Love – Sunday 7th February 2010

Posted on February 7, 2010

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I decided to prepare a cooked breakfast for “The Anniversary”. I cooked four eggs and donated the best pair, which were being dissected as I watched – and winced. The yolk was pierced and spilt over the toast, which had been grilled under scrutiny. The cooked albumen had been macerated between the prongs of the fork; the larger segments skated over the melted butter like the tectonic plates of an emerging planet. Attempts to contain the tepid gloop came to a predictable climax and, despite a few choice strokes of the knife, my handiwork oozed onto the plate where it would remain, stubbornly, for at least two cycles of the dishwasher. I have never met such a messy eater. The kitchen fell silent as I pondered the legitimacy of the cliché ‘opposites attract’.

Fortunately, this warped version of an M&S ad was interrupted as we discussed our evening entertainment. After I heard that one in ten of the population had been to see Mamma Mia, I decided to go ‘high brow’ and book tickets at the ICA Cinema (an excellent venue). We saw an adaptation of J M Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning novel ‘Disgrace’. Set in post-apartheid South Africa and beautifully crafted, the film centres on David Lurie, a Professor of English Literature (and, perhaps predictably, a scholar of Byron) whose disgrace is his dishonourable discharge following the pursuit of a young student. He describes himself as a “servant of Eros” to the disciplinary panel and leavesCape Townto live with his daughter in the countryside where he helps her with her market gardening business. His daughter had recently split up with her female partner and the business was suffering. The story takes a dramatic turn when she is raped by a gang of three young black men and decides to keep the baby. The love between Lurie and his daughter is followed in parallel to the story of the changing relationship between the white man and his country in today’sSouth Africa. It’s a fascinating and engaging film and I was surprised that it was only shown at theICAand not more widely.

Clearly age is no barrier when it comes to issues of the heart; over Christmas a young relative confided in me. Boasting a new boyfriend with a larger car, she explained how he had grown fond of telling her how much he loved her. In an uncharacteristically candid moment, she revealed that her retort had not been altogether heartfelt – she wasn’t sure how she would know if she actually did love him. Mercifully, I was spared the humiliation of recounting the numerous (and all too recent) times when I had considered the same question, as my top hat landed on aPark Lanehotel.

As I Passed Go, I remembered how a few weeks before I had met a man who asked what Jesus meant to me and how much I loved Him? After a few seconds of eonic proportions, I was relieved to find that the question was rhetorical : Jesus was his counsellor, his best friend, his companion and his one love. My tumbleweed moment continues to bother me. My initial awkwardness was not due to any questioning of the sincerity of his answer, for that was clear. In fact, it took some time to cast off the intense envy I felt towards someone who could be so sure of their belief and was capable of communicating it so clearly and with such with conviction to a complete stranger. My embarrassment arose despite knowing the difference between eros and agape – I still cringe when I hear the word Love. As I negotiated an overdraft to pay Super Tax, I realised that, despite the passing of years, I am still asking the same questions as my young relative, when it comes to my spiritual development.

We don’t need the French to scoff at our inability as a nation to deal with love. From Shakespeare to Victoria Wood’s “Ballad of Barry and Freda” we are perfectly capable of keeping it in the family. We all think we know what we mean when we use the word but how often do we say it with meaning? I realised that in our principal weekly service the congregation doesn’t say the word out loud at all – but we are happy to sing it to a nice hymn tune and occasionally (when we use the alternative post-communion prayer) we say the word but even then the action is ascribed to another, albeit His sacrifice was for us (“dying and living he declared your love”). We are also happy for other people to say it on our behalf. When the Vicar introduces The Peace (and begins a wedding) he often uses the words of St John the Apostle, who used Love as a way of describing God : “God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.” As is often the case, the simplest advice is often the hardest to follow “If we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see?” Next time I prepare a cooked breakfast I will try to remember that.

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