My mother would have liked me to be a vicar.
I have always quite liked the idea of being a vicar too. I imagine myself as something akin to Alastair Sim in Folly to be Wise and Peter Sellers in Heavens Above!
In the act of being a vicar, my world would change into something monochrome and warm, a memory of Sunday afternoon films. The reality would be different, but that is why I avoid reality so often. I place my Ealing lens on.
I remember talking to a dean who told me of the ghastly flocks of his past, the venal and the bigoted, the snobs and the surreptitiously fundamental. Maybe I could make the short jump to Unitarian minister one day. They don’t have to believe in a god, but they do need to possess empathy and a sense of altruism. At the last Unitarian service I attended, the readings included an excerpt of Dennis Potter’s final TV interview and a “hymn” about human imagination.
The main hindrance to my vicar hopes is my lack of religious faith. So I have had to swap the possible pulpit for proselytizing in art centres. Some of the art centres are deconsecrated churches, so I can still find myself raising my fists under low lit stained glass while talking of Darwin or intrusive thoughts.
Richard Coles is a vicar I enjoy talking to, though when he gets on to the sensation of the holy spirit, I find myself trying to change the subject. I can nod and understand the allure of mysticism to a point, but then my mind goes, “hang on, this sounds too barmy for my ears”.
This is the wall I cannot break through.
A sensation beyond my recall or imagination, an irretrievable idea.
My point of squish-faced “I don’t get it”.
In his interview with this week’s Big Issue, Coles tells his faith wanting interviewr that faith is there, “if you really want it”, but I don’t think it is. Just as atheists may not always have the empathy to at least comprehend the faithful, the faithless mindset is beyond some in and around the pews.
I see no reason why anyone wouldn’t want to earnestly believe that there is something that has put this universe together, that gives it a meaning and a destination and the possibility that our conscious existence is not finite.
That we may see our ancestors and our offspring again, and possibly for eternity.
But unfortunately, the sort of minds that make fire, farmland and physics experiments have an uphill struggle to place a mystic being, beyond all the laws of all else we see in our universe, to make this deity idea seem tangible.
I try to imagine what might make me “a believer”, what tragedy or pain, but it seems like such a vast cauldron of cognitive dissonance that my nature/nurtured sceptical mind would keep peeping out and saying, “you know you’re kidding yourself”.
Would I like to exist forever and never lose those I love?
Sounds a grand idea.
Do I believe I can make that leap?
So, instead I must make the very best of what I have here, savour my existence, however ridiculous, while I have it. Woody Allen was right, that it is the dying, not the being dead, that is worrisome.
Tim Minchin is given the Big Issue pages after Reverend Richard, and reminds us,
“All comedians are nerds getting up on stage saying things they wish they’d had the balls and fleet-footedness to say in the moment”.
And if it turns out there is a God and when I get to the after death queueing system and it says, “you didn’t believe in me and instead just tried to make the most of your life, and attempted to be altruistic and empathetic and love those around you as much as you could, so to the furnace for you”
I will say, “fuck you, Yahweh”.
And it’ll say, “right, I am extending your eternity in fiery agony”
“what do you mean extend the eternity?”
And he’ll say, “have you never heard of Hilbert’s hotel. There are different types of eternity”.
And eventually, after I’ve dragged out the eternal argument for as long as I can, I’ll start smelling my skin crackle.
on tour forever with my show about brains, minds and Peter Higgs – southport, henley, bridgwater, hove, manchester, london and on http://www.robinince.com (also US and Australia dates will be up soon, in fact I think the US ones are already, with Prof Cox)
and here is new Vitriola podcast https://soundcloud.com/vitriolamusic