Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Norway tragedy

(Radio script, with Adele ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ as music bed)

Something happened the other day - heard it on the radio. A guy had shot some people. Young people, just teenagers. In another country, across the sea.

Yet not so far away. Every Christmas they send us a beautiful tree, a token of friendship. Its lights blaze across a city square and warm people’s hearts.

I don’t know what to say, what to think. A nation weeps: for the loss of innocence; for the darkness that can engulf a man’s heart.

I wish I could help, wish I could bring someone back. I can’t. No running or hiding now. Grief’s shadow is upon you, engulfing, overwhelming.

Is there any hope? I dare to believe. Fragile, but there in the brokenness - the possibility of something unexpected, something new. A quality of love I hadn’t seen before. Could it be?

It’s my prayer.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Senna - a life lived on the edge

Saw this film last Friday, chronicling the career of the master Brazilian Formula 1 driver. Ayrton Senna. A name whose stylishness sounds specially crafted for a star. An absorbing tale. There are few things I’d be less likely to watch on TV than an F1 race, but I knew from the reviews that this was a film whose themes transcended its subject matter.
Like so many of the Brazilian football team, Senna’s faith in God was no secret. As his genius propelled him to push car and track to the limit, he expressed the sentiment that such driving brought him closer to God. Easy to scoff, but paralleled by the experience of transcendence reported in other domains of extreme sport and performance – not least, as I recall, by the high wire artist Emmanuel Petit in ‘Man on Wire’. And paralleled in life: pushing beyond normal human limits opens up the possibility of experiencing wisdom, strength and resources from beyond.

Senna had been criticised for supposedly allowing a belief in special divine protection to push him to take excessive risks, but in interview he denied this, saying he was as aware as any driver of the dangers – thus expressing a wise humility: faith doesn’t exempt you from life’s trials and misfortunes, as of course his tragic accident demonstrated. The portrayal of his very human emotions facing the pressures of a top flight sportsman – including the intense and sometimes bitter rivalry with McLaren team-mate Alain Prost – is also very engaging.

A life cut tragically short, aged 34, by a seemingly random freak accident. Had the car part which struck his head been just a few inches away, he’d have survived. As it is, he remains the last fatality in Formula 1. A man of faith… Does it make any sense, when you consider the weight given to prayers for protection among Christians? Such incidents can only be responded to by drawing on some of the faith’s deepest resources, such as the assurance in Romans that all things work together for good, to them that love God. The spirit of the man released from the broken body is ultimately safe with God, while seventeen years on the tragedy has produced a work of art that challenges and engages millions.