Sun, not water, may soon become the main cleansing agent. Scientists at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have discovered that clothing coated with tiny particles of titanium dioxide has only to be exposed to sunlight in order to automatically remove dirt from clothes. Activated by the light, the particles – each one 2,500 times narrower than a human hair - break down carbon-based molecules.
Removing the discomfort of an uneasy conscience or sense of failure is not so easy. Feelings of guilt or inadequacy can nag away at us until we long for some way of cleansing them from our minds and hearts. This is often done most effectively when we become aware of the warmth of someone’s love for us.
Such love need not be uncritical but it should be un-condemning. To be seen as we are, yet not judged, is a liberating experience and when such light shines on us, our capacity for self-acceptance begins to operate and drive away our malaise.
This is the nature of God’s love for us. God’s love transforms because it first of all affirms. It shines on us regardless of our failings. We can also offer such accepting love to each other. Let’s today try and love those around us with a similar affirming and cleansing love.
British people are willing to invest a lot of money in the pursuit of love. In one of YouGov’s more ridiculous polls, “the average Briton”, or the average of the 2,245 who answered Internet questionnaires, spends £38,000 in their lifetime trying to find love. Men spend an average of £1,426 on their partner during the first six months of a relationship, including £970 on drinks and dinners, £148 on presents and £63 on taxis, flowers and chocolates. Women, on the other hand, spend £740 over the same period. It may be indicative of something that after a relationship has passed the 12-month barrier, men's spending drops off to an average £987, while that of women increases to £784.
The Beatles were, of course, right: “Money can’t buy me love” but YouGov’s assumption, that that is what all this expenditure was in aid of, may not be true. Generosity is sometimes a way of showing delight in the beloved, not winning them over. Nor is money the only way of expressing affection. The Beatles’ “I’ll give you all I’ve got to give if you say you love me too. I may not have a lot to give but what I’ve got I’ll give to you” echoes the Marriage Service’s promise that “All I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you”.
In the famous story Jesus told, the Prodigal Son
tries to buy friendship with the money his father gave him in lieu of his inheritance. It didn’t work. It is in the way he is received on his return home, with joy and forgiveness, that he discovers the nature of true love. Perhaps today we might reflect on how we let those close to us know we love them. Most of them, like the one for whom Paul McCartney was singing, “want the kind of things that money just can’t buy”. Financial generosity may be one way to seal a relationship but being obviously, unconditionally and wholeheartedly delighted just to be with them may be more effective.
The Laughing Cavalier’s eyes seem to follow the viewer whatever angle they’re looking at him from. Scientists from Ohio State University took hundreds of measurements of similar 3D images to try and work out why. They found it’s because shading and light are fixed on a canvas, whereas with 3D objects the light on them changes as you move round them.
Many people feel that, wherever they are, people are looking at them. For some it’s a painful psychological disorder. For others, less afflicted, it doesn’t need a research scientist to explain the reason. It’s a natural human characteristic, present to some degree in nearly everyone, to perceive the world and everyone in it as centering round us. What people say, thinking and planning for the future, everything that happens, is judged on the basis of what effect it will have on us.
Our instinct for self-preservation is partly responsible for this self-centred approach to life and sometimes it’s not inappropriate. But we’re often being more caring when someone else’s well-being is at the heart of our response and we see things from their point of view. Let’s today, whenever we find we’re assuming that everything should revolve around us, check whether it would be more loving to focus our eyes on someone else’s needs.
Publicity for the new film Underworld:Evolution has, rather inappropriately considering its vampire theme, included photos of its star, Kate Beckinsale with her fiancé, the film's director, Len Wiseman and her daughter, Lily. The accompanying article revealed that “The Californian heat clearly drained Lily’s energy, because her mum carried her for parts of their journey. But having settled Lily safely on the swings with some young chums, Kate snuggled up to Len on a park bench. Len kept cool by sipping some mineral water.”
There are clearly enough people who are interested in this level of detail to sell the magazine. In any other context than fascination with the life of celebrities, however, such thorough attention to every aspect of what the three of them were doing could have only one explanation. It is sometimes a feature of loving someone that their every movement and action becomes important. The experience is highlighted when people are “in love” or have a new child in the family, but in many loving relationships, each takes delight in the other’s every move. Lily was no doubt being watched with such a love and perhaps Len and Kate took that kind of delight in each other.
The writer of the psalms senses that God loves us like this. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways”* Some will want to delight today that we are loved so specifically and that every detail about us is treasured by God. But whether our belief allows such celebration of God’s love or not, we can all be grateful if there are other human beings who care about us and for us as closely as that.
Howard Thurston’s speciality was making elephants disappear. A magician from the early part of this century, he travelled the world with a huge show. Before he walked on stage, he would stand behind the curtains and say to himself “I love my audience, I love my audience…” And he’d repeat it to himself over and over again before he walked on. By the time he got to centre stage, he radiated love for his audience. They responded, they felt the connection.
This might be a good way to prepare for any encounter. Whether the meeting is for business or pleasure, thinking in advance about the other person with love could really transform the quality of the interaction. Sometimes this will be difficult. Previous experience of the person may have led to dislike, mistrust or even hostility. St Paul, in his famous passage about love, talks of “keeping no record of wrongs”* Though what’s happened in the past may suggest a certain caution in some areas of the relationship, each meeting is a fresh start and loving someone is not the same as liking them.
Perhaps as we look at what lies ahead today, we might think about those we are about to meet, accepting them as they are, delighting in as much of their personality as we feel we can and wanting the best for them. Such loving thoughts in advance might produce unexpected results and a deeper meeting.
* 1 Corinthians 13:5