A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Addicted to blog

Last night Christian Focus had a communion/prayer meeting, and at one point during prayer I suddenly thought, I spend longer blogging than I do praying.


I tried hastily to retract the thought, 'cause, you know, blogging's a bit like prayer. You're honest about your life, and sometimes you get an answer, and usually not the one you expected... Besides, blogging is my therapy. I'd go mad without blogging! Blogging is my baby, I can't abandon my baby!


Lent is so evil. If it wasn't Lent tomorrow, I could quite happily have, say, a fortnight's blogfast, without too much trouble. But no, it's Lent. Grr.

I've already signed up to take part in a Lent blog, with a group of people all reflecting on Lent/God etc. So I've decided to give this blog a rest (although technically Lent doesn't include Sundays, so may see you then ;) ), and not post endless stuff about what I'm having for tea tonight or how hooded teachers being stopped by security guards demonstrates equality, or whatever, and actually try taking part in a community for once.

So essentially I'm going to be giving my general blogging a rest and from now on, I'm blogging for the Lord! Or something. But yeah, see me at the Lent blog for the next 40 days (minus Sundays). If you want to sign up too I'm sure there's still time :) My posts will be the ones labelled "Posted by Helen Louise".

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Monday, February 27, 2006

The troubling questions

I seem to be having a lot of conversations with different 'sorts' of Christians lately. (speaking of which, hi Dave :) ) Went on retreat to a (Church of England) monastery in Mirfield this weekend, and the ex RC chaplain of York university came along and gave some talks. I had a long conversation with him on Saturday. I can see why he was such a popular chaplain :) He was very gentle and had so much compassion. One thing that he said stuck in my mind - "God is love, all the time. Not just when he's in a good mood - all the time."

Complex questions of hell, judgement, eschatology, destiny, salvation, faith and works aside, I realised that my "crisis of faith" boiled down to the old questions that continue to trouble me and everyone else:

Does God love me?
Does God love everyone else?
Will he always love us?

I do not wish to take God's grace lightly - I would not wish to say, "God loves me, I'm safe, I can do anything I like, I need not strive or struggle or even obey...", employing some kind of emotional blackmail on God; "you have to love me so I'll do as I like", like a husband who'd beat his wife if he knew she wouldn't leave him, or a daughter who knows that her parents will always feed and house her, so ignores their discipline and breaks the rules, despite any heartfelt pleas to do otherwise.

But I do find it so very hard to believe that there is security in God's love. I am a fool, a sinner and a doubter, and I fear that God will get bored with my foolishness and sinfulness and doubt and *bang* my name's gone from the Book of Life. I find it hard to believe there is persistence in God's love - can I trust him to keep hounding my friends, relatives, acquaintances, enemies even, and all those billions of people I will never meet and can't lead to Jesus? Will he pursue them so that they can at least make the choice to turn and follow him? Or will he shut the door on the last few prodigals who turn for home?

Is it possible that "God is love" is the most troubling phrase in the Bible?

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Give me a chance at being young, hip and counter-culture

I suspect, like many students before me, I'm suffering from being the Inhabitant of an Idealistic Dream World, but the corporations have started their recruitment drive... and ick.

Today I was handed a free smoothie (very nice, despite its small amount of banana), and a card suggesting that perhaps the place for me is in auditing or maybe tax assessment! If you know you're intellectual but creative as well, tax is the place for you!

Probably this is just a standard student hippy response (says the girl who buys coffee at Starbucks) but please save me from working in auditing. Or tax. Unless I'm somehow doing it for some company set up to Spread the Love and Feel the Peace, Man.

Or at least please give me a few years of being pretentiously counter-culture before I sell out.

Please. It's all I ask. Or at least don't make me wear a suit to work.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hooded teacher deemed security risk

Just read an interesting story on BBC news:

A supermarket has apologised to a 58-year-old school teacher who was asked by an over-zealous security guard to remove her hooded top.

...Mrs Parncutt, a teaching assistant at Longleaze School in Wooton Bassett said: "I couldn't believe he was talking to me. I'm supposed to look like a nasty thug?"
Hooded tops have been banned from some shopping centres and schools because they conceal the face and have been associated with crime and anti-social behaviour.
The company said it did not have a hoodie ban in its stores, and added: "We are sorry if this made Mrs Parncutt feel uncomfortable in any way.
"We will be speaking to our security staff to make sure this doesn't happen again."

I thought this was interesting.

Granted, 58 year olds generally aren't the typical recipients of Anti-Social Behavioural Orders, and in this case, since no hoodie ban was in place, it seems rather rude of the security guard to hassle the woman... but there seems to be an implicit assumption in this story that I'm not sure I agree with.

I assume that people are wary about hoodies because they conceal the face from CCTV cameras - at least that's the reason Bluewater gave for their hoodie ban last year. It is very likely that Mrs Parncutt is no thug, but isn't it at least possible she might be a shoplifter?

What would have happened if a teenage boy had been hassled to put his hood down, I wonder? Since there was no specific ban he could have complained at unfair treatment. Would the story have made the BBC news? (This story's linked on the front page at the moment)

Would he even have received an apology from the store?

Is it advisable for a security guard to consider someone a potential trouble-maker based solely on their age and gender?


Monday, February 20, 2006

Simple Christianity?

A few years ago now I remember being in a discussion on anarchy and religion. There were a lot of agnostic anarchists, a few Pagans, one guy who was trying to decide if he was still Catholic, a few Christians and one very quiet Muslim girl who looked intimidated when asked about the Qur'an (and me, of course. Oh, and Matthew, who's converted to Judaism now).

It was meant to be an open discussion but it was more of an open discussion for people with enough confidence to blurt out their point of view, usually interrupting someone who was still talking (Really, it makes it very clear why debates are usually led by a chairperson, although in an anarchist society a chair would somewhat defeat the purpose). One of the Christians tried to apply anarchy to Christianity - "Anarchy and Christianity are both about freedom" but it sounded suspiciously like he was trying to preach a sermon and I don't think the anarchists, knowing full well that "freedom" has different shades of meaning, were particularly impressed. The Possibly Catholic guy somehow got onto talking about Scriptural Authority (he confessed at one point he refused to trust anything in the Bible but the words of Jesus), the Pagans were fluffy and talked about how paganism is religious anarchy, and another Christian told us all how he hadn't bothered joining any Christian societies. He said, "I consider myself a simple Christian."

I can't remember who this person was, and I remember suspecting even at the time that he seemed a bit too proud of his non-membership of any Christian societies, but I confess that the idea of being a "simple Christian" attracted me immensely, and still does. Perhaps it needs to be tempered by my annoyance at the "let's go on being Christians but remove any last recognisable shred of Christianity" brigade (like the types who think you can be a Christian and not believe in God). But there are days when I feel so fed up with the whole "system" that to live "simply" as a Christian seems like a beautiful ideal.

On Sunday I went to a different church from my usual one (as it turned out, this was a good move since some members of my choir were performing and I joined in :D). I was rather intrigued, being personally rather "low church", at the "traditional" nature of the service. There were vestments and even an icon, hymns, and a very traditional church building, with an organ and pews and a pulpit, some stained glass, floor mosaics and those plaques that say "In memory of So-and-so of this parish". They did also have a band (with a guitar!) and a fairly large student population (most of CF seemed to be there), and they served excellent tea and biscuits afterwards.

Non-traditional churches sometimes congratulate themselves on not being like the above church, except perhaps for the tea and biscuits. They may meet in a school hall (or in the case of Hillsong, a theatre), they may have a full band, a gospel choir, and an overhead projector, they might try non-traditional methods of worship, they dispense with vestments, refuse icons, and change the pews for comfy chairs, or at least comfier pews.

Most still keep other traditions (and have traditions of their own), like regular sung worship, a sermon in which a leader preaches to the congregation (who are silent or interject with "amen" and "hallelujah") and many endorse tithing (that is, giving ten percent of your income to church funds), and, of course, meeting on Sundays. None of these are specifically required of the church, although Paul encourages meeting together and sang hymns when in jail, as well as encouraging people to be generous givers. James speaks of helping Christians in need and of course Jesus commands us to love one another. But there is also discussion of how in a meeting everyone has something different to bring, and I think we can conclude that they wouldn't have had a pipe organ.

I am not saying that later traditions are not useful. Seasons of fasting and feasting are useful ways of dedicating ourselves to God in different manners - fasting in discipline and sacrifice, feasting in freedom and celebration - both in their way an expression of what it means to serve God. My brother once stunned me, when previously I had smugly remarked on the pointless of Catholic mass, by telling me that he found Mass beautiful. I realised that for him, at the time (he's no longer a Christian as far as I can tell :( ), it had a special meaning that "low church" protestant me refused to examine. Tithing money can be a method of trusting God with our finances and being generous whatever the circumstances. Sung worship can be used very effectively to expression adoration, gratitude and reverence. Teaching by a knowledgeable person helps the one with less understanding to learn. I don't believe that traditions and rituals have come out of nowhere and serve no purpose. I am just concerned that our traditions may take the place of law - gaining an equal footing with the necessary basics of Christianity: believe and trust in Jesus, repent of sin, love God, love other people.

This is a difficult thing, however, because people can take pride in anything, and if they aren't taking pride of their dedicated church attendance, their financial commitment to the church, their church's impressive organ or impressive rock band, their church's refusal to conform with the world or their church's relevance to the world, they can certainly take pride in their "simple Christianity". We could throw out all the rituals, traditions, songs, formats and organisations, and we could still end up squabbling over who's doing Christianity right...

Perhaps Christianity doesn't lend itself to simplicity that well. People are still fiercely debating theology, which is fascinating but utterly exhausting. And loving other people has problems of its own - people just aren't simple, especially when they get into large groups, and when loving other people, we can't wait for them to reach perfection before we associate with them - and in that case, quitting a church or a Christian society may not be the best course of action. We can become armchair critics, sneering at the flailing church from the outside and congratulating ourselves at our own devotion to God instead of to the church and its traditions.

I suppose what I really want is not "simple Christianity" because I'm not sure that such a thing exists or if it can be defined - and attempting to create a movement for it would only divide the church further. I'm sure the church needs stirring up (don't we all get complacent at times?) but it seems that often a new movement can become an idol on its own - if I said that traditions are useful but can become a hindrance, I'm sure that a resulting movement could be made where traditions were declared anathema and any church with sung worship declared apostate... which would just be silly.

I suppose what I'm fed up with is "doing church". I long to know God and to understand and possess the love spoken about in 1 Corinthians 13. It's fun and can even be edifying discussing minute points of theology or singing a good rousing hymn or volunteering for a coffee morning, but aren't these just physical manifestations of what should be a spiritual foundation? We don't sing hymns to pass the time or because they're enjoyable, but because they express truth about the one we worship. We don't give money to our church because of some divine tax, but because we love our church and because as part of the church, we want to reach more people and bring more glory to God. We don't discuss theology because we want to be proved right, but because we want to discover the truth.

I've no doubt that many traditions are useful and helpful - and that if we want to know God, we can learn from other people. But I feel we need to be assured that the most important thing is to love and know God, and that all else should follow from that. If that means our traditions have to go, then so be it.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Everything I need to know about love, I learned from Patience. And J.K. Rowling.

After seeing Patience, I have been wandering around all day today singing Gilbert and Sullivan songs. Not "Twenty lovesick maidens" though. More of the "willow willow waly" and "in this case unprecedented" with a bit of a "singularly deep young man", and with a bit of Pirates and Gondoliers thrown in for good measure ("We will quickly be parsonified, conjugally matrimonified, by a doctor of divinity who is found in the vicinity!").

I often get the impression that W.S. Gilbert simply picks a few themes to mock and then builds a plot around a lot of lovesick maidens and manly men with some good three syllable rhymes ("Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard that music's din afore... And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense, Pinafore!"), while Sullivan occupies himself with beautiful arias and delightful gavottes.

In Patience it's the fashion for 'aestheticism' that receives most of Gilbert's ridicule, with the utterly wonderful and entirely pompous idiotic poet Bunthorne (apparently not an Oscar Wilde caricature... see the Gilbert and Sullivan archive...) who writes nonsensical melodramatic angst poetry and is adored by the twenty maidens, at least until Grosvenor, another poet, turns up (Oscar Wilde!).

