Come and See!

My inbox, my letter box and the spaces between sporting moments or documentary/ comedy/drama on television are filled with various forms of marketing and sales gimmicks all promising the world if I venture into their store or to their website and make purchases.  I will be happy, fulfilled and find a depth of meaning obviously missing from my life.  Other sales-type people highlight the shortcomings or that which is lacking from my life and promise the world through their ideologies, products or experiences.

I recently heard a Russel Morris version of his 1969 classic, ‘The Real Thing’.  It was written by Johnny Young and produced by Molly Meldrum and became an Australian rock Classic.  It is a strange, psychedelic song that uses a multiplicity of techniques, forms and vocal and instrumental contributions to create a unique and fascinating song.  It is also one that I have wrestled with at times: What does it mean?

The first verse says:

Come and see the real thing/Come and see the real thing/Come and see

Come and see the real thing/Come and see the real thing/Come and see

There’s a meaning there/But the meaning there doesn’t really mean a thing
Come and see the real thing/Come and see the real thing/Come and see

I am the real, thing
Oo-mow-ma-mow-mow, Oo-mow-ma-mow-mow

Oo-mow-ma-mow-mow, Oo-mow-ma-mow/Oo-mow-ma-mow-mow

What is this real thing?  To what does it point?  An article on ‘The Real Thing’ says: ‘Johnny Young later revealed the inspiration for the lyrics. “The song came from the thought that so many people were thrusting things in your face that were supposedly ‘the real thing’. They said that as long as you’re buying this or doing that, your life will be complete. Ultimately, the only real thing is yourself.”’

A young immigrant musician seems to be wrestling with the plethora of images and superficiality of messages that confronted him claiming to be real.  In another place it says he used the slogan for Coca-Cola, which claims to be the real thing.

So what is the real thing?  What is real – is it me or you or us?  Are my ideas, perspective, understanding of the world or life more real than yours or that of someone else?  Is our nation more truth-filled, right and engaged in reality than others around us or across the world?  Is the West and its system of capitalism and everything that goes with it (greed, materialism, acquisition, security, comfort, wealth…) more real than other systems in other parts of the world or through history?  Am I more real if I have this or that car, wear this or that type of clothes, live in a particular neighbourhood, have particular types and levels of education or career…?  Is there a path of truth that leads to that which is more, most or truly real?

In the song, Morris sings: Come and see…  It is an invitation to come and see that which is real.  But I‘m not sure where he is pointing, what it is that we are invited to ‘come and see’.  There are so many voices that tell me what is true and right and best and what will make me happy but are they real?  Who do I listen to and whose message do I heed?

How do we know that what we are hearing is real or whether the voices are peddling snake oil?  How do we know which amongst the complex melange of voices and ideas and thoughts is real and which is just more superficiality dressed up to look real?

I ponder these questions amidst the great issues that confront our nation and communities in this time: Asylum seekers; Indigenous Rights; Climate Change and the Environment (and especially how this relates to the bush fires); the Depression and suicide pandemic; the deepening levels of anxiety and stress; Sustainability of resources; the widening gap between wealthy and impoverished here and across the world…  I wonder what in the complex arguments, passionate rhetoric and defensive responses is real – where does the reality and truth lie?

One thing I have discovered is that often the medium of the message, the person who embodies the rhetoric, gives a sense of the authentic (or otherwise) to what they say.  Look into one’s life and if the message is reflected in their being, embodied and reflects something that is deep and contains values that are rich and strong, then perhaps the message has some level of trustworthiness.  Trouble is, the media of so many messages does not engender trust and confidence – especially when you look more deeply into their lives.  There are several world leaders, for example, who pontificate on various issues, but their lives are intrinsically superficial, or they are simply abusing power and privilege.  They use that power of position and the authority it gives to convince us of the rightness of their way.  Others use their ‘authority’ to engender fear and uncertainty and keep the proletariat desperate and focussed on common enemies thus maintaining their power.

In the story this week (John 1:29-42), John the Baptist points to Jesus, declaring him to be the One promised by God.  The next day he points to Jesus once more and two of John’s disciples follow after Jesus.  When he notices them, he asks what they are looking for.  They seem taken aback and ask where he is staying – perhaps they are keen to watch and listen to him more closely.  His response: ‘Come and see.’  It is an invitation to come and see for yourself.  Don’t trust John’s words or even what you hear from my mouth but look and see who I am and what I do.  ‘Come and see.’

The disciples do ‘come and see’.  They follow Jesus for a day before declaring that this is the one they’ve been looking.  This is the One who embodies deep truth, justice and hope.  In the life and being of this One, they discover ‘the real thing!’  So much so, they run off and bring friends and relatives claiming that they have found this real thing of God that they have all been hoping for, searching and yearning after.  ‘Come and see!’

I wonder what we are looking for and how we look for it?  I wonder how far we go in looking into that which promises us something – whether person, idea or object to buy or own?  I wonder what we look for, how we look and what we find at the heart of ideology, the crass consumerism and material acquisition we are urged to pursue, or the broad-ranging rhetoric that fills our social media pages, the airwaves or written/print media?  I am often surprised by how easily I am drawn into well-delivered rhetoric, possibly because it agrees with and builds on my assumptions, right or wrong.  When I stand back (often forced) I see the hollowness of the message and the medium.  I have not embraced a ‘come and see’ approach.  When I have accepted this invitation of Jesus to  ‘come and see’ I have found the deepest, richest sense of being, a hope and love that transcends everything else.  In him there is an authenticity that is very real and I want to follow because it is true!

By geoffstevenson

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