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09 September 2016

Hiddleswift and the desire for happiness

Hiddleswift and the desire for happiness

by Nate Morgan Locke

Hiddleswift is no more. That rare Pokemon, desperately sought by the paparazzi, has vanished and it all feels reassuringly disappointing.

Before we go any further, I may need to unpack some of that. Taylor Swift, the American pop superstar, has split from the British actor, Tom Hiddleston, and the inevitability of this was a self-acknowledged cliché even before they met. Blank Space, a track from her last album, makes fun of the conveyor-belt of her romantic interests. Better than anyone else, she personifies the serial monogamy of our time.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that I am a huge Taylor Swift fan. Like, a really huge one. She's arguably the most talented songwriter in the world right now, and she's certainly one of the most successful. She's put into words what many 20-somethings feel about life, love and the world around them. In 22, from her album Red, she wrote an anthem for a generation. "We're happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way." It's the song I suggest everyone who wants to understand this 'millennial generation', should listen to in order to survey that demographic landscape. Stressed Out by Twenty-One Pilots does a great job too. Post-modern? Yes. This is nihilism with a smile. Authentic? Probably. I'm too biased to believe Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby's conspiracy theories.

I do genuinely want Taylor Swift to be happy. The problem is she's looking in the wrong place. In fact, even if she does find the Romeo to her Juliet, that story always ends in tragedy.

No one person is ever going to be able to bear the weight of our hopes and dreams. The Queen of Hearts will always find herself out of luck. And even the familiar retreat into the refuge of the squad of friends can only provide limited solace. It's because human beings can never fully satisfy other human beings. We just weren't designed in that way. We need something more, something better.

In some ways, despite all they have going for them, Hiddleswift remind me of the woman Jesus meets at a well in Samaria. You can read about it in John chapter 4. The 'Samaritan woman' has come to draw water from the well at midday when the sun was hottest. Why? Because she doesn't want to be there when other people are around. She's trying to avoid the side-eye glances, the stage whispers, the judgements of the first century Palestinian paparazzi. So she comes to the well alone.

Jesus is there though. Asking for water, and offering it too.

As their conversation progresses, we realise that two kinds of water are being discussed. There's the physical kind our bodies demand for their survival. And the spiritual kind our bodies demand if we're to really live. Jesus calls this the "water that springs up to eternal life".

Physical water, like the human relationships we hope will bring us lasting satisfaction, is wonderful. But the reality - as serial monogamists know - is that it can't quench the deeper thirst.

The Samaritan woman knows it too. She's been married several times before. She returns to sexual relationships for the same reason she repeatedly returns to the well, to try to quench the thirst that keeps returning.

So what is it about this man Jesus that satisfies in the way none of her previous relationships have? No bed is shared; only a conversation…

Ultimately, it's as Jesus pours himself out on the cross that we can be filled. It's through this act of grace, love and self-sacrifice that he shows us we're fully accepted and need not look elsewhere.

On the cross Jesus said: "I am thirsty", so that we never need to be thirsty again.

Nate Morgan Locke is an Associate Evangelist for Christianity Explored Ministries and serves at St Bart's Church, Bath. He's co-creator behind the new Life|Explored series, which helps people explore our desire for lasting happiness.