Monday, 29 August 2011

Chillax!



I was rather amused by a post on The Cantos of Mutabilitie complaining about the use of the word "gutted" by a chief examiner concerning the way in which his board had somehow managed to put unanswerable questions on their papers this year. Some of the comments on the post dwelt on similar linguistic monstrosities, for example the advice given by an  Ryanair hostess that her passengers should "chillax" during the flight.
It is fairly unforgivable that an examiner should use slang such as "gutted" in the context of an official statement, especially as teachers regularly receive feedback which emphasises the need for students to avoid "an overly colloquial register." Sometimes the reports give real life examples of things which the board consider totally bang to rights - sorry - utterly insupportable , such as "Cleopatra is a high maintenance lady", or even,  "Hamlet was pissed off about his mum and his uncle shagging"(!)
Some colloquialisms are more fitted to a certain context or occasion than a more formal phrase. I dislike a written style that is bland, stilted or engineered to include a lot of latinate words simply in an attempt to impress.  The word "chillax" has to be an exception to this rule. I challenge anyone to think of a real life context in which the word "chillax"is anything other than a gross assault upon the person. As for, "God wants you to chillax", anyone using that phrase in a sermon should face severe and immediate disciplinary measures!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Gone surfin'



Bessie gave up all extreme sports due to a paw injury involving a skateboarding incident last year. Regular readers will be glad to hear that, after seeing this video, she has demanded to be taken surfing, or at the least treated to a trip to a skateboarding park.

Friday, 26 August 2011

To talk the talk and walk the walk

I blogged a while back about Symon Hill, the journalist who embarked on a pilgrimage of repentance for his former homophobia. I have been vaguely keeping up with his blog and note that Symon's quest has been endorsed by Greenbelt, he is talking about his experience at the festival this weekend. I've been thinking about Symon's journey since I read that he would be at Greenbelt. I don't just mean his physical journey, I mean the spiritual, emotional and personal journey that his pilgrimage is meant to represent. For Symon it is also a personal journey as he now identifies as bisexual, so the homophobia he felt (and practised) was directed against himself as much as anything. The effect of homophobia upon LGBT people is immense. It does not simply cause feelings of rejection/ anger/ depression but also results in a life long struggle to discover and to be one's authentic self.
We all venture on personal journies throughout life and I am glad Symon has reached the place he has. I wonder whether he should really feel the need to "repent" for his former attitudes as I guess he was the main victim of them! I know his pilgrimage is also a call to others, churches and individuals to "repent" of homophobic attitudes. I have mixed feelings about this because, although I certainly think many churches and individuals do need to consider the consequences of their attitudes upon others, I also wonder whether a "call to repent" is not the sort of thing that often leaves people seriously ticked off! The term "homophobia" is nowadays used very generally. I am not sure it is a very helpful term, as it suggests a "phobic" reaction to gay people - thus very few people consider themselves to be homophobic.
 It is when people put a human face to an "issue" that their hostilities and assumptions often melt away and they think more widely and carefully and - if they are Christian - more lovingly. I think the most positive thing about Symon Hill's journey is not that he is accusing others, but that he is asking them to have the grace and imagination to  talk with him and to walk with him.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The cost of alcohol

 One of the things I've done this year is to almost give up drinking alcohol. I say "almost" because I do have a drink if I go out socially or have a meal with friends. I am not teetotal but I don't generally drink and will often go for several weeks without having an alcoholic drink. Nor was giving up drinking a conscious decision, although ironically it did start around New Year and was partly a response to the huge pile of empties that we accumulated at New Year (we did have several friends around for a party!) I decided to limit myself to fruit juice for a few days and the habit just stuck.
It is clear, however, that Britain does in general have a fairly serious  drink problem, and I wonder whether my giving up of alcohol was in some way a response to or protest against the damage that excessive drinking can cause.  I work with young people so I often hear some fairly immature attitudes to drink. Some, not all, seem to talk about getting "off your face" on a Friday night as though this were a great achievement or talent, when clearly it isn't! I can just about live with this level of immaturity in teenagers, but I do sometimes hear the same kind of talk from adults. Why is it that people think the fact they drink a lot is something to be proud of, but having a drink problem is something they would be ashamed of?
I am not convinced that making alcohol more expensive is a solution, but ironically alcohol related problems are costing us all more and more as time goes on, and that's just the financial cost let alone the social and emotional cost that so many individuals and families are having to pay. To change we need a widespread revolution in attitudes - not to all renounce alcohol, but just to be a bit more grown up about the whole affair. Grown ups really shouldn't think its hilarious, admirable or even noteworthy that when they drink too much they lose control. 
Does anyone have a problem with that?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Forgiveness

