A View from St Kilda – October 2023

I am not a science fiction fan, but as a boy, I did love the original Star Trek with Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Scotty, ‘the engines cannae take it Captain!’

Though, in saying that, I did enjoy reading the Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham and Stephen King, who traditionally is a Horror writer but does delve into science fiction as well. Another writer that comes to mind is Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury was one of the most celebrated of 20th century American writers. Whether his output was fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery or general fiction, he always had something worthwhile to say. Fahrenheit 451 follows the exploits and self-discoveries of fire-fighter Guy Montag in a future society, where books are banned and firemen create fires rather than putting them out, in order to protect society from the supposed dangers of reading.

Looking at the amount of books in my study and in the vestry, I am not sure I would have fitted in to that society!

In one section of dialogue, Bradbury has a character trying to rouse a colleague from lethargy and non-activity. “I hate a Roman named Status Quo,” he rants. “It’s like a sloth in a tree,” he says, “hanging there all day and every day, sleeping its life away. Life is surely more than that,” he argues. “So, let’s shake the tree and knock that great sloth down.”

And he writes:
‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal.’

“Stuff your eyes with wonder”, “See the world”, “It’s more fantastic than any dream.” Oh, that we could all live like that!

The Psalmist of old teaches us the importance of taking a moment – or several – just to be amazed at what’s round about us. In Psalm 65, the writer gives himself completely to the feelings and language of wonder. Remember what we just read and listened to?

‘The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, here evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.’

A couple of Sunday’s ago we marked Harvest, to celebrate these very things… and much much more. ‘Stuff your eyes with wonder’ – besides the harvest goods on display, what else was wondrous that day? A worshipping congregation? The music and anthem? Two lovely little boys, Charlie and Felix being baptised?

And if we think about it, there must have been more throughout the day. And what about the dreich day today, what wonders have you seen today that you can fill your heart and eyes with! Stuff your eyes with wonder? Come on! Let’s learn together from the words of the Psalmist and give it a go!

Your friend and minister,

George C Mackay