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You Matter: The human solution by Delia Smith

by
09 September 2022

Delia Smith’s new book has too little of God in it for Naomi Starkey

IN THE introduction to You Matter, Delia Smith addresses the first question that will come to the mind of most, if not all, who pick up this book: “What’s going on here?” The author who taught at least two generations with Delia’s How to Cook (Books 1, 2, and 3, as well as more than 20 other titles) has set out to write something along the lines of “How to Heal the World — Starting with You”.

Back in the 1980s, she also wrote four books of faith-based reflections, but this latest title is intended for a wider audience. Giving her primary inspiration as the work of Teilhard de Chardin, Smith draws attention to what she considers similar agendas of positivity across a wide cultural spectrum (from George Harrison to Greta Thunberg). She also issues repeated rallying calls for people to make peace with themselves and then with one another, to make our planet a better home for humanity.

The book is structured as 36 short chapters. While the flow of argument is more circular than linear, the tone is warmly personal. In the wake of Covid-19, Smith urges the cultivation of unrelenting hope, optimism, and co-operation, grounded in a belief in human perfectibility. An increasingly automated society will, she says, give more time for spiritual and cerebral disciplines. She believes that the decline in established religions leaves space for the “latent hunger for a deeper, more reflective perspective on things”.

Intended to be introductory, You Matter can offer a way into topics covered at greater depth and with sharper contemporary focus by commentators such as Rutger Bregman (Humankind) and Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens). It can also act as a prompt to explore the works not only of Teilhard, but also of Viktor Frankl and Abraham Maslow, all of whom she quotes regularly and approvingly.

I was disappointed, however, by the lack of any meaningful engagement with issues of faith or even the idea of God. Theologians are mentioned alongside philosophers, physicists, psychologists, and cognitive neuroscientists as potential team members who should work together and “complete the human picture”. There is no suggestion that questions of consciousness, purpose, and the meaning of existence could find at least the beginning of answers in exploring the notion of a “divine Other”.

The enforced isolation and traumatic upheaval of the Covid era jolted many people into general pondering and soul-searching that led to career changes, house moves, and the hope that life could somehow become better, kinder, and more generous. You Matter is filled with the energy of such hope — but, as news headlines continue to make painfully clear, if hope is not leavened by realism about humanity’s propensity for poor choices, it risks becoming vacuous.

 

The Revd Naomi Starkey ministers in a group of churches in north Anglesey and is also a pioneer evangelist.

 

You Matter: The human solution
Delia Smith
Mensch Publishing £14.99
(978-1-912914-33-3)
Church Times Bookshop £13.49

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