Theologising with Alan Bennett and Dr. Seuss

There is a great line in the History Boys:

‘I’m a Jew….I’m small…..I’m homosexual and I live in Sheffield…….I’m f…ed.’

Why does Posner (Bennett’s character), feel this way? 

Because, I suggest he has been sold a lie. The lie goes like this: to be normal – to feel normal – you need to be middle class, white, educated, I.T. savy, and, wear branded clothing.

To be the absolute epitome of normality it would be better if you were white, male, straight, able bodied and highly rational, although a leaning towards some form of eastern spirituality may be acceptable as long as you don’t overdo it (and don’t fess up to being religious!). An interest in sport helps, as does a body which indicates that you are currently an active participant or reached some form of acceptable peak in earlier years (if this is a stretch too far try eulogising about your children). You should be able to talk knowledgeably about all things wine! One final thing, make sure you go to the right holiday destinations.

While I’m on it, sorry, just one more thing: get yourself a fancy job title, one which slightly exaggerates your real position in the corporate hierarchy but which indicates that you do have responsibility for the P and L (even if you don’t.)

So why are these accoutrements necessary?

Because they are the modern equivalent of the fig leaves Adam and Eve used to hide their private parts in the Garden of Eden. Consumer society has sold us all a pup (and a mongrel pup at that): in order to feel normal you need the right fig leaves. Oh, but the lie gets worse: Once you have the right fig leaves you will feel normal (you won’t, you will just devote increasing amounts of time and money acquiring new and better fig leaves).

In the consumer society we are required to create an image in order to disguise our neurosis; The relationship between creator and created is inverted, we are tempted to forget that all people (even / especially short, gay, Jewish scholars from Sheffield) are made in God’s image. In God’s creation categories such as normal don’t exist.

Dr. Suess, the children’s philosopher, has an excellent handle on this: This is what he says:

‘We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.’

Go on make 2014 the year when you embrace your weirdness (and someone else’s too) it might be the most enriching thing you do.


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