Tuesday, 29 January 2013



If you ever go to church, I wonder if you relate to this habit of mine.

When I’m listening to someone speaking or reading, on occasions I can find that a phrase triggers a whole chain of thoughts in my head - thoughts which may not be what the speaker expects me to be thinking.

This happened just last Sunday.

There I was in the morning service in the local Anglican Church.

I was listening to a man reading Psalm 19, and reading it really well too (he is an artistic and sensitive soul, so I wasn’t surprised).

He read, ‘the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork’.

I’ll be honest.

I didn’t hear the rest of the chapter.

I was away in my head - swimming down a stream of consciousness which turned into a river of revelation (at least for me).

And here’s what tugged my attention.

I was pulled - no grabbed - by the thought that God is into showing and not just telling.

When it comes to communicating with his children, God is a Father who’s into ‘show and tell’.

Now why’s that important?

To me, it’s huge.

These days, I spend a lot of time writing stories.

One of the essential keys to composing a gripping story is the ability to know when to show and when to tell.

So what’s the difference?

Telling is when the storyteller reveals what a person is like through the direct description of their thoughts and personalities.

Showing is when the storyteller allows what the characters say and do to reveal who and what they really are.

What the experts say is this: if you’re writing fiction, don’t always reveal through direct description - through telling.

Reveal characters indirectly through what they say and what they do.

In other words, reveal primarily through showing and be visual (we live in a visual culture, after all).

In Psalm 19 God says that he reveals who he really is through showing.

As the divine storyteller, God does occasionally engage in telling.

He spoke from time to time though the prophets, after all.

And he has spoken uniquely through his Son - described as ‘the Word’.

But this all this is ‘special revelation’.

Much of the time God uses ‘general revelation’ - he reveals himself by showing.

The heavens declare who he is.

The firmament shows what he’s like.

So when we look up at the stars in the night sky

Or when we stare at a landscape of fields and forests

Or when we watch horses at the gallop or Meerkats at attention

The divine storyteller is showing us something.

And as readers of the world, it’s up to us to try and see.

Monday, 28 January 2013

James Bond and the Mum/Maam Factor

James Bond and the Mum/Ma’am Factor

There are very few films I’ll see in the cinema twice - not even on Orange Wednesdays - but Skyfall is one of those rare movies to have merited a return trip.

There are many reasons why I’m not alone in thinking that this could just be the best Bond movie to date (and how appropriate on the 50th anniversary since Dr. No).

Craig gives us a hero that mirrors M’s favorite possession - a bulldog made of (ultimately broken) China.

Bardem’s performance (check out his 100 second single shot intro) is both terrifying and compelling.

Dame Judi dexterously mixes ruthlessness with sentimentality.
And Ben Wishshaw is a fantastically minimalist Q.

I would have warmed to Skyfall just on the basis of its characters alone.

But there’s more.

As a bonus extra, we get a surprisingly strong story.

For here we are presented with two characters - Bond (Crag) and Silva (Bardem) - from the same stock.

Both have a background in the British Civil Service and have been nurtured by M.

And it’s here that the movie succeeds in moving us.

For ultimately the lasting significance of Skyfall is its exploration of M as Mother.

M is a mother to both Bond and Silva.

And these two men end up warring for her affections and attentions like jealous brothers.

In Skyfall, M is not just Ma’am.

She is Mum/Mom.

And to Bond especially, she is the closest thing to a mother he has had since he was orphaned as a boy.

Which is why M tellingly says to Bond: ‘orphans make the best recruits’.

There is so much more I could say here.

I could talk about the fact that Ian Fleming called his mother ‘M’ when he was growing up;

About the mother shaped void in Bond and how M fills that emptiness;

About the mother wound in people in our real (as opposed to celluloid) world;

About how we look for substitutes to fill that void - often ones that, like M, can be dangerous to us;

And about how this void is only ultimately filled by a greater, holier, and divine love.

But for now, I want to celebrate the rich contribution made by Skyfall to the Bond series.

Sam Mendes has done a masterful job.

For the first time, we have a Bond film that’s multi-storey - many layered not one dimensional, serious not frivolous.

And for me, one of the fascinating questions it leaves with us is this.

Will the orphan-spy in the next movie look to Gareth Mallory as he has looked to M?

Will he see in Mallory a substitute for his father?

Will M become F in Bond’s orphaned heart?