Friday, 19 January 2018

A gap too wide?

I washed myself with ‘Lynx Excite’ today which bills itself as “a body wash with a fragrance so tempting that even angels will sin for its heavenly masculinity.” What?! Now, those who know me well will know that I’m not averse to a bit of hyperbole, but I find myself wondering what on Earth went on during the branding meeting when they came up with that nonsense!

I personally think it’s best to keep away from religious iconography when trying to sell every day items. In fact, it’s best to stay away from religious iconography for anything other than religious purposes. Surely those of us who don’t believe in angels will consider the comment to be non-sensical, and those with Christian or New Age beliefs run the risk of being offended. The one thing we can all agree on is that the statement is a baffling lie. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Quite recently, I met a woman who’d written a musical about a fifteen-year old convent school girl who mysteriously falls pregnant. The girl is an atheist, but it turns out she’s actually given birth to the son of God. I felt compelled to ask the writer who she felt the show’s audience was. Atheists watching would, of course, be gunning for the central character, viewing her as one of them but if the show’s twist is that they’re all wrong and God exists after all, they’re going to be a little miffed. Similarly, I can’t really imagine Christian people being hugely impressed at the idea of God choosing a 15-year old atheist as the vessel from which the Second Coming springs. When it comes to religion, people can get quite touchy and if you’re going to use religion out of context, you really have to know your stuff. I still remember the Christian Union at York University demonstrating outside our production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

I went to Mountview School today for a meeting, and decided to walk there in what turned out to be the most stunning morning sunshine. It was icy under foot and the journey took me through all sorts of pocket parks and leafy causeways. Google Maps doesn’t have a “prettiest route” function, but if it did, and I’d selected it, I’d have felt pretty happy! The squirrels were out in force, digging up their carefully hidden stashes of winter food and lining their nests for another couple of months’ hibernation. They can make some rather peculiar noises, the most surreal of which is a bird-like squawk. I sometimes hear it coming from the tree in our back yard. It took me ages to realise the noise was coming from a squirrel.

The calmness of my walk was temporarily interrupted by two young teenagers sauntering along the path in front of me in a particularly quiet spot by the New River in Hornsey. They were all swag and juvenile aggression. I felt very uneasy as I passed them, particularly at the moment where I could see their long shadows stretching out on the pavement in front of me, despite my having overtaken them. I watched the silhouette of the taller of the two nonchalantly forming the shape of a gun with his hand and casually miming shooting me in the back of the head. It was genuinely quite shocking, to the extent that I immediately turned around to check if he was actually holding a real gun.

...And it struck me that, whatever initiatives we invest in, we still have a very long way to go when it comes to living in harmony with those who live around us. I’ll confess, I felt uneasy the moment I saw those lads. I didn’t like the fact that they weren’t at school. I didn’t like the language they were using or the way that they were walking. I found it threatening and suspect I would have felt the same way had the lads turned out to be the nicest kids in the world. That’s my prejudice. But similarly neither of them had any respect for me. If they had, they wouldn’t have tried to intimidate me and certainly wouldn’t have mimed shooting me in the head. So how do we bridge these gaps?

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