I haven’t watched much of the Beijing Games but enough to be reminded that athletics is one of the great glories of humanity. One history of the ancient Greeks is that they came into Europe as one of a number of tribes devoted to a warrior cult which made them successful invaders of territories occupied by more peaceful people, but also led them into destructive conflicts of honour such as the war at Troy, which killed their best leaders and impovershed their settlements. Over time, they learned to modify their aggression and to appreciate the arts of peace,channeling their competitive desires into physical and artistic competition. The creation of something splendid, either in art or athletics, became for them one of the highrest expressions of humanity. This is one the great discoveries of their civilisation: that the true virtue (Greek: arete) of humanity is to transmute the desire to conquer into the creation of intellectual, artistic and athletic splendour.bolt

Yes, modern athletics like all modern competetive sport is defiled by nationalistic and financial concerns, not to mention the damaging use of drugs, but watching Mo Farah or Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis-Hill in full flight is to witness a special form of excellence, that unites people in appreciation of human worth. Of course animals have instinctual physicalities which exceed all human effort, but they do not have to learn them through harsh self-discipline and precise control, as humans do. Physical sport unites the diverse poles of human nature, the wit of homo sapiens with the instinctive grace of the animal body, providing at its best a struggle that damages no one.

Some people feel that when thousands of human beings are dying from violence and impoverishment, such spectacles are at best a distraction and at worst a wicked waste of resources, but I feel that if nations could focus on competing in human excellence rather than in power and wealth, tyrants and warmomgers might be seen for the idiots they are.

Well, what’s all that got to do with Jesus? At first sight, not a lot. Amongst all people in the Greek empire of Alexander the Jews were the least impressed with Greek ideals of art and sport. The use of Greek gymnasia in Palestine was forbidden to faithful Jews, who saw the naked display of the human physique as a provocative arrogance towards God and one’s neighbour. Sober men and women had to cover their bodies and control their instincts, so that they could live decently as God’s people. Genuine human worth in Jewish eyes was seen in faithful family life, neighbourly kindness, social justice and the worship of the one God. Jesus was raised in that tradition, which he reverenced and modified; and there is nothing in his life or teaching, that encourages an interest in intellecual, artistic or athletic excellence.

So, is that kind of excellence foreign to Jesus and therefore to Christian faith?

Ennis-GettyThere may be an answer in Jesus use of the phrase usually tranlsated as “eternal life” (Greek: zoe aionion, “the life of ages”). This can be intepreted as life that lasts for all time, or as life of everlasting quality. Allan Dale who translated the heart of the New Testament for school pupils, called it “splendid living”, that is, llife that expresses the nature of human beings as God’s children. St. Paul wrote of the “glorious freedom of the children of God.” Of course, for Jesus, no kind of splendid living can by-pass God and one’s neighbour, but rather must include them, as can be seen in the splendour of his own encounters with people in which the rule of God and the need of his neighbour are always acknowledged.

Perhaps the closest connection between the gospel of Jesus and the Greek ideal of excellence is his ministry of healing. The Jesus tradition has doubtless exaggerated the miraculous nature of this ministry, but it can hardly have invented the ministry itself. Jesus was a  healer, one for whom the diseased human being was an offence to the creator, who used his skill to restore the whole person to family and community life. His special indignation was reserved for those who thought some religious observance was more important than this liberation of human bodies and souls..

Perhaps we can recover the image of Jesus as one who lived splendidly and enabled others to do the same. On the other hand, our contemporary notions of sporting excellence could benefit from reconnection with the ancient Greek tradition, and with Jesus’ more comprehensive practice of the splendid life.

(Desperate Dan’s exceptional fitness and physical prowess are of course due to a healthy diet of cowpies and long walks with his dog Gnasher.)

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I was just cutting the photo of the three American men who tackled the train gunman, so that I could add it to my blog, wondering like most other men who read the story if I would have had the bottle to do what they did, and answering “no”, when I became aware of his presence in the room; medium height, well-built, forty-ish, with dark curly hair, elegant casual clothes and a sceptical smile.