Patience herself is in love with Grosvenor, and he with her, but she feels that it would be selfish to marry someone as universally admired as he. Bunthorne is in love with Patience, and so she decides to offer to marry him, as she decides this would be the most unselfish course of action, as there would be absolutely nothing in it for her. Bunthorne's happiness at her acceptance is disturbed when he realises that all his former admirers have turned their adulation to Grosvenor (who himself is wearied by the admiration), and his fiancée is also in love with the young poet.

Deciding that he needs to find some way of repelling the maidens from Grosvenor, Bunthorne persuades him to become more ordinary looking.

(Happily borrowed from The Patience Web Opera)

When I go out of door,
Of damozels a score
(All sighing and burning,
And clinging and yearning)
Will follow me as before.

I shall, with cultured taste,
Distinguish gems from paste,
And "High diddle diddle"
Will rank as an idyll,
If I pronounce it chaste!

A most intense young man,
A soulful-eyed young man,
An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical,
Out-of-the-way young man!

Conceive me, if you can,
An ev'ryday young man:
A commonplace type,
With a stick and a pipe,
And a half-bred black-and-tan;

Who thinks suburban "hops"
More fun than "Monday Pops,"
Who's fond of his dinner,
And doesn't get thinner
On bottled beer and chops.

A commonplace young man,
A matter-of-fact young man,
A steady and stolid-y, jolly Bank-holiday,
Every-day young man!

Isn't that what we want, after all? Not a A crotchety, cracked young man, An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical, Out-of-the way young man! But a steady and stolid-y, every-day young man. In the end, every girl really wants a down-to-earth guy who makes her laugh. It's this fatal move that causes Bunthorne to lose his Patience*.

But why do we follow around melancholic idiots anyway? If I may make that most unlikely link, and draw a comparison with Harry Potter, take for example Professor Snape.

Alan Rickman really doesn't do justice to the ugliness. But this drawing should give you an idea.

He's described early on as a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin which, as you might imagine, has earned him the admiration of thousands of women.


If he isn't a A pallid and thin young man, A haggard and lank young man then you must have an issue with the word "young". Throughout the books he unfairly insults Harry (in particular he calls him arrogant, which we, the reader, know he is not), bullies the nervous Neville Longbottom, and even takes points from Hermione for being "An insufferable know-it-all". He has a Dark Past, he's probably a murderer, he's petty, he's cruel, he's sarcastic, and don't we all love him for it?

The reason why women continue to love the Potions Master of Mystery is probably due in part to his fictionality. In real life, when we lope around melancholic and cruel men with poor hygiene, we end up getting upset, hurt or disillusioned. With Snape it's easier because being fictional we can easily reimagine him as the tragically misunderstood and secretly noble Man With A Dark Past, who covers up a deeply passionate and ultimately good soul beneath that greasy and immature exterior.

What I love about J.K. Rowling is that after reading the 50 millionth Snape-turns-good fanfic, we can get back into the books and discover that, yes, he has depth, yes, he's had a hard life, but yes, he is a very horrible man who doesn't need the love of a good woman more than he needs the service of a good psychiatrist.

Why do women love Snape? Why did Pip love Estella? Why do the stars shine above? Why do the fools fall in love? Why does a man become more attractive when you've seen him headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody? Ahem.

We love the Snapes of this world because we're idiots. Granted, the Snapes and the Bunthornes may deserve our pity, our compassion, and our patience**, but they don't deserve our passionate adoration. Once you'd succeeded in getting Snape away from his potions and out on a date, he'd talk about himself or how much he hates Harry Potter, make cuttingly sarcastic remarks whenever you made a social faux pas, sulk when introduced to your parents and still forget to wash his hair. There's a theory that Harry's mother had a crush on old Sev back in school, and Snape fondly repaid her affections by insulting her (and by implication, her parents) (see Order of the Phoenix) .

Nice guy.

Perhaps we women have self-esteem problems. We reason that a man is inconsiderate, rude, aloof and generally disrespectful because of some kind of disturbing hierarchy that means we're lower down on the romantic food chain and therefore have to put up with this rubbish in order to get a good mate, and that our dogged persistence and loving affection will eventually melt his cold heart.

I really hope no one ever thinks that... but alas, I think there are far too many people who do think like that, both men and women.

J.K. Rowling herself offers this wise advice:

Girls, stop going for the bad guy. Go for a nice man in the first place. It took me 35 years to learn that, but I am giving you that nugget free, right now, at the beginning of your love lives.

It's all very fascinating to have Mr. Hidden Depths, or Prof. Dark Past, or whatever, as a fascinating addition to your interesting lifestyle, but living with this moron day to day? It makes singleness seem all the more wonderful. I thank W.S. Gilbert for providing this painful picture of love so that we can see just how foolish it is:

Love is a plaintive song,
Sung by a suff'ring maid,
Telling a tale of wrong,
Telling of hope betrayed;
Tuned to each changing note,
Sorry when he is sad,
Blind to his ev'ry mote,
Merry when he is glad!
Merry when he is glad!

Really, who wants a pretentious idiot who's in love with the sound of his own voice, even if he is so charmingly aesthetic and so utterly mysterious? Who wouldn't in the long run prefer a nice guy who's unashamedly ordinary, or at least doesn't carry around his Dark Past like a fashion accessory?

So here are my words of wisdom for the day: be kind to Bunthorne, but marry Grosvenor. Be courteous to Snape, but fall in love with Lupin. You know it makes sense. (I will be endeavouring to follow my own advice from now on)

* Sorry, I had to make that joke somewhere.
** No pun intended this time. Well, maybe a little.


Friday, February 17, 2006

"Tell me two things. Firstly, what on earth is this love that upsets everybody; and, secondly, how is it to be distinguished from insanity?"

Patience was wonderful.

Still thankful

It's been a great couple of days. Keith and Sian came up, Dougsoc won both first and second prize in a bar quiz, and spent its winnings on cocktails, I met up with a guy I met at Faith Camp and we had Chinese, my experiment worked and I just ate some cheesecake. Oh, and I'm going to see Patience tonight 'cause I can't wait another day before getting some Gilbert and Sullivan style goodness. I've had to satisfy myself with learning songs from Pirates of Penzance and singing along with the midi files. It's about time I got to hear from twenty lovesick maidens.

