Wednesday 8 April 2015

My Daddy is older than God

People who think God is talking to them tend to be kept under lock and key, or surrounded by adoring if gullible followers.

Up to now my five-year-old son is neither, but it could clearly go either way.

Shortly before the end of term his Church of England primary school held an Easter service for the children, so we naturally asked him how it went.

“We just sang some songs and God came to talk to us,” he replied disarmingly.

At Charlie’s age I had a clear mental picture of God as a very old Englishman (obviously) with a long grey beard and flowing robes.

But my son’s God is clean shaven and has short white hair and spectacles. I can state this with confidence because he is, in fact, the rector of our parish.

The last time he addressed the school he told them he had just celebrated his 60th birthday. I had passed this landmark myself a few weeks earlier, enabling Charlie to announce proudly that “My Daddy is older than God.”

No doubt we will be able to iron this misunderstanding out eventually, though it is an uphill struggle. The child seems much more willing to accept the existence of Santa Claus than of the Holy Trinity. Though when his first milk tooth began to wobble recently, he announced with great confidence that there was no such thing as the tooth fairy.

A line to which he stuck resolutely until he was advised that there might be money involved.

I don’t understand how one of his tender years has attained such a level of technological sophistication that he can create and constantly add to his own Amazon wish list, yet at the same time believe this is being monitored by Santa. Whose elves, he asserts, are currently labouring away making the Playmobil, Lego, Brio and various other branded goods specified, presumably under licence.

One for a future wish list?

Still, I suppose it is no more implausible than the apparent belief of large sections of the population that those vying for their votes at the forthcoming General Election are going to deliver any material change to their lives.

Life will indeed change, and for most of us will change for the better, if the evidence of the last 60 years counts for anything. But the influence of politicians will be marginal compared with that of inventors, scientists, technologists, creative thinkers of all kinds and even humble marketeers.

When I was Charlie’s age the nearest thing my best friend and I had to mobile phones was two cocoa tins and a length of string. He uses an iPad where I aspired to an Etch-a-Sketch.

Mine was a reasonably prosperous middle class family with a car and a phone (albeit initially a party line shared with the family across the road) but even we did not own the massive luxury of a fridge until I was 10.

At Last The 1948 Show (not Monty Python)

At the risk of sounding like those competitive Yorkshiremen who lived in a shoe in the middle of the road and ate gravel, it is important to pause every now and then and remember just how massively almost every aspect of life has changed during the long reign of the present Queen.

And while we may look back fondly on some aspects of the old days, we should never lose sight of the extent to which our collective lot has improved.

If we are not all full of the joys of spring and attending thanksgiving services it can only be because our expectations have risen more rapidly than the economic system has been able to deliver. 

Capitalism, like democracy, is imperfect, but it is decidedly better than anything else that has been tried up to now. If you doubt that I suggest you read a bit on the history of communism, or take a look at North Korea today.

The bright lights of North Korea:
clearly a Green paradise as well as a Communist one

Whoever wins on May 7th, if indeed anyone does, money will be tight. Taxes will go up and Government spending will be constrained. Accept that, and focus on the many ways that your life continues to improve in ways that have nothing to do with politicians.

If you can’t accept that, you may as well believe in the tooth fairy.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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