Tuesday 5 May 2020
Thank you for your most recent letter, recounting all the changes observed in your surroundings. You and I could easily become the tipp-ex tipsters on account of recollecting its other uses, beyond the purposes intended; I once camouflaged a minute chip with it. Regarding the predators of snails, any chance of seeing a thrush would be a fine thing. Another bird which seems scarce around us is the chaffinch; I cannot remember how long ago I last saw one. Yes, a lot of people are taking an interest in the nature around them and it may well continue long after the lockdown ceases. Incidentally, one of the hymns I liked at primary school was "All things bright and beautiful," probably because it spoke of our surroundings and had a catchy tune. I can see parallels between the marked snails and the test, track and trace system for us! It is a form of electronic surveillance (already in existence to some degree), all in the name of safety, but the end of your letter notes the effects of human power.
I wonder how you would answer your own questions concerning the 'lockdown legacy'. It is true that most of us try to maintain the social distancing expected, but it all seems so strange. While it remains undecided whether masks worn in public places really make much difference to anybody, I do not yet possess one. When queuing recently I was thinking how alienating these masks are. Most of us gain so much from seeing another person's face and not least in terms of communication. When we first started seeing the images of various people tending to others, it occurred to me that people who are already confused might well be frightened by the approach of somebody in protective dress. In the main, it seems that the restrictions have brought out the best in us, but sometimes the worst also, such as the anecdotal reports of pedantic interpretations. One related to two men who happened to meet when having their daily exercise and they stopped to chat, keeping their distance. Then somebody came along with one of those tut-tut looks (probably not wearing a mask, then!) and proceeded to get out her tape-measure. It made me reflect on my own queuing experience - could I have overstepped the line by a centimetre at any time? It's only a rough guide and in some countries the distance is 1.5 metres. Overall, I think people will remember how they have been treated, whether it seems fair and in the spirit of the objectives intended, as well as the many acts of kindness.
Crossing the street and your reference to the Good Samaritan is so apt. An integral part of the Luke 10 account for me, is the lawyer who poses the questions at the beginning and who features again later. We are told his intention when asking Jesus and what an answer! The man's techniques can be seen today, sometimes leading to injustices and the same techniques feature in many political debates. Although some dispute it, the meaning of any particular word can vary according to intentions expressed and the context. We know that all the parables relate to modern life and perhaps we sometimes see them as if they are about people in general. This particular parable, though, seems to be one that I can easily apply to me: How many times have I walked by, whether literally on the other side or not, prior to Covid-19 days? Before one celebration of Holy Communion, I recall a minister saying to his congregation with a smile, "And if any of you think that you are fit to come to the Lord's Table, I will see you afterwards." That says it all. When I do finally account for myself, I wonder what, if any, "reasonable excuse" (using the Covid terminology) I shall put forward. Thankfully, as in the chorus you quoted, we can be sure of compassion.
In recent days I have been re-reading some poetry, particularly one poem by Robert Frost that I have appreciated for a long while, 'The Road Not Taken.' In looking it up in one of my books, I came across another of his which I must have read before, 'The Pasture,' The intricate description takes us to the place, although it left me feeling that there should be another verse; clearly he did not think so. Then, the title of yet another poem could well catch your attention, 'Birches.' You probably know these, so I shall not write them out and if you are interested, the quest is part of the enjoyment!
Apart from noting your ability to add new verses to a song, I want to briefly respond to your reply concerning something I wrote before. Try not to underestimate your effectiveness; you know my view that everybody needs a critical friend to enable us to grow; it is mutual. The extracts you provided from various versions of the texts were enlightening and goodness knows how much time you spent doing that. Words may seem inadequate when we write about God, but they are of considerable earthly use, given that we rely on them for most of our communications. For some of these Bible studies, a conversation works best. Yet, whatever route we each took and whatever our levels of comprehension, ultimately we believe. I am in complete agreement with your affirmation of having confidence in our all-powerful God.
With confidence and thanks,