Sometimes my unconscious seems to help me process things by giving me a song to sing.
A Brian Wilson song from the Beach Boys’ sublime Pet Sounds album has been surfacing recently. Its words on my lips. The core and final line on repeat.
I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.
Reflecting on the Brexit process and the Trump presidency, the CEO of the International Rescue Committee of the Red Cross and former Labour politician David Miliband has recently suggested that in the UK and USA “our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction.” It’s hard to disagree. And around the world every day new standards for dysfunction appear to be set that are evermore destructive to people, to human culture and to the planet.
So I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.
And I think about disappearing to the hills.
I imagine shipping my family to somewhere civilised.
To a place where people are kind to each other,
welcoming to the stranger,
and good to the earth and her creatures.
Where beauty is loved, knowledge is valued, and mystery is embraced;
where public office is held with dignity and humility;
and where our life together is not treated as a competition
but as shared journey for the benefit of all.
Dream on, you might say.
And so with Brian Wilson, I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.
But as I sing the song I sense a greater truth at work.
A growing realisation that you and I were made for these very times.
That these demanding times (and of course demanding times are nothing new for so many)
are exactly the times for which we were made.
That these are the times and these the places in which we are meant to live and to offer ourselves,
called to be kind to each other,
to welcome the stranger,
and to be good to the earth and her creatures.
Where we love beauty, value knowledge, and embrace mystery;
where we hold any responsibility with dignity and humility;
and treat life together as a shared journey
for the benefit of us all.
The world only changes for the better to the extent that we give ourselves to it with our love.
In the tradition in which I find home the rabbi Jesus of Nazareth affirmed the old Jewish belief that true life comes through loving God and loving neighbour. Loving people – being tender to each other – and loving the Source of All Being – nurturing love for the Wonder, however we do that –
are choices we can make, wherever we are today. We can and must help to reshape the world for good, here and now, where we are.
This will always be costly. But also a source of delight. One of Jesus’ core wisdom sayings – the Beatitudes – puts it like this:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Friends, what if you and I were made for these times?