(I discovered that "Adrian", one of my housemates, has never heard I am the very model of a modern major general nor Tom Lehrer's Elements song - I have it half memorised now, though I'm getting mixed up at yttrium and ytterbium. I was, of course, scandalised.)

It was really awesome seeing Keith and Sian again. York didn't seem quite right without them :) (If you're a York resident and have noticed that York lacked its aura of happiness lately, it's because Keith and Sian aren't here. Obviously). There was also generally awesome Dougsoc goodness. Jokes, geekiness, fun. *smile*

It was good to see... hmm, let's call him "Mark", who I met at Faith Camp. Chrissie seems to think that he's like me, which I don't really see, although I take that as a compliment :) He has lots of faith and is extremely lovely. He also likes The Great Divorce and he won't shut up about God :) He blessed me with a meal at a Chinese buffet and we talked about Bible college.

With such general awesomeness over the last few days, despite my general confusion, I'm still trying to be thankful. I don't really understand God right now and the whole eternal destiny thing still bothers me... but God created beautiful skies, spring blossom, chocolate, people, and best of all, friends, which deserves my profound admiration and gratitude! I really hope he clears some stuff up with me soon... but until then, I'm still thankful.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day Message


I'd like to thank my Mum for having sex this day in 1983. Thanks also to St. Valentine for encouraging the event.


I wonder why I ever hated Valentine's day? I grinned as I walked past a student television recording today, hearing the remark, It's Valentine's Day and singletons everywhere are miserable, and walked about my way wondering what planet she was on. Miserable? Who could be miserable on such a life-affirming day as this? Besides the reminder that it may even be partly due to Valentine that I exist at all, there's no day like Valentine's to remind me of the many benefits of being single.

If there's anything I'm grateful for in having actually had a boyfriend, it's the knowledge that Valentine's day is not necessarily a beeyootiful day of lurve... It seems to be more about buying your beloved a card and flowers to alleviate guilt and do your duty for another year. A good time for Clintons and Interflora, and a day of intense romantic pressure on all those couples out there. Happily I can be but a spectator in this ridiculous event, go and buy myself some chocolate... oh, and I'm going see Keith and Sian tonight! I also have about forty minutes to think of a fancy dress costume, which may mean I'll end up going to Dougsoc as Miss Make Poverty History again.

What can I say? Life is good.

In the true spirit of the day, the Student Union has put out signs reminding people to protect themselves against chlamydia. Aah, celibacy is a beautiful thing.

I was thinking of some "anti-Valentine's" songs... for years I've been planning to hold an anti-Valentine's party only right now I just don't feel bitter enough :) But I was thinking of one, and realised that the style would hardly be appropriate for a well-bred young lady rejecting her suitor. I felt that I needed to re-write it so that it would be suitable for rejecting the more high-class gentleman that one hopes may be courting one.

I have been acquainted with a number of gentlemen who considered themselves in possession of above-average intellect.
However, you seem to consider yourself infallible,
Your conviction of your own high IQ is a particularly irritating characteristic.
You believe yourself uniquely knowledgeable on every topic.
I do believe that you consider yourself apart from the common herd,
An altogether different breed.

If we accept the proposition that you have extraordinary intelligence,
I remain unconvinced at your general prowess as a suitable partner.
Aside from your brain-power, I would like to know if you have the suitable quintessential qualities I require.
Please do not be mistaken, I consider you an amiable fellow
However this would not be of great comfort during the irrationality of a sleepless night.
I remain unconvinced.

Never before have I been aquainted with a gentleman so possessed of his own beauty
And so dedicated to personal grooming
Your attention to your appearance is concerning
And possibly bordering on obsessional.
I do believe you consider yourself a particularly good catch.
You believe yourself to be a fellow of distinction.

If we accept the proprosition that you have looks not dissimilar to those of a Hollywood actor
I still remain unconvinced at your suitability for a long term relationship
You may have unusually handsome features,
But do you possess the more delicate refined aspects of a gentleman?
Do not be misled, I find you a man of moderate charm
However my insomniacal fits of emotion will not be soothed by so little.
I remain unconvinced.

You are of the particular breed that pays close attention to his automobile.
One might say that it causes you to be unchivalrous.
You have a pseudo-sexual relationship with your vehicle;
I find that frankly laughable.
I do believe that you consider yourself the creme de la creme,
You believe yourself to be a man unparalleled.

It may indeed be useful to possess an automobile for transportation
But that fails to pique my interest
You have the means for travel, but can you stimulate my interest in a more refined manner?
Do not think me churlish, I believe you to be an acceptably decorous gentleman
But that will not be helpful when I require some sustaining thought to aid my rest

So I remain unconvinced
You believe yourself appealing, but do you have particular finesse required in a romantic relationship?
Please do not misjudge me, you are an amiable fellow
Yet this will not be my prevailing thought during a long dark night of the soul
I am unmoved by your appeals.

And if you believe yourself to be akin to a sex symbol of bygone days, I must tell you that I am most definitely not impressed.


Monday, February 13, 2006

I blog because I can't afford therapy

Kate seems to have the very sweet idea that I'll get on really well with her friend because we're both Christians.

Actually we did get on really well, which just goes to show how clever my housemate is ;)

I sometimes wonder if I am in fact turning into Oscar the Grouch. I guess lately I've felt isolated because I find it hard to talk about the things that are troubling me. It's much easier to vent in blogland than real life :) And it has been a bit lonely because my close friends are mostly elsewhere - the people I used to confide in (even Matthew!*) aren't around anymore. I think I've also mentioned that I'm paranoid and I am a rock, I am an island, and all that.

I do really want to love others, but I'm a coward and also don't want to be hurt, mocked, embarrassed, or rejected. Love unfortunately is a tricky thing and doesn't guarantee freedom from any of these things.