 An article in the Huffington Post challenges what the writer feels are some myths about biblical forgiveness, in particular the idea that we must forgive everything unconditionally without the perpetrator needing to show remorse. The writer also suggests that our ideas about the psychological benefits of forgiveness are a modern concept which we apply anachronistically to the bible. The idea that forgiveness is necessary to psychological wholeness one which is readily bandied about in  Christian circles.  A quick look on the net and I immediately found a site telling me that, "many people are crippled by an inability to forgive and so block healing." This idea that unforgiveness will leave you crippled is not wholeheartedly supported within the psychiatric profession. A counsellor once said to me that, although holding on to intense bitterness is destructive, "forgiveness",in the sense that we often understand it, is in no way a prerequisite to healing or wholeness. She said she had met more people suffering long term damage as a result of being coerced into thinking that they must forgive unconditionally than those suffering as a result of unforgiveness. 

I am not saying for one moment that forgiveness is not emotionally beneficial. Sometimes it is necessary, and I do believe that some form of "forgiveness", even if at the least this is a moving on and putting past pain to rest, is at some point essential for emotional well being.   It is also true to say that sometimes other responses, such as anger, outrage or need to seek for justice, or quite simply a focus upon one's own needs, rather than the imagined needs of the perpetrator for their victim's "forgiveness", are more appropriate and beneficial. I have blogged before about the way that churches often deal rather badly with the subject of forgiveness, often causing damage to those who are dealing with very difficult issues such as abuse, and so I welcome this piece. Scripture should not be used to inflict further pain.
 This corrective to some of our rather trite "what-the-bible- says- about forgiveness" formulas  is needed. Nevertheless, there are some striking omissions in the piece, for example that it didn't mention the Lord's Prayer, which did seem quite astonishing. Seeing as the article did purport to be a piece about  bibilical veracity, rather than one driven primarily by pastoral concerns, I would have liked it to address scripture more widely.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

World's most obedient dog?



I was going to say that if you want obedience, get a dog. Then I thought about Bessie. One word from us and she does exactly what she wants...

Misogyny and religion

 "So much of religion is about controlling people, usually women !" No, it's not necessarily my opinion, it is  something that was said to me by a (male) friend last New Year's Eve. It is clearly true to say that  religion has historically a poor track record in terms of its misogynistic depictions of women, although Jesus was actually shockingly radical in his positive approach to women. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Church of England, which has been slow to admit women as equals, and, as Lesley Crawley argues here still fosters an institutional sexism which could be said to shame us all.
My friend's words about religion and the control of women brought to mind a time when I taught Chaucer's wonderful  tale of the Wife of Bath - a feisty, well travelled woman who, with her red stockings and five husbands, still managed to live a pretty full and independent  life in a time when women's choices were limited. Many critics feel that Chaucer makes the wife his spokesperson against the male dominated society in which she lives, in particular she inveighs against the attitudes of the Church and the way that so many sacred texts, myths and historical accounts have been penned by men. I used to show the students this wonderful  tirade by Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick as part of the discussions about misogyny ( do watch it, it's very entertaining.)

Sometimes I read an article that brings home to me the fact that some types of Christianity really do focus on the control of women. I was amazed to read on Charlie Peer's blog about  Michele Bachmann as a submissive or surrendered wife and some of the debate that this has caused in America about what it would actually mean for the President of The United States to be a woman who felt she must submit to her husband's authority and decisions? And if so, why doesn't she just cut out the middle-man and get him to run instead? If this sounds extreme, then it is worth noting that she apparently allowed her husband to decide that she would become  a tax lawyer even though she did not personally want to choose this career or agree with his decision at the time!

Now, this "my husband chose my career" garbage that you get in bible belt America is the sort of thing that makes me despair and wonder whether my friend was right or how much we have moved on since Chaucer wrote his Canterbury Tales. Even if you believe in scriptural inerrancy, and I don't, there is absolutely nothing to support the idea that a husband should force a wife into decisions against her will. This is not even to begin to start on the supreme irony that were it not for the feminist movement Bachmann would have no chance of a career at all, let alone a high powered, well paid role as a tax lawyer or as a presidential candidate!

