One of the activities that the Group’s Charities Committee has considered arranging is a Singalong showing of The Sound of Music: an opportunity to have fun with friends and neighbours and at the same time raise some money for good causes. I did not welcome this idea. 

 

You see, many years ago I began to think that “Never Having Seen the Sound of Music” was something that was unusual and therefore possibly interesting about me. It added somehow to my account of myself: it seemed like a way of standing out from the crowd. And the more I told people this, and the longer time went on, the more the importance to me grew of preserving this characteristic and avoiding showings of what shall henceforth be referred to as TSOM. You could even say that I came to see it as something which contributed to defining my identity. So suggesting that I abandon that position became in some small way a threat to my sense of self. 

 

That’s why my initial response to the possibility of being invited to sing along to TSOM was to explain why I would not be attending. Understandably people were keen to persuade me otherwise. 

 

This issue arose at a time when we are faced with truly significant decisions about the future of our planet, and when we have just emerged from the general election and the whole Brexit debate. My trivial TSOM issue has zero relevance or interest in this context. However, in the midst of the continuing discussion about “fake news”, it did highlight for me how easy it is to form opinions and take decisions that are based on my instinctive preferred story of myself and my beliefs. Our family, friends and the media reinforce this pattern by feeding back to us what we have already expressed a preference to hear. It is easier to “go with the flow” than to make time to reflect on other opinions which are less “subjective” and more “outside” – opinions which may even make us uncomfortable. Challenges to our preferred viewpoints may even be construed as personal attacks. 

 

So there may be situations where we find ourselves saying “I always vote X”, “I don’t believe in Y” or “I’d never do Z”, or , like the Pharisee in Luke 18, feeling superior to or better informed than people who take a different position. In that case it’s probably a good idea to spend some time trying to see things from their point of view and understand how they have arrived there. We might see that as a step on the way to “loving our enemies” (Matthew 5,44).

 

And, should there ever be a SSOM, I might find myself doing something I have spent years avoiding....

 

Dr Susan Hickman