Sweet borage with your loving eye
I’m looking at a sky blue Manchester City shirt. I don’t think I’m getting pleasure from the colour itself. After all science explains well enough that things are the colour they are because their molecules reflect some light waves and not others. It’s the associations of this iconic shirt that hold me. Denis Law, former Manchester United player, back heeling into United’s goal in the last minute of the last game of the season to send United down into the old second division. It must have been the only goal in history that was greeted by dead silence. Or Frank Swift, goalkeeper for City and England, who was my boyhood hero. Or the almost insane loyalty of City’s fans when they themselves went down not just to the second division but the third. Or the awesome millions that the sheiks have poured into the club more recently. Few things gather associations round them so much as colour. Think of dark blue. How inseparable from Nelson’s blue jacket with all its sparkly medals are Trafalgar and kiss me Hardy. How inextricably wrapped up are the navy blue uniforms with England’s long love affair with the sea.
So it leads me to reflect on some blue borage flowers that I saw in a hedge last summer. Here there were no associations, no roars from the guns at Trafalgar or eye-watering Arab millions. But here it was the colour that was giving me pleasure, in fact extreme pleasure; that very special heavenly blue of the little borage flower. The City shirt and the naval uniforms arouse pleasure from their associations and the reminiscences they arouse. But they do not arouse joy and wonder, as the little borage flower does. So small and so reticent, yet it is full of what I call The Tremendousness. Of course but for the molecules responding to some light waves and not to others there would be no colour at all. But The Tremendousness bursts out of its material substructures like some gorgeous butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. If it were not that God is so abused and misleading and over-worked a term as to be now virtually useless I would call the little borage flower in the hedge the eye of God. Theology, Aquinas tells us, is only an analogous science because it does not even understand the meaning of its own subject matter, unlike so many who know what they mean by God so well, even atheists, in fact especially atheists.