Blog Archives

A Watcher on Calvary

A Watcher on Calvary

 

A man named Barabbas was once heard sighing,

From an alley on the path to Calvary, upon spying

A raucous crowd, carrying crosses to the top, go by,

And saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

 

Advertisements

The End is Nigh

That feeling you get when you’re writing a novel and you finally get to the point where you can see your way out of the middle of the book and know there is an ending….

You’ve been trashing around the marsh that is the book’s middle for weeks and now, though you’re covered in mud and still have a slog through boot-sucking bog holes ahead, at least you know what direction you’re going, where the dry land is ahead, and that glimmer of hope you held for so long turns to confidence you’re not, in fact, going to sink into the middle of all this shit without even a story to show for it.

I got that today.

That means I deserve to start outlining the next project, right? Right? Oh…. oh well…

let me just get this boot back on…

 

Meanwhile, here are a couple of poems: one for easter, the other for spring. Yes, already distracted…

 

A Watcher on Calvary

 

A man named Barabbas was once heard sighing,

From an alley on the path to Calvary, upon spying

A raucous crowd, carrying crosses to the top, go by,

And saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

 

Spring Unfolds

 

Lured, like a bee to the bloom,

The scent of narcissus arrests my senses,

Dancing swallows draw eye away

From swirling script, distracted by the act;

Evening singing wins me over,

Dawn chorus charms me from my slumber,

Calling cuckoos invade my concentration.

 

The flowering pulls me from my room;

Sucking from the soil such beauty,

So I wish to sit before them, soaking

All they display, watching every form unfold.

 

 

 

 

Post 101: Thoughts on the future

I’ve been pondering the future over the Christmas and New Year, mostly spurred by reading that as we go into a new year we can look forward to seeing some more wildlife in some places in Europe, but others are disappearing. In light of the recent Greek election and the rise of a new political party here in Spain which seems likely to take away power from the current entrenched and corrupt parties, I wonder what the future will look like. Since I just hit 100 posts on the blog, too, I thought today a good day to splatter you with my not-very-logical array of thoughts!

 

We are a very strange species, us humans: we have the ability to ponder and understand the past and future, which is, as currently demonstrable, pretty uncommon in the animal world. We think about the future and our past so much that we often seem incapable of enjoying, or even appreciating, the present. Yet at the same time, we consider the future only in the context of our current situation, and seem incapable of avoiding the oncoming train of change.

 

This Christmas, people in Europe looked back at a moment 100 years ago when men showed their common humanity. Right now after the attacks in France, politicians are falling over themselves to declare our unity against a common enemy. Yet we are stuck in the same paradigm – our politicians can’t get past the supposedly separate destinies of each different European country. They’re kicking out emigrants now, if they don’t have a job, sending them back to their home countries despite our purported freedom of travel and working. When they wanted to create the common market, they sold us citizens a stream of shit that we’d all be equal. When I moved from Ireland to Spain I was able to collect unemployment benefit until I found a job a few weeks after arriving. That’s suddenly something they want to stop doing now, though. Imagine New York kicking out Iowans because they lost their job? Ironically, if it were a real union, then there would only be migration for cultural or personal reasons, because policies would be applied across the union and people would have equal opportunity in their own land. The citizens who upped sticks and went to a land with a different language are the ones who invested in this union, and to treat them so badly now shows that it is all a facade.

 

Looking at the past seems easier than looking forward, or even around us. We follow constitutions people wrote thirty or eighty or two hundred years ago (depending if you’re in Spain, Ireland or the US) without considering their authors wouldn’t have a clue about our modern world – and would have a thing or two to say to us on that score, into the bargain, because I’m sure our world doesn’t conform to their expectations of the future.

 

Many of us follow the teachings of a man who was alive two thousand years ago – but do we look two thousand years ahead? Or two hundred? Or eighty? Or thirty?

No; we seem locked into the idea that all will be well. 350 years after that man died, everyone presumed that the Roman Empire would continue forever, and all was well, but the dark ages came.

Are we prepared for our dark ages? We know it’s entirely possible, but seem to be incapable of getting out of the way of it – blinking at the light like deer and about to be run over by it.