But this news item does not just raise questions about sexism, it also raises questions about the role of women as colluding in misogyny and control - often for very subtle reasons. In Bachmann's case I feel the reasons are not so subtle; flaunting her complementarian stance is reassuring to many of her target voters and so highly politically expedient. I suspect she is as hard as nails , if her husband were to change his mind and tell her to stay at home, he might well get short shrift!  Many prominent  female advocates often benefit enormously from their conservative stance and effectively "have their cake and eat it", prescribing a submission for others which they only "play act" at in their own lives (can anyone seriously see Sarah Palin submitting to anyone or anything?)

Of course, if individuals decide to obey a husband, that is a personal matter, but it is one I can hardly admire. It is in effect to hand over responsibility for one's life and choices to someone else. When you choose to obey another fallible human being rather than grapple with your own conscience, choice and reason, then you lose a little part of your integrity and of  your soul. If you make your own decisions, or in a marriage are fully involved in joint decisions, then ultimately you can blame nobody but yourself. You make mistakes, yes, but they are your mistakes! It isn't just Presidents who need to shoulder responsibility for their actions. Sometimes we all need to be able to say that "The buck stops here!"

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Walking moral tightropes

    I was interested to see that the Equality and Human Rights Act had been cited in letters to an (unnamed) hospital which subsequently accepted the right of two Roman Catholic nurses not to participate in a clinic inducing terminations through the use of abortifacient drugs . I was quite surprised that the hospital had not been aware that their demands amounted to discrimination, I believe that Roman Catholics working as pharmacists can refuse to see the morning after pill on similar grounds and doctors can refuse to participate in abortions. It does demonstrate the act is not always used to support "liberalism"  or persecute Christians as some commenters suggest. I also note that the EHRC is asking for guidance on four cases brought by Christians - although it seems to be seeking guidance as to whether the law overstepped the mark in the Shirley Chaplin case, but seems to be asking for confirmation that it was correct in the case of McFarlane and Ladele.
I do agree that medical professionals should have the right to decline to participate in terminations if this goes against their conscience. My main reasons for this is that, if someone believes abortion is murder then this directly infringes one of the ten commandments and  so individuals can claim they would be being forced to act against central tenets of their faith.  I do not believe, however, that it should extend to the right to refuse before or after medical care to a patient undergoing a termination. I also think that giving chemists the right not to sell the  morning after pill can raise more problems than it answers and it is itself , quite rightly, subject to guidelines that seem to be being enforced more rigorously at the moment (sorry for linking to The Christian Institute!)
I was also interested to read an article by Benn Quinn, written in The Guardian online some weeks ago, alleging  bad practice at faith based abortion services. I thought of blogging about this, I did not, partly because it was difficult to know how accurate the allegations were, or how widespread any bad practice is. I also was unsure to what extent clients who approach such organisations already know of their underlying ethos? Again, such organisation offering "advice" takes us into grey areas. It is clearly unacceptable for any organisation to give women inaccurate information in an attempt to sway their decision in the way that has been alleged. I also think any client has the right to know and understand that it is a pro life, Christian organisation and that that is may be likely to influence the type of advice that they receive. I hope that all such organisations are upfront about this?
 I find the issue of abortion a harrowing and difficult one and am always aware of the strong feelings and sensitivities it evokes. As so often happens in these cases, the law seems to have to perform a careful balancing act between very disparate rights and beliefs.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The stuff that dreams are made of!

I know you have all heard more than enough about the riots, but last night I had a dream that was clearly based on them. In my dream we were holidaying in the Cameron Highlands (a place we used to visit when I was a child and we lived in Singapore) and we were woken up at 3 in the morning by the sound of disturbances and forest fires in the distance. Kev was keen to journey across the island to confront the rioters. I won't tell you the rest of the dream as it gets increasingly bizarre, but when I awoke I wondered about the fact that it was so specifically the Cameron Highlands. I soon realised that, of course, this was my mind playing about with words- the idea of David Cameron and the moral high ground perhaps being suggested.
You may be interested to hear that Kev's analysis of the dream was that teachers get too much time off over the Summer and that it might be time for me to get back to work...

