NOT Fifty Shades of Grey!

When we are young we see everything as totally black and white.  Parents, nice teachers, best friends are accepted as perfect.  When later we find ourselves hurt or disappointed by one of them, we suddenly “see through them”, and see them as totally bad, often writing them off altogether. Maybe years later, we can come to terms with both their good and bad parts, accept them more in the round, seeing them more in terms of shades of grey.  Hopefully get back on good terms with them, even if only in memory.

Most of my life I have seen everyone in terms of black or white, baddies or goodies, until about ten years ago, I gradually realised everyone is a mixture.  So I’ve been seeing them as fifty shades of grey….   Hopefully that has made me more tolerant of people’s foibles, less judgemental.

However, now, today, I suddenly realise that people aren’t shades of grey, they are many-coloured, filled with every hue and shade of colour.  Different moods, different facets of them, different sides to them, different phases in their lives, these are all different colours.  Understanding people in colour instead of grey adds vibrancy to my experience of them.

People’s emotions are often described by colours; for example, purple with rage, green with envy, feeling blue, black moods, in the pink, etc etc.

So next time a friend is annoying you, or whatever, think of it in terms of a colour.  Bright orange —  very irritating.  Lime green — interested, enthusiastic.  Pink — up for a cuddle.  Brown — boring on.   Etc etc.  Well at least it will make  relationships with your friends and family a richer more colourful experience!!!

The above quilt by me, made few years back, is called Rainbow Sunset.  But it could be about my new way of seeing life.

Naked Moments

I have had three “Moments of Nakedness” recently.  By this I mean moments when you feel so close to something, a thought, an understanding, a person, a moment of seeing or hearing, that you feel like you are naked within this moment of before it. 

The first one was while watching the commemorations for the First World War battle of Paschendale, on the TV, held at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium, through which hundreds of thousands of British soldiers, mostly very young, marched to their deaths at the front not far away a hundred years ago. One of the worst and most wasteful battles ever.  This ceremony, with a relatively few involved, was grief-stricken, moving, beautiful, tear-jerking, in a way that the larger scale commemorations at a huge battlefield cemetary nearby next day didn’t match.  At the Menin Gate, it was intimate, a “naked moment” for all involved.

The second one was listening to a piece of music composed jointly by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass, called Passages, performed live for the first time at the Proms in a packed Albert Hall.  The piece is meditative, sad,  uplifting and fun at different times, a merging of Eastern and Western music and thought.  For all the hugeness of the Albert Hall, it was a moment of intimacy, a special moment between all the players, which reached the audience, and even to me watching on catch-up TV….  a Naked Moment.  I’ve sent for the CD of this work, but it won’t be the same as this engaging live performance…..

The third moment was at the end of a tough summer school in New Testament Greek I have just been doing for two weeks at a cathedral near me.  Sweating it out with all that difficult Greek grammar, nearly gave up at times, and was one of the worst in class. Nevertheless, all worth it on the last afternoon, when we slaved away at two short New Testament passages translating the Greek.  One was from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, and the other was from the Last Supper account, in Luke’s gospel. It took us hours just to work at these short passages.  And yet, it was so real, you felt like you were in the same room while the Last supper was going on, or beside the Sea of Galilee; you could smell the sea, see the large crowd, it was that close and real.  Reading it in translation doesn’t have the same effect as this, and it was quite unexpected!  A real moment of nakedness…..

In the above quilt wall hanging, called “Presence”, I  tried to depict a feeling of closeness, presence, of another person, a spiritual moment of closeness.  No pretenses, no hidden agendas, no formality, no polite conversation, just you and them. What I call a  moment of nakedness.

Tales of the Unfinishable

I went to an exhibition once called Tales of the Unfinishable.  It was by crafters who had not only unfinished projects but projects which they knew to be unfinishable.  The crafters explained in a written note beside the work, why they knew it could never be finished and why they had kept it.  The reasons varied from “Can’t get those same materials anymore” and “Poor eyesight” or “Arthritic hands”, to “Have moved on in my tastes, styles, way I work”; and some were “Started in a part of my life which was just too painful to go back to”.

I think the above photo of a tapestry, which I started to make in my twenties, represents nearly all of these problems.  I was having a nervous breakdown through a lot of my twenties, and I worked away for hours on this traditional tapestry kit as a sort of therapy.  The plan was to make it into a cushion to go in our traditional thatched cottage home, where it would have suited perfectly.  This home has long since been sold, and as I recovered from the breakdown, this tapestry got put away unfinished.  I came across it quite recently in a box marked “Unfinished Projects”, as I was moving house yet again.  I opened the bag and could practically smell the unhappiness I had felt at the time of doing it!  But also felt some admiration for all that stitching and effort and perseverance I had put into it…..

We all have projects we have started and never finished, or bought and not even started.  Somehow we outgrew them, or never found the time.  So why don’t we chuck them out?  We  cling too long perhaps to an outdated hope or unworkable plan.  We start too many things and then get bored, or can’t be bothered to learn how, or it turns out to be more difficult than we thought…..

Maybe one should persevere, learn how, make the effort to finish it.  I was brought up to always finish things, do what I said I would.   Not just waste things, both effort and materials.  On the other hand, maybe we should be ruthless, focussed, cutting out of our lives and clutter all those things which do not fit into our current focus and ambitions.  Do a ruthless pruning job of our activities, projects, use of time……   It is difficult to know which one should do.  Both involve discipline…..  It is a difficult decision also to make with each project, whether it is truly unfinishable, or just unfinished…..

When I look at myself and my life, there are lots of aspects of myself which are “unfinished”.  Time is beginning to run out, also, as I age.  Once one had seemingly infinite time to finish or work on things, now one is aware that soon I won’t be able to do lots of those things any more.   I never got to a higher level of piano.  I never learnt to water-ski.  Should I persevere beyond beginner level New Testament Greek?   Which things should I work more on, and which things discard?  How do I progress to becoming a better person?  Should I be doing more voluntary work?  More long walks or trips to the gym? Cook new recipes? More travel? More creative work?  More blog posting? Or stay at home and finish the box of unfinished projects?

Thank goodness, though we are an unfinished work, God does not see us as unfinishable.  One day, one day, we will be a finished work of God’s creation.  What a relief.

Meanwhile this tapestry is going back in the box of unfinished projects, back under the bed. A bit like a photo album from the long ago past, or a decades old diary, it was too much a part of my life to be thrown away.