inspiration or information

One of the perils of blogging is that if you have a ‘comments’ section people will comment. I think that’s brilliant for the most part. If something I have written provokes, prompts, or otherwise perturbs someone enough to make them respond – whether in agreement or disagreement – I am very happy.

That is not the peril.

The peril (is it really a peril? Am I overemphasising this for dramatic effect? Why don’t you let me know? (see what I did there?)) I am talking about is that your blog becomes a target for spam alongside the genuine comments. There is a spam filter on WordPress which catches most of them in its net (and I hope doesn’t catch genuine comments in its net too – if so I apologise to you). But sometimes a spam comment gets through. Indeed since I launched it seems that more spam is getting through than before.

The new spam comments are clever as they look more like a normal comment and are written in plain English, not by a computer, and they have a more normal contact email address (or even a WordPress avatar) so the system doesn’t spot them. I have to sift through them carefully to see their true identity.

This is something we all need to do. Even apparently reliable news items come through the filter of an editor (or editorial team) and are written by individuals who will be putting their own interpretation on events. If you doubt this check out several different news bulletins from different broadcasters – do they cover all of the same new stories? Do they cover the same items in the same way? And if you want it more obviously read a few different daily newspapers: the bias (definitely) and prejudice (I think you could say that too) becomes clear quite quickly.

So what about us? All day every day we are receiving information from those around us. We naturally weigh up the information we are being given. Was what someone told us true? Are we receiving all the facts? How close is that person to the original source or did they receive it from a friend who is a friend of the cousin of someone who is going out with someone who overheard something in a shop? Has there been a version of ‘Chinese Whispers’ going on here?

It’s generally true that the closer you are to the source of information the more likely it is to be true. Even eyewitness accounts come through the filter of that eyewitness, but at least they are more likely to be saying what happened than someone who has heard it through the filters that sixteen other people give it.

I suspect that this is what happened with the Indian Rope Trick. One of the most famous tricks in magic involves a man who is playing an Indian flute next to a big basket. As he plays a rope slowly but surely starts to emerge upwards from a basket next to him – sliding snake-like and gliding vertically until it is several metres long – like a firestation pole. The man then beckons to a small boy who climbs up the rope to the top…

…and then disappears.

And it happens outside in the open.

That is the classic Indian Rope Trick. There’s supposedly a version where the magician also climbs up the rope and disappears. (I know because I read it in a book that was written by someone who heard it from a friend who is a friend of the cousin of someone who is going out with someone who overheard something in a shop). It is the stuff of legend. Traditionally it is a trick that has been performed in the Indian subcontinent for generations.

But there is no documentary evidence, no first hand record, no photographic or film proof of it ever having happened in full. Yes, people have recreated parts of it especially indoors. Yes, there are ways of pulling it off today using clever camera work and technology. But to have it happen in the days before any of that was possible… it didn’t happen. Did it?

But the legend grew up perhaps as accounts of several different illusions were blended together or perhaps as people exaggerated what someone else had told them. And it persists today.

At this point you may be expecting me to encourage you to tell the truth. Well, yes, that is good. But I also want to remind you that colour and description and imagination and interpretation is part of what makes our world so amazing to live in. William Wordsworth wrote:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
He could have written:

I went for a walk. I saw some daffodils. It was nice.

Which one do you prefer? Which one adds colour and depth and fires your imagination? Let’s try to ensure that we are filtering what we receive and always seek the truth but let’s never lose God-given the ability to inspire others. I like living in a world where the Indian Rope Trick has become legendary. Because even the legend of the Indian Rope Trick has inspired magicians to use their intelligence and imagination to try to emulate it or even excel beyond it.

Be blessed, be a blessing.