Shiny Things

by Charles Slack

All that glitters is not gold

Mostly it’s rubbish.  The Australian bush is chock-a-block with shiny things that don’t belong: foil, broken beer bottles, coke cans, lolly papers, alcopop tinnies, milk cartons, take-away boxes, cutting-edge caps, plastic straws, spoons, forks, paddles, blades, bones, bars, bags and baggies, sacks and packs, butts, needles and condoms – yes occasionally needles and condoms – but mostly wrappers flapping and flashing and bottle glass amber glowering.

Most of this junk was manufactured just to glitter and glow, to grab your eyeballs in shops, to quicken your pulse, focus your impulse, moisten your lips and ultimately to open your wallet.  Creative personnel supervised by incentive-rich executive committees spend billions of dollars to create this junk specifically to burn into your brain, glisten into your gut and glow down into your soul.  That’s the purpose of glitter – to make us purchase and consume fast food and fashionable junk – to make us addicted, to make us junkies.

A natural consequence of consuming junk is a momentary feeling of revulsion.  For a second or two, we know we have done something not quite right.  Briefly aware that we should not have ingested (or injected!), we can’t help but be transitorily disgusted.  Loathing our lust, insulted by our indulgence, we quickly toss the evidence into the bin.  Or into the bush!  So that’s what junk in the bin and in the bush is: evidence of venial sins.

Surface people

It’s always superficial.  It’s always the outsides, the coverings and coatings, the surface.  The same goes for media-made people-images.  What we see is not what we get: it’s all two-dimensional constructs, attractive skin and only skin deep.  Reality TV isn’t really real.  Your neighbor is real.  Your friend with whom you’re watching is real.  Unfortunately you are not watching him or her.  You are both watching “it”, the unreal TV “show”, a temporary, electronic phantom, a show of the skin of “models” whose clothing and make-up are more important than their souls.  But we are attached to these images as though they were actual not just acting.

The bush is real

Lately when I go on my walks around the gorgeous Green Head shore, I’ve been picking up trash.  It’s good exercise for my eighty-year-old back.  (I can almost touch my toes these days.)  During morning walk, I stop by the General Store to buy a newspaper.  When I get home I take a shower and then sit and read about celebrities.  When I say that Mel, Paris, Beyoncé and even Barak and Hillary aren‘t real, I don’t mean physical mass.  (Of course they have bodies somewhere, surrounded by security guards paid big bucks to keep the likes of you and me away.)  I mean I’m not real to them: they don’t know me.  They have no spiritual reality to me.  They are images that glow like junk in the bush.  And like shiny rubbish, they detract from God’s vistas.  The natural bush does far more than reflect sunlight; it absorbs and transforms sunlight.  Photosynthesis is a synthesis of myriad beauties.

A renowned reality

People are intrigued when I tell them I lived in Princeton New Jersey from 1946 to 1955.  It was a small town then, more like Mandurah than Perth.  They ask, “Did you know Einstein?”  Answer, “Of course I knew Einstein, everybody in town did, but I’m not sure he knew me.” 

But notice the difference between “Einstein” and, say, “Beyoncé” or “Mel”.  There was no “security” in the 1950s: Einstein wandered freely.  He liked talking to students and even took time to listen to oddballs.  (He said he knew what it was like to be a crank.)  Einstein was real to me because I knew I was real to him and I could always check his “image” against my reality.

Degrees of reality

My wife, my church friends and neighbors are very real, as are my children and grand children even though they live in California.  I see my U.S. family about once a year.  

But at the pinnacle of reality is Someone I have never actually seen or touched (although He has touched me), an invisible Person more real than anyone on Earth.  This Wonderful Individual gave His life for me so that I might be able to see all things clearly and not be deceived by images. 

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 5, Jesus, my ultimate reality, says not to be depressed by glittery junk in the world because God will light up my life.

To my real neighbors and friends wherever you are I say, “Shine and keep on shining.” 

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Charles Slack

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