If you’re of a certain generation the phrase ‘just the way it is’ will instantly get you humming. It’s a classic piano led song by Bruce Hornsby, with lyrics about a world that’s not fair, about prejudice and the ignorance and hardness that perpetuate it.
It’s a memorable song because of its simplicity – it has a great melody and an unmistakeable message. Do we want to be the sort of people that shrug and say ‘that’s just the way it is’ or the sort of people who want to change things?
I grew up in Thatcher’s Britain angry about how things were. More personally, my home life was shaped by the fallout from my parent’s divorce and I struggled to find any sense of belonging or identity. I was searching for a better world and a better life.
I studied social sciences because I wanted to understand why the society I was growing up in was the way it was and what could be done about it. I stuck with Sociology because it seemed at times to ask these sort of questions. I learnt over time it didn’t really have any answers.
Politics is often seen as the primary route to change things but it always disappoints us. There are plenty of well-intentioned people involved in politics and we will always need systems of government but vanity and tribalism are never far from the surface. Changes to the law often bring great benefit but what laws don’t do is get to the heart of the problem, which is always human behaviour.
I remember being pretty taken with Karl Marx as a teenage politics student – the guy wanted a fairer world and I’ll take collectivism over individualism any day but he missed what the real problem was. The problem was not a certain class of people but people full stop – we are all flawed and if we want a better world it has to start with us.
My passion and the subject of this new blog is to talk about the way it is, how things are and how things could be. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk about religion and politics should look away now because as part of this I will talk a bit about politics from time to time and a lot about faith. None of this will involve telling people what to think or do but will involve reflections on how things are and how they could be different.
A passage in my book, ‘What Happens Now?’ about the loss of my son Ben, is an example of this. It talks about the common idea that we need to take control in life:
Life is more fragile than we want it to be. The world around us would like to tell us that we can control life – we find this in self-help books, in advertising, in our children’s education system. The truth is that we have some control, we have lots of choices but the idea that we can control life is one of the biggest myths of our age. Life cannot be tamed – we do not sit at the helm of a control panel, we are more like surfers trying to stay afloat amidst the waves. We like the idea that we can box life – with technology, with plans, with performance management targets, with theologies that dictate to God but none of it works. Life refuses to be contained by us.
I want to get under the surface of how life is – of everyday ideas like taking control – and see if there’s another way. I happen to believe a guy who lived 2000 years ago, Jesus, really does have some useful things to say about all this. My faith has changed as a result of losing my son but is more real and relevant than it’s ever been. I don’t see anything else out there that can bring the change this has made to my life.
I’d love it if you could follow this blog as I take some time to unpack some things and tell me what you think. Maybe this isn’t just the way it is. Maybe things can be better than this.