Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Can I Get a Hallelujah?

I am a faith healer. I never used to be but I cracked it at the weekend.

I’d been told I would be one day by my grandfather. He was a faith healer with a crucifix on his palm and many successful healings of scattered folk with moderate to mild illnesses. When I was a teenager I had my spirit liver removed and bathed in blue liquid by my grandfathers’ spirit guide and I had had my kneecap rinsed in the same blue liquid. I can’t speak for my liver but my knee issues never went away.

I did wonder why, if this blue liquid of the Gods was so good, we weren’t all bathed every night by our spirit friends? Given heaven is infinite surely this blue balm wasn’t in short supply?

My grandfather told me that once I learnt to love unconditionally I would be a great healer, greater even then him. At the time I was a teen so preferred the idea of loving Linda Hamilton from The Terminator and loving her quite specifically rather than unconditionally.
Unconditionally suggested doing laundry or gardening or putting up with her playing Bon Jovi albums.

It did occur to me that healing powers would be akin to super powers. I could help the flat chested, the bad haired, the non Nine Inch Nails fans, basically the females.

But that unconditional love thing…it was just too much commitment so I forgot all about it beyond the occasional drunk pub boasts “one of these days mate, I’ll be Captain Healer and you’ll still be ugly.”


Later in life when my daughter had her accident the idea bubbled up at 2am. Ideas that come at that time are always ridiculous. It absolutely is a burglar you can hear, that is a lump you can feel and you are financially fucked. So at 2am when it struck me that maybe there was something to this healing power I wandered through to my daughters cot and held her bandaged hand through the bars and thought “I do love her unconditionally.”

I pictured a waterfall in Cambodia I had fond memories of, pictured the blue waters running over her burnt skin and the damage falling away. I held her hand for a while and hoped, loved and wished.

Nothing changed, we still have 2 years of treatments and pain and the nurses, doctors and my wifes’ tenacity did her way more good than my holding her hand at 2am.

Can’t say I didn’t try.


Then this last weekend I had my road to Damascus moment.

My epiphany.

My awakening.

My powers came to life and I healed.

Can I get a Hallelujah?


We were at a party. A huge bacchanalian celebration of celebration. Friends who’d been together for 20 years and 3 children had finally decided to marry and they’d erected 3 marquees, gathered countless musicians, spit roasted pork, pumped barrels of local brewed beer and laid out local wines. We drank, the kids ricocheted around a bouncy castle and the various bands strummed Lou Reed, Pulp, The White Stripes and The Rolling Stones.

Around half eight my daughter wanted to go to bed. My wife was in a swirl of cigarette smoke and red wine so I took my six year old back to the house and lay with her as she fell asleep. When she was down I wandered back, found my son still bouncing inside the castle and my wife smiling. We danced some more and my son appeared grinning and asking for juice. I carried him over my shoulder and we wrestled over orange juice and made animal sounds, him drunk on sugar and me on my ninth beer and fourteenth wine.

At around midnight he came back, finally tired and asked for bed. I walked him back and lay with him as I had done with his sister. He was hiccoughing and each time he tried to doze off he would shudder and snap awake. This started to distress him given he was hugely over tired.

“Unconditional love” boomed the voice of my grandfather (played tonight by James Earl Jones).

“Dad I can’t sleep” my son hiccoughed.

“Don’t worry mate, we’re going to get rid of those hiccoughs.”

“How?” he asked and hiccoughed again and James Earl Jones boomed again.

“With unconditional love.”

My son couldn’t hear him and I didn’t think he’d appreciate Darth Vader offering him love so I pulled him to me.

I was supremely confident that this would work, and I was drunk. So I guess in truth I was drunk therefore I was confident that I could do anything.

“I’m going to put my hand on your tummy mate and you’re going to stop hiccoughing and fall asleep.”

He hiccoughed again and became agitated. I shushed him and held my hand there and thought quite simply “I love you unconditionally” and my hand grew warm and his hiccoughing stopped.

He instantly fell asleep, I hiccoughed once and thought “Well fuck, that was unexpected.”


I went back to the party pretty chuffed. I’d woken some dormant X Man power. 

I found my wife and told her about it. She gently indicated that I was a little drunk and perhaps we 
should go and get a little drunker together and maybe have one or two more cigarettes and pretend we were in our twenties.

Later, dancing to a punk version of Common People, it struck me that the ability to faith heal hiccoughs was useless. It was the dumbest power I could possibly have, akin to being able to always make bread land butter side up when dropped or know how many times the guy next to me at work will go to the bathroom each day. It was pointless.

I remembered the time I had had an out of body experience. I’d looked down on myself sleeping and then drifted up to the ceiling where I had had a really good look at the light fixture and the cobwebs and then just hung there. I got bored. I was just floating on the ceiling. So I drifted back to my body and thought “well that was pointless.”

So if you have a child hiccoughing and I am drunk I’ll try and help, or if you want your ceiling assessed, again I’ll try and help. I have to say though for hiccoughs counting bald people in your head (honestly it works) or sipping water from the other side of the cup may work better. And when it comes to ceilings maybe trust a building inspector ahead of sleeping me.

In fact skip the faith healing, just go to the doctors or rub some natural goats yogurt on it and hope it doesn't ooze.

I do love my kids unconditionally, so for that at least can I get a hallelujah?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Indiana Jones and The Intelligent Design.

Science cannot stop trying to prove the How of things, and that blinds these scientists to the awesome intelligence that lies behind the design

A room full of slightly intoxicated men, high on having witnessed Nazi immolation, gasped and started to grumble.

After all, Intelligent Design should not come up at a screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.


When I was seven a friend of my fathers had a pirate copy of a movie we had never heard of. He clunked it into the top loader VCR and smiled at us. It’s a bit scary but you’ll be ok right?