Freedom of religious belief

I was interested to  read on the E- Church blog that there has been a complaint to the Charity Commission concerning the Barnabas Fund. The reasons this subject caught my attention is that a church which I attended about ten years ago used to support this charity and, following its promotion by the vicar one day in a sermon, I signed one of its petitions and pledged a regular donation. The sermon or talk, if I remember rightly, focused on Muslims who, having converted to Christianity in some Muslim countries, faced death threats or murder as a result of their "apostasy". One of the rights which I believe in very strongly is that of freedom of belief. As we have seen in this country the concept of persecution can be stretched rather broadly, but nevertheless the thought that anyone could face death as a result of their religious beliefs should rightly horrify us.
As a result of signing up to the Barnabas Fund ( I am sure it was called the Barnabas Trust back then?) we got sent a monthly magazine detailing the plight of Christians in various Islamic countries. Many of these stories were moving and shocking and an indictment of Muslim fundamentalism, but what started to concern me was the fact that the Barnabas magazine itself increasingly ran articles which expressed controversial  views of Muslims in the UK. One article focused on "The Islamisation of Britain" and attacked the Muslim community and seemed to me to suggested that fairly innocuous events, such as the presence of mosques, was an insult to British Christians. One picture in the article, of a Muslim woman and her child, was captioned "A Muslim woman and child walk through Hyde Park" - although why this should have been a noteworthy matter was not really made clear. It seemed particularly ironic that an organisation whose main aim was to promote the right for Christians in Muslim countries to be treated with respect did not seem to accord the same respect when the boot was on the other foot. I eventually wrote a letter of complaint to the organisation, it was written in 2004 but I still have it in my files, and withdrew my donation. They did not respond.
There is a great deal of anti Islamic feeling in this country, some of it is understandable, but at times its ferocity disturbs  me. I also particularly dislike hearing that sort of hatred from people who profess to be Christian. Quite often such people will excuse themselves as not being racist  or religiously intolerant on the basis that they revere the Jews as God's chosen people (this then gives them  an additional reason to hate Islam.) One of the ironies of  the type of Christian Zionist ideologies often held by evangelical fundamentalists is that they generally have as their base premise the belief that the Jews will be converted to Christianity before Jesus returns. Thus the reverence for Judaism is not one based on respect or religious tolerance, but purely a marking of time until the Jews can all admit the error of their ways and accept Christ as Messiah. In this respect it can at times be little more than another form of anti-semitism dressed in respectable robes.
It will be interesting to see what the Charity Commission rules on the Barnabas Fund.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Money as the root of all evil...

Jesus had an awful lot to say about the dangers of the love of money. In fact too much of a focus on one's personal wealth seems to be pretty much incompatible with being a christian -although I don't see many of us embracing this message with great enthusiasm. Yet there is so much of it in the gospels, isn't there? Sell everything you have and give it to the poor seems to be the standard advice. Also don't fill your storehouses to capacity and somehow think this gives you security, because your life could be demanded this very night. Oh, and remember that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Seriously think about where your treasures are, for there your heart will be also.One of the key news items pushed out of the spot light by the recent riots is the volatility of global markets, the problems faced by so many economies, the debt and deficits fuelled by greed and the "buy now, pay later" atttitudes fostered by consumerism. Greed, selfishness and irresponsibile attitudes to money have undoubtedly contributed to the economic - and moral- problems in our country; it looks like Jesus was right, money is a moral issue.

We received a letter the other day telling us that an ISA had matured and did we want to "roll it over" at a  low interest rate or did we want to pop down the bank to discuss a range of "more attractive returns"? No brainer really, and so we spent this morning  discussing something which promised to protect the capital while at the same time offering potential returns, with a very nice young man who nevertheless made me rather uneasy by his enthusiastic confidence. This product, he told me, "offers you security and the potential for returns." And there you have it, we like to think that money offers us "security", that it wraps us in a warm, comforting blanket. Yet nothing is very secure, none of us knows what the future holds and we are facing problems on many fronts: our jobs may not be secure, we may worry for the employment prospects of our children, environmental problems may lead to all kinds of repercussions, such as food shortages and economic and political unrest. I felt like we needed someone to proclaim," You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you."

