Politik.

“Look at earth from outer space…everyone must find a place…”

Perhaps everyone’s spiritual home should be in the dying of summer.

We get our hopes up, they’re our summertime hopes. Those hopes that say that everything matters, and that the world can be better, and it is great now anyway, and that you are making a difference.

Somehow, though, they always die a little – at least for another year. We go through summertime after summertime, skipping from one to the next, each one a new home, a new place to build our dreams around.

My summertimes started with a nugget of truth – action is better than inaction. It may have been drawn from a dancing, uninhibited rejoicing at the fall of Apartheid, or the simple awareness of well-meaning family. It may have been that morning in 1992 when everyone’s hopes and dreams died for another five years. I don’t know.

Labour, but middle-class with it, my nearest influences have always provoked – since I was old enough to feel it – a sense of not-quite. The sight of a sweaty local party candidate emerging from my sister’s bedroom, the canvassing we were roped into. Local politics is all a little not-quite.

But the final moment of rejoicing in 1997 came too soon for me. Born five years earlier, and I might be defending New Labour as we speak. But for those of us whose first global moment was 9/11 and its aftermath, it will always be hard to vote for them.

Then – the choice…over time. Apathy (popular), alternative (Lib Dem), anarchy (the Bristol scene), agnostic about party politics but wanting to influence decision makers (SPEAK) or altruism (Green). There’s a bit of all these in me. There’s a bit of all these, I would wager, in all of us.

But the Liberal Democrats took my brain. Question Time after Question Time I valued their approach, their stances, if not always their style. Charles Kennedy’s one-liners and chat-show appearances, Ming Campbell’s grounded-but-cheery reason, Simon Hughes’ slightly smarmy but pointed rebukes and Julia Goldsworthy’s normality. But when Charles turned to Ming, they lost something. And when Ming turned to Nick, they sort of gained it again, only for us to belatedly realise that we’d traded snakeoil for wolftickets. Bring back Charles, and then enter coalition discussions, we now think.

It falls to me to explain that, politically, I believe in democracy above all things. The airing of views, the discussion, the detail, and the dialectic is all important. No matter how flawed our party political and parliamentary system is (and it is – say yes to AV, as a babystep), I believe that we should revolutionise it not through tearing it down and criticising it, but from taking a positive stance and bargaining on flawed human beings’ capability to make the debate positive, and get legislation that is life-giving and life-changing and respectful of the dignity of people. That’s the big idea.

So, if our spiritual home is in the dying of summer, our political home should be in those first rays of sunlight on a clear, June morning – where we attest that truth alone suffices, that the positive step is the way ahead, that our realpolitik must move into its own summer, a summer that is always dying, and an endless one at that.

“Summer is dying, let’s go outside…”

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Home.

You can’t die in two places at once, and you can’t be born in two places at once.

But after about a quarter of your life, you’re able to decide for yourself where you want to be.

What criteria have you used?

Often, cultural and national boundaries dictate our movements. We speak English and we know English culture, so we live in England. It seems easier.

But there is so much of the world that is English-speaking – at the last count 53 separate countries or entities spoke it as an official language, and that doesn’t even include the United States. Why not live in one of these places?

I use language as an example because I do feel it is very important to be able to speak the common tongue of an area in order to feel TRULY at home. This may seem a controversial statement, and it isn’t intended to be xenophobic or unwelcoming…but it must be incredibly hard for non-English speakers who arrive in Britain to make their home.

Still, more important than that for many of us is closeness to family. Of course, it’s possible to fly almost anywhere in the world within about 24 hours, but does that mean we feel comfortable with the distance? If I went and lived in Australia, I know I’d miss my family and friends and have to spend a lot of money getting back to visit, so I don’t do it.

And then the numbers games start – how many times should I return? How much would it cost? If being satisfied costs that much, and requires that much forward planning, and that many journeys, perhaps it’s just better to find an equidistant point between all your loved ones and be done with it?

I think, instead, we should just search our hearts. Do we feel more alive in the city or the country? Do we enjoy colder or warmer climates? Do we value fixed abodes or strive for fluid communities? Do the friends we love live nearby, and is the pull away by other factors enough to shift us?

These are the kind of questions to answer about home, and I’m still pondering them.

Death.