I did wonder, early on in the crisis of faith, if Kate might sympathise with my angsting. The trouble is, how do you tell an atheist that you're going mad over the idea of Hell and you've started to look at people and wonder if they're eternally doomed? Or at least how do you do it without convincing them that it's time the men in the white coats took you away? She brightly asked me if I still attend church recently, and which point I wondered whether to say that (although I'm still a member of an impressive number of Christian societies) actually I've attended embarrassingly infrequently this term, ie. I went to one Quaker meeting and it's debateable as to whether that counts. I think now that she only asked because she assumed "Teresa" (her Christian friend) would want to go, not that Teresa had actually requested to go, since after going clubbing Saturday night they all woke up on Sunday afternoon...

I really liked all of Kate's visitors, from her bizarre twisted friend "Spike" to the saintly Teresa. I suspect I should have more faith in people. Teresa somehow managed to be angelic without being aloof. Spike has an utterly filthy mind, and I can't work out quite why I like him so much :) But that's people for you. There's nowt as queer as folk. I did actually excuse myself from clubbing, but that was because I hate clubbing, or perhaps I hate tinnitus.

I went to church yesterday evening, possibly because I was ashamed that I'd told people that I go to church when I don't think having last been in December really counts as regular attendence. I decided that if anyone asked why I hadn't been for so long, I would just tell them.

No one asked. I suddenly realised that in fact I did want to tell someone. I'm fed up of pretending that everything's OK. I'm still struggling over everything, as I'm sure readers of this blog can tell. I really wish I understood - I'm trying to seek the truth, I want to understand about Hell - if it is true, surely God wouldn't want me to get by just by ignoring it or even by being constantly terrified by it, would he? I guess in a sense I pray counter-intuitively... I really don't want Hell to be true, as I find it both scary and illogical. I've asked God to show it to me in a way that makes sense, in a way that I can't argue with and that I will accept. It is a prayer I really don't want him to answer ;) If hell is real but the fruit of the spirit is love, joy and peace (etc), I know that God can find a way for them to co-exist. And if it's not true I really want God to convict me that it isn't, rather than just deciding on what I'd most like to believe!

Oh, incidentally, I got up the courage to look at my exam results, and it appears that I actually passed two of them, albeit only just. I'm beginning to see just how pointless worrying actually is.

I'm off to get a coffee and maybe even do some work :)

*Matthew was my boyfriend just over a year ago. He could be both utterly adorable and excruciatingly annoying. I won't bore you with details.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

More general observations on life

Some thoughts for your consideration:

On the envy of certainty

It was mission week for the CU this week - actually it technically still is, there's one more meeting to go. I accidentally ended up at a meeting on Thursday morning. Yes, accidentally. I came across some CU people and realised they were planning the rest of their mission.

It felt more like observation than participation for me. I wasn't really supposed to be there - it turns out I'd turned up too late to share breakfast and ended up listening to the rest of their plans. It was strange watching them because I could tell that they were really excited about all that had happened, and I really wished I could be like them, with more answers than questions... God seems so silent right now, and try as I might, I can't accept their views on damnation. I know they're loving, and I know they mean well... But I don't see how they can be so certain and so at peace.

On the persistence of questions

Speaking of which, I went to a CU talk on Friday on the love of God. There were a lot of questions afterwards. All the old classics came out - about hell and forgiveness and choice and why God created us at all. I asked about why every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. After I got my answer I wondered why I'd bothered asking. I suddenly wondered if I could really ask any hard question and it would be similarly answered and dismissed. There seemed to be some non-Christians and a few malcontents who asked the same "old classics" as have been asked for centuries. I wonder what was going through their minds? Do we still have these questions because there really are no good answers, or because we can't accept the good answers? I felt quite comforted by one thing - there were people who seemed genuinely spiritually hungry, but unsure of the truth. It appears I'm not the only one ;)

OK, that's weird, Pandora's playing Yesterday Girl by The Smithereens.

I never wanna find an answer
'cause I don't like the truth
And if I find just what I'm looking for
I've something to lose
So please don't go and ask me questions
I just won't feel the same
And when I think about religion
Well, there's no one to blame

Please tell me I'm not that bad...

On the power of perception

Look at this - what is it?

If you said that it's a rectangle overlapping another rectangle, then you can marvel at the wonder of perception. There is only one rectangle in the picture - the other shape is an irregular hexagon. Since the picture only has 2 dimensions, it is impossible for one shape to overlap another.

But our brains are very clever and can work out that two such shapes are far more likely to be overlapping than simply very neatly lined up. It amazes me to think about how much we see based on previous experience (Have you ever wondered what it must be like for a baby seeing for the first time?). This is obviously extremely useful... but in a sense it also pre-conditions us to see exactly what we expect to see. Perception is a funny thing.

On the comfort of solitude

I'm sitting peacefully in the computer room listening to Pandora.com, partly because at home Kate has a number of her friends visiting. Yes, I really am that anti-social. The nice thing about solitude is you don't have to pretend you're having a good time. Kate asked if I could take her Christian friend to church tomorrow. I occasionally attend the evening service at St. Mike's so she'll probably have gone home by the time I go. Sounds crazy, but I'm kinda relieved. Kate seems to have the very sweet idea that I'll get on really well with her friend because we're both Christians. She has no idea. :)

On the fear of self

But seriously, I realised that perhaps the first step to getting courage would be to stop being afraid of myself and the idiotic things I say in social situations, the occasional embarrassments, and the very great likelihood that I have indeed failed all my January exams (the results are out, but I avoided them). I realise that having the courage to look at my own exam results is not exactly a celebrated feat of bravery, but perhaps I should walk before I can run.

Oh no, I'm beginning to sound like I'm Alice (I think).

But anyway, perhaps a really brave thing to do would be to tell Kate's friend that actually I'm disillusioned with church and am seriously reconsidering what the Bible says about salvation and eschatology.

On the offensiveness of unconditional love

A final thing that occurred to me. I thought of this a while ago, actually, when I wondered why people say things like "I don't want your charity!". People are offended by unconditional love! We frankly think we are far too good to get unconditional love. I had a friend at primary school who once confided in me that she liked me but didn't like my other two friends. I then dedicated much of my time to remaining this girl's best friend, when I should have told her to go away and come back when she'd learned to like my friends. But exclusivity is so very thrilling. Who wants to be considered just the same as everyone else? We want exclusive membership! We want to be considered worthy of love!

