Let’s give it up for …

Satirist and singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer’s view of
the world owed as much to his being a mathematics lecturer as well as to his
innate understanding of how to portray the ironies of life. Nothing, especially
the sentimental, escaped his eagle-eyed comedic talent.
In the song “She’s My Girl” he reflects on some of
the particularly endearing reasons and virtues that wide-eyed and lovelorn men
see in the Ladies of Their Lives, their Soul Mates. Yet there’s one particular
line that – in linguistic comedy terms – always gets the biggest laugh from me:
the  … “The Girl I gave up Lent for”
The idea that this romantic paragon should deserve
such devotion as to give up Lent – that forty days and nights period within
the Christian calendar where every supplicant is compelled to deeply
contemplate the nature of temptation, penitence, abstinence, and Man’s frailty
in the face of the deadliest of Sins – places “His Girl” on the highest
pedestal, perhaps even the holy of holies! At least certainly beyond the
temporal beliefs of mere ordinary beggars.
Yet I believe this is part of the point that Tom
Lehrer was making – that no one on the planet is perfect, no one should aspire
to being perfect, no one should set themselves out as being perfect, and we
should never place the cloak of perfection upon anyone.
Another big problem with lots of people and in lots
of places and activities in our world is that to make a mistake or an error is
clear evidence of imperfection – and that imperfection is portrayed as bad, as unforgiveable,
as a sin. Perhaps this is not a Perfect sin, or an Original one, but a SIN
Someone or somebody, or some body of opinion sits in
judgement and pronounces. The trouble, as we all know, is that these self
appointed judges are people who pronounce upon perfection from their own perceived
tower of purest ivory.
“How dare he?” – “They’ve got no right,” –
“That’s totally wrong,” – “He’s rubbish,” – “What an awful person,” – “Should
never be allowed,”
and so on. You only have to stand on a busy street
corner, or in a checkout queue, and certainly on the sidelines at a sporting
event, to hear very much aloud a whole range of judgemental sentences handed
As I was rightly informed in my youth, when you point
your finger at someone there are three others pointing back at you. We’ve all
done it, we all do it and will continue. It is our won’t – or perhaps our will!
Problem is , there are many that like to wear that wig and gown.
Of course most of us would sign up to there being
some given and required perfections from our surgeons, airline pilots,
dentists, priests, air traffic controllers, and high court judges. At least in
the execution of their jobs, that is. And there are certain archetypes for whom
such jobs come easy – given their accepted level of competence. But even they
too are only human, with human frailties and sensitivities, each endeavouring
to lead their own particular human lives.
So, in terms of our jobs, whoever we are and
whatever we do, there is a percentage of tolerance of error – of imperfection –
that needs to be overcome by a level of supervisory insurance. And that can
take many forms.
Without adequate supervisory insurance we are left
with reliable imperfection – like a busy major road junction where the traffic
lights have failed.
And, sadly it is there, when the likes of cavalier
builders and cowboy bankers get away with it, that the vehicles of our lives crash
at the intersections, often leaving smoky evidence from burnt out shells.
Intangible Parapet of the Horizon
Still, now that the ashes of last Wednesday have
been swept away, it is into the vast uncharted wilderness our own unfolding
lives, where I’d invite you to come now, to explore with me some random number
of possibilities in the oceans that are out there. For this time can be our
true period of contemplation, provided we give ourselves permission to consider
it thus.
The horizon of the unfolding narrative of our lives
is a threshold, a parapet of our future. Yet, as we know, it is intangible. Like
all horizons, we see it out there away from us, but cannot reach it or touch
The intangible parapet of the horizon is about the
measure of safety we allow ourselves – rather like the glass ceiling is the
level of limitations we impose on ourselves. The more the impositions of safety
and limits – the shallower and more facile our lives become.
So what can we discover when we have rested our
thoughts on the parapet and looked out and beyond into the folded mists of the future?
For all of us – in holistic terms – we get a chance to renew body and soul, as
it were.
encounter the temporal and spiritual aspects of our own particular world – both
current and potential.
In practical, temporal terms of course there are
many things we can gain when going through any period of abstinence or
penitence. We get an opportunity to review the nature of the pleasures we
indulge in – perhaps gaining a realisation that indulgence, whilst not a Deadly
Sin, is pernicious in terms of moderation. We might gain a reaffirmation that
moderation is more virtuous – in terms of our wellbeing – than abstinence
itself. Unlike abstinence, moderation acknowledges pure pleasure as something
permissible for an enjoyment of our life’s purpose.
However, I’d like to think that this or indeed any
period of reflection, is a golden opportunity for encountering and renewing our
own inner selves – that which we might call our spirit.
For most of us the hurly-burly of everyday life
disengages us from ourselves. We often feel we are being washed along with the
tidal race, fighting to keep our heads above water, yet never having the chance
to see where the water is coming from or going to, and who or what is deciding
the speed at which it flows.
of us ever seems to have any real “Me” time
Curiously, when we do have proper “me” time, the
answers to those questions buried in the hurly-burly or the racing tide become
clear and straightforward.
and Devotions
I was talking with a client about her own
particular, though not unfamiliar, hurly-burly. Whenever she experienced stress
at work or in her private life she then had no time or energy to exercise, but
rather she found comfort in eating. She found herself taking inappropriate dietary
choices and in considerable quantities.
She was an intelligent and resourceful woman, and
yet as these loops ran in her life she felt powerless. Her intelligence and
resourcefulness lay motionless in the car park of her life. She couldn’t say
whether she was out of fuel, or had a flat battery – but she just couldn’t get
fired up.
The thing about spending some quality “me” time at
the devotional level – is that we notice the insights and connections when they
present themselves.
Now when I use the words “devotion” and “devotional”
I am NOT implying anything at all religious here. For me it is purely about
devoting all our time and attention to something relevant. So something like proper
“Me” time is just about giving all our time and attention into the frame of
ourselves – no more, no less, for however long we choose.
So my client took some time out from her
hurly-burly, and gained some really good and useful stuff for herself to use,
as resources, going forward. Yet, she still seemed perturbed by the questions
about that metaphorical tidal race. So I talked about devoting ourselves
totally to what we are doing – not in the sense of multi-tasking, I pointed
out, because multi-tasking is not total devotion, it is attending to each
present moment in a watered down way. And – I reminded her – those are the same
waters that make up the tidal race.
“I’m sure you’ve watched a young child engrossed and
totally absorbed in play,” I said. “Around them the world has stopped, time has
stopped, and they are 100% engaged with what they are doing. That is devotion.”

She began to chuckle and then sat upright and leaned forward attentively, her
eyes looking at some distant point, her head slowly nodding, and her mind in a
place of alignment with something profound.
So devoting some quality time to ourselves,
especially on a regular basis, can tame the tidal race, calm the hurly-burly,
and give us the opportunity to notice the insights that come up. They may not
always be as profound as the one that hit my client like a bolt from the blue –
but there’s always usefulness there for some part of our lives.
And when we ARE more aligned with our inner selves,
and get to understand the tidal race questions, we need to thank and applaud
ourselves – acknowledge our actions.
“So, Ladies and Gentlemen, please give big hand and a
warm and hearty welcome to some real quality ‘Me Time’. Let’s give it up for