The commutes of Jesus (part I)

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our guyanese bus, which broke down an hour laterThere aren’t many accounts of Jesus commuting. He seems to go from one place to another seamlessly.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi… Matthew 16:13

The clearest example of Jesus commuting – that is, being on a journey with what seems a pre-determined destination – would be his road to Emmaus:

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.

This is one of those passages that invokes a lot of discussion, mostly around the issue of whether the disciples should have expected Jesus to rise from the dead… something that eminent theologians are still debating. But here I feel it’s important to consider the relationship between Jesus and his erstwhile companions from a modern, commuter, context.

First of all, it was Jesus that engaged the commuters. By walking with them and engaging with their discussion, not creating his own. The fact that their discussion was in fact about him is perhaps by the by. I have never found myself listening in to strangers’ conversations that were all about me; hands up who has.

Secondly he very much engages with their conversation. He does not remain content with niceties. As with so much of his ministry he says the awkward things, the prophetic, the insightful. He is the equivalent of a modern-day commuter dismissing the frivolity of freesheets on public transport with ideas and intelligence beyond the inane prose.

Finally the commuters, who had found themselves in Emmaus, left to go back to Jerusalem, where they had come from. It may be a major metaphorical leap, but there must be times in any commuter’s life that they realise they should rather be in the place they are not.

Commuting is a phenomenon alien to the world that the bible describes, but it is too often integral to our own. I think we need to consider what place God has in those hours between work and home.

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The kindess of strangers (part II)

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an underground carriage in Austria - happy graffiti

Last week was a busy busy week with lots of late trains home and early ones into work.

On Wednesday night I had to visit the B&Q in New Malden because they were giving us some free stuff for an event we were running.

Steve, the store’s General Manager at the time, was so helpful – and amused by my ignorance. But the poor boy given the task of running things through as free, so I can then make up the difference, couldn’t work out how to use the system.

Eight pm rapidly pushed to 9, when the store would close. As I was stood waiting for Kleber (for that was his name) to infra-red thingy my purchases again, I began to chat to some of the staff who were also anxiously watching the clock.

One girl, Jade, asked where I lived and how I was getting home. As I described my intention to walk back to the station, wait for train 1 then wait at another station for train 2, her face looked more and more shocked.

She interjected: “No way man, that’s like way too crazy. My Nan gives me a lift home, we can take you to like Tootin or somewhere. That would be way better, right. I’m leavin at 9.”

How kind! Except that Kleber’s still faffing with the wood glue and the minute hand’s on 57…

Steve sends the message: just let her through.

I eventually walked up the road with at least ten pounds of extra swag at about half 10… it would have been nearer midnight had I gone with the original travel plans. Thank you Jade and thank you Steve for helping a stranger.

what is my value?

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the future

This photo was taken as part of a Boxing Day game played by my family this year. We hadn’t been able to do it the year before because of illness, but this year I had a chance to see my concept in reality.

I do a relatively creative job. It’s exhilarating being asked to call upon creative ideas at a pinch, sometimes (if I’m very lucky) being able to mull on ideas and simmer for taste. But what is that worth?

My last post had me thinking. I’m not a cricketer (well, actually I would like to think I could have been a contender… but that’s by the by) nor am I in an industry that rewards time and effort put into a job with the proportional spend of the corporate sector. So how do I know what I am worth?

When all that greets you of a morning is another round of stress and worry, followed by London-rent bill worries and then the extortionate cost TFL lays on you for trying to keep the rent bill down… it makes a cold train platform and a colder atmosphere from fellow commuters that much harder to bear.

I have been trying to read Brian McLaren’s book, but I feel patronised. He’s a brilliant writer and I know that if I hadn’t already spent three years studying theology, what he is explaining would be that much more profound. I feel caught between a temptation to skip ahead, the feeling of cheating, and the feeling of being cheated.

It’s just not cricket…

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this is a cricketPietersen is the world’s highest paid cricketer. And yet when the wicket fell at 97 recently he dismissed the failure as part of the way he rolls…

Tonight Andrew Strauss was dismissed for 169.

Strauss is not paid over a million. But when England needed players to step up and show their mettle he held his head high and delivered. It will be interesting to see whether Pietersen can be as impressive.

Our society seems to have lost its way when it comes to worth and value for work and employment. Marx wrote of the value of labour in terms of its worth to society. Labour-power is the potential of what workers can contribute given their skills set and capacity, labour is the activity that produces value.

In the high profile sports like football and cricket, there seems to be no correlation between what workers achieve and what they are paid. In the situation of a player being paid several million for their work not performing on the pitch there is a negative, rather than a surplus value.

The recent furore over bankers’ bonuses has emphasised Marx’s idea that only wage workers of productive sectors of the economy produce value. When a bank has failed its clients and the economy, it makes little sense to reward those working at the bank.

And yet sport does produce economic value – through advertising, sponsorship, ticket sales. Perhaps the people commanding such huge sums in salaries but not delivering in the same proportion should also be taken to task…

The inner workings

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It’s a little blurred. The burly men put me off my photo-taking so I tried to snap and walk, nonchalant like.

This is the inside of an escalator. It looks so much menacing I think with its teeth bared. It seems like a crouching beast, tethered until allowed to roam free again.

I don’t remember the first time I used an escalator. I’m sure I was scared though. There’s still that panic that sets in as you reach either top or bottom and it looks poised to roll you flat and suck you in, his mouth waiting patiently as his steel-grooved tongue carries you to your fate.

Anthropomorphising things can make them less threatening, or do the opposite. Even with its innards exposed and vulnerable, I couldn’t see the escalator as anything other than a scary beast.

Is this true of people? So many stories and films have a rhetoric that says once you learn about someone’s past and private nature, once they are vulnerable before you, it is difficult not to empathise or see them in a new light.

Posted by ShoZu

Eerie beauty

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Why commute home at all? When conversation is that meaningful or the journey so long, why not lay down in that blanket before us, talking long into the night…

Because a life that is just work is cold. It is the blanket that chills your bones and heart. Its softness becomes hard ice, its grip eventually causes you to fall and its cushion from really living melts away into nothing.

Posted by ShoZu

Snow commute today

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snowy february I had always imagined that if I were to work from home, I would sit on that bench with my laptop, in the sun.

Today the bench looks less comfortable but no less beautiful.

And today I turn my thoughts to what it might be like to commute from your bed to your desk without having to leave your home.

I am so much happier in this room and at this desk. I may not be working as well as I would like (mostly because everything I need, including a connection to the server is at the office) but I feel freer. There are no internal politics, there is no panopticon, there is no one staring over your shoulder.

I’m thinking even the absense of that elusive “team spirit” is worth it.

Perhaps society is moving towards the minimum of human interaction. As in the magnificent film Wall-E, in which humans of the future live in front of a screen, picking and choosing their contacts through google searches and the twitter of pixelated conversation.

Is commuting to be borne with resilience, avoided at any price or a part of modern life that we as a culture have decided to side-line with free papers and mp3s?