Recently I was speaking to someone who mentioned that a member of their family had worked in a bookshop for over twenty years. The person sold many books both general and academic to students and the public. However, they ironically shared that he had never in his life actually read a whole book!
Irony, as a noun, is a particular form of humour that finds itself expressing the very opposite to its intended meaning. The conversation I referred to, also disclosed that the person’s favourite reading material was the old Dandy and Beano comics! So ironically, someone who sold books for a living, had never read one themselves and preferred to read comics!
So life is full, of Irony. Alongside bundles of joy and gladness, there is heartache and sadness. Life can be like a rollercoaster full of highs and lows, screams and laughter, eyes wide open or closed saying a prayer for it all to end soon.
Life is full of Icons also. At the Blackpool Pleasure Park in Lancashire, England a new ride called Icon is about to open, costing over £16 million to construct. It promises to be one of the best rides ever: modern, scary, exhilarating and surely to become an Iconic ride itself!
An Icon is derived from the Orthodox Church and shown in the form of pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary or Saints. In the Greek an ‘icon’ means an image or likeness of something or someone.
In reality life is full of Irony and Icons and may be expressed and experienced in an ‘Ironically Iconic manner.’
As spring, Easter and holidays are nearly upon us, we find that one of the world’s most adorned icon is referenced and remembered in opposite ways. The ‘cross’ is central to the faith of millions. Yet many wear a ‘cross’ as a fashion statement rather than a religious symbol.
In the Easter story (1) we read of individuals who followed a teacher that seemed to be full of Irony, yet became Iconic. The Rabbi shared radical teaching and lifestyles which are rejected and accepted in equal measure. There is also a deep Irony that in the pursuit of ‘life and meaning’ (whatever that is for each one of us) we may find that we lose it. (2)
The opposite can be true, in that when we feel we have lost out on life (however that might be for each one of us) we end up finding ‘life’ in a new and fulfilling way. Consider a seed, it has to die before it germinates and grows into something new. (3)
When people think about losing weight and apply certain diets and exercise regimes, it’s interesting how effective those aims and goals pan out. Often when concentrating on losing weight we find ourselves under more pressure and can ironically end up eating more as a comfort. When we are happy and busy doing normal things in life we may find, with a disciplined and balanced diet and lifestyle, that our weight is not an issue at all.
I love fruity Hot Cross buns which are seasonal and iconic at this time of the year.
The cross is ‘Iconic’ reflecting the ‘Ironic.’ How can someone be so despised and rejected and crucified on a cross, end up being the source of millions of people finding peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and contentment? The impossible has become and maintained a possible for so many!
There is a very interesting place in West Yorkshire where a number of ‘brothers’ have lived together as a community. Each brother has given up their individual aims and aspirations to concentrate on a spiritual life of worship, prayer and hospitality. It is maintained on a simple Benedictine code of life and practice. The community is based at Mirfield Monastery where many Icons abound. The community works to support people near and far in areas of education, hospitality, charity and other areas of particular need.
In the rhythm of the community’s activities they will experience both business and quietness, stillness and noise. Often in the business of our own lives we may seek after and appreciate those times of quiet, to rest and recuperate from the demands that life puts upon us.
This can compare to times when we are silent and quiet but find that we do not experience true rest and peace internally because of the worries and concerns that we continually carry in our hearts and minds.
Ironically and Iconically we can learn a lot from a life of contemplation, silence, and meditation. Modern thinking about ‘mindfulness’ is often a rebranding of practices that are very old and have been of value for individuals and communities in all circumstances and situations.
In the Friendship Book 2018 (March 16th) it shares that such thinking and acting is about living in the moment, not being held back by the past or living in the fear of the future, for “Yard by yard, life’s awful hard, inch by inch, you’ll find it’s a cinch.”
A life of simplicity, challenges a life of business.
A life of quiet prayer and reflection, challenges a life of self-dependence.
A life of service to others, challenges a life of self- centeredness.
Mirfield Monastery has maintained a community of ‘brothers’ since 1892 which is rooted in Anglican tradition and a Benedictine round of worship, prayer and hospitality.
There is an Irony in their existence, for there seems to be a growing and renewed interest in religious communities which is opposite to modern thinking and places of work, rest and play!
At this Easter time enjoy the spring, Easter egg and that Hot Cross bun which reminds us of someone who continues to be ‘Ironically, Iconic.’
(1) Matthew 26 – 28 (2) Matthew 10 v 39 (3) Matthew 16 v 25