 

We would like our lives to be the same in the future (more or less: not all of us live in luxury of course). We like the way we live, we like our houses. After storms we reconstruct. But we have to realize that reconstruction is not going to be an option for too much longer if we don’t change other things. We won’t be driving cars in eighty years unless we stop using all the oil.

 

Staying somewhat the same will require an effort – and in some cases a change in how we do things.

Horseshoe falls

I always remember my trip to Niagara Falls when I lived in America. I learned that during the day only half the water from the river goes over the falls: the rest is diverted. At night, just a third goes over. Not only does this produce electricity when the water is sent through the turbines rather than over the cliff, but it ensures that Niagara Falls stays in one place – right there, where they’ve built the town around it. If all the water went over the falls, it would erode it back towards the lake, and then the nice viewing platforms and lighting arrangements would have to be moved, too. People want to keep the cascade where it is, and they make sure it stays there.

Yet we want (or at least should) the temperature of the planet to stay the same, so we can remain living in the same places we are accustomed to, where the climate is just right for us. Moving would be a much greater effort than changing the way we do things so we can stay.

 

Unfortunately, not all of us can probably stay in the same houses because of the change that already faces us. But we have to find them somewhere else to stay, and that might mean allowing them into our areas where we think there are already too man people. Like the European immigration problem, though, the only way to confront the situation is from a stance of equality – and for some that will mean a lowering of our standards of living. If we don’t decide that we must band together to fight towards a common destiny, though, we’re all going to face a much bigger fight.

 

Parental advice sought – to a certain extent…

 

This is straight up, in that it concerns a real kid, my kid. I’m not worried about anything she’s doing, nor do I need Supernanny to come rescue me from my own idiocy as my three-year-old destroys my house and life. I’m pretty ok as a parent, but I do have a small concern, about the topic of religion. There lies the “certain extent” – I’m not sure to what extent I’m going to follow any suggestions.

Image

My daughter has just learnt about Jesus (the Christ one – since we live in Spain you have to qualify). This was inevitable. Two of her great uncles are priests and they live with her grandparents. I’ve no big problem with the idea. She’s been baptised and we go to the mass presided over by one of the uncles in the small village church when we’re there for Sunday lunch. She knows enough to be fairly quiet while in mass, too. I lost my own faith a long time ago now. I’m still spiritual but the church – especially the Irish church, but this isn’t the time to talk about mass “graves” and manslaughter charges – makes me mad.

Unlike Richard Dawkins, who seems to have his knickers in a twist about even reading fairy tales to kids, I have no major problem with having kids believe in magical beings. Their lives are filled with imaginary beings, from the Easter Bunny, to the Tooth Fairy, to the Three Magic Kings and Santa Claus. When a child straddles cultures, like my daughter, they’re nearly doubled. What’s another one going to do? While Dawkins claims to never have believed in Santa – which might be a reason he’s such a dour sonofabitch – my daughter does, and furthermore believes that he comes when she goes to Ireland, where he’s called Santy.

Looking at it scientifically, I can’t see any difference between having her believe in a big magical old guy with a beard who brings gifts to good kids and lumps of coal to the bold, and another magical old guy with a beard who rewards the good with a nice afterlife and makes the bold burn in fiery coals of hell. (Hell, a place that the pope doesn’t even believe in any more, making it worthless even as a children’s swear.) I’ve said that before. The advantage of God, is that the threat of his displeasure works all year round, not just before Christmas.

While Dawkins is against all magic, the extremists on the other side of the divide would, ironically, probably agree with him about fairytales – they were the wankers who said reading Harry Potter would make kids want to practice magic etc. at the same time failing to see that religion is nothing other than a belief in magic – though our parish priest (the one informing my daughter about her friend Jesus) has basically admitted in mass that the miracle of the loaves and the fishes was at best a bit of hand-quicker-than-the-eye trickery if not just a show of solidarity that got the crowd moving: the old, you show yours first and then I’ll show mine after routine with the grub.

