I wrote you last week and sent you a song that I heard while sitting in my favourite coffee house. I go there often and take friends because the coffee is way good and you want to give your friends good things, right? Now, when I go there I play a game because I have to pass over a railway crossing. It’s the mainline to London so it can get busy and the game is, simply, to make the journey without having to wait at the crossing. As said, simple and, yes I know, simple things please simple minds, but it makes me smile.
Well, the day I heard that song I was taking friends out for breakfast and as I drove I explained the game to them. If I told you that a kilometre away, as we saw the crossing in the distance, excitement began to build would you believe me? Four mature adults! The myth of the inner child was being validated.
Closer and closer we came, mindful that at any moment the lights could turn red and the next five minutes of our collective lives would be spent sitting, waiting for a train to pass. Then we were there and as we passed over the crossing the bells sounded and the lights went from green to red. But we were across and as, pulling away, I looked in the rearview mirror I saw the barriers descend. Then one of my friends turned, smiling, and said, “The gods of the railway crossing were for you. You’re going to have a good day”. Well the breakfast was a good start.
But now I am thinking a cascade of thoughts. Am I primitive or suspicious enough to believe some supernatural power has chosen to bestow favour on me via the railway crossing and had I just experienced a devine encounter? Or are my thoughts so sophisticated that I will not give credance to the possibility of such things? Maybe, grasping superstition, I will go into the day only seeing the very best of things which the gods obviously desire to bestow on me. Alternatively I could put everything down to chance, appeal to science, use statistics and remove the possibility of any lurking gods from the picture.
So many approaches which patently highlights the diversity of understanding that exists. How mysterious are the gods if, indeed, there are any gods at all? How contrary!
This leaves the question, how should I approach life? The choices are mine, and yours, and we would do best to take a moment or two and try to find a modicum of understanding so our decision will, at the very least, be informed. I mean Pogue, that’s it, isn’t it? Delay any decision, abandon judgements, let the dust of confusion settle and seek to be informed. If I suggested that taking the option to understand a situation, something that is happening, an occasion, will set you apart would you beieve me? If life has taught me anything it’s that most people want to be led. “It’s sheep we’re up against”.
Here’s an example. Travelling in England recently I stopped to take coffee in a quaint country town. With no particular need to be anywhere (the very best of days) I decided to explore the town and to my surprise discovered a witching stool on the river bank. In case you aren’t aware, 500 or so years ago it was not uncommon for women to be accused of being a witch and fear would spread through the populace as, it was believed that witches were doers of evil and possessed of uncommon powers. Superstition run large! So to validate the accusation the unfortunate lady was strapped into the chair and dropped into the river. If she sunk she was innocent of any charge, and drowned. If she floated she was obviously guilty and burned at the stake. Justice was served! Maybe all the poor woman had done was pursue the occupation of a herbalist but ignorance, misunderstanding, maybe a sprinkling of mysogyny, a clear avoidance of any desire to seek understanding and a willingness to follow the current and popular beliefs meant justice could be served. Some would say that not much has changed. Life is so easy for those who negate responsibility and surge with the mass. The Greeks and Romans of classical times did well to fear the power of the Mob.
Pogue we see what we want to see, believe what we choose to believe, usually take the easy path to forming an opinion because laziness is an inherant characteristic in people and think nothing of the consequences of our thoughts and beliefs. So a woman was drowned. She was a witch afterall and someone told me witches are evil so what’s the problem? But we need to grasp the basic fact that we, each and everyone of us, are responsible for what we choose to believe. Ignorance, or pointing a finger at someone else just doesn’t work because we have the ability, the responsibility to understand what we believe and why we believe it. In the final analysis you are responsible for yourself!
I always suggest to you that you question everything and ask “Why”. Don’t be fobbed off. Fortunately we are a more informed and tolerant society, at least where you and I live, so all those who produced witching stools have gone out of business.
So what of the gods of the railway crossing? Should I choose to believe in their existence and the capricious manner in which they choose to bestow their blessings? Would I be wise to seek their favour? Will I be assured of permanently open gates when I need to cross? And if the gates are open can I assume my day will go well because, well, I am obviously amongst the ‘chosen’? Or as I cross over the rails should I remind myself that I timed things well, missed the 9.00am London bound train, and taking further responsibility for myself create my own ‘good day’ filled with a positive attitude and a ‘can do’ belief?
At the end of the day I don’t think God is bothered whether I make the crossing or not and She shakes her head in amusement should I choose to attach some relevance to the fact the gates were open. God would much rather I take responsibility for my actions and thoughts whilst seeking an honest relationship with the Divine.
Yours, trying not to see the pattern in the tea leaves at the bottom of my cup,