Tonight my journey from work to the Tube was not quite as eventful as last night’s but an interesting thing happened when I arrived at Oxford Circus station.
Getting to the station is always a suspenseful moment. Will the station even be open? Every other day around rush hour it gets closed because of overcrowding, so instead of people crowding the platforms and running the risk of spilling over onto the tracks and getting hit by a train, they make people crowd around the entrance running the risk of spilling over onto the road and getting hit by a bus.
If it’s raining, you have the added wonder of whether you’ll be stabbed in the eye by some inconsiderate bastard closing their umbrella, or be drenched with water … by some inconsiderate bastard closing their umbrella. And of course the station is always closed when it’s wet because people take so long to get into the station. Because of inconsiderate bastards closing their umbrella.
There can be other delays. I was walking into the station with my colleague Steve one time, and a twat with a guitar strapped to his back decided to stop at the top of the stairs, blocking the way to take a picture of the sign. Steve had a novel approach to help this poor man on his way. He grabbed his guitar and pushed him down the stairs.
But tonight, it was a clear evening, there were no guitarists and the station was open. But we had another kind of common nuisance. The preaching zealot.
At first I just thought the man giving away the free Evening Standard just loved the sound of his own voice, but then I realised there was a man behind him, hovering over the downward staircase at the entrance, shouting at the top of his voice, flanked by an old silent biddy whose only role appeared to be to distribute pamphlets.
It’s all too common in London for someone to set up outside a Tube station with a loudspeaker and the kind of clothes only a virgin wears. I once heard a story of one zealot who stopped a man on Oxford Street and said “You’re going to hell!” and the man, without missing a beat, just said “No man, HMV!”
Sometimes it can just feel like part of the commute. Walk to the station, down the stairs, going to hell, repent my sins, swipe my travel card, down the escalator… I’ve often wondered if they actually think the stairs are going to hell. Like they’ve never been in an underground station and that’s what they think it is. Although being stuck on a Tube train in the summer probably is a little bit like burning in hell. (My top tip, guys, you know those little battery-powered handfans, get one of those, not for yourself, but for any flustered hot-in-more-ways-than-one damsels or maidens on the train, they are ever-so grateful).
Someone asked me recently, was I more Science or Faith? I’m not really religious, but I think there’s so much we just don’t know, there could be a God, or there might not. It might be one religious group’s God, or another one, or one we haven’t heard of or none at all. We don’t know and there’s nothing really to prove it. And OK it’s about “faith” but you’d laugh if someone said he believed in a monkey God called Susan, right? Sometimes I think the religion that makes most sense is sun-worshipping. The sun’s up there, makes things bright (sunny, almost), makes stuff grow, brings life. But say you’re a sun-worshipper and people would laugh at you.
On the other hand, I actually think there’s a lot of “faith” in science too. Do I really believe that when I make a phone call, my voice along with millions of other people’s voices is just magically flying around through the air instantaneously. Of course not. It’s ridiculous. Air travel. It cannot possibly work. A plane that size, with all those people and all that sun tan lotion, there’s no way that can fly. But every time I get on a plane I just have to have faith that somehow, it magically does. And space. I’ll believe in space when I’ve been there. I don’t even believe in the internet. But I have faith that it will probably work if I try to use it.
I think we’re all in the same boat when it comes to science, unless there’s a specific part you are a specialist in, and you really know for sure everything about it, and you’ve physically tested things and discovered things and seen things work in certain ways. And even then you can only be sure of your own science. Everyone else’s science could easily just be magic, or elves or zombies or God. We just don’t know.
People evolved over millions of years from nothing. Sounds daft. People being magicked up by a big invisible man in the sky. Same. Who knows.
Anyway, so tonight as I approached the station and the preaching goon’s words became clearer, I realised this wasn’t the usual religious zealot but sounded more refreshing.
“How arrogant these people are, thinking they know what lies in the afterlife!”
Hmmm, interesting, a counterpoint to the usual Bible-bashing it seems.
“None of us know anything about what is beyond this Earth.”
“Who are they to tell us how to live our life, and what rules to live by.”
Yikes, really having a pop at the God-fearing folk, this guy.
“No-one can say for sure how the spiritual realm will manifest itself.”
Nothing against religion, but it’s nice to hear someone telling it like it is for a change.
“No man can preach to you about the path to heaven.”
Hmmm, yeah. Not a fan of people thinking they know all the shit and that their way is better.
“Only GOD KNOWS the answer, only GOD can tell you how to live your life, only GOD knows the path to heaven,” he held up a Bible, “and if you don’t follow the word of God in your life, and repent your sins, you WILL burn in hell.”
Oh for fuck’s sake he sounded quite promising for a minute. Seriously mate, all the stuff you said, about people not knowing for sure, and it’s arrogant to think you know everything… just apply that to the end bit, and you can go home.
(just don’t go by the Underground, there’s lots of flames and soddomy going on down there…)