Getting back to God and Santy, we don’t need the threat of divine displeasure of anyone (or the threat of displeasure of the teacher at the crèche, which I’ve heard some parents do). If she’s bold (Irish for naughty in case you haven’t copped), then I am sad, and that should be enough. And it usually is, so far (touch wood). She’s a sensitive child. She worries about people littering, and has a hard time comprehending that people do what she’s been told is wrong, and would not now do herself. I’ve had to explain that there are bold and even bad people in the world – she’s had belongings stolen already, and she kinda gets it. I have explained that the big bad wolf is only doing what wolves do and that we eat little piggies too, and she gets that – though she did think I was only messing at first, like I do when I say the bird she’s pointing to is an elephant and she replies with an exaggerated “Nooo! It’s a magpie! (or whatever it actually is). She understands that animals die and we eat them, and to be honest, when she sees fish swimming in a pond or tank she rubs her belly and says “yummy yummy.” She has yet to differentiate between the two Spanish words for fish: one for swimming the other for fridge. She knows that if you don’t water plants “they get very dead,” and she understands that people die and we’re sad and though it makes her sad when she thinks about it, she already gets sad at the airport, and says out loud that she’s sad because so-and-so have to go home or she can’t stay with them, so it’s something she’ll have to get used to along with the other minor melancholia of life. She’s a sensitive child, as I said, but I haven’t held back on the truth of life and death (and though she’s seen lots of real-life storks, nobody’s ever suggested that they have anything to do with sprogs).

But my question is, does she have to know all about Jesus Christ right now, straight away? She has been informed that to be a friend of Jesus she has to go to catechism class (yea, here in Spain the schools don’t prepare kids for their first communion: separation of church and state and all that). But she’s telling me how “Jesus was taken by some bad people and put up on some sticks and killed.” I mean, WTF? I’ve yet to talk to talk to the priest about this, but I reckon three years old has to be a bit young for that. It definitely seems to be for her. I turn off the news nearly every night here so she doesn’t keep asking why the police are beating the shit out of people protesting an eviction, or just going ballistic on some demonstrators because they can get away with it. It’s hard to tell kids to go running to a cop instead of away (like the police say asking parents not to threaten their kids with “telling a policeman” when they’re naughty – better to say you’ll tell Santy, I reckon) when the cops are gleefully baton charging innocent commuters and popping off plastic rounds down the platform of a railway station, hundreds of yards from the building (full of corrupt fuckers, but that’s another day’s discussion) they’re supposedly protecting. I’m not saying I’ll tell her to run away, but drop into a foetal position is probably good parental advice. I don’t think she needs to know about Jesus Christ’s torture and crucifixion to “be his friend.” Am I being too sensitive?

While I know that some sound humanistic behaviours were advocated by JC back in the day, and I hope he’d be on my side of the police barricade in an eviction situation, I wish we could just skip him altogether and go straight to Ghandi. After all, it’s basically the same message (commits huge error and offends Hindus the world over, but blunders on regardless) but Ghandi has the advantage that he actually achieved something in his lifetime and was so old when he was assassinated (and a few bullets is not quite as gruesome as crucifixion) that we can basically gloss over that bit when we’re talking to preschoolers.

And when do the good people of the world – you and me – think the day will come when we won’t have to hold back any of the truth to young kids, because we won’t have situations where the police are beating protesters (or innocent bystanders), or the army are shooting rubber bullets at drowning migrants to keep them off the beach? When will be not have to turn off the news showing old and infirm pensioners being forcibly evicted from their paid-up house because they signed as guarantor for a son or daughter who bought a shitty flat for an exorbitant price and then lost their job, and the government only gives 400 euro dole, from which they’ve to pay a 400 euro mortgage and keep four kids alive and clothed? My only consolation is that some of it is just news that can be actually turned off the television – that at least she’s not going to school in the US and so she doesn’t need to be trained for the possible event of a “bad person” coming in her school to shoot her and her friends – and I say that as a hunter and gun owner: I’d rather earn a privilege than share a right with a load of fuckwads, especially fuckwads with high powered weapons.

If you can’t answer the question with anything other than my own response: “never, and it’s best to just toughen her up to get prepared for the shit that she’ll have to deal with, which will make our petty problems look, well, petty, if not simply quaint and laughable,” well, then, perhaps I don’t need any advice after all.