitted it without difficulty or a second thought and got on with their lives.  Maybe some people would have left all the lampshades and looked out for similar products elsewhere.  I am not most people.  I did not do this.  I could not do this.  It was far too late.  I had now formed an emotional bond with the lampshade.  There was no going back.  This was now a rescue mission. 

I’ve already told you I was looking for plumbing products and if i now tell you I know nothing about plumbing you might begin to see that I don’t tend to do things the easy way.  I looked at this lampshade that I felt, because of its tight and intricate weave, would look unusually beautiful with the light shining out of it, but that I could also see was missing all the practical bits, and I saw a metaphore for how I – rightly or wrongly – view myself.  I was now, God help me, empathising with the lampshade.  Not just that; identifying with it. 

Like the lampshade, I am far from practical.  I bought a wreck of a house partly out of sheer, naive folly and partly out of a bloody minded, do or die attempt to develop some kind of facility for the actually physical, rather than merely theoretical.  But its still a work in progress; indeed my life in general is. 

In the same way that any beauty or purpose the lampshade may have had was undermined by what it lacked, I often feel the frustration that results from the sensation that there are crucial parts missing, severely impeding the functionality of the whole.

So I had a reason for choosing this awkward and difficult lampshade.  More than that, though, i wasn’t after just a lampshade anymore; I had caught a sniff of the thread of a story.  Most people when they lie in bed and stare up at the ceiling see a lampshade.  I am going to see a story.  And not just any story – a redemption story.  A story about how a beautiful, broken thing was rescued and tenderly carried back through the snow and the cold and, in true darkest-hour-is-just-before-dawn style, the hail and biting wind that shot up out of nowhere as we made the final turn.  A story about how that broken thing will be mended so that it can perform the task for which it was created.  A story about how the frustration of beauty without purpose was transformed to beauty with not just purpose but also identity and meaning.  I got all this from a lampshade that most people would dismiss as broken, and the store might even have thrown away.  I’m kinda weird like that, but i’m also kinda glad, at least on this occasion, cos it’s gonna be great fixing this lampshade all up and seeing the result of that labour.  It’s certainly not the easy way but it is good, and it is satisfying and it is meaningful.

And more than that; because I am a romantic, and because I still at least have, if not definitely faith then certainly hope, and because this is how redemption stories work, I can’t help but want to draw a parallel with the possibility that something far beyond me looks at me like I look at my lampshade.  I don’t know, I’m not sure that I even believe, but I sure hope so.  I hope I’m not still sitting on the shelf (ha!) in the store and there’s no-one and nothing out there and no story to this existence and no hope for the brokenness and no chance that the beauty and meaning that aches to pour out of each of us could ever come to fruition.

No.  I know i’m a long way from home yet, and I’m certainly not all fixed up and the light is definitely not shining, but I hope I’ve made a start on the journey.  I hope I’m on the way. 

And in the meantime, i have a lampshade to restore.

So it turns out that tonight, as a result of getting a bit pissed and having a good time, I am feeling more of a maverick who forges his own path and less of a fuckwit failure who can’t achieve even the simplest of things.

Tomorrow I have to get up ridiculously early to go to a place I don’t want to go, to do a job that I hate.

At lunchtime, I will be done for Christmas.  Eleven and a half days of freedom.  Count ’em.  Eleven and a half.

Life is a weird and wonderful thing.  It all depends entirely on your point of view.  Right now, i’m swinging about like a pendulum.  Who knows where I’ll end up?

Showering in the half light

I find myself thinking of you

I wonder where you are now

And how you are with that.

I hope you are well.

[Editor’s note: written (mostly) a week last sunday (2nd december) and only posted today]

I don’t do small talk.  This makes life difficult sometimes.

Like meeting new people.

Last night we went to this thing called “Peace,Love and Misunderstanding“.  It was sort of like a book launch kind of thing.  We went to listen to a guy called Brian McLaren speak about his new book.  It was a good thing to go to.  There wasn’t really any small talk.  The talk was quite big, really.  Which was refreshing.  Like a good night’s sleep.  Or a really nice meal with friends.  Which also happened yesterday.

The small talk thing… Its not that i don’t understand the point of it; I do.  I get that it is a necessary step in the development of social interaction with others.

I’m typing this sat with the friends i went to the thing with last night.  I haven’t been home since.  Ros made us dinner before the thing and then i stayed over in their spare room and went to church with Tim this morning and then we met up with people for lunch and now we’re sat playing with the internet on our phones and I’m typing this on their laptop that i’ve borrowed and we’re not really talking much. We don’t have to; they’re good friends.

This summer i was at Greenbelt, and I was fortunate enough to speak briefly with the Reverend Doctor NT Wright.  I didn’t engage in small-talk.  He was very gracious about that.

At the thing last night i recognised three of the women who were there.  Two of them i kinda fancy.  Two of them i massively respect.  Two of them i’ve met.  Unfortunately, none of the women got three out of three.  I didn’t talk to any of them.  It would probably have involved small talk.

