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I sat here and had my lunch today. It’s the churchyard of St Laurence’s Church in Northfield. It’s the church where I was christened 40 years ago this summer, it’s also the churchyard where my paternal grandparents are remembered. I attended the CofE primary school next door, which has since been turned into houses, so it’s the church in which I first experienced harvest festivals, carol services, cub scout church parades, the joy of belonging and of community.
At school and in church I loved to hear the bible stories and I loved the idea that the church, this church, was God’s house and that he welcomed us in. How cool, to be welcomed in by God!
I don’t know where it was along the way that I stopped thinking it was cool but by the time I was a teenager I know I was rebelliously sitting upright and eyes-open in school assemblies when we were supposed to pray. The idea of God as it was presented just seemed more and more preposterous, a way to make people do what you wanted them to do and I became very attached to my identity as an atheist – it was a way to be different, to stand out, to upset other people who were very attached to their beliefs.
I don’t feel like that today. I don’t attend any church, wouldn’t call myself a Christian… or Buddhist or Jew, Hindu or Jedi for that matter but I have a strong sense of universal spirit, of unity and a connection with all that is. I don’t distinguish much between the terms God, Life and Love, they’re all the same thing to me.
I’ve been consciously working on my spiritual awakening since before I started blogging – it’s the inside job that I referred to recently when I wrote about my uncivilized life, but I still find it ridiculously difficult to write about it here. And yet I know that it’s a really important part of who I am and that my story is all the more difficult to understand when the spiritual aspects are left out. I was asked yesterday whether my hobo-ings had a spiritual element and I replied that yes, without that it’s just another crazy social media adventure, but that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about.
I know that it needs to be talked about, written about, acknowledged, not least because it feels like a constraint on my writing (and being in general) to keep it hidden away. The block to being more open is only fear – of the usual things: ridicule, rejection, anger, in general “what other people think of me” and I know that the way to deal with fear is to go through it and hit publish…
I’ve noticed these since I’ve been back through Birmingham a few times, the old cast iron street signs like this:
are being replaced (or at least augmented) with plastic copies like this:
I’m sure this will have been noticed elsewhere (oh yes). I don’t like. I’d rather have the old one’s left as they are, the plastic replicas feel a bit too Disney to me. Um… actually I don’t want them left like this though, a regular rub down and repaint would be good.
However, I don’t pay council tax here (as a #llobo I don’t pay it anywhere) and I’m not sure I’d want it to be top of the City Council’s priorities, but if I lived here, perhaps I’d want to be able to easily get permission to repair the street furniture or employ someone trustworthy to do it for our street.
This occurred to me in London too the other day – I was walking over Wandsworth Bridge and the paintwork’s looking quite shoddy. I’m sure one could quite easily crowdsource the money and local effort to pay for a community-based repainting party, but good luck sorting out permission from whoever’s responsible for its upkeep.