Gentle reader, you will be glad to hear that  I refrained and so am now writing this from home while enjoying a nice cup of tea and not from a padded cell after a visit from the people in white coats. I shall end by allowing you to benefit from the Archdruidy wisdom of one who has had the moral courage to abjure worldly riches in favour of simplicity , tea lights, raffia and the moon . Here she reflects on the culpability of us all.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Poverty of mind and prospects

I am planning to watch Question Time tonight about the possible causes of the recent disorder in Britain’s cities; I’ve already listened to a lot of comment and attempts to explain what we have witnessed on television, radio and the internet.  The mantra that this is "just sheer  criminality" irritates me somewhat ;  it might be true that it is most of the looters and rioters acted with criminal rather than political intent, but nevertheless  such widespread criminality still doesn't happen in a vacuum but arises out of a particular social, cultural and political milieu.  There are many possible factors contributing to what has happened and they include the breakdown of families and communities, the influence of social media, our current economic situation, a significant underclass in our society and the influence of consumerism. Poverty undoubtedly played a role, but not all of the looters came from the lower socioeconomic groups, and nobody seemed to be stealing food, more designer items and luxury goods. There are societies which face extreme poverty in which individuals do not behave this way.  However, poverty should never be thought of as just pecuniary; there is also moral, social and intellectual poverty, there is poverty of opportunity and the spiritual poverty which occurs when someone has never been encouraged to search for some kind of meaning outside of his or her own material existence.  I do believe that the attitudes fostered by our consumerist society leaves us impoverished morally, spiritually and intellectually. We do not know how to be rich in the things which matter. There is a poverty of mind, which incidentally I have noticed among many affluent teenagers and is endemic throughout society, which focuses on getting as much as you can with as little possible effort and valuing things such as looks, designer clothes, and technical gadgets. It is epitomised in our celebrity culture, the shallowness of which has literally sickened me for some time.
 Nevertheless, it is too simple to say that all people need to do is buck up their ideas about respect and responsibility, go to church, switch off the X Factor and read a few improving books and all will be wellI think we also have to consider the changing nature of Britain - the manual jobs that once sustained a class of people and allowed them dignity and self reliance have gone. There is high youth  unemployment and there are not appropriate jobs for many, and this is against a backdrop of the rising cost of living and great uncertainty about the future. Living a life sustained by welfare might  meet basic physical needs, it cannot meet the need for dignity  and a sense of purpose and place. Young people receive the insidious message that they are literally worth nothing if they do not possess the latest consumer goods or possess real buying power.  I hear a lot of "chav contempt”, talk of feral rats; if you are brought up on a sink estate, the message is that you are scum- this does not believe that everyone will live up to that message, but some will.
Cameron has identified the problem as moral and suggested people have not been taught right from wrong – which might lead us to ask about the role of religion. One blog that I read pointed out that many of those involved would have been brought up in the black and Afro-Caribbean communities which have higher rates of church attendance than average.  It is unfair though to suggest there is any sort of causal link between church attendance and this type of crime, the situation is more complex and likely to arise from social and cultural factors.  Asian communities often have a strong faith base and, where there is social aspiration, they are law abiding. For all the talk of moral breakdown and a sick society, I have not heard one politician so far mention religion, or look to the church for answers. It is sobering to realise that the Church has really no moral authority or role. In the minds of most people, the Christian faith has nothing to offer in this situation. My personal view is that it does, because it offers us transformation and a view of ourselves and others as infinitely valuable.
It is much easier to analyse a problem than to find solutions, in particular there will be no quick fix solutions to problems which have developed over several generations. I think that the Government has taken the right steps to restore order on the streets – at least in the short term- it is the long term changes to people’s values, prospects and the changes to hearts and minds that will prove more of a challenge.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Gentle wisdom


Peter from Faith is not the same as religion inspired this post! I hope nobody is offended a little humour in these circumstances:)

Philippines just say no to the Anglican Covenant

 For those of you who are sufficiently dull to be interested in the Anglican Communion in the face of panic on the streets of the UK, it appears that the Philippine Council of Bishops has just voted against the Anglican Covenant, describing it as "un-Anglican" in creating a Standing Committe as a Supreme Court against the principle of the autonomous nature of each Anglican Province.

Bishop Malecdan said, “We recognised that Anglicans have many disagreements as a Communion but we still can be agreeable to one another. We can still move towards reconciliation as sisters and brothers as a gift of God to us by persistently talking about our differences."

Amen to that!

Big society?

Like everyone I've been watching the disgraceful scenes of rioting and looting unfold in London and in other cities across the UK last night. I think it is a little too early to say too much , there is likely to be a number of contributing factors and the media is already speculating about the possible causes and implications. Given the clear disaffection and petty mindlessness of much of the violence and looting, my main thought this morning has been the irony of Cameron's much vaunted vision of the big society!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Listening to the whispering


 We have just returned from a week in Spain where we enjoyed relaxing, swimming, walking and generally eating too much. The holiday was mainly just a chance to catch up and spend some time together, it was fairly low key, although we did manage a visit to the Alhambra where we enjoyed the beauty of the architecture and intricate designs and the lovely gardens. I felt it could be a place of profound contemplative peace if it hadn't been quite so busy and if we had had a little more time to stop and reflect!

 We took some holiday reading away with us as always and I don't know quite how we managed it but two of the novels dealt with the theme of abuse or child murder (great!). We tend to pick the books in a bit of a last minute spree and we try pick something that looks thrilling enough to tempt the teenagers. Anyhow, Emma Donoghue's Room, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, was based upon cases such as the Fritzl crime and other similar cases where women have been abducted and imprisoned for years, giving birth to the children of their abuser during that time. I would not have bought it if the blurb had made this clear, but for all that it was sensitively and movingly narrated from the perspective of the child born as a result of the rape and I *enjoyed* reading it.

The other novel with a similar theme ,although totally different in terms of style, was a book called The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi, a "italian literary thriller phenomenon" picked by one of the boys. This was based around the murder of six little girls whose severed arms are buried in a ritualistic semi circle. The Guardian described it as " A gripping read" and it certainly was a page turner in some ways. Perhaps fortunately (as I was in need of some comedy by now) it was so implausible as to give rise to mirth. How likely is it that three members of the detective team would be in some way implicated or linked to the murders or murderer themselves? Throw into the mix a crazed monk and  nun with psychic powers and a session of hypnosis used to uncover a forgotten clue and you get the picture. The fact that Kev kept saying, "Those kids were totally 'armless" didn't help me take it seriously! The Whisperer has little literary merit but one theme that did fascinate me was the quote on which the title was based, " God is silent, the Devil whispers" - the implication being that evil is so much more wide spread and seductive than good. I spent some time pondering this and decided that I am not sure it is true and that the impulse to goodness and decency is at least as pervasive as the tendency to evil. I was quite surprised by this, having always believed I thought the opposite. I must be turning into an optimist!

Solar by Ian McEwan provided some much needed light relief. It is a wonderful comedy based around the rather inept Professor Beard, a Nobel prize-winning physicist who works in the area of climate change but is actually unconvinced of the need to save the world from environmental disaster and more interested in the intricacies of his love life - his wife is having an affair. I always enjoy McEwan's writing, and this book cleverly reflects upon the human condition, the way our selfish preoccupations dominate and even our idealism is laced with ironies. The hapless Beard is slightly overweight at the start of the book and, as it progresses, failed diet after failed diet sees his blubbery girth expand inexorably. One moment he will be resolving only to have a light salad and water and the next he will be accepting a glass of champagne and a rich dish swimming in cream. Beard's struggle with his weight  is a wonderful metaphor for  greed and excess and for how, in our attempt to use the world's resources wisely, the short term faction wins the day!

My final book was Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. This was one of our book club novels that I failed to read as it came right in the middle of coursework marking. It tells the story of a gifted artist who suffers from bi-polar disorder and of her life and family. I found this a moving and compelling read, I was particularly taken with the descriptions of Quakerism that ran throughout, especially as I have been occasionally attending Quaker worship over the last few months (more on that some other time.) I liked the balance of this book; there was some real tragedy and horror described - and mental illness is in itself truly dark and horrific - at the same time there was the soothing routine of family life and love, the beautiful Cornish landscape and the enduring search for peace and understanding through the Quakerism. It made me feel that no life, however short or marked by tragedy, is meaningless. Despite ending on the brink of the death of a young life, it had a redemptive quality.  It was the right book to end my holiday reading;  it made me feel that God whispers.