“Tensions”(1976) is the title of a book by H.A.Williams – another brilliant but in real life probably very irritating churchman. I first came across his work in the mid-eighties, when I first started to think about the paradoxes we live with, rather than thinking in terms of polar and mutually exclusive opposites. Hate/love, doubt/faith — it’s in the book. I have got to read it again, as in dusting it down in order to check its publication date, I noticed the part about dependence/autonomy, which could be relevant.

I have noticed a tension or paradox in my own recent thinking. On the one hand, I accept the Darwinian take on the pitiless-ness of the natural order, which means that the individual organism (like me) is of little account; on the other, I express outrage that the medical establishment appears to disregard my precious individuality, processes me through a system, and (perhaps) uses me to shore up its own illusions (hitting the target for getting a high percentage of women through the bc screening programme, and hitting the target again for earlier diagnosis, and hitting the target yet again – probably – for high survival rates).

So what value do I put on the individual life? Or do I value it differently when the life is mine (how self-obsessed is that!). I don’t have an answer to my inner contradictions. Maybe that’s the just the nature of paradoxes. We have to live with them. But the final chapter of the annoying* H.A. Williams’ book does suggest a way of resolving tension. It is laughter. And certainly, in a tense group discussion or decision-making scenarios, I have often seen my very skilled husband lighten the mood and bring about some rapprochement with a well-chosen joke. So that’s my justification for humour at difficult times – it releases the tension.

Watch this space for some bad jokes.

*Read his autobiography, “Someday I’ll Find You”(1982), and you’ll see what I mean. Though he also speaks a lot of truth.


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