Mrs Waplington killed God…

Like most kids I knew at primary school in 1970, I was shipped off to Sunday school each week, it was held in a classroom at our school and I remember how much I resented being there on a weekend.

I didn’t resent the lessons though once I was there. I was peculiarly receptive to the Bible stories we were told, and I suppose it was a precursor to my enjoyment of History lessons in my later school life, because I understood the historic timeline very clearly – and more importantly, I accepted what I was being told as complete fact. I believed in God, I believed in Jesus and when I recited the Lord’s Prayer,  I did it with real conviction.

My parents sent me to Sunday school as a way of getting the kids out the house for a couple hours – we weren’t a religious family, religion and God played no part in my upbringing, no part in our every day lives – there was no sense of religiosity in my entire family and no one had felt it necessary to go through the effort of getting us baptised. In fact up to my early teens  I had never set foot inside a church. And the only time my parents or grandparents had attended church, was to get married.

So they must have wondered what they had done by sending me off to Sunday School, when after I was too old to attend any more, I took the decision to take myself to church – and to organise my own baptism and confirmation.

I remember the first time I walked in to our local church – it was a gothic masterpiece – high pointed ceilings, ornate pews , beautiful stained glass, the heavy smell of incense, benevolent statues of Mary and graphic pictures of the stations of the cross. You could be forgiven for thinking I was Roman Catholic – but you would be slightly wrong, because although I attended an Anglican church and was baptised a Protestant, our church was high Church and was as Catholic as it was possible to be without having a Pope, And I fell in love with the place.

To this day I can’t resist a beautiful church, incense and a sung Eucharist.

I attended an inner city comprehensive secondary school – it was a tough place and not for the faint hearted. Some may say we didn’t exactly attend school but survived it! If I was being charitable I would say that the school did its best to give us a good basic education and was spectacularly successful at crowd control;teachers tended to be appointed not because they were enthusiastic about their subjects but because they didn’t take any crap and knew how to maintain discipline – these were the days when the sports master walked around with a cane and knew how to use it.

I belonged to a small, and often ostracized group of students – the group who were considered worth attempting to educate to O level rather than being left to grapple for a CSE like everyone else. Heady heights indeed.

Key differences in our school day saw us taught a second language, French in our case and instead of taking one general science course we did the individual science subjects – Biology, Physics and Chemistry all separately.

I wasn’t a scientist particularly and there were moments struggling through yet another boring practical making solenoids that I didn’t wish for a spate of generalised science blurb instead.

And then there was the small matter of Mrs Waplington.

My first Biology lesson and I felt I’d drawn the short straw, because Mrs Waplington was taking our class and we were all frightened shitless of her. Undoubtedly a good Biologist, she had long lost the rosy belief she would mould great minds of the future with her enthusiasm and wit. She was shortish  and frumpy and had clipped disinterested tones that said – don’t piss me off! (actually with the hindsight of an adult, I believe that Mrs Waplington was a good and fair woman – she taught us well and was the only science teacher I ever had who got me to not only pass the bloody exam but actually feel I liked and understood it)

But my over riding memory of Mrs Waplington is it was she who killed God.

My first lesson in Biology and Mrs Waplington clearly wanted her point to be understood and she didn’t want to spend too long explaining it and she didn’t want too much in the way of questioning – so she addressed us with unequivocal directness.

‘Whatever you think you know about life and how it originated – forget it. Any childish notions you have left over from primary school about the origin of man – forget them. Today you begin to study science and you will study scientific method. If you intend to do well on this course then you need to understand that there is a difference between what science can tell us and what we think we know from bible stories – today we are going to begin with Mr Charles Darwin, to look at the evolution of man…….’

Honestly I don’t remember her exact words – but that paragraph, is pretty much it. I remember sitting there and thinking I need to pass this exam. But underneath was a disturbing disquiet.

Because I saw in what I was being taught albeit at low level, the unquestionable logic of science – even though I was largely pretty crap at science I learned that science is king – it explains how the world works, it explains there are no eternal mysteries and that the world as we see it works on understood principles and unbreakable laws.

My bible stories couldn’t compete with that.

Given I could never fathom Adam and Eve and where their sons had found handy wives – it was far far easier to see that Mr Darwin with his finches in the Galapagos was altogether more logical and how over millions of years man had dragged himself from the primordial stew.

I understood at long last that ‘faith’  in God was not the innocent acceptance of the Bible and the Gospel I had learned but was instead an unshakeable belief in the Almighty and his workings despite the contradictory evidence supplied endlessly by the scientific community, and on that basis I realised I didn’t have faith at all.

