Holidays: September 2022

We arrived for our first ever family winter holiday in Kosciusko National Park to the unexpected sheer magic and delight of watching snow actually falling and, to my personal delight, I’ve remembered how to sort of ski.

Furthermore, and unfortunately, I think I’ve fallen in love with the snow covered mountains, so quiet and still. There’s something about those great swathes of solid blue sky and white mountain tops that is, somehow, wonderfully grounding. And as one tentatively makes one’s way down a slope it’s a marvel how one’s thoughts become zeroed in, focused on the white path ahead, while skis slide and swoosh endlessly and one’s body learns to gently lean to the left then the right, left then right, the motion pleasantly reminiscent of being rocked to sleep.

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But that’s taboo: God

Throughout the western world, belief in God – that is, genuine belief that God is is real and relevant- is increasingly taboo. Well, no, that’s not quite right. It’s sort of taboo. Across Europe and the UK, God appears to have been largely forgotten. America is its own special category. While here, in Australia, in my lifetime Christianity has thus far has swiftly been shifted from the category of Ned-Flanders-quaint, to Fairy-Tale-ridiculous, to the now perilous quandary of (at least in the media, if not on the ground, among real people) Horrible-and-Dangerous-Ethically-speaking-yet-unquashably-hope-inspiring (listen in to Cynthia’s story for example). Laughs used to distance the masses from the faithful remnant here in Australia, but now I think it’s more a mix of outright contempt and perplexed incredulity (that die-hard Christians, their Bible, their Christ and their God, just won’t go away). Also, fear.

I’m not sure where the fear comes from exactly, but maybe its fear of the unverifiable nature of belief in an unseen spiritual realm, another reality beyond, but related to ours. I think that, perhaps unconsciously, scares the heck out of people. Having just read Stephen King’s Revival though, I’d say the age-old fears about what lies beyond the curtain of death are well and truly alive. Most other cultures across the world, to this day, retain a robust belief in the spiritual realm as more real than our material realm, but we in the West, tremble, and therefore, scoff at the thought.

To me there seems to be precious few spaces left to freely talk about serious belief in God in our current culture, but, even in the most secular of circles, there does seem to remain, at the very least, and only very quietly, an insatiable curiosity in the firm belief of something so “unprovable” as God. It may very well just be a fleeting curiosity, as in the presence of the (newly) devout Catholic priest in Fleabag . Irreverent mocks genuine belief in the Christian God as laughable and hopelessly outdated but ultimately not entirely defrocked of the vague utility of belief in dark moments like mourning the loss of a loved one (“God, we deliver into your care…”) or healing deep conflicts (a surprising use of the biblical wisdom of Solomon). But more serious contemplations of the genuine validity of the Christian claim of truth cannot, it seems, be openly discussed, only smuggled in, as in the frequent exploration of Christianity by multiple characters in Sally Rooney’s string of novels. Serious considerations, in general, do seem to be taboo in the West these days. (Of course in other countries across the world, professing allegiance to Christ is not just theoretically taboo, it’s punishable. But that’s another part of the story).

For this, my final post in this Taboo series, I have compiled a collection of buts and pieces on belief in God of Christianity, including a poem I wrote a few years ago. I haven’t written a poem since high school. I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination, however, I thought I would include it anyway as it expresses something I couldn’t think how to express other than in poetry.

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But that’s taboo: vulnerability and other things you can’t see.

Let’s talk about public image, social anxiety and vulnerability. I don’t think we talk about vulnerability enough. I don’t think we like to even think about it, that is, I don’t think we like to dwell on our frailties and imperfections. These days, according to the cultural milieu, we are all supposed to be able to keep it together, all the time. And if you can’t manage that, well, you probably haven’t tried hard enough, have you? Maybe you should do some more yoga? Or eat more kale?

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But that’s taboo: Chronic fatigue, my fake illness

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) feels taboo to me because it is, well….weird. Because it just doesn’t seem like a real thing. There’s a certain stigma attached to it. It’s invisible (obviously). There’s no definitive test for a diagnosis. And, for me at least (because it is mild in my case) I often actually feel “fine” and present as “fine” (or more than fine even). Until I’m not. And then I’m really not fine.

It is actually still hard, even for me, to believe that this “chronic fatigue thing” exists, and that I am trapped in its world. To this day, it is extremely hard for me to comprehend what has happened, and continues to happen, to my body. Which is why I’ve taken to affectionately joking with my husband about CFS – my “fake illness”. Because it really does feel unreal.

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