On the escapism of blogging

I'm off to face reality again. See you soon.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why be holy?

I hope Tiffer won't mind me quoting this here, but his recent comment on my post on the Great Divorce made me giggle:

I may have already said this but look at what live as a universalist holds - no need to evangelise, holiness becomes less important, harder to find people who think along the same lines as you...wait a minute - sounds like evangelicalism!

It got me thinking about holiness; what the point is, and why we aim for it. You could say that I am writing this post from a "Christian Universalist" viewpoint - as I've already said, I'm still struggling over the particulars and not convinced of universal salvation, so forgive me if this post sounds more certain than I actually am :) Still, I pray that God will show me... or open my eyes to what he's already shown me. If you have any thoughts, as always your comments are welcome. Correct me if you like, but bear in mind that I may try to correct you back :)

It is apparently a paradox of the Christian faith that we are commanded to "Be perfect... as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), but Paul says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) Or, in other words, Jesus commands us to be perfect even though he knows full well we couldn't possibly manage it, and indeed our works are not the thing that saves us, only James presents us with another dilemma: "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17).

So, be perfect, but you can't be perfect, you must be saved by grace through faith, but faith must have works, but works can't save you.

There's obviously something amiss here, so I decided to think about it... And when I get thinking...

"If you love me, you will obey what I command," says Jesus (John 14:15). I think it may be here that we begin to get down to the matter...

Suppose you've recently got married. After rowing with your spouse, you're really depressed, feeling discouraged and inadequate, and to cheer yourself up you go and visit your mad cousin, who's building a time-machine.

Yes, really. Your mad cousin is building a time-machine. Bear with me...

Mad cousin pops you inside his Delorian/Police box/Shopping trolley, and sends you fifty years into the future. You turn up at a beautiful house, and find you and your spouse, your beautiful children and beautiful grandchildren all celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary. Your future self and your spouse are more in love than ever. You jump back into your Delorian/Police box/Shopping trolley and go back home.

Once home, you order your spouse to make you breakfast in bed every day, ignore them, insist on the last word in every argument, stay out late, and never help with housework.

Why would you do a thing like that??

Would it be because, assured that your spouse will in 50 years time be madly in love with you, you decide it doesn't matter if you make their life an utter misery right now?

It doesn't make sense, does it?

Jesus doesn't say, "Obey my commands so that I will love you" but "If you love me, you will obey my commands". It's not emotional blackmail - tsk, you didn't obey, you must not love me - but a statement of fact. If we love Jesus, why would we take his commands for granted? If he says he'll be with us to the end of the age, does that mean that we can continue to sin and have fun because we're sure he'll never leave us?

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2)

Or as C.S. Lewis put it: How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing it is irresistible.

If someone only does good and strives for holiness to avoid Hell then I don't believe that they love Jesus at all, and I think they've seriously misunderstood the idea of salvation by grace. We do not strive for holiness to make ourselves better. In fact, that would simply make our holiness a source of pride. "I am holy so God loves me". We know that our own holiness cannot possibly compare to God's holiness, and if we think that our works have any part in saving us, then we say that God's grace is not as powerful as we originally thought.

Why be holy? Because God loves us. Because we love God. Because knowing that God is perfection, why would we even want to sin? Why do we want to do the things that God sent his son to die for?

We don't strive for holiness because it will get us to Heaven and sin will send us to Hell - we strive for holiness because it's the best thing. If we are in love, we want to make our lover happy. We know that holiness is the highest ideal. To sin would be sheer foolishness. Why would we want to when we know holiness is much better?

So I was thinking about what James said - "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." I believe this is not saying that we should all rush out and do good works to make sure that we are saved. I think he's actually saying that faith inevitably leads to works. We love because God first loved us, or as Paul puts it "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) Or as he says to the Galatians, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23). If God's spirit dwells in us, fruit is inevitable. If we show no love for others, then our faith has a problem... then we know that we need the Holy Spirit.

I think we should also bear this in mind when considering the Great Commission:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

He doesn't say that we should go out and get people to pray one little prayer so that we can save them for Heaven... He says, "Make disciples." This is a lot harder work and a lot more labour-intensive than handing out tracts or getting people to come to one meeting. A disciple is not just a convert... Easton's Bible Dictionary puts it like this:

a scholar, sometimes applied to the followers of John the Baptist (Matt. 9:14), and of the Pharisees (22:16), but principally to the followers of Christ. A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example (Matt. 10:24; Luke 14:26, 27, 33; John 6:69).

Being a disciple doesn't just mean believing in Jesus so that we can be saved, it means actively following him. Loving him, believing him, imitating him. It shouldn't just mean trusting Jesus to save us from Hell, but we trust Jesus to save us from sin, because, as I said earlier, holiness is much better than sin! Sinfulness is evil and damaging. Sin destroys. Sin spoils.

Or put it another way... You go back to visit your mad cousin, who pops you back into his time machine, and you go sixty years into the future this time. You see your best friend married to someone else you know. Despite your friend being ancient by this time, you can tell that being married has made him/her extremely happy.

You go back to the present and hear your best friend insulting their future spouse. You figure that at this rate it might actually take sixty years for them to get married. But suppose you could help them get to know each other better... Wouldn't you want to do that? You know they'll be married eventually but because you love your best friend you want him/her to be happy as much and as soon as possible.

If we believe that Jesus loves and heals our friends, why would we want to wait? Why not tell them now?

I don't believe that if we love God, we need to have the fear of Hell or damnation to keep us holy. We love because he loves us, not because if we don't love him he'll chuck us into torment for all eternity. Our "fear of the Lord" is not in terror for our lives but in respect of his awesome power and holiness - in gratitude, if it's possible to fear in gratitude... We don't take him lightly. We know he will rule, and we know he hates sin - and we submit ourselves accordingly. But if God is good, we need not fear injustice or cruelty. ("He's not a tame lion - but he is good.")