” Nice to see you appreciate some genuine excellence,” he says.

I ask him what on earth he means.

“Day by day you write hundreds of words about God and Jesus and all sorts of religious virtues but you never praise the kind of thing these men did.”

” I praise the virtues of the Christian tradition”

” Yeah, but do you suppose all your mild-mannered, God-fearing, self- sacrificing heroes and heroines make the slightest improvement to the world? They may be very heavenly minded but they’re no earthly use!”

“I’m don’t accept your description of my heroes and heroines. The Bible for example is full of pretty robust characters…”

” Yeah, the Old Testament has some tasty types, but of course that’s the bit you only accept in a patronising kind of way, whereas your bit, the New Testament, has scarcely one interesting character, they’re all so bland, they hardly ever do anything human or exciting.”

” Come on, come on, surely Jesus is interesting even to non-believers…”

“So you say. But OK, let me ask you a question. You’re on a train or a plane when a guy with a gun and a grenade stands up and threatens to kill everyone on board. Now, who do want sitting beside you, Jesus or one of these Americans?”

The three Americans and one Brit who tackled the train shooter
The three Americans and one Brit who tackled the train shooter

“Eh…..”

“Now, come on  Mr. Bible Blogger, it’s a simple question. Give me a simple answer.”

“I suppose the honest answer is the Americans, but…”

“No buts please, I’m impressed by your honesty, so don’t mess about with it. Let’s just admire your answer: at a critical moment in your life, you, a bible -believing Christian would prefer to have three young Americans by your side than Jesus Christ your Lord…”

“Now hang on a minute…”

” And shall I tell you why you would make this choice like most other sensible people? Because two out of the three were actually trained to do something useful. They were ex-marines. They had chosen to learn how to cope with danger. So they didn’t even have to think. They knew how to respond in a way that maximised the chances of some good happening and minimised the chances of evil…whereas Jesus, with all his virtues would have been practically useless. He’d be telling you that if someone blows your first head off, you should turn the other towards him!”

” But Jesus never pretended to be the answer to all life’s problems; only to show people God’s Way.”

“I’m not just talking about situations of danger here. I mean almost anything ordinary and practical. Does Jesus help you to have better sex? Or to choose between GM and Organic farming? Or to cope with your husband who’s got Altzheimers, or to make good pasta, or solve the Greek debt crisis, or get rid of Donald Trump, or paint a masterpiece, or bring up a teenager? And if God’s Way is not do with all these things, what the hell is it to do with?”

I want to tell him that Jesus is not a substitute for human wisdom and skill, but rather the one who equips me to be the best that I can be, ready to learn all that I can learn for this life and the life to come, but I know I haven’t thought this through, and anyway, he’s already taking his leave, with a quick bow. I can hear him whistling as he goes down the road.

Gendarme 1. ……it’s a word I saw in the crossword today, eh, “detritus” meaning sort of, rubbish, eh..JUST KEEP WALKING QUIETLY YOU…..D’Y HEAR ME? D’YE HEAR ME? (sound of baton on shoulder) They pretend they don’t understand, ’cause they’re from Syria or somewhere…..D’YE HEAR ME NOW ABDUL? RIGHT, THAT’S BETTER…. what was I saying?

Gendarme 2. You were speaking about detrite….

Gendarme 1. Yes, detritus. It means garbage, stuff left over or thrown away, you know, so if the wind’s blowing onshore you get detritus from all parts dumped  at the tide line, eh,

Gendarme 2. ….plastic containers, polythene packets, paper, sanitary wear ….WHAT D’YE MEAN WHERE ARE WE TAKING YOU, WE’RE TAKING YOU WHERE WE WANT….AND YOU DON’T HAVE ANY RIGHTS, SO SHUT UP. YOU JUST BEEN CAUGHT TRYING TO CLIMB INTO A  LORRY. D’YE THINK WE WANT YOU HERE? IF IT WAS LEFT TO ME I’D SEND YOU ALL TO ENGLAND WITH A LITTLE TAG SAYING PRESENT FROM FRANCE, OK?  …Jesus, they should get some of these bleeding- heart- treat- them -with -dignity people out here at night on overtime in this rain and see how they feel….. …..eh condoms..