Pirate videos were cool, they had playground kudos. The cassette was black and unmarked. Anything could be on there. The VCR whirred and the screen flickered and we watched Indiana Jones stride into South America and redefine excitement.

A few weeks later Raiders came out at the cinema and I saw it again and it was just as thrilling, if not more so. I’ve watched Raiders at least once a year since, on VHS, on DVD, on Blu Ray, sober, alone, with a room full of blokes all quoting lines, and finally at a special screening with one of the cast in attendance.

In the years since the pirate vhs I had kids. My son (Bear) came first and I resolved to show him various films – Ghostbusters, Raiders, The Good The Bad & The Ugly and Jaws. I guess there’s misogyny in this, but I grew up a boy so when I had a boy I knew what he would want to see. To balance things out the other night my wife showed our daughter (Toes) Anne of Green Gables and I was very confused.

Bear saw Raiders when he was 5, I told him it was scary and that he wouldn’t be allowed to see the end. He pulled up his blanket and we watched spiders, traps and Indy swinging towards a seaplane.

And then God came into it.

The Ten Commandments - Yes, the actual Ten Commandments. The original stone tablets that Moses brought down out of Mount Horeb and smashed.

Bear was confused so I sketched the commandments (delighted that he had no idea what they were). I explained at the time the movie was set everyone believed in God, and when the movie came out most people believed. God was in schools, movies and books so when I first saw Raiders I had no doubt God existed,

Towards the end of the film I flicked it off, assuring Bear that Indy won but that what happened next was too scary for him. This made him obsessed and he asked for the movie all the time. One day I inevitably forgot to flick it off before the face melting and Bear ran through to us delighted he had seen the ending. His sister, then 4, had seen it as well and found it hysterically funny.

Raiders was still great, the God aspect was manageable and life was red wine and cheap cheese.

Then the special screening.

John Rhys Davis (Indy’s sidekick Sallah) was attending for a Q&A after the movie and it was lovely to see him walk on stage, older, fuller, but unmistakably Sallah. He settled down and stated talking -  I last saw the three Indiana Jones movies on the big screen years ago with an audience in Thailand, it was a wonderful night watching the three...... wait, there is a fourth film now isn’t there? But I don’t ever want to see that film again.

The audience cheered and I wondered if I am the only person who likes the 4th movie. He took questions and had us hooked. Then he was asked where the acting ability comes from and things went awry –

Trying to distill such a thing….well it reminds me of the problem with Science. The problem being the one question Science cannot ever answer, but claims every day that it could, is - why does life exist?

The audience (geeks) flinched as the bubble we’d been in popped. It was like to the moment in a nightclub where the lights are raised, the music switched off and you realise everyone looks sweaty.  

Science simply cannot show why life exists. He continued, clutching the microphone. Science strives to show what there was at the moment of this Big Bang but not the time before. And we must look before it. We must consider what there was. If we do we see a wonderful theology, a beauty of metaphysics, of mystery. Science cannot stop trying to prove the How of things, and that blinds these scientists to the awesome intelligence that lies behind the design

Seats shifted, people coughed and mumbled. I swigged the last of my wine, chewed the last of my biltong and stood up to leave. Sallah smiled at us from the stage and continued down the Intelligent Design rabbit hole.

I can do the side stepping around God when watching the movies with my kids. It’s no different to explaining the presence of dragons in How to Train Your Dragonit’s just a story, in this one dragon’s exist.

It’s just a story; in this one you can catch ghosts with vacuum cleaners on your back,

It’s just a story; in this one a man wearing human skin mask hacks up hippies.

It’s just a story; in this one people believe God exists.

But Intelligent Design?

Listening to a conversation on Intelligent Design is like being told to wear jam instead of deodorant. Or suggesting we should replace thumbs with inflatable sheep. It just makes no sense.

So we left John to his intelligent design and stumbled down the steps of the cinema. Beautiful women ran over to each disgruntled geek and slipped their arms through ours. Mine was called Tiffany.

Tiffany:            Hey, what happened? You don't look very happy.
Me:                  Fool. Religious fool!
Tiffany:            What'd he say?
Me:                  An audience of geeks, he had no idea what he had in there.
Tiffany:            Well, I know what I've got out here. Come on. I'll buy you a drink.

We walked into the night, arm in arm, leaving Intelligent Design chattering away to a dwindling cinema audience of science fans.

Me:                  Hey Tiff
Tiffany:            Yes?
Me:                  I think we’re alone now
Tiffany:            True, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around



So the upshot was that I needed to know more about the history of the universe.

So I read Big Bang – The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh and am now well versed in red shift galaxies, CMB radiation, pulsars and the Steady State / Expanding Universe debate.

Thanks to the book I also discovered this - A Ukrainian born scientist, George Gamow, one of the pioneers of the Big Bang hypothesis, was renowned for his occasionally off beat physics. He once argued that God lived 9.5 light years from Earth. This was based on the outbreak of the Russo Japanese war in 1904 causing churches across Russia to offer prayers for the destruction of Japan. 19 years later the Kanto Earthquake struck Japan, causing the prayed for devastation.

Gamow suggested God’s wrath was impacted by the speed of light and that the delay between prayer and the earthquake could be used to determine the distance to God’s home – 9.5 light years away.

The last time I prayed I was 12 years old so my last prayer should have landed with God when I was 21 with my return due when I was roughly 32.

My final prayer, which I do remember quite well, was for Patsy Kensit to move in next door and need me to hold a ladder while she changed light globes.

Thus far, she’s a no show but just in case I have a ladder and some light globes and if she turns up I shall smile, doff my hat and say “Let there be light.”