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29)

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rebirth of the blog

This blog has been re-born... Well, OK, it's just been re-named. It occurred to me that despite using some variation on 'Echoes', 'Echoes Down The Corridor of Time', 'Echoing Valleys', whatever for years (literally, I've kept a Diaryland diary for over five years), I don't think Echoes really describes what this diary is anymore. I used to just write about recent events, but since I also use my blog for opinions, getting my thoughts straight about things, asking questions etc, it didn't seem like a good name anymore.

So yes. Meet the new blog, same as the old blog - "A Curious Girl".

Monday, February 06, 2006

Divorce Be With You

I'd like to thank everyone who recommended C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. I finally bought a copy yesterday (when I finally found a copy), and after Christian Union, spent a quiet evening reading it. I'd forgotten how much I like C.S. Lewis. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia and after reading Out of the Silent Planet I raved about it for ages. I can even remember that when I first read The Magician's Nephew it was a quiet, dull, rainy day rather like the one described in the book, and I read it lying on my bed... I read The Last Battle on a train, and read The Horse and his Boy at school. I was surprised but delighted when Cor and Aravis got married. My memory of the other books is a bit fuzzy because I saw the BBC television versions first.

I bought Mere Christianity and borrowed The Four Loves, and haven't finished either yet. So I rather forgot about how much I loved Lewis's fiction... which was actually a good thing because I didn't know, or at least I'd entirely forgotten, what to expect.

I loved it. It manages somehow to be entertaining and instructional at the same time. It's so painfully insightful. The picture of Hell manages to be wretched yet somehow comical, a dreary, discordant, bleak, apathetic place, with poor proud souls desperate for ridiculous trifles. It's rather like a perpetual wet Wednesday afternoon. When the pathetic remains of people find themselves in heaven, they don't seem to understand or grasp the greater glory present. I enjoyed Lewis's method of telling - at some points even the unnamed narrator (Lewis himself, of course) seemed unsettled at the ways of Heaven. It didn't seem preachy or patronising, merely thoughtful, sharing, honest.

I had to wonder if he was right. It seemed that the things keeping the damned souls from becoming whole and enjoying heaven were from their own pride - although it was manifest in all sorts of forms (The one that both amused and disturbed me most was a man who appeared to be a liberal theologian... I had too much in common with him). They are entreated to repent, entreated to surrender, entreated to give up their ridiculous idols to understand the true God - but many of them refuse. The theologian would rather have theology than truth. The painter would rather have paint than beauty. They would all rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven. And they are all utterly ridiculous and pathetic, and yet you can't hate them because you understand that they are all hurting themselves most of all...

I do wonder if we are, in some sense, standing in glory yet refusing to see. It would be easier, we think, to have pride than endure shame. It would be better, we think, to live our way even if it is wretched and miserable, than to subject ourselves to God's way, even if it is glorious and beautiful. I wonder if what God really wants to hear us say is not, "I'll study the Bibe, I'll pray, I'll feed the hungry, I'll tend to the sick, I'll leave my bad habits, I'll try and be utterly perfect in every way..." but just "I give up. I'm a sinner. You're God. Your will be done."

It's an interesting thought. I wonder about God... is he patiently waiting for me to get it? For all our glory and all our self-improvement, we may have missed the bit about becoming like little children. What I like about children is that although they may be less wise, less educated and less experienced than the rest of us, they do tend to be a good deal more sane. It seemed that in Lewis's belief, to get Heaven all you had to do was accept Heaven. God's love is right there waiting for us. Are we too proud to take it?

'Listen!' said the White Spirit. 'Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you found them. Become that child again: even now.'
'Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.'
'You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.'

I childishly giggled at his audacity at using the M word. But it's a shocking comparison, don't you think?

"Let's consider your age to begin with--how old are you?"
"I'm seven and a half, exactly."
"You needn't say 'exactually,' " the Queen remarked. "I can believe it without that. Now I'll give you something to believe. I'm just one hundred and one, five months and a day."
"I ca'n't believe that!" said Alice.
"Ca'n't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one ca'n't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

For a while it all made perfect sense. I tucked The Great Divorce next to The Shock of Your Life in the vague hope that such behaviour would cause The Shock of Your Life to spontaneously combust (I'm keeping it for critical analysis, and to see if I can work out why it infuriated me so much. But that's for another time). Then I got up this morning and wasn't so sure.

I was pondering Hell in my usual fashion when, having pretty much decided I had rejected the idea of it as the place of eternal torment for anyone who didn't say the Sinner's Prayer in time, I reconsidered and wondered if I should try and believe in it. Is that what God wants? Certainly people who do believe - or at least say they do - appear to be doing the Christian thing a lot better than me. Actually that's not fair because there are also people who don't believe it who are doing the Christian thing a lot better than me. But it's so infuriating asking God for truth and still not being sure. I wonder, has he given me the answer and I just can't accept it? There is eternal torment, and I am afraid of it - or there is no eternal torment and I don't want to be wrong or different or dare to tell other Christians what I think?

There have been times when I have felt very certain either way. I've taken to observing universalist sentiments in Christian meetings, usually given by people who'd entirely deny that they are universalists. There is a part of me quite happily settled with the universalist camp, and certainly a part of me that just likes the universalists because they make the traditional doctrine of hell sound so ridiculous. But God seems to be declining to comment, and that's what bothers me. I can't tell if he's infuriated at my disobedience and waiting for me to leave such a 'vain idol' - or if he's waiting for me to fully understand. What can I say? I tell him that I'm sorry I don't understand, I'm sorry I'm proud, and ask for his patience with me as I slowly attempt to grasp the truth. I ask him to show me... I sometimes get infuriated myself, bothering him like a tiny mosquito - I know he could just swat me away, so obviously he's patient, but he seems so silent. It seems almost strange that there were times that I felt God was so very close. I wonder if God lives in Cambridge but not in York!

In The Annotated Alice, Martin Gardner quotes a letter written by Carroll to a young girl of his aquaintance, with reference to the passage quoted above:

Don't be in such a hurry to believe next time--I'll tell you why--If you set to work to believe everything, you will tire out the muscles of your mind, and then you'll be so weak you won't be able to believe the simplest true things. Only last week a friend of mine set to work to believe Jack-the-giant-killer. He managed to do it, but he was so exhausted by it that when I told him it was raining (which was true) he couldn't believe it, but rushed out into the street without his hat or umbrella, the consequence of which was his hair got seriously damp, and one curl didn't recover its right shape for nearly two days.

