September 2017 - Open your eyes and live!

Open your eyes and live!

I recently heard someone say, “Once you perceive the presence of death, you understand the brevity of life”, and that kind of thing gets me thinking.

When we go to the cinema, we are usually being asked to suspend reality and to go with the story. A film will take us to unexpected places, and the plot twists may not bear up to the cold light of realism, but, hey, it's a movie.

It is strange, therefore, that we are so often willing to suspend reality the rest of the time too. We race down the motorway (yes, 70 mph is racing considering that the human body is not designed to stop suddenly at great speed), and when we come across the site of an accident we say, “It could never happen to me”. Then the same person might walk into her local newsagent and buy a lottery ticket and wistfully think, “You never know!”. In 2013, 1,713 died in road traffic accidents in the UK (about one person in every 35,000). The chances of becoming a millionaire by choosing the right numbers is in the region of 1 in 10 million (or 1 in 45 million, depending on some recent changes – www.statslife.org.uk).

Even if my maths is rubbish, you begin to get the point. The reality is not a life full of jackpots. Reality has always been of risk and danger and the possibility of suffering. The reality is of the transient nature of our short and dangerous lives. We might understand that someone may say, “I thought there was a God until my friend developed cancer”. And yet to have thought that cancer, or a road accident, or a heart attack was not always a very real possibility is to live with reality suspended. Our shock and grief cause us to close our eyes and hide our hurt.

Religion, at its best, does not offer a fantasy, a ducking away from the truth, but a way of accepting reality with love and gratitude. Even without a sense of the Divine, the risk of death should be allowed to lead us to a love of life. This is not a movie, this is life. Open your eyes and live. Carpe diem quam cum amor et gaudium!

Nick Bird

your Rector