Gendarme 1.. …what d’ye mean condoms?

Gendarme 2. like you were saying .. eh … detrite…. stuff washed up on the beach…..

Gendarme 1. Detritus. Yes. So nobody wants it, it’s no use to anyone, it’s leftovers from every part of the world, see what I mean?

Gendarme 2. No, what you getting at?    OK YOU GET FRISKED BY THE MEN AT THIS GATE AHEAD. IF YOU GET FUNNY THEY’LL BEAT YOU SO JUST BE GOOD BOYS…..

Gendarme 1. Hadn’t you noticed…(laughs) … they’re both women?

Gendarme 2. Jesus, so they are, not my sort of women mind….

Gendarme 1. What I’m getting at is what these migrants are. They’re detritus, they’re what some one else has thrown away and now it washes up here, in Europe, in France….detritus! Oh-oh we’re going to have trouble. They’ll object to being searched by men….

Gendarme 2. Well they’ve just finsihed with that bloke, they want us to escort him as well,  how many hands do they think we have?

Gendarme1. GET ON GIRLS, DON’T STOP, YOU’LL ENJOY SOME NICE FRENCHMEN CHECKING YOU OVER, I SAID MOVE ( sounds of baton on body) MOVE!

Gendarme 2. MOVE BITCHES! (sounds of baton on body), JESUS!

Man. You shoud be ashamed of yourselves….

Gendarme 2. YOU STAY OUTA THIS PAL, YOU’VE BEEN FRISKED, SO SHUT YOUR MOUTH UNLESS YOU WANT SOME TOO….

Man. You should be ashamed. hitting helpless people, hitting women who’re only asking for decent treatment….(sounds of baton on body)

Gendarme 1. WE WARNED YOU STUPID DON’T GET IN OUR ROAD….

Man: I have memorised your numbers and will report you to your officers….

Gendarme 2. SO WE’VE GOT A SMARTARSE HERE…. ARE YOU SURE YOU’LL STILL HAVE A MEMORY WHEN WE’VE DONE WITH YOU…..

Gendarme 1: WHO ARE YOU ANYWAY?  HAVE YOU ANY PAPERS?

Man. I have no papers and my own country doesn’t want me

Gendarme 1. SO THESE WOMEN ARE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. DO YOU HEAR? NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

Man.You should think of your own mothers and wives, would you want anyone to treat them this way?

Gendarme 2. NOW THAT WAS A BAD MISTAKE PAL. ME, I GET REALLY ANGRY IF SOMEONE COMPARES MY FAMILY TO SCUM…

Man. You have to ask who is behaving like scum here….

Gendarme 1. WE WARNED YOU, YOU’VE ASKED FOR IT (many sounds of batons hitting body, groans).

Gendarme 2. OK, OK, he’s had enough, think he’s unconscious,

Gendarme 1. Yeah, he’s out but still breathing OK, even if his nose is smashed, call the paramedics, report him as injured resisting arrest, then we can leave him with our colleagues here until they pick him up, eh are you listening, what are you looking at?

Gendarme 2. Look at his body ….

Gendrame 1. What?

Gendarme 2. How did we do that….bruises and scars all over him, we didn’t do that, must have happened some other place…

Gendarme 1. Probably somewhere he wasn’t wanted. Like I said. Detritus. Let’s go, now.