I asked the Reverend Doctor NT Wright how it is possible to have hope – or maybe i said how can we trust God when we can’t see him, or maybe… well I’m not sure exactly what I said.  I rambled a bit cos i knew exactly what i wanted to ask but I’d only just met the guy, and I didn’t want to seem too desperate.  What i wanted to ask was; how can i know if its true?  Because it matters whether it is true.

At the thing last night, Mr McLaren talked about finding an identity that was not based on our hostility towards another person or group.  I think this is a good idea.  I am ok at not feeling hostile to others, i think.  I am less good at finding an identity.

Now my friends are sorting out their Christmas list.  I’m glad they are comfortable enough for me to be here typing away on the laptop i borrowed from them whilst they do admin stuff and surf the net on their phones.  I’m glad of the richness of their company.  I’m glad they don’t feel the need to “hospitalise” me.  I’m glad that i don’t feel too insecure about their willingness to accommodate me.  I know myself well enough to know its good i’m not on my own at home right now.  To know i need other people around to not talk to.

The Reverend Doctor Tom Wright advised me that hope could be found in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  That everything depended on whether this was really true.  It seemed like a good answer to me.

Its not even that I dislike small talk, or find it boring and frustrating.

Which I do.

Its just that i’m appallingly bad at it.  I get self-conscious.  I feel awkward.  I can’t think of things to say.

At the thing last night Mr McLaren said he thought the founders of the world’s major religions would treat each other with more respect than their followers treat each other.  I think he might well be right.  Maybe the founders of the world’s major religions just generally treated other people with more respect than most people do.  Maybe i have a really oversensitive conceptualisation of what respect is.  I don’t know.

When I met the Reverend Doctor NT Wright, i was brave enough to monopolise his attention for one further question.  I didn’t want to be greedy, but i was kinda desperate to know.  I asked how i could acknowledge God without denying my experience of the brokenness of the world.  I really meant “seek God”, or even “not hate God, even if he/she/it does exist” rather than “acknowledge God”, but i wasn’t prepared to be that vulnerable.

My Friends are encouraging me to write.  They know it is a good thing for me to do. They say i don’t do it enough.  They are providing me with the practical space and time and non-invasive company i need in order to write today.  I love my friends.

At the thing, Mr McLaren said he thought many people had a strong identity that was very defined and, consequently, very hostile towards people who didn’t fit this definition.  And that many people had an identity that welcome diversity but was very wishy-washy and poorly defined as a result.  Mr McLaren thought it was possible to have an identity that was both strong and hospitable.  I think he is right.  I would like to have this kind of identity.

Last night, when Mr McLaren finished talking and everyone started standing up and milling about, i didn’t go and talk to the people i recognised.  Partly cos my friends were ready to go.  Partly cos i don’t like small talk and i didn’t want to feel awkward.  Mostly cos i knew what i wanted to ask them and i didn’t want to seem desperate.

When i asked the Reverend Dr N.T. Wright my second question – the question about how to handle my despair – he advised me to read the Psalms as a spiritual discipline.  He said they’d take me deep down into my despair and right out the other side. I have tried to do this but I have found it kind of hard.  Some of the psalms seem pretty Jingoistic.  Some of them feel quite… Hostile.

I am not generally hostile.  Sometimes i get angry.  Usually at myself.  Mostly i get sad.  And i lose respect for people.

My friends know that some times i get lonely, and so they tease me that when we are out and about they will play a game of “Have you met Ted?” with me.  Its OK, though – they are only teasing; they are not actually that mean.  Probably.  But they do half play this game when we are around other people they know and i don’t, like at lunchtime today.   I usually only tell them about half of how i feel about this, or about how much i might happen to be intrigued by someone they introduce.  They are amongst my best friends, and i struggle to tell them how i feel.

What i wanted to ask the women i recognised last night is this: Will you affirm my basic humanity?  Will you affirm that i have value as a human being so that i can form an identity that is not so insecure.  But i didn’t ask this, obviously.  I didn’t even ask this subconsciously, like most people do, through the medium of small talk.  I guess i wasn’t prepared to be that vulnerable.  Sometimes, my identity is fucked.  Which can be hellish inconvenient.  Not least because of its propensity to become a self perpetuating thing.  This can be kind of frustrating.

It is a privilege to listen to big talk – complex talk, talk that wrestles with difficult, important things, talk that acknowledges pain and despair and other people’s wildly differing points of view; talk that is not small.  I find such talk refreshing, like a good night’s sleep, or a meal with friends.

I think liking such talk is part of my identity.  I don’t like small talk, though.  Maybe i should work on that.

Jesus said to them – “when you connect, use this protocol:

“Our Provider, who art in heaven

Trending be your name.

Your Social Network Come.

Your will be done, online as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily RSS feed,

and forgive us our internet history, as we forgive those who troll against us.

Lead us not into phishing sites and deliver us from spam email.

For thine be the network, the cloud and the meme, without timing out, amen”

There’s a pebble in my shoe,
and on this Rock…
I stand or fall:
It’s a stumbling block;
Who knew?