[Rector]

Pennies from Heaven

 

Dennis Potter has written a number of brilliant TV screen plays. The "Singing Detective" and "Pennies from Heaven" are just two of his pieces. He died of cancer some years ago after completing his final screen plays.

The thing that attracts me to his work is his capacity to touch deeply. His work just doesn't touch the sensual self, but goes to the independent "sovereign" self. He touches us at the "ground of our being." He is not alone in doing this. All great artists do it, but he does it in a medium not noted for depth. Television usually panders to our need for entertainment, for escape. Dennis entertains, but also touches the self.

There is one element common to writers like Dennis Potter, and it is, what I would call, a Biblical ethos. I am not saying that he was a believer, a follower of Jesus. He might have been, I don't know. What is evident in his language, and the ideas which empower his words, is a Biblical framework of reference. It's a kind of common source of imagery, of ideas and ideals that we can empathize with. When he speaks of the "Job like" experience of his heroine in the "Singing Detective", the Biblical literary illusion carries us with him.

I raise this because I wonder where we citizens of the great Western democracies will find our source of "folk" idealism in the next century. Where today lays the power for language and ideas? Political correctness demands that the Bible is expunged from our memory. Even Christmas must now be called Yuletide.

The political agenda in Western democracies is bereft of ideas. It is focused on capital creation through increased production - produce and consume, buy and sell, manage and market. So much for the good life. So much for relationships, ideas, ideals..... As for the social agenda, it is often captive of discredited egalitarianism. So much for personal integrity, freedom of expression, exploration of ideas....

So, a lifeless grey cloud begins to cover us, and more particularly, covers our children and grandchildren. The ethos of the Bible is becoming a distant memory. Yet, what we have become does not change the fact that "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." "Yet to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."