Sabbatical, Day 18

Thank you to everyone who has offered prayers and advice regarding Mark’s illness. He has now been clear of vomiting for two days, but the problem has moved to the other end. He remains reluctant to eat, which brings back all the fears of the two years (only recently ended) during which he barely picked at food. However, it could just be the bug. He also remains pretty tired.

Today, I drove to Kent and picked up Rebekah from her sleepover. She had been rather subdued, but was much closer to her usual more-bouncy-than-Tigger self today. Pat, her old childminder, has come to stay with us for two days.

On the way back, we were coming over the new bridge-like slip road from the A2 to the M25 when we hit one of those first-gear-if-you’re lucky traffic jams. It did not surprise us remotely when it cleared the moment we got through the tolls at the Dartford Crossing. Tolls were introduced here with the south-to-north tunnels and the north-to-south Queen Elizabeth II bridge. Once the bridge was paid for, they were due to be abolished.

But governments are good at lying. Or at least of playing along with a previous administration’s policy, and then changing when it suits them. So, as is well known, once the crossing was paid for, the tolls were kept in place. Now it is supposedly a congestion charge. So let’s just call that the lie that it is. When the tolls cause traffic to stack up in the way they do, fuel consumption worsens badly. Therefore they do not save environmental damage, they cause more pollution. It can hardly be argued that the tolls work by deterring people from taking that route and that if they were abolished more people would use it for two reasons. Firstly, those on the route often have little practical alternative. Secondly, the few who might change would be on the roads anyway. No, the Dartford tolls only increase greenhouse gas emissions and human tempers. So let’s just call the government a big fat teller of porkies. I know people will find it hard to believe in a dishonest government, but there you go.

So little has happened on sabbatical topics today. However, I have just noticed this report on the BBC News site: the Vatican says that the two sexes ‘sin in different ways’. Never mind personality differences, there are sex differences in terms of preferences for the classic seven deadly sins. For women, the popularity of sins comes in the following order:

1. Pride
2. Envy
3. Anger 
4. Lust
5. Gluttony
6. Avarice
7. Sloth.

For men, it is 

1. Lust
2. Gluttony
3. Sloth
4. Anger
5. Pride
6. Envy
7. Greed.

So now you know. The top three in the men’s list sounds very much like the profile for certain seedy men’s magazines, such as Zoo and Nuts (which I’m not going to dignify with links).

The Vatican is reacting to a decline in the practice of personal confession. One third of Catholics no longer consider confession to a priest necessary, and one in ten consider it an obstacle to their relationship with God. All this, despite the fact that the Catholic Catechism still states that 

“immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell”.

The objections to confession sound vaguely similar to traditional Protestant objections to the rôle of a mediator between humans and God other than Jesus Christ. All this at a time when some streams and traditions emanating from Protestantism are rediscovering the importance of accountability groups, which may not have the formalised place for the priest, but which can respect the injunction in the Letter of James that we should confess our faults to one another. I don’t suppose we’re going to wave to each other as we pass one another going in the opposite directions, but isn’t this one of those cases where it would be good to listen carefully to one another and pick out strengths and weaknesses from the various traditions? 

Finally tonight, something that should have drawn a comment from me yesterday. I visit an osteopath every couple of months, as I have previously written. Yesterday, I saw Tom again. In addition to treatment for my usual neck and back issues, I mentioned that a practice nurse at our doctor’s surgery had recently diagnosed some pain in my heel as plantar fasciitis.

Tom being Tom, he not only proceeded to treat it and give me some exercises to do, he launched into an explanation of the condition and the physiology. He told me how the plantar fascia is like a mesh that changes shape, tensing and relaxing, in relation to the movement of the foot and pressure on it, and said something about energy storage that I confess I don’t now understand. He explained how the fascia is linked to the calf muscle. When the latter is tight all the time, it puts strain on the plantar fascia. Therefore, he prescribed some gentle stretching exercises for the calf muscle that would release it and therefore relieve the plantar fascia. He said that unless we started to work quickly, the condition would set in for months and months. 

In the midst of the explanation about how things should work in this part of the body, Tom suddenly said, “He thought of everything, didn’t he?” Now Tom knows my profession and has dropped hints before about believing in God. It was he and not my previous, Christian, osteopath, who told me that the discipline was founded by a Christian, Andrew Taylor Still. However, one thing Tom has never suggested to me that he is a Christian or a disciple of any other faith.

I imagine he might be one of the many who hold to a belief in God without ‘formalising’ it, but my concern here is less with theorising about his convictions. My point is that I wasn’t ready, even within a friendly, warm relationship to make an appropriate response. Sometimes I am so into building a good relationship with someone and avoiding the preachiness of my Christian youth that when an opportunity for spiritual conversation comes up, I blow it. Someone must know how to keep a good balance!


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