On a Wednesday, I support my church’s Curate at an after-school club at a primary school. The club is a chance for some fun, games and Christian teaching, and to give the parent’s some time off too, no doubt!
We played a game called Home, Far Country. It’s very simple. A skipping rope laid on the ground divides the room into two areas; the one, Home, the other, Far Country. The Curate simple says either Home or Far Country, and the children make sure they are on the right side of the skipping rope – often having to hop from one side to the other. He often tries to trick them, saying Home while he jumps over to Far Country.
It works quite often, especially as he speeds up his commands – Home, Far Country, Far Country, Home and moves about quickly himself. The trick works because the children get conflicting cues. The one they need to concentrate on is the verbal command – the Home or Far Country that comes from his lips. Contradicting this is the visual one, of the Curate jumping one way or the other. Without concentration, these conflicting cues make us make mistakes. The game is a lot easier if the children don’t look at him and just listen, which is why he always tells them to look at him.
Here’s another example of conflicting cues. Try saying the colour of each word below, NOT the word, as quickly as possible:
It can be quite difficult, and even if you can get it 100% right, you would probably have to read it more slowly than if the word and colour matched*.
You may be puzzled, why are we playing a game called Home, Far Country? It’s a play on the Christian idea that we are strangers on the earth and that our real countries are not England, or Turkey, or Brazil, which we’re passing through to our real home in Heaven. The way we’re supposed to live in this far country of Heaven is rather different from how we always live here in this world; and like the trickster Curate, this world is always trying to disturb us from listening to God’s word and making us go our own way.
*This is called the Stroop effect.