Well how are we doing? Not in the Steve Wright full body check way (you should have two of everything down the side and one of everything down the middle). How does it feel to be in England on All Souls Day in November 2010?
It's grey outside. Kind of goes without saying. We pretty much fade to default grey about now until March or so. Temperature is dropping but if anyone out there finds that unexpected I'm not sure you're a native.
I guess I mean, compared to other places. The French are revolting over working a day over 60. The Yanks are bored with having an intelligent president and are trying to find someone stoopid to line up behind. The Indians are clearing up after the Commonwealth games, Pakistan is still clearing up after a flood. Chile is in good spirits because rescuing miners takes your mind off things. Greece, I think, is still broke. Afghanistan is still deadly. Iraq isn't rushing to embrace normality and Iran is trying to assemble a flat-pack nuclear silo. Spain won the World Cup so they still have feel good. China won't say and the Russians are trying to be chummy, probably because they're broke too.
Although it seems obvious that the BBC have decided to give the government a smooth ride and I would have expected that most folk would see through that, nevertheless the country seems, to me, surprisingly upbeat. Another atrocity might succeed and we'd all be very down, or very dead, although tracing the Yemeni parcel bombers back to the address they sent the parcels from seems to me to suggest that they aren't going to outwit us anytime soon.
But here meantime we seem to have stoically accepted that we need a tough few years to clear our debt and the argument is about the pace of the thing. We just about voted in a bunch who think quick is better than slow (their sex lives must be disappointing) and so we are knuckling down to everything being a bit rubbish for a few years while we cross our fingers that enough people will be earning money to spend it on things which grow businesses.
We've managed, so far, to only have a minor upset about a really quite important thing. But we've also had major upsets about really quite small things such as how much Rooney gets paid and how far you could throw Ann Widdecombe.
Getting stewed about the wrong thing eh? In a tabloid-world our problems are mis-shaped. But I find myself amongst people who are increasingly asking the question, 'Is this it?' Three score years and ten is now looking like four score for most of us but to what end?
The world lost its faith in meta-narratives (one big story that explains everything) a while back but maybe, just maybe, it is now regretting that nothing except short-termism (you can win and spend a million very quickly) replaced it. In the face of that, those of us who wake each morning with a whole story to make sense of the world afresh are beginning to be looked at again not with suspicion but with admiration. All the anti-faith writing of the liberal atheist constituency hasn't done much deconverting. Programmes on TV about people seeking solutions - in silence, in pilgrimage, in giving away their money, in the past, in alternative community - are rife.
I had breakfast with a bunch of guys on Saturday who were all longing to find ways to share their world-view with others but neither wanting to impose nor to get it wrong. Meantime they are doing things like running junior football teams and noticing the amount of kids with absent fathers, or organising the local British Legion poppy appeal.
And I have a hunch that the answer is not to push harder with our stories, not to become more overtly evangelistic (face it, that hasn't worked) but to carry on serving the community with our time and money because that's a good thing to do in its own right.
I just listened to a Rob Bell podcast from Mars Hill Bible Church about the parables of seeds in Matthew. He got some people to try and describe a painting or a piece of music and then asked if anyone else could tell what the pieces were from the words. Of course they couldn't. Writing about art is like playing guitar about gardening and you can make up your own metaphor about the music one. I don't see why you shouldn't do some work for a change.
The farmer lets the weeds and the crop grow side by side. He waits patiently.
There are enough clues in this life for everyone to get it. Despite the goodness of the seed (in this story) some falls where it ain't never going to grow properly. Some will hear and not get it; see and not get it, perceive and not get it. Get it?
I have a feeling there is about to be a spurt of those who get it round here (my locality, world-wide readers). The next few months could be real good. They might put economic woes into a different sort of perspective.
I apologise if you feel that there are too many Americanisms in this piece. It's the company I've been keeping. It certainly gave the spell-checker some work.
So what should I do about it? What should we do about it?
Wait. Hope. Rest. Pray.