It seems a shame that a life has to end. Why did God invent death? Why can’t we just go on living forever?

A lot of people think we do. They’re wrong. Death is the end. (The Bible even says this. “To dust we shall return…”)

But that doesn’t preclude the possibility that death is also the beginning. Either way, it’s something to ponder, not something to answer.

If you’ve lost someone, the seemingly innate response is to act like they’ve gone somewhere else, someWHERE. This isn’t based on hard fact or faith – but on instinct. It’s also worth saying that it isn’t based on superstition, for superstition is defined as “a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge”. In fact, innate statements of continued life in a deceased love one are based on some kind of strange reason – “if so and so isn’t here any more, then they must be somewhere else”.

This assumes that “personhood” is something that lasts, something that continues beyond someone’s mortality. And indeed it is – you can think of a person, you can see the effect of their actions, and you can yearn for their presence – still mysteriously and paradoxically eluding and lingering around you – long after they’re gone.

The brute fact of death is neither here nor there, and I am every moment more convinced that it is dying more than death that is the difficulty. Everyone dies. But not everyone dies well.

How does one die truthfully and well? (If I were able, I would quote the entire last chapter of Richard Holloway’s Looking In The Distance, but I’ll have to stick with my own thoughts.)

There are examples all around us. Some of us die in love, some in faith, and some even in laughter – God, we hope this forourselves.

But we die in the place we lived – this earth. Our earthly lives are not made up of paradisiacal perfections, but of graspings for an infinite surface to rest our cold, lonely heads on when the day arrives. (“Every living creature on this earth dies alone”, says Grandma Death in the film Donnie Darko.)

Perhaps the only noble and holy death is a martyr’s, a giving at the last. But these are particularly hard to choreograph, and even harder must the will of the survivors be to testify readily and persistently, not least in both turbulent and apolitical moments.

In total, our lives must find a somewhere, a someplace, a someone to try to share these moments with. Usually, these are circumstantial, but it is just that opponent measure of choice and free will that makes finding our home all the more intriguing.

Truth, alone.

“I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it.” Mohandas Gandhi

The God of alone, the God we do not know, is Truth, and nothing else.

Why Truth? Why a capital letter?

Truth, it seems to me, hides behind every value, ideal and search that we partake in – and it is the basis of every value, ideal and search.

If we look for love, we will never find it if we do not first know truth about love – its character. If a man stays with a woman for his entire life and then tells her on her death bed that he never loved her, then we can clearly see that truth is a basis for love.

If we look for peace, we will never find it until we see that the feeling of peace for the individual is not the fullest picture, and won’t satisfy us. But if we recognise that peace is about absence of war, communal understanding between people, and international relations, and much more besides – i.e. the greatest breadth of understanding of the word – we will see that the truth of peace is what we are striving for, not just the value or ideal itself.

Why the capital letter? Because Truth is hidden behind truth and truths. It is unknown, but desired.

It is Truth which is the vast ocean on which we cannot walk – not yet. It is unpatriotised, unconquered and is a fulfilment of wonder that we can’t encapsulate, but long for as our home.

It is, presently, merely truth and truths (with a small “t”) that we seek, like we seek love, grace, peace. Each of these is a state that fills up a continent – the commonwealth of love, the nation of grace, the republic of peace. None of them is granted, but is an ideal that we seek. Beyond that ideal is the continent with that one shared value – truth. Yet, beyond all the landmass of truth – all the practical, pragmatic steps we take – lies that great ocean named Truth.

Some deny the reality of Truth because they can’t, don’t or won’t believe that walking on it is a possibility, or they find that the grand scheme of the continent of truth and truths is enough for them. This, I would perhaps controversially conjecture, is enough. To not mince words, not believing in an objective Truth, or an objective God, does not mean you are in conflict with the universe or with reality. But, if you can stomach it, the appreciation of a grand, over-arching position on Truth gives, in my eyes,  a principled reason for action – practical, concrete action in this world – and a greater sense of the potential for change than simply seeing a problem and wanting a solution.

Of course, the countries that we DO know, that we each strive for, to a greater or lesser extent, in our day to day living, are varied and essential to focus on.

Indeed, the small “t” of truth, the sovereign nation of truth, is the first to which I turn.

Where do we start to seek the truth today?