Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Less-than-simple answers

Orchestral manoeuvres ... Tim Minchin meets the Sydney Symphony.

I went out last night with my mum. She had bought tickets to see Tim Minchin, and invited me to come, too.

I've been fascinated by his performances for a while. He is incredibly gifted musically and has clever, satirical, self-concious lyrics. And last night was a great show. I wanted to dance and sing and laugh and clap all at once. And then the next song would be so profound and funny at the same time that the audience was silenced. We didn't know whether to clap or gasp in awe.

He is an avowed empiricist who mocks organised religion and new age spiritualism. And he is able to delight in ordinary human relationships, in a quirky and poignant way.

In the middle of the show, he sang a song about sitting on the fence and ambivalence. I searched on You Tube but wasn't able to find it. But I'm still thinking about it.

It is so easy to seek simple answers to the things that puzzle us or frustrate us in the world. If something is 'wrong' then I can denounce it or ignore it or laugh at it. It is a way to distance myself from the confusing things I see.

It is harder to accept that some questions do not have clear and simple answers. And Minchin seems convinced that Christians love simple, black and white answers. That we are unsophisticated in our thinking and that we delight in an "us and them" mentality about the world.

He told the story of a woman who was healed of a sight problem after her church praying for her. But then used the story to question the idea of God granting miracles to middle-class women in Australia while people in third-world countries die of starvation or suffer devastating oppression.

And I do not think there is an easy answer to this question. I do not know why some people are healed and some people never have a chance. Why I have so much, while some people have so little. Maybe the only meaningful answer is to acknowledge the paradox. To see the ugly unfairness of it and realise that only God can redress this gross injustice. To see the responsibility in my richness.

My richness is obscene, beside real poverty, and meaningless, beside true wealth. Wealth of spirit and truth, I mean. And this can leave me paralysed.

Somehow I need to hold these two extremes together and be motivated to give out of my riches - in a purposeful and practical way. To let it go rather than cling to it.

And miracles have a similar paradox - they can bring new life or extend a life. They can completely transform possiblity. But on the other hand, they happen in bodies and communities that are headed for death. They cannot halt the inevitable. The biggest miracle actually reaches fulfillment in death - resurrection. After years of avoiding death, perhaps praying for a dispensation to put it off, or miraculously escaping it, we must enter into it, to get the ultimate miracle.

When Jesus was alive, not everyone was healed. And I think he wanted us to realise that those healings were exciting, but peripheral. A by-product. They all pointed to the real miracle - the accessible to everybody miracle.

That we can know him ... be loved by him ... live with him. Now and Forever.


Jenny said...

fantastic post Kath - thanks for your insights and thoughtfulness

Kath said...

Thanks Jenny. Just been reading you choosing a high school dilemmas. Another place where answers are just not simple.
All the best.

Heather Mattern said...

Great post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

Unknown said...

Clever transition from Tim Minchin's creativity and performance to knowing Jesus... it was so subtle I didn't even notice what you were doing! I think we need more of that kind of approach when engaging people who think different from us.

Kati patrianoceu said...
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Mommy Emily said...

Maybe the only meaningful answer is to acknowledge the paradox.

i am thinking this, dear kath... the responsibility of where God has placed us, the ability to help, this is what we must focus on... and the willingness to be poured out like oil, like expensive perfume, on the feet of the world. i love this post, all of it. and tim rocks. :)

Joybird said...

Thoughtfulness is a really good word to describe this post. I like the way that you processed this. I like the gentle and clear way that you speak. I just like it.