Without any great in depth knowledge I was lead by Mrs Waplington & Co. into that great  educational sausage machine, and I was ground out believing what I was told – without question or further thought. After that initial disquiet I never questioned anything I was told again – all my questioning was directed to set books and set knowledge.

My science career was mercifully short – but it’s effect lasted half a life time because I lost faith. For me to have said  I had faith would be to invite ridicule. But to say I had faith would also be a lie – because I no longer believed in anything.

My teen years were busily filled with all the flim flam beloved of teenagers everywhere – music, boys, being rebellious and a bit of study tacked on the end.

But once the teens were past – I was left with what exactly? And so began my adult life and a period of spiritual confusion and loss – and so began my soul searching and its been a long and painfully slow journey…….

Being a Deist

I’ll be 55 this year and have just realised that I am a Deist.

I couldn’t have said exactly what I was, up until recently. I could have told you what I find myself believing these days, and I could tell you the convoluted path I have taken to get here – but to have given it a name? I wasn’t exactly sure there was one.

And then by random chance, I was reading an article on an online newspaper and was scrolling through the comments section – and came across a guy who was talking  a bit at a tangent, but he mentioned being a Deist – and I thought – is there such a thing?

Trusty Google suggested there was – and there it was in black and white and I thought, yes random man and thank you – for I too am a Deist it would appear.

I’m not certain I need do anymore than just acknowledge the name – there isn’t a religious group to join, thankfully – but to know that my thoughts have a basis is quite comforting I think 🙂

And I need look no further than Voltaire to bring my thoughts beautifully to life –

One key difference between Deism and the “revealed” religions is that Deists don’t believe faith is required to believe in God. This quote from Voltaire sums it up, “What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason.”

Accepting Death

My Mother phoned me last night.

My Father is ill. He’s 78, just this week. And he isn’t hale and hearty, far from it.

My Father led a raucous youth -and looking back as a little girl, I can only remember him with cigarette in hand or a pint of something. That was the 60s for you.

By the time he reached early 50s – he was having a triple heart by-pass.

Over the years there have been a few set backs, medical interventions, but he has lead a good retirement – played golf & bowls and learned Tai Chi. Spent time with Mum in the their garden and generally enjoyed a relaxed and happy retirement.

Lately, he hasn’t been well.

Initially given 15 years with the by pass – he has done very well – he is 20 years post op.

But his heart is failing him. He knows it, we know it and more importantly his medical team know it.

He has been passed around from one set of docs to another over the last 6 months and in that time, there has been noise, talk, tests but nothing has been done  – and he has steadily deteriorated. They are now all but admitting out right there is very little to be done for him

I’m not even convinced he has the physical strength to undergo any difficult surgery even if they felt something could be done – and they aren’t!

I have thought a lot about how I personally might face my own death, but in my thinking, it is always a long way off in the future, something I can ponder academically. But for my Father, the reality of his death is by his side – he is beset with issues every day, dizziness, pain, indigestion, palpitations – the effects of a defective heart are making themselves so known to him – he can’t escape the ‘in your faceness’ of what everyone now feels is his imminent demise.

And I can feel the panic – not just in him but my mother too. She isn’t a flakey sort of woman, but even she is feeling the strain of the constant worry – would it be today? tonight?

Just last night, trying to arrange a not so future family event, I could feel her real prevarication  – what if? hung in the air.

Speaking the truth – being up front and not speaking in euphemism – always my preferred way to deal with matters, suddenly feels way way too blunt, too harsh, too uncaring. They are already panicked witless.

But where is the peace and acceptance  – the going lightly to your good night? There is none of that. And I find myself googling the ways in which people might expire from heart failure, so better able to help my Mum in the event. And some of the stores are frightening.

I think I imagined peaceful sleep and then gone.

But instead, I am confronting a frantic and painful struggle to the end.

And at 78 I would like for them something altogether more calm.

I wish they were more spiritual people, that they might glean real comfort from a belief in something, but in being salt of the earth types – their understanding of life and death is altogether more salty – and frightening. And for once, I can find nothing comforting or useful to say to either of them.

 

12th Night

Well here’s a thing.

6th January is a little considered date in our calendar really. As far as the Christian West is concerned, it marks Epiphany – the day the 3 wise men visited the Christ child and it also marks his baptism. I was baptised on Epiphany.

Epiphany begins the festival season in Catholicism ending with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras and in Eastern Europe and Russia, it’s actually Christmas Eve.

