You know the future is casting a shadow

Like, I suspect, many people, I had my ideal baby names picked out long before my children were born. Or even conceived. Or before I had 100% chosen a father for these future offspring.

Fortunately, my now-husband Neil approved of my choices. James, for a boy, I had long had on my list, as, had I been a boy, my parents told me I would have been named James. And it was a nod to my Dad’s best friend Jim (James).

Cass 3
Laurette Spang as “Cassiopea” (Battlestar Galactica, 1978)

The choice of “Cassandra” for a girl had a bit more of a curious evolution. I must confess that as a teenager I was a fan of the Sci-Fi TV program “Battlestar Galactica”. (Showing my age now). One of the female leads was a gorgeous Farah Fawcett-style blonde named Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is a constellation in the northern sky, in the Andromeda galaxy, named after the queen of unrivalled beauty in Greek mythology,

Cass Baptism
Our daughter Cassandra on her Baptism day. Her name has been added to the banner in the background. (11th August 2002).

I thought that the character, the name itself, and the idea of being a bright star were all delightful. But, in time, I decided that perhaps the name was a little exotic and may prove tricky to spell, so settled, in my own mind, on the more orthodox “Cassandra”.

Naming children is, I figure, a big responsibility – after all; it is something that helps define their identity for their whole lives. So-called “Celebrities” are renowned for choosing “clever” names for their offspring, which surely cannot help these children have any semblance of normal life.

A UK poll determined the top 10 bizarre children’s names of celebrities as:
1 Moon Unit – Frank Zappa
2 Apple – Chris Martin/Gwyneth Paltrow
3 Misty Kyd – Sharleen Spiteri
4 Geronimo – Alex James
5 Heavenly Hirani Tiger Lily – Michael Hutchence/Paula Yates
6 Dandelion – Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)
7 Dweezil – Frank Zappa
8 Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q – Bono (U2)
9 Zowie Bowie – David Bowie
10 Rufus Tiger – Roger Taylor (Queen)

“Zowie Bowie”, now an English film director, nowadays goes by the somewhat more forgiving name of “Duncan Jones”.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West recently had daughter “North West” (Oh, dear) baptised in a traditional Armenian ceremony in Jerusalem. North WestAt first I was quite cynical that this was yet another publicity grab – having their child baptised in the Holy City. However I also must admit to being pleasantly surprised to read the detail of the article which explained Kim’s Armenian background, that both parents are professing Christians, and it looks like they did give due reverence to the church and proceedings which is refreshing.

I may have to revise my opinion, as a “Trekkie” that the best thing about the clan is their contribution to this comparison:Spot the difference

I had other ideas about name choices, too, including them to be recognisably male or female, even in shortened form. (For example, I have friends known as Sam and Chris but you can’t tell from this if the couple is Samantha and Christopher or Samuel and Christina).

Advice from “experts” also suggested to be careful of names with another connection, or featuring heavily in a song (“Roxanne”, anyone?).

So we thought we had avoided all this with the choice of “Cassandra” (Cassie/Cass) until, when days old, a Doctor asked her name, then nodded and mused “Oh! Like the “Cassandra Complex”.

“Cassandra Complex? How dare there be such a thing!” I thought.

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan(1898, London); Cassandra in front of the burning city of Troy.

Apparently it’s a term in psychology taken from Greek myth. Cassandra was the daughter of the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo’s romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions. [And, amusingly enough, this myth is retold in a song by Swedish Pop Group ABBA entitled – yes “Cassandra”.]

The Doctor went on to say that it is a common phenomenon in medicine – that experts are much better at diagnosing illnesses than treating them.

So when we say someone has a “Cassandra complex” it’s saying they know something (possibly terrible) is going to happen but they can’t or won’t do anything to prevent it. That they are powerless to do anything about it.

In recent weeks my husband Neil has had, in the words of a film title “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Any single one would floor many people yet he just keeps going, is expected to keep going. It seems each way he turns, there is something else.

Some are too complex to detail here, but of note is a serious tooth abscess, the infection of which affected not only his gum and roof of the mouth, but up into his sinuses towards the eyes, so his whole face was swollen, and he was in constant pain and discomfort. Now, finally, 3 weeks of antibiotics, two doctors and two dentists visits later, he is able to operate semi-normally again (after the last of the infection being drained and a tooth root-canalled).