These words from Psalm 124 in the Scottish Metrical Version:
“But blessed be God who doth us safely keep

and hath not given us for a living prey

unto their teeth and bloody cruelty.”

came to mind as I read in my morning paper that David Haines, who was beheaded by ISIL had asked that nobody should pay a ransom for his freedom. He must have been a very brave man. I’m less scared of death than I used to be, but extreme pain scares the shit out of me, and that’s what David Haines was facing. The manner of his death and of many others at the hands of ISIL pushes me towards notions of retribution which are contrary to my ethics of peace.

David Haines
David Haines

Shortly afterwards I received an email from Beth in Alaska telling me of landslides which have devastated a town and trapped some of its people. She and her husband Mark are teaching native people to set up a fish loading business and are very grieved by this incident.

The two events taken together remind me of a passage in Luke’s Gospel chapter 13.

“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’”

Two events are reported here:one a bloody murder, the other, a terrible accident, just as in my reading today.

I find it hard to read the passage without anger. What on earth was Jesus on about? How could he respond in such a blunt and unfeeling fashion to these tragedies? There’s no word here of any compassion for the victims, but rather a willingness to use their suffering as a warning. Is Jesus saying that the victims died without time to repent and that his hearers best get in some repentance before something similar happens to them? I begin to imagine how our gentle and compassionate mass media would have dealt with this matter if they had been around in Jesus’ time.

Voices shouting: Hey, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, Judaean Times here, Jerusalem Post wants to know, Capernaum Courier, your local paper Jesus, Tyre TV Jesus, what have you to say to grieving relatives Jesus, did you disrespect the dead?

Jesus: OK One at a time please!

Sitka Alaska
Sitka Alaska

Reporter 1: Judaean Times, Jesus, we want to know if you used these terrible deaths to preach a sermon about repentance….

Reporter 2.And you showed no respect or compassion, Bethlehem Bugle here.

Jesus: And of course your newspapers are models of respect and compassion?

Reporter 3: Don’t think you can weasel out of this by abusing the media. I’ve got a note that says you described the dead as just average sinners and told your audience that unless they all repented the same might happen to them. Is it true you said these words?

Jesus: Not quite true….

Reporter 4: Tyre TV….we’re transmitting this direct… we don’t want any maybes, did you say those words and if so how do you defend them?

Jesus: Those who use the death of others to make money for their companies are in no position to judge. But I’m happy to answer if you’re happy to listen instead of screaming.

Reporter 1: It better be good….

Jesus: I did not use the word repent, I said “change your ways”.

Voices: Just makes it worse, that’s appalling, he’s supposed to be a holy man, he’s a headbanger….

Jesus: The people asked me if God let Pilatus kill the men because they were terrible sinners. And I said they were no worse sinners than the rest of us. And I said the same about the people killed by the tower. I can say it again to you. These victims were the same kind of sinners as you and me.

Reporter 2: Are you saying God’s got something bad planned for us?

Jesus: Come on, grow up, these are nothing to do with God….

Reporter 4: You mean they were just accidents?

Jesus: Well, certainly our father in heaven does not control all the events of the world, but these events were not accidents…

Reporter 3: Aw come on Jesus, if they weren’t accidents, what were they?

Jesus: Pontius Pilatus ordered the massacre of the Galileans because he thought their sacrifices to God were provocative.He may have imagined he was keeping order, but he is responsible for these deaths.

Reporter 1: Maybe you want to lead people against the Romans?

Jesus: Do I look like a Jihadi? People who take up the sword die by it.

Reporter 2: But the tower falling, that was an accident wasn’t it?

Jesus: Not altogether. God didn’t build the tower, nor was it God’s duty to maintain it. So if we build and fail to maintain our buildings, who’s at fault if they fall on somebody? Remember I used to be the village builder.

Reporter 4: It was part of the Temple. You accusing the Temple authorities?

Jesus: No I’m just pointing out we live in a world that is not controlled by God. Sometimes accidents do happen. Sometimes people do evil things. That’s our world. We can only change it by changing ourselves.

Reporter 3: And if we change ourselves we’ll be free from evil or accidents?

Jesus: Unfortunately not.. But if we work with God for a different world, our deaths will not be meaningless.

