Monday, 6 October 2014

My holiday

I have had an "interesting" holiday this year. We went to Cornwall, not least, to offer support to a community that was hit appalling by the winter storms last year, and to prove that it was still open and as beautiful as always.

We had, however, a few problems. We had 5 of us and our dog - the dog seemed to survive unscathed this year, which is a change from some years. All the rest of us were struck by an unpleasant gut bug, one at a time, although I did survive until we returned home. One member of the party managed to be ill 3 times. We lost - and found - one phone, missed one train, exploded one computer tablet.

On the plus side, some of us at least visited St Mawes and Pendennis castles, which are fascinating historical places, with a history reaching right up to the 1950s. We visited the Eden project (again), and it is wonderful to see how it has grown and developed, and it is still a fascinating place.

We went to the most southerly cafe in Britain, and saw a steampunk, all-female version of Dracula at the amazing Minack theatre, which is both - and for the same reasons - the most ridiculous and most superb location for a theatre.

The question is, which of these is the right perspective on our holiday? As a natural pessimist, I tend to look at the bad side, except this time, I don't. I view it as an enjoyable holiday, with a few problems.

Now I would admit that, when I had my head down a toilet bowl expelling what was left in my guts shortly after I had been pooping water down there, I was not looking at things in a positive light. At that point, it was pretty rubbish. But that was not the whole picture - the negative aspects don't rule out the positives. Of course, the positives don't negate the negatives either - the holiday was a good one, but with problems.

So often, especially within religious groups, we like to look at the good or the bad, rather more exclusively. There is a tendency to see world events in a negative light, even when that is not the only way to see them. there is a tendency to see spiritual matters in a positive light, even when that is not the only way to see them.

But everything is both good and bad. nothing is simple black and white. It was not a relaxing holiday, I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to write. But to focus on the negatives is to miss the wonder of the place we were in. As so often, to focus on the downsides is to miss the wonder, to miss the real delights of the situation.

So as a person that finds it very easy to see the negative, the downside, I was surprised at my own experience in seeing it positively. But it made me think how easily we see the negative - especially religious people. There is a tendency to see the ideal, the image we are given of perfection, as "acceptable", and anything that falls short of this as "unacceptable", or at least "in need of redemption" (a subtle phrase that indicates "unacceptable, but I quite like it").

The truth, as I see it, is that nothing is perfect, but similarly nothing is without redeeming features. The world we live in is broken, damaged, imperfect, but we have to live in it, see the good, and work for more good. We need to see where God is working in the world. So it was a good holiday. We saw some of the beautiful Cornish sights, we chilled and relaxed. I make a choice to focus on that, because that was also true.

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