Trivial Pursuits


I am a trivia nut. Ask me anything important like my brothers' birthdays or the name of a person I have just been speaking to, or (and this is one that drives my wife nuts) the weight, and gender of a friend's newborn baby, and I cannot remember it for a second... Ask me something totally inconsequential... like the date of the battle of Bannockburn, or the given name of Cary Grant and I can tell you in an instant (1314 and Archibald Leach respectively).
Why that is I don't know, but it does mean that more than one casual acquaintence has claimed me as a "friend" that they would like to phone if they ever get on to the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" quiz programme... and few people can be bothered playing "Trivial Pursuits" with me...
But there is definitely something about the way that I remember things... I don't do it consciously, but I make connections across different areas of knowledge, so I'll make mental links between seemingly unconnected subjects... theology and football, rock music and ancient history, theatre and zoology...
At the recent consultation on the Theology and Practice of Reconciliation, Derek Poole made yet another of his memorable asides, whilst suggesting that we should not dismiss the seemingly "trivial". He pointed out that the origin of the word "Trivia" was the Latin "Tri-viam" or "3 ways." When first used in Modern English in 1589 it was used to refer to the street corner, and consequently commonplace, or vulgar, but quickly came to mean "of little importance or significance." Within the University context the Trivium, or "Three Ways" referred to the so called Liberal Arts that were taught first in mediaeval universities, namely grammar, rhatoris and logic, before moding on to the more difficult Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Thus, trivial came to mean, basic or inferior, knowledge.
The danger that we fall into as Christians is that we try so hard to be followers of the Way, that we don't appreciate the different junctions along the way, the street-corners where people meet up and chat about this and that. The places where relationships are formed. No, are on the highway... headed for a heavenly destination... no time to stop on street corners and chat aimlessly. And we, like Oxbridge students, look down on disciplines and activities that are not at the core of our curriculum as students of "the Way."
But this produces an impoverished appreciation of God's world, and a much diminished ability to engage with those who cross our paths. So much of what we sneer at as "trivial" is actually the warp and weft of people's everyday existence, while so much of what we regard as vitally important has absolutely no contemporary or eternal significance.
So instead of charging head-long down the heavenly way, perhaps we need to stop from time on the street-corners. Reading a trashy novel. Listening to Radio 1. Watching Eastenders... actually, no, I draw the line at that...
But certainly "the way" that I read about in the pages of the Gospels, was a meandering one; ready to stop for a while by a well for a chat with a woman of uncertain background; ready to enjoy a good meal with others of a dubious pedigree; ready to share a story or two with friends and foes alike.
The Way of the Gospels is more a dander through a marketplace, than a headlong dash along an autobahn.
So, slow down and enjoy the journey a bit more.
Anyone fancy a game of "Trivial Pursuits"?

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