A little while ago I stood on some stairs and discussed religion with a man who I liked and respected and who was a devout and worthy Christian. And it was upon those stairs that I admitted that when it came to religion I was a pick-and-mixer.
Also, a little while ago, I attended a funeral. One of my cousins had died. He had been in his seventies, and so there was sadness that he had gone earlier than we would have liked, and also much gratitude for a reasonably long life and a well-led life and a life upon which many had depended. I rarely find funerals gloomy. I usually find them uplifting, and this one was no exception. Perhaps there is something different about us all when we come face to face with the ultimate reality of life, which is that it comes to an end. Perhaps it is at funerals that we modern people, who perhaps have little time for church, find ourselves pondering the meaning of it all, and whether there truly is a purpose. Perhaps it is because I believe in the other side, because I believe that this planet is not where we truly belong, and that we are here to learn lessons and to help each other, and then to go home. But there again perhaps it is because one actually sees just how wonderful most lives have been.
This life of my cousin, this modest unassuming life, certainly had been wonderful. His widow was there, flanked by her two sons. The eulogy was given by one of the grandsons. Another of the grandsons was with his own wife and small child.
I remember my cousin when he was young. I remember when he married and had sons. I remember watching those sons grow up. I remember that their passion was their local football team. I remember when his sons married and had children themselves. And what I saw during that funeral service was an encapsulation of all those memories; and because of them, because this one snapshot of an event was not his life, but was just a part of his life and everyone else’s life, I knew that once again I was witnessing the miraculous. One of those grandchildren gave the eulogy. After the service, the grandson’s father, who I remember being born, being a small boy, being a cocky teenager, being a young married man, gave his son, that grandson, a hug. And so I knew; for his part of the family, he was the patriarch now.
It is the circle of life. But it is the circle of life plus something vital. It is the circle of life that is a HELIX. Because within it there is always change. And that brings me to one of the most important points that can ever be made about how we conduct ourselves here on our journeys on Planet Earth. There is always change. And we always change.
That is why I was happy to admit on those stairs that I was indeed a pick-and-mixer.
‘Ah,’ that dear man on the stairs said. ‘But the problem with pick-and-mixing is that one person picks one thing and another picks something else. They can’t both be right.’
‘Indeed they can,’ I replied. ‘Because what one person needs in order to help his or her journey is not necessarily what another person needs. We are all different, and there is no reason why there has to be just one way, as if one size has to fit all. Indeed, not only are we all different,’ and here I could have told him about how different my late cousin’s two sons are, ‘but all of us have different needs at different times of our lives.’ And here I could have told him that my cousin’s son, who was the father of the grandson who gave the eulogy, was a very different man from what he had been in his youth: different outlook; very different responsibilities. ‘So,’ I continued, ‘what I pick now in order to help my spiritual journey does not have to be exactly the same as what I would have picked when I was twenty, or when I was thirty, or forty etc.
The circle of life is the HELIX of life. And just in how we journey upon that helix should tell everyone that one religion, one truth to be fought for, is definitely not what we need.