His Dark Materials: what most of these Netflix and Disney+ series wish they were...
I'm not sure what it is about the BBC and the way they do things, and it might be wrapped up in elitism and old-boy networks and all that sort of thing, but undoubtedly when they (it?) go(es) for it... His Dark Materials is the sort of story that you wish you'd thought of, much more so than Harry Potter (despite the commercial success of the latter), because it really is a story that is worth telling. It's also told in a much more compelling way (in the books) and that comes out in both the first series and the current, second one.
What's made me write about it? Well, if you watch carefully and know me well, you may have guessed this already. I had forgotten entirely the character of Mary Malone and was entirely unprepared for the exchange where she asks Lyra what she did before she became a physicist. The idea of a crisis of faith and an abandonment of holy orders - for reasons that I cannot articulate and have never been able to - makes me weep. There is something in me that is desperate for the certainty of faith, and a great chunk of my own writing has been discussing the failed relationship between one of my characters and God. In that context, in the 1540s, in a time when religion was more-or-less a non-negotiable fact of life, the people around him all point him back to God. They talk about faith, and about how God is truly real to them in a way that Strelley, for all his worldly knowledge, cannot follow. To him - and to me - the comfort of faith, the knowledge that there is a something better, is denied.
It would be wrong for me to speak of a crisis of faith in my own life, I think. I have never had it, but there is something, the presence of The Church (or a church, or a churchman) in some of my moments of great distress, a connection that refuses to go away completely. It is as though my atheism is a thoroughly Christian atheism, and this is not entirely helped by my current work situation, because I am reminded of how little most actual Christians (the young ones in particular) know about what their religion is supposed to be about, and I end up getting involved. I'm no Bible scholar, but there are plenty of times when you say things that don't seem to hit home in quite the right way either with the kids or the staff, a lot of whom at least give out that they believe in all the metaphysical stuff.
So here we are, then: I wish I could, in my moments of depression and anxiety (it is very much the first that is the risk at the moment), talk to God, even if it is just to be heard. I could even imagine not asking anything (neither the selfish stuff nor the intercession for others), and just being at ease with the idea that there is a greater power and that my depression is greater than me. But I cannot. God, to me, is a cantankerous being that watches over me and puts obstacles in way, with whom I bargain when I struck by grief or anger, but to whom I do not turn in my joy. And that is it: I do not need God for most of the time. So, when I really do need Him, he is not there.
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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought