Friday, 14 May 2021

Get real and think of others worse off

HAVE you read The Crime of Gabriel Gale by
G K Chesterton? It’s a story about how to retain your grip on reality. The plot goes something like this.

Gabriel Gale, poet, artist and detective, is accused of attempted murder. His methods were somewhat unorthodox.

On a wild, stormy night, Gale had thrown a rope around the neck of a young man who was about the enter the priesthood. After dragging the lad into the midst of a wood by the rope, he pinned him to a tree for the night by forcing the prongs of a pitchfork deep into the tree on either side of his neck.

In due course Gale was arrested and charged — he suggested that the psychiatrists should ask the opinion of his alleged victim, which they promptly did. The reply came back by telegram. “Can never be sufficiently grateful to Gale for his great kindness, which more than saved my life.”

Reading on, we discover that the young man had been in serious emotional turmoil — he had become so removed from reality as to think that everything, even the weather, revolved around him and his moods and feelings.

The most dangerous temptation of all is the one that tries to make us think that we are God. Gabriel Gale’s solution to this was simply an overwhelming experience of reality.

The boy found himself firmly bound to something real and painfully solid which his mind could not modify in any way. His flight from reality was halted by the pitchfork once and for all. If this “post-truth” world of virtual friendships, manipulative politicians on all sides and an internet awash with “alternative facts” threatens either to overwhelm you or fill you with a misguided sense of your own importance as it amplifies and distorts your voice — get real.

You may not have a pitchfork handy but look at your neighbour’s needs — they are real enough. Your neighbour may be a desperate refugee in need of your gift, a lonely older person down your road needing your company, the homeless, the hungry even in Henley (we have a brilliant food bank). Pin yourself to the solid reality of the crying human need in the world.

And as Easter is looming, get real by thinking about Jesus, the man on his way to a cross which speaks to us both of God’s holiness and God’s love. He was nailed to the reality of human hate and failure, the haters and the manipulators got him, so they thought; nailed too, of his own accord, to a holines and a love which takes account of all that and goes beyond it. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

That’s the rock-solid reality of love, the ultimate truth.

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