January 6th in early medieval times signified the end of the yuletide celebrations and was often when everyone got back to the serious business of work and surviving the harsh winter months to come.

Which brings me to 12th night.

There has always been for me a vagueness about this night – and for someone who is everso slightly superstitious, vagueness isn’t helpful.

Firstly, as a child I believed the 12 days of Christmas was part of the run up up to Christmas day, like an advent calendar – instead of the feast days between Christmas day and January 6th that it truly is. The interesting point here is the emphasis on ‘days’.

The significance of 12th night to the majority of us is taking the Christmas tree’s down and packing away the baubles –  because for the superstitious amongst us, to not do so brings in a year of bad luck – and who needs that?

Up to this year, I always took the tree down on January 6th. To fail to take it down meant the only solution for those wary of their luck running out so early in the year -was to keep the tree and decorations up until – now some sources say Imbolc (Feb 2nd) and others say Shrove Tuesday. How should you navigate your way though that ambiguity – bad luck would haunt you for sure!!!

So there was no missing that January 6th deadline.

January 6th is derived from Christmas Day starting as day 0.

However, I read something very plausible over Christmastime. The point was how very many great historical festivals stressed the importance of the evening before the festival – Hallow’een (the eve before All Hallows Day) and of course Christmas Eve itself. Indeed I mentioned above Imbolc on Feb 2nd – but the celebration actually begins at sundown Feb 1st and ends sundown Feb 2nd.

Our ancestors seemed keen to note separately the day of an event and the evenings- you have to count days and nights as separate entities; that means although Christmas Day is itself day 0, the night of Christmas Day is night number 1. So if you count the nights only – 12th Night is January 5th.

I was flabbergasted – I had been vehemently opposed to the idea that 12th night was anything other than Jan 6th.

This year the tree was down and packed after sundown Jan 5th.

I’m now sitting back to watch the bad luck to zip on by.

Glad that’s sorted.

 

 

Goal Setting 2017

I’m glad 2016 is gone; pretty much I’m no fan of the big New Year hoo ha – an arbitrary date line drawn in the sand and we all have resolutions to be a better person . But in fairness I can’t deny it does  give  an opportunity to draw that line and say ‘enough already’; and did me and my husband ever need the opportunity? – On a material, business level this was our annus horribilis to top a run of 3 annuses!!

It’s not finished yet – we have some way to go, but we both feel (without going in to any of the boring and v lengthy detail) that the first half of this year will see it end. For good or bad, and both expect it to be tumultuous.

Both of us agree that strategies to handling stress only work permantly if you are the cause of it; if the stress is from external agencies   – then the best thing you can do is have mechanisms in place to deflect it, like a fragile force field created by a novice wizard.

Up to recently I didn’t have any force field in place whatsoever and consequently feel completely battered, the car accident just before Christmas just seemed to be another  blow in a series of body blows that I seemed to have taken; and so it wasn’t just whim that had me contemplating the changes I wanted to make to my 2017 – the little things I wanted to establish in my life, that would become my personal guide stones through the belt of rocks that life may feel like pelting my way.

Honestly, my goals are small but they are for me – like little daisies in a thorny overgrown scrub patch.

  1. I’ve already mentioned my first – yoga and meditation practice daily. Through out January in the first instance, but I hope this becomes routine.
  2. As soon as my arm is out of it’s cast – fingers crossed (no pun intended) running will recommence – the sole thing that made 2016 bearable was that I found fitness and loved it.
  3. Bees – I have scrubbed out my old hive (unused for 8 years – unforgiveable) and I intend to replace broken/missing pieces; find a place for it to be set up and then find some bees. More on this later.
  4. Grow my little Etsy shop. I set up the shop late on last year and it needs stocking. I love crafting, and this more than anything salves my soul – creating. So I decided to combine my love of doing with a need to fund the plethora of activities I like doing (including the bee keeping which can be costly)
  5. Nourish my soul – this is a w-i-p and there will be much more detail on this point in the weeks to come. But the core reason behind this is I know my life has become barren and soulless – too much energy is taken up with the material world – to my personal detriment.
  6.  Nurture the place we live – make our home and garden loved.

I think ideally I want my home to be a sanctuary from an unkind world – a place we can escape to, instead of it just being as extension of business – an arrid place where we just exist. Because that is how I have been thinking of it.

These are my goals

This is where my blog here will be taking me – charting the progress, the change – and hopefully in so doing, start to restore my soul.

Happy New Year xx