Monday, 14 December 2015

Life, but not as we know it

Yesterday was the day of Sta Lucia, and Sara over there in Gothenburg sent me some photos and a video link to a TV recording of a national celebration of carols. Then again this morning, photos from the early morning ceremony at the school where she teaches. Lucia customs aren't that widespread or embedded as part of our winter folk ceremonies. It's very charming and beautifully atmospheric, but what is it really all about? I ask and get no answer that satisfies. In our email exchange I quoted Spock from Star Trek "It's life Jim, but not as we know it!", but Sara didn't get it. She was born around the time the first series got shown on UK TV, and has never watched. 

So, this led to me writing her a brief summary description of what it was all about and why it mattered to people of my age, quite apart from all the antics of the world wide fan-base of 'trekkies'. Putting down my thoughts made me realise how much the Star Trek narratives had reflected the debate about multi-culturalism and pluralism, and working at eliminating conflict. The other great sci-fi saga of the age influencing many is Star Wars, again in the public eye due to the new movie release. All the rage when Owain as a little boy, it never grabbed my attention, and I'm not even sure I can recall sitting through one of the movies on telly, let alone in a cinema. Having been raised on a diet of heroic World War Two battle movies, with roots in recent history much nearer to recent reality, I was destined to lose interest in Star Wars early on. Sci-fi that envisaged an era when we would 'study war no more' engaged with my idealism better.

Now today is the feast of St John of the Cross, whose poetry I have started dipping into in this past week for the first time. The Breviary office for the day contains a text from his 'Spiritual Canticle', all about suffering as a route to contemplation. Thought provoking, to say the least. I like the joyous innocent simplicity of his poetry. By contrast, the simplicity of Pablo Neruda's observations of life are of a different. He looks in detail at ordinary people and the things of life, giving an almost sacramental value to that which others would treat with contempt or ignore. His socialist humanism, if I may call it so, has a truly incarnational ring to it, an earthly mysticism. Two Spanish poets five centuries apart giving much much delight and inspiration this Advent, helping me to cope with the darkness of the year more cheerily than usual.

This morning I did the week's food shopping on foot, visiting first the Co-op and then Lidl's, braving the rain and getting four miles worth of exercise, much needed. I posted all the foreign cards, and then finished off the rest of the British ones. Seventy in all. Very satisfying.


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