Last week, I went to a concert for the first time in nearly a year. Indoors, no less, and with masks. And in 2019 that wouldn’t have been a significant event, but coming now it got me thinking about hope.
Near the end of March last year, as I was walking near my house, I saw a small, blue teddy bear hanging by a peg from a log. At the time I wasn’t to know it was part of the Bear Hunt movement, intended to entertain children with school closures and lockdown approaching. Nor did I know that I would end up visiting Bear Hunts in all weather and taking hundreds of photos of a wide variety of soft toys.
With the Covid-19 pandemic changing the world, it was only a few months in to 2020 that people were calling it the worst year ever. By the middle of 2020, this meant some writing off the year, then acting as if everything would be magically back to normal in 2021.
Well, as I write this, it’s 2021 here in Australia, and if anything the situation looks worse than it did a week ago. So I wanted to share a carol I wrote for 2020 (with apologies to Christmas).
This year I’ve been reflecting on how much I changed in the 2010s. Some of the changes could probably have been expected given my age and stage of life, but leaving religion in particular wasn’t expected by me or by those around me.
It now makes me wonder how many others there are like former-me: People who are young, indoctrinated, dedicated to their religion. Maybe they’re already facing doubts, or maybe they will in the next five or ten years. Maybe they’re already thinking of quitting, or maybe they just view the doubts as things to be conquered.
If I were going back in time, what might I say to former-me? And if anyone feeling these things happens to be reading this post, what might I want them to be aware of?
As I look back on the 2010s, I see a decade where I became increasingly independent: Moving out of the family home, working, travelling, making my own choices, owning my own ideas and values.
That independence then led me to places and ideas that I would never have expected at the start of the decade, even to independence from the religion that had once defined me.
It was probably five years ago that a friend visited our near neighbour, New Zealand. Coming back, they talked about the beauty of the glaciers, and said I should see them while I could.
That was part of what drew me to add Switzerland to a UK trip in 2016. And it was also part of what convinced me to make New Zealand South Island my next overseas trip. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
In my last post, I talked about how an Edinburgh Fringe event changed my view of Leaf by Niggle. As a story, it relied on the eternal life I had rejected, and left me feeling that I really didn’t know what came next.
However, the next day I flew to Switzerland for a short visit, and I was looking forward to discovering a little of the Alps. Little did I know that that visit would give me a new insight into Leaf by Niggle and into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It would also do a lot to ease the ache of loss of eternal life.
Leaf by Niggle is probably the J.R.R. Tolkien short story that I have read or listened to the most. My view of it has changed over the years, most significantly shortly after deconverting when I realised my vision was fundamentally different from Tolkien’s. But I continue to love it and it continues to influence me.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series was an important part of my childhood. Not only did I read the books a number of times, but we also had BBC dramatisations of them that were frequently played.
I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was probably my favourite, with its tales of travel, but one particular section of The Last Battle had a much larger impact on me. In fact, arguably it affected my view of the afterlife more than the Bible itself, and the effect of that endures today, years after I rejected the Christadelphian “kingdom”.
I’m not sure that I saw a single sunrise in 2019. However, I tried to make up for it in sunsets, and wanted to share some of my favourite sunset photos.