The other day Mrs McCall and I decided that it was one of those cold evenings when a nice mug of hot chocolate would be in order, just before slipping on the Ugg Boots (which shall never be worn to the supermarket) and relaxing in front of Netflix. As Mrs McCall was hunting for the container, which was up the back of the cupboard, she discovered something else: an old container of Powerade.
“How long have we had this?” she asked.
I replied, “I don’t know, but that’s my Powerade that I mix myself when I go on my long bicycle rides.”
You know those moments when your mouth says something before your brain really kicks into gear? Because, as I was saying this, my brain was saying, “Theo, I don’t think you’ve used that for a while!”
Meanwhile Mrs McCall was saying, “We’ve had this since before we came back from Western Australia to live in Adelaide!”
At this point I was somewhat lost for words, but I was already committed to my current line of thought, so I managed to blurt out, “Oh, that stuff never really goes off.”
At which point she started looking for the due date… 19 May 2007!
It raises that interesting philosophical question, when does something go off? Do we go by the use-by date? Mrs McCall uses that as her absolute guide: “If it hits the use-by date, it’s gone!”
My belief is a little more fluid. “Yes, I know it’s hit the use-by date, but is it really off?”
The huge exception that I make is with coffee beans. I tend to be a bit of a coffee snob… beans have to be good quality, not the caterer’s blend that you often get, and they have to be freshly ground (pre-ground beans are a no-no) and they have to be reasonably fresh. In my opinion, coffee beans are definitely either fresh or stale. As for instant coffee… that is for emergency use only!
But all things do eventually wear out. We know this – it is a simple fact of life. A variation on this – well, actually one of the key underlying principals – is found in the second Law of Thermodynamics. In a given system, entropy will never decrease. In other words, things move from order to disorder. As one of our Physics teachers Mr Jaldiani taught me recently, a very simple example of this is a campfire. A campfire is an example of entropy: the solid wood burns and becomes ash, smoke and gases, all of which spread the energy outwards more easily than the solid fuel (the wood). The “order” of the wood becomes the relative “disorder” of the ash, the smoke and the gases.
We know from our own day-to-day lives that things gradually wear out, even if they take a long time to do it, however, the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian faiths affirm something else as well. They are the only traditions I can write about with a real depth of knowledge and obviously I personally know more about the Christian faith. As Christians we do affirm that the things we see around us do not last forever. But underneath that, sometimes hidden, yet sometimes so clear that you wonder how you missed it, is something else.
The tradition actually has many names for it. God is the revealed name; experienced powerfully by Abraham when he looked up at the stars and had an overwhelming presence of the divine. It’s the main reason we have stars on our Chapel’s ceiling. The Spirit is another name. The Spirit is probably my current favourite name for the reality that lies beneath the world we see around us, along with a slightly different name that everyone can access, regardless of their tradition. All you need is the vaguest sense of spirituality to access this one … just an openness to there being something more to life than just the physical things which wear out… and that is love.
Below is a photo I took of the jetty at Port Neill that illustrates love. The jetty appears to stretch out almost to the horizon – a reminder that love endures forever. It also reminds me of a beautiful day spent there with people dear to me. Love endures. Love survives all. Love is the foundation of all faith and all hope.
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall