12 Nov 2015

Fake teeth and farming before the internal combustion engine

My mouth is ageing faster than the rest of me. For the past few years I've worn a partial denture to compensate for 2 missing lower teeth. The first of these could have been saved by a root canal filling, but given the time involved for this vs a simple 20 minute appointment and 40 quid for an extraction I went for that instead. Against my dentist's advice. Then about 2 years later I found out why when the tooth next to the space became infected due to being ever so slightly wobbly.

A wobbly tooth is an exciting thing when you are 5 years old. It's a rite of passage ushering in the era of the toothless smile, comments from older relatives about kissing boys and finding £1 under your pillow for every one of them you can wobble out. But by the time the Tesco people are happy to sell you kitchen knives or Jack Daniels without an ID, a wobbly tooth is no longer a good thing.

When you can be bleeped through as a Customer clearly over the age of 25 without anyone ever properly looking at your face, then any space in your mouth where a tooth used to be is already putting pressure on remaining teeth making you more likely to loose another tooth in the future. Who knew? So my wobbly tooth was removed and I got a partial denture instead of a pound coin. Welcome to middle age.

For 4 years after that I didn't think much about my old lady mouth at all. Brushing took longer as the fake teeth need cleaned separately then you need to clean the sides of the real teeth next to the gap, but it's no big deal. Then one day I was cleaning the denture when it broke clean in half.

Annoying. It's amazing how hard the opposite jaw has to work to crunch up cornflakes when the fake teeth aren't there to help. But my ever so lovely dentist quickly arranged a repair (I love the NHS) and a week later the denture was returned as good looking as new. Honestly- you couldn't even see the fault line where it had snapped. I clicked the fake teeth back into place and ... Owwwwwcchh!

This wasn't good. But I figured they just needed wearing in like a new pair of Doc Martins. Forgetting of course that a) this most certainly did not happen when the denture was originally fitted and b) every pair of Doc Martins I have ever owned have seriously shredded the skin on both heels for at least a month.

But I am forgetful and stubborn that way and wore the fake teeth for 4 long days. Sleeping was OK. Not eating hurt a little bit. Eating anything hurt more than new Doc Martins. But the more it hurt the more determined I was that it would be fine. Most of the time it felt as though I had a localised throbbing headache in my jaw. A wad of swollen tissue developed under one side of my tongue causing a slight lisp. I eventually gave up after realising how stupidly asymmetrical my mouth was and made another appointment.

My lovely dentist sorted me out in under 5 minutes after buffing the fake teeth with a metal whizzy thing that removed the extra bit of resin that must have been jutting out. I clicked the teeth into place and... Yay- A perfect fit! Like the teeth were made for my mouth. The tiny bit of material she filed away was almost insignificant, but it meant the difference between functioning normally and being constantly distracted by pain and having an unhealthy interest in soup, milkshake and anything else that didn't need to be chewed.

Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.' (Mat 11: 29-30)

Before the industrial revolution, bulls or oxen were used to pull farming machinery so Jesus' audience would have been familiar with this image. Apparently the animals would work either alone or be paired up and fitted for their yoke which would be individually contoured to the unique curve of their muscular backs and shoulders. The harness was never off the peg, but made to measure. The farmer would try it out, then return with his animals to get their yoke adjusted, perhaps several times, until it fitted perfectly. The animals' strength was vital to their task, but so too was their comfort and health.

Pulling a plough.
Munching up cornflakes.
Walking around in shoes that fit you.
Doing most things in life involves surfaces making contact with each other.
Movement proves we are alive.
And things have got to fit well together or they become worn and damaged.

Especially if you're talking about solid wood vs an ox's shoulder blades.

Or new Doc Martins or rigid plastic vs human skin.

My yoke is easy to bear and my load is light. What does that mean then?

The religious system back then was complicated, entwined within the overarching control of the Roman empire. There were laws and some more laws and then even more laws to regulate the original laws. It was unnecessarily complicated and underpinned by a corrupt multi-layered power structure that was designed to keep people subdued. To keep them on the fringes. To oppress.

Religion was hard.

Jesus' method was groundbreaking in its simplicity: Love God and love people. That sums up everything you need to know. It's not easy, but neither is it difficult to understand.

Because it's life.
And growth.
And movement.
And work.
The seasons don't stop and there's farming to be done.

The work required might be demanding, but it's designed for you and I'll kit you out with what you need. It's tiring and exhausting sometimes, but following me is not damaging. The yoke was crafted for you and look! I fit at the other side.

There has always been inequality and power struggles. In every society that ever existed and is yet to emerge there are corridors of power and those who fight to maintain them. But when God says We're in this together, he means it.

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