It is sadly not explained what the girl he was writing to (Mary MacDonald, the daughter of George MacDonald, who appears as a help and teacher for Lewis in The Great Divorce... I bet you didn't think I could make a connection out of that, did you?) was trying to believe. Gardner says before quoting this letter "I believe it," declared Tertullian in an oft-quoted defense of the paradoxical character of certain Christian doctrines, "because it is absurd." Yet he doesn't explain whether this was the source of Mary's attempted belief. Lewis Carroll was the alter-ego of Rev. Charles Dodgson, so being a clergyman I would like to trust him... only he didn't believe in eternal torment either (George MacDonald didn't either, but C.S. Lewis reduces this part of his belief to a brief remark at the end of The Great Divorce).

I wonder. It is all very curious, as Alice might say. I suppose I should be humble... Stop bothering Chrissie about it too. I just ask God to be merciful and heed the words of Lewis:

There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself... As if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copied had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of snares.

Don't forget that you can still comment on my Calling all Hell believers post! Your thoughts are always interesting.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Interesting doughnuts

I don't know what their doughnuts are like, as I was trying to find something remotely healthy for lunch, and I've no idea who that guy is or quite what he's looking at, but still - here is the proof. There is indeed a doughnut stall called Kinky Donuts.

After that slightly irreverent beginning I'm a bit lost as to how I should go on. Perhaps I should leave it here and start a new entry.

Ooh - actually, do me a favour. Provide a caption for the pic. You know you want to.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Blogging, why?

My Grandma asked me, a while ago, "Do you still write in your online diary?"
"Why?" she asked incredulously.

Curious question (aren't all questions? Or perhaps not the rhetorical ones?).

So I thought about it. It's interesting that I keep an online diary when keeping paper diaries was always beyond me... Actually I do keep notebooks, but it sounds pretentious to call a book of doodles a "diary" or even a "journal", so...

I blog because I can say anything I like in a blog. Granted, I do have to deal with the fact that my parents, my friends and complete strangers read it, and of course the always present danger that someone I know might find it via a Google search, but thankfully I can't think of anyone that I really wouldn't like to read it. And it does mean I can have a place to put any opinion I feel the need to express, or say things that are too hard to say out loud.

I blog because it's nice having a place on the internet that's mine, where I can offer the online equivalent of a cup of tea and a chat, where other bloggers can find me. Seems rude to read about other people but offer nothing back.

I blog because I am a writer, and though I love to write stories and things, it's nice to have a place for first drafts, streams of consciousness, general thoughts, and get to warm up my writer muscles without having to tax my brain too much.

I blog because it's good to get feedback. It's always nice to know that someone read something I wrote and found it interesting enough to comment.

I blog because it's fun. I love to blog. I blog, therefore I am.


Paging Matt Groening...

It looks just like me, except that I have breasts.

You too can make your own Simpsons character!


Friday, February 03, 2006

On dreams and climate change

I've been sleeping late a lot recently. I'm not sure why, I keep setting my alarm, but eventually I wake up, usually after some peculiar dream. As dreams usually bore anyone who didn't dream them, I'll attempt to keep them short and to the point.

1) I was on a train. Richard E. Grant gave me a greetings card with the gift of a first class train ticket in it. He wrote in the card that he wanted a co-star and I should be it. I just ignored him.

2) It was like Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but on acid.

3) I went back in time to the middle ages and met a mad priest whom everyone was trying to kill, possibly because he'd mortally offended someone.

4) I was cycling home, took a wrong turn at the Barbican (in York) and found myself in a little hilly village on the West coast. Some old ladies invited me in and I washed up their mugs as they sang a parody to Molly Malone. I tried to find a map and realised I was miles away from York and it would take me hours to get home.

The last one was weird because I actually can't ride a bike. I never got around to learning. I spent most of the dream trying to remember if you're supposed to use bicycle gears like car gears.

I'm also quite fond of Richard E. Grant (although alas, he now reminds me of my weird landlord in Cambridge) and definitely wouldn't ignore him if we met on a train.

It seems to have turned really cold recently, which is annoying as I'd just decided to turn down the radiator in my room as my contribution to fighting climate change. I do find the climate change thing concerning actually, although not in a "Save the planet" sense, more a "Save me!" sense. It's terribly frustrating knowing that we live in an extremely consumerist culture - apparently every day in the UK, we throw away enough rubbish to fill up the Albert Hall. I'm sure John Lennon could come up with something witty about that. This seems to be the kind of country where we just expect to get whatever we want, then we get it and don't care about the damage it might be doing. I suspect that the problem is we see cost in terms of money, and if we're willing to pay then we have the right to have it. We are willing to pay for the gas for a nice warm house, therefore we deserve a nice warm house. When was the last time you saw the planet paying to keep its cold bits cold and its warm bits warm? If we can warm up Alaska and cool down the Sahara, then that's our right! Hah!

The trouble is probably something to do with glass houses and throwing stones, or something idiomatic like that. I would theorise that places with less pollution are often like that because they can't afford to pollute. It's all well and good to be running a farm on biofuel, but if you had the money for a less smelly alternative, you could stop shovelling that dung immediately. We feel that if we have earned our great wealth, then we have the right to do whatever we like with it, only the problem tends to come back to haunt us later, like when we discover that despite our cities being the pinnacle of civilisation, the air isn't breathable.

I don't know. Perhaps we should plant some trees, recycle our rubbish, grow our own veg and keep our own animals. For meat, that is (Not sure I could do that though. I love chicken but I doubt I'd kill one that I'd just nurtured so that I could eat it). We could live something like the Good Life, only we couldn't watch the Good Life because televisions contribute to global warming.

Perhaps not. But we do live in what was, originally at least, a beautiful world (cue Louis Armstrong!), and perhaps we had better look after it. True, it's a hostile place - bits are really cold, other bits are hot, there are disasters and organisms that will kill you, and that's before we've got on to other people - but respect is due. In the words of um... Albert Einstein, I think, will look it up when I have more time... "The world owes you nothing, it was here first." And really, I think we know which animal we most want to save from the impending climatic disaster.

Save the humans!