Reporter 1. But the people we’re talking about, their deaths will still be meaningless?

Jesus: The New World I work for is for all, including those who are victims of evil and carelessness. It might even include journalists……..

JC: Oh, sorry to disturb you, I was just getting some peace and quiet in this roof garden, before turning in. I’ve never been in a hotel with a roof garden before. In fact I’m hardly ever in Hotels, a B &B is more homely.

JC: It’s much the same with me. My parents had some bad experience way back, something about them always being full-up when you needed them….. But a garden’s a good place when you’ve a lot on your mind.

JC: And I do have a lot on my mind. Also I’m not as young as I used to be…

JC: Only 66,  I’m told…..

JC:  Yeah, that’s right…..hey! Wait a minute. How do you know me?

JC: Come on Jeremy Corbyn, your face has been all over the news for weeks now!

JC: You’re not one of the papparazi  are you? Cause if you are, I’m not talking to you. I’ve been in public all day, talking and giving interviews. Now I need peace. Please go away.

JC: I’m not a journalist. I just came here to Glasgow to visit Rose Gentle, she’s a friend. She was saying she likes what you’re saying.

JC: She’s a good person. How do you know her? You don’t sound like a Glaswegian.

JC: I’ve tried to give her a bit of help ever since her son was killed in Iraq.

JC: So, Mr…..Mr…. You never introduced yourself….

JC: Jesus.

JC: Well, that’s a problem….

JC: Why?

JC: Because I don’t believe in you and even if I did, I wouldn’t expect to be talking to you in a hotel roof garden in Glasgow.

JC: You don’t need to believe in me to talk to me. Perhaps there’s something on your mind you could share with someone you don’t believe in. If I don’t exist, you won’t have given away any secrets.

JC: Well, OK Mr. Jesus, I’ll tell you what’s getting to me. I’ve put forward my policies for the Labour Party and the nation as honestly as I can. Now my opponents say I’m a nice man but just out of date. My views belong to another time and are now irrelevant. And of course, I did form my views when I was younger, so maybe they are right…..

JC: I’m not a politician, but I can tell you’re an honest man.

JC:,But maybe an out of date honest man?

JC: I’m not going to approve or disapprove your policies, but never fall for that stuff about being out of date. Truth and justice are never out of date. They’ve been calling me out of date for almost 2000 years. Romans arguing that I might have been all right for 1st century Judaea; intellectuals saying I might have been useful in the Middle Ages; Richard Dawkins telling people that science has disproved me; ordinary citizens saying that it’s the 21st century and time to forget me. I’ve always been out of date.

JC: So would you vote for me?

JC: As I said, I’m not a politician, in fact I’m not even a UK citizen. I’m just saying, don’t listen to abuse about being out of date!

JC: if you’re not a UK citizen, what are you doing here?

JC: Maybe I’m an asylum seeker…. I’m often associated with people who’re in danger of being binned.

JC: I hope that’s not why you’re associating with me?

JC: I hope not too. I’ll leave you now. Good night JC.

JC: Good night, eh….JC, and thanks.

Scene: outside and inside Trumpet Foundation HQ

Security: Hey, buddy, you can’t just walk in waving that thing…

Old Man: What are you objecting to?

Security: That sharp blade over your shoulder, bit like a scythe in the old days…

Old Man: It’s harmless except to those it’s meant for.

Security: Sure, sure just stop right where you are. This is a gun and I can use it.

Old Man: I think you’ll find it’s jammed..

Security (pulling trigger) yeah,it’s jammed, (switches on his phone, shouting) Security! Red Alert! Entrance hall! Man with scythe approaching! No I’m not joking, I’ve not been drinking. Get there and see. No, I tried to follow but somehow I can’t move from this spot….

At the Welcome Desk

Old Man: Good morning Miss, I have an appointment with Mr. Donald Trumpet.

Assistant: And your name Sir?

Old Man: Time, eh, Mr Time.