During this time period, the kindergarten attached to our church decided to have some testing done to assess the level of asbestos contamination in the kindergarten building and surrounding churchyard (Like many buildings of its era, we are aware that the roof contains asbestos). Despite the readings taken demonstrating the air quality inside had levels of asbestos too low to measure, and that outside in the courtyard/playground/pavement asbestos contamination, while low level, was not dangerous – at a rate of 10 times lower than the national average – the results were submitted to the Queensland Church offices.

Sadly we are these days a very litigious society, and it was decided that despite this lack of evidence of any real, imminent danger, the Church both locally and regionally could be held liable, should there be any future complaint of injury or illness which was asbestos related.

So with no warning whatsoever, the site – including traditional church building, kindergarten, outside yard, hall, kitchen and Neil’s and administration offices – were all declared out of bounds immediately as we were told that no activity was to take place on the site.

At one fell swoop the activity of the congregation, which had take place in this location for 60+ years, was suspended. Ever since, Neil and his loyal Office Manager have been at “Battlestations”, trying to arrange alternative worship venues (not helped by it being during school holidays), offices, contacting everyone, putting off external hall hirers and trying to assess what are the next steps, while being besieged by phone calls by distressed congregational members asking the same questions. “Why?” “Why now?” And so on.

We have felt many emotions during this time, one of which is powerlessness.

Which ties into my thought of the “Cassandra Complex”. Feeling that things are happening behind the scenes, with details or perhaps motives not fully understood; yet we are caught in this juggernaut, and can do nothing to stop it.

The potential consequences of this move are huge. Not so simple (as some hope) as a bit of a cleanup job. Because the official issue is potential liability, not evidence-based contamination, I feel it is a classic Catch 22 situation – if the “Danger” cannot be measured, how can it be shown to be solved by any amount of (potentially very expensive). activity such as decontamination?

Then flows the possible – what the media like to call “Unintended Consequences”. It is likely the existing buildings, under this “Catch 22” would need to be demolished or completely removed. With our congregation having a large number of people over 80, rebuilding the church as a “Phoenix from the Ashes” may be a long-term prospect that we simply do not have the physical or emotional energy for, or realistically some may be in their graves before it occurs.

So, what if the congregation should close? Many will be without a worship centre where they have been members for large proportions of their lives. Should Neil then effectively take early retirement they will be “sheep without a shepherd.”

And Neil’s vocational career as a Pastor could be brought to a premature end,

Through all of this we don’t completely understand why these decisions have really been made, especially with such seeming haste, yet we are forced to accept them without sufficient explanation.

Changes are being inflicted from the outside. Motives are unknown and not completely understood.

And its hard when others make changes and decisions which may not tally with what we would have chosen, but still need to accept.

I remember from the Parenting books I once read (“Toddler Taming” being a particular favourite) a succinct theory that toddlers were difficult and had their famed Tantrums as they struggled to find ways to manage the frustration they can feel as they learn new skills.

That part of this frustration came from their feeling that they had no control or power over their lives, that everything was decided for them (largely by their parents).

The books advised to give your toddler simple choices, e.g. ‘Do you want to wear your blue shirt or red shirt today?’ Simple, yes, but involving even a small person in decision making which affected them.

Change can create fear and unease and most of us resist it. Change can, however, be good – but largely when you decide it for yourself.

When you take on a new position or job role to pursue your skills or passions.

When you make decisions for family stability and happiness.

In the last year, for example, we have purchased our beautiful new home and enrolled our two children in a Private Christian School. Both of these changes have been very worthwhile and beneficial.

But if such change is not your choice, it leads to a feeling of powerlessness. If you don’t understand the reasoning for decisions or actions, reasoning – such as it is, defies logic, or there are hidden agendas, all this feeds into a sense of impotence and injustice therefore change is harder to accept. And often people who are in a position of authority are either faceless or can’t be questioned.

The famous “Serenity Prayer” tries to counsel us to choose our battles – because we can’t continually be battling.Serenity Prayer

Sometimes this is a helpful filter, other times it is very hard to “Accept the things you cannot change”.

Romans 8:28 says:

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

Even if we can’t always see it. Even if we seem to be treading water or looking through that famed glass darkly.

Plus the concept of SERENDIPITY – the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it.

Hoping this will soon kick in….


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