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.
I hold a rather remarkable historical document in my hand. It’s a text that, despite its age, is still well-known today. I refer to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first of the seven genuine epics of Harry Potter.
We have more surviving copies of this than any other historical text from the late twentieth century. These include first editions written a mere five years after the events described. The copy I’m holding is from several years later, but we can still be confident that the text has been accurately preserved.
A few years back, after Harry Potter 20th anniversary celebrations, I wrote about how fiction can be life changing. This is true in general, but there are particular stories that I strongly remember affecting my view of the world, sometimes in ways that I doubt the author intended.