Assistant: Time, no I don’t see your name here, Sir.Perhaps you’ve got the wrong day?

Old Man: No I’ve never been known to get the wrong day…

Assistant: And you’d have to leave that curved blade with security… no, your name isn’t on Mr Trumpet’s list at all.

Old Man: When I said an appointment, I didn’t mean that Mr Trumpet knew I was coming. Just that I’d been told to see him.

Assistant: I’m sorry Sir, I’ve pressed the button for Security…..ah, here they are now…

Security 1: You! Drop that weapon!

Security 2: Drop that weapon and get down on the floor!

Security 1: Now, or we’ll fire!

Old man: I think you’ll find you can’t stop me…(he walks to the elevator) Floor 23, Suite 1, I believe I’ll find him there.

(vanishes in elevator)

Floor 23 at the elevators. Old man exits.

D. Trumpet: Now who the hell d’you think you are, mister? Security just rang through about you. You got a goddam nerve busting in here, assaulting my security staff, terrorising my assistant, carrying that weapon, I bet you’re a goddam democrat or a Mexican rapist. In any case, just turn round, get back in that elevator, go back the way you came and git your ass outa here or I’ll blow you to bits with this blaster I borrowed from my dentist!*

Old Man: The weapon is useless. You can test it by pulling the trigger, see, as I said, useless.

D. Trumpet: Who are you, old man? Are you Isil, or Al Quaeda, or the People Against Golf-Courses or what?

Old Man: I think maybe you’re beginning to recognise me. Why don’t we go into your office where there’s more privacy?

D. Trumpet: Well, seeing you got this far, why not the office?

Trump’s Office

Old man: I don’t want to drag this out. I’m here to tell you that this very night your soul is required of you.

D. Trumpet: Come on buddy, I’m not getting you. Tell me in plain English.

Old man: Tonight you’re going to die, perish, snuff it, peg out, kick the bucket, shuffle off your mortal coil, hand in your dinner pail, croak.

D. Trumpet: Tonight! No more warning than a few measly hours!

Old man: Yes.

D. Trumpet: But I’m feeling fine, full of life, having fun being a candidate for the Presidency. You sure?

Old man: We never make mistakes. He’ll come for you about midnight.

D. Trumpet: Who? Who d ‘ye mean? Who’s gonna come for me?

Old man: The One you belong to, your master, Mr Horns ‘n Tail, His Satanic Majesty. You’re going to his place; they say it’s not much fun.

D Trumpet: But I don’t belong to Satan!  I’m a Presbyterian, I’m a Christian! I belong to Jesus who’s gonna take me home.

Old man: Ah the Lord Jesus! He won’t let anyone steal his people, so if you really belong to him, you should expect to see him before midnight. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way. (he leaves)

D. Trumpet: (on phone) Cancel all my appointments. Find my wife. Get hold of my minister. Yes, you heard right, my minister. Who’s my minister? How the hell am I supposed to know. Find him, get him here! And that Giovanni Crapaldi we used to do business with, yes, yes, the Mafia man, get him here too in case he has a line with the Pope. OK? Move!

9pm

D. Trumpet: All useless! My wife is sad. My minister prayed. Giovanni said he could bribe the last Pope but not this one. All my colleagues think I’ve flipped. And as for Jesus, just when you need him, he’s not around…

Jesus: Hello…?

D Trumpet: Who’s there? Come in. Let me see you. Aw, God help me, it’s a goddam Mexican. What you doing here, Jose? You claiming asylum? Eh? Good idea, that’s what I want to do, claim asylum before I get fried.

Jesus: You wanted to see me, I’m Jesus.

D. Trumpet: Don’t mess me around, buddy, I know my Bible. Jesus is a Jew not a Spic. So go bother someone else.

Jesus: Donald, I’ve come for you. Just follow me….

D Trumpet: You got some gall, bud, to come in here and impersonate the Lord Jesus! Get out and don’t come back!

Jesus: Very well.

