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Light dependent people Jim Currin portrait

Reflection of the Month May 2019

Jim Currin writes:

It's always interesting when our friend Mark is around, and he has been to stay with me and my wife for the last few days. Mark reflects a lot on life and asks interesting questions including about faith and theology. Sometimes, he also makes mischievous comments, like last night when he said, 'Ah -those light dependent people'! This phrase prompts this reflection.

There are lots of things you could know about Mark. Uppermost in my mind is that he is a greatly talented musician. He leads a worship band and inspired me to learn how to play the djembe drum, on which he is expert. He works in a music college as PA to the Director and coordinates the diary and meetings for the executive leadership team. Deliberately last to mention - Mark is also completely blind and has been since birth.

Maybe Mark's comment now makes more sense. We were looking for something in his dark room and asked if he minded us putting the light on so we could look for it, to which he quipped (quoting a friend), 'Ah - those light dependent people!'

The phrase challenges what we as sighted people consider as normal. It also makes me think of how we see the 'other' and how we are all the 'other' to someone else. We naturally assume our way is normal and the 'other' is different. Interestingly, when Mark commented on how we must presume to believe he is surrounded by darkness, he replied, 'how do you know, it could be that I am surrounded by gold!' 

I'd never thought of myself as being 'light dependent' before. Most of us are, and we take it for granted. Putting the light on, or finding a torch, is second nature, but to Mark it is unnecessary. By being different Mark shows me something about myself.
The same can be said of our ecumenical relationships. We are all so different and it sometimes takes 'the other' to help us see ourselves as we are.

This is the principle behind the CTE resource Embracing the Other which explores the theology and practice of Receptive Ecumenism in local Churches Together groups.  'The other' is also the principle behind mission and evangelism, like the lost sheep in Luke 15v6: '‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep,’ said Jesus. Reaching out to 'the other' is also the principle we need to practice more and more in our increasingly divided world as we observe the golden rule to love one another.

Mark's comment was a bit cheeky when we needed to put the light on in his room, but it's also a great phrase with an extra deeply serious reminder. For Christians in relation to Jesus - we are all 'light dependent people'!

As an aside, as a blind person Mark has an interesting take when considering scripture references to darkness and light e.g. in John 1: 5 (NIV), 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' Mark translates this as, 'The presence gives shape to the void and the void cannot overwhelm it'. Also, he notes there is sometimes physical healing, but often references to the blind being able to see are about 'insight' and 'understanding'. 'Oh, now I get it!' is the way Mark puts it.

Mark Taylor stillAll these thoughts are captured in Mark's own piano arrangement of Sam Cooke's version of Amazing Grace which is itself (the way Mark plays it) 'amazing' and inspirational, not least as he hadn't played it for a year and it was off-the-cuff when recorded for us to hear him sing:
Capt. Jim Currin, Church Army, is Evangelisation, Mission and Media at Churches Together in England, and retires at the end of June.
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