Thursday, 22 September 2022
Guardian-reading with added joss sticks
Jacob Phillips has an interesting piece on personal authenticity in The Critic. Sounds rather lofty but it isn't - the problems he describes are common enough.
The authenticity illusion
We all have a little LARPer inside us
On a December night, sometime between the life I used to lead and the life I lead now, whilst a friend and I were cutting through some backstreets off Oxford Street, we noticed an open church door. She suggested we go in and have a look. It made an intense impression on me. The interior was covered in deeply coloured mosaic tilework, interlaced black and white patterning. Scenes from Scripture were portrayed in dignified, pre-Raphaelite style by friezes on the walls. Incense hung in misty clouds gathered about the pillars in the nave. Around the High Altar was a seamless array of icons of saints, set against deep purple, rich crimson and darkly starlit blues. I desired to know more about this place, and resolved to come back for Midnight Mass.
The whole piece is well worth reading, not only as an interesting story of personal religious conversion, but as a wider comment on the modern search for personal authenticity. For example -
I sometimes encountered people from the old days who were treading a similar path. With one it began because his girlfriend’s uncle was a priest. He told me, in hushed tones, that open conversations with this uncle made him think that this priest was a true free-thinker, compared to so many people we knew who’d started policing pronouns and so on. Another had got involved with a cultish group and gone to live in an Ashram, before realising the values therein were not so much about spiritual wisdom as just Guardian-reading with added joss sticks. I was recently interested to see another old acquaintance write about her own experience of seeking refuge in a church.