Later

D Trumpet: Oh, there’s a cold wind blowing out of the night and someone with very heavy steps is climbing upwards through the building. Ah he’s getting nearer. No, Go away, leave me alone, aaaarrrrrgggggghhh!

Mrs Trumpet: Donald, Donald, you were screaming in your sleep! It’s all right, you’re at home in your bed. What’s wrong?

D Trumpet: Nothing, nothing, hon, just a crazy dream….

  • This is an obscure joke about dentists and lions and guns

It’s after midnight, and I’m tired but still seated at my desk, trying to deal with this thing that throws my whole life into question and makes me angry, grieved, confused, guilty, and resentful. You don’t need to know, Reader, ( if you exist ) the precise nature of this thing, because you could only, if you are a kind person, offer me your sympathy.

You think your sympathy is any good to me? You might say those untruthful words, ” I know how you feel.”

YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW I FEEL. Even if a similar trouble has afflicted you, you are not me, and cannot know how the thing feels to me. Yes, I could try to tell you; yes, you could ask shrewd questions, but no, we would not have eliminated the essential loneliness of human experience. It’s the same with pleasure; in the intimacy of sex, do I really know what that beloved person is feeling?image

As I think these thoughts, he comes in and sits down in the chair opposite me. He is wearing jeans and a blue shirt, I observe, and carries a bottle of water in the modern way. This naff custom has always annoyed me.

“I suppose you’re going to offer me  a drink?”

He he smiles and hands me the bottle, “As you see, it’s unopened. Sometimes the wardrobe people are a bit over the top.”

His equanimity annoys me.

“Or maybe you’ve come to offer me your sympathy?”

“Do you think you deserve sympathy?”

“Oh right, you mean that if I’ve got a roof over my head, enough to eat and nobody trying to kill me, I should thank the wise creator for being better off than most of his miserable creatures? But that’s mere childishness. I’m complaining about the administration, and it’s no answer to say it’s treated others worse than me.”

“But of course I do offer you my sympathy. I know how you feel”

“YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW I FEEL! I know you’ve suffered, but how would you like it if I said I knew how you felt on the cross”

“Perhaps we can all use our unique experiences of  suffering to understand other sufferers. But in my case there’s something more: I do in fact know what you’re feeling.”

“How on earth can you know?”

“Because I am no longer limited to the earth.”

image“Look, I’m not sure I need this conversation. and in any case you’re a figment of my imagination. Even your smart answers come from my own brain.”

“If you think that, why not ask me about something you can’t know?”

“Well, tell me about not being limited to the earth.”

“I was dead and behold I am alive for evermore.”

” Don’t give me that Bible crap! If you’re real tell me something real.”

“On earth there are joy and sorrow, justice and injustice, love and hate, war and peace, good and evil, life and death. In heaven there are only joy, justice, love, peace, goodness and life.”

“So from the pinnacle of perfection you can look down at our struggles and SYMPATHISE! I hope we don’t spoil your happiness….”

“I spoke only of heaven, but heaven is not separate from earth. When we are on earth, joy with sorrow is a fact and unmixed joy is a hope. When we are in heaven unmixed joy is a fact and the sorrows of earth are a commitment.”

“You mean, you have a choice whether to feel them or not?”

“On earth commitment to others is a choice, in heaven it is a fact. All your suffering is real to us.”

“That must be a nasty additive to your unmixed joy.”

“If our joy was at the expense of your sorrow it would be imperfect; but because we are committed to your victory over sorrow, it is a perfect joy.

Xtremejesus
Xtremejesus

“So. I spoke without thinking. I accept your sympathy is real. But I’m not sure it does me any good.”

“Not in itself, you’re right. But it’s only the first step. If you trust that I understand, Then accept me as a comrade in your battle. There will still be wounds but perhaps you can can begin to see them as marks of battle rather than signs of defeat.”

I looked at him as if for the first time, and saw, even as he moved to conceal it, the mark of the nail on his right hand, still raw.