On the second hand there are clocks like this – click on it. It’s worth it.
Clocks and clockmakers have featured as metaphors in theological understandings down the centuries. Hugo is a lovely film based on the book by Brian Selznick which gets the metaphor of the clock ticking again. 12 year old Hugo Cabret lives in the huge clock at the Gare du Nord in Paris. Clocks are the family business. His father was a clockmaker, his inebriated uncle is the clockkeeper at the Paris station.
Hugo is fascinated by the workings of the clock and how the parts all fit together. He knows that there are never any spare parts, so anything left over has to fit somewhere, and has a vital part to play in working the clock. (Flatpack furniture is packed along similar lines – it’s a sign that the assembly has gone wrong if there is anything left over).
Not only does Hugo apply this principle to the art of clockmaking, he also applies it to people. Georges Méliès was a pioneering film maker who found his skills not wanted as technology moved on. His life disintegrated and Hugo helps put George’s life together again – working like clockwork.
What if there are no spare parts? What if every part of our biodiversified universe has its part to play? What if nothing or no-one is redundant? While our human drives are shaped by the principles of the “survival of the fitting” our organisational thinking should be challenged by working out the role of the square peg, and not just the round peg for the round hole. Neither round pegs or square pegs are spare parts.There are no misfits. Even the orphan in his secret hideaway in the clock tower is no misfit, but has his vital part to play.
I was intrigued by a throwaway line at a recent training session when Gail Robinson (our Lay Chaplain for Deaf and Disabled People) explained the origin of the word “handicap”. It dates back to the time before welfare when they would have to beg cap-in-hand. The plight of the “handicapped” has been politically corrected over the years as we have responded to the demands of people with disabilities to be recognised as people with particular challenges which need not be totally disabling.
Andy Capp is a famous cartoon character whose name is a deliberate pun on the word “handicap” (please imagine a North-East Hartlepool accent). The creation of Reg Smythe, Andy Capp was always the (very politically incorrect) cartoon I turned to in the Mirror when growing up. Andy never had a job and his life seems hopeless and hapless. Rather than rejecting the caricature of people surviving on benefits and those who have to go cap in hand to anyone who might buy them a pint, the people of Hartlepool have taken Andy to heart by celebrating him as a hero for those who can’t (or won’t) work – or aren’t and don’t fit. His place in society is cemented by the statue in Hartlepool – pictured above. There’s more information from Stan Laundon here.
Political correction still has a way to go. Access issues remain. But many people are becoming more aware of their own situation of having a place on the different spectra – for example, autism, asperges, obsessive compulsive disorder and dyslexia. We are now able to diagnose different learning problems (and, as often as not, their compensating abilities), appreciate different personality types and celebrate different intelligences. But in a training room focusing on diversity and disability it is still the tendency to look outside the room towards disabled people, instead of recognising the different (dis)abilities within the group as various people showed themselves differently gifted at sign language, and not so cap-able when it came to coping with IT.
It was distressing to hear the apparent exclusion of people with learning difficulties from our churches and how stones often seem to matter more than people when churches are trying to improve access. But it was good to hear about the Causeway Prospects and other initiatives to include people who find it difficult to express themselves.
Henri Nouwen reflecting on his experience of ministry (back in ’89 when the word “handicapped” was still being politically corrected) within L’Arche writes in The Road to Daybreak:
‘Handicapped people are not only poor, they reveal to us our own poverty. Their primal cry is an anguished cry: ”Do you love me?” And “Why have you forsaken me?” We hear this cry everywhere in our world: Jews, blacks, Palestinians, refugees and many others all cry out, “Why is there no place for us, why are we pushed away, why are we rejected?”.
>Churches can be very exclusive. A mother of a young man with severe communicational difficulties has her story told by Swinton and Mowatt:
We have a lot of young people in our church … but I never see any of the young people getting alongside George. None of theem ever sit beside him in church … none of them have invited him roun to their homes … and as a parent carer I find that difficult. I see them maybe going off for lunch or whatever and george is going home with his mum and dad and I just think how he has missed out on social interaction in his teenage years. In fact I could tell a little story:
A couple of years back one of the teenage girls who was having her 16th birthday and after the church service all the young people were going back to her house for a birthday dinner and afternoon. You know we had sung happy birthday to her in the church and the word had got round that you know the party was on and so forth. But of course, George wasn’t invited and so as we drove off from the church we just felt saddened that it was just again another example of exclusion and just how painful that was to us. Not knowing how George felt about that. We came home. We had our usual Sunday lunch… I went through to his bedroom later on in the afternoon and he was cutting up bits of paper, and I said to him, “What’s this you’re doing George?” And he said “I’m making up tickets for the party”.
What a story! We perhaps try to be inclusive but finish up excluding. We don’t know how exclusive we are until we hear stories like this. Makes you think. Does it make you change?