June has come and gone, July is almost over and my good intention to write a blog at least once a month has come to nothing. Another failure. I need to come up with an excuse, a damn good reason or the name of someone I can blame (isn’t that ‘the trend?)……..so that I can ‘pass the buck’……….. well that wont take me long…..as that name would be mine……for right here…… at my door……. is where the buck stops….. and I am soooooo disgusted and disappointed in myself. Fortunately, my inaction doesn’t impact negatively on the world at large (or does it??)… or even on a single individual (as far as I know) apart from myself…… yet, still, I feel bad……. now why is this?
Having now ‘burst out all over’, ‘my June’s’ scattered shreds litter the landscape of my consciousness, provoking smiles, tears, anger, disbelief, joy and squillions of other emotions too numerous to list here. I could argue that my June has been too busy, too fraught with places to go, people to see, deadlines to meet, that I’ve had no time for self – but I would be lying. The truth is……. I have become LAZY and I AM NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT!
I don’t cook as much as I used to, don’t bake, don’t do as much housework, don’t drive – don’t…. och….. never mind…. enough of the negatives…..
Think positively! Okay….. let’s think……..I eat well, I drink to be sociable, I lie longer in bed, I shout at the television, I repeat myself (so I’m told!), I repeat myself (so I’m told!)…….I laugh too much at my own increasingly embellished jokes……. aaand stop!!… I’ve just read over the last few lines and realise what ‘negative positives’ they are!!! By that I mean…. each of the aforementioned ‘positive’ activities carries a big dollop of guilt: that good, old fashioned ‘Catholic Guilt’….. the seeds of which were sown in childhood and prove (for me anyway) impossible to root out. Let me give you an example of how my mind works:
8am…… no early appointments, no need to get up just yet…… mind you if you did get up now you could make a start on that ‘glory hole’ you call a workroom and have it squared up well before lunchtime……yeah….so I could…..but I think I’ll have another hour in bed….. let’s turn over…..it’s socomfy…..there’s no rush…….mmmmm……
You are an absolute disgrace!! Wha’????
God has blessed you with good health……. excellent mobility…… yet you choose to lie here like ‘a big store dug’ ( one of Mater’s similies!) when you could be up and about doing stuff!…….think of all the people who’d give their right arm to be able to do what you can do (I never quite ‘got’ this, Mater…..how could they do what I can do without a right arm…..??……..unless they’re left handed……). Clarification was never sought…I didn’t dare!!
Shame on you!! What have you done to deserve a long lie? Get up and thank the Good Lord for the strength he has given you…… for the gift of another day (albeit that it’s chucking it down and you’ll need to switch on some lamps to illuminate yet another summer’s morning!!) … Now, now, now……. I’ve picked up on that sarcastic swipe at the weather! Be grateful that you’ve got lamps to switch on!!! Think of all the people who’d give their right arm ( wait……. they’ve given that already, Mater….. they’ve just got the one arm left….!) to be able to switch on a lamp……to feel the rain on their faces….( Mater dear, how will they manage to switch on a lamp or wipe the rain from their coupons…… they’re armless….?!..)…..You are undoubtedly going to the ‘bad fire’ for these facetious responses – remember…. He knows even your most secret thoughts….. O hell!
8.15 am. Get up!.… I’m too tired to stay in bed now (O the irony!)…. not going anywhere special today…. think I’ll skip the shower (slothfulness!)……… cleanse and polish the face and brush the tresses (vanity!) then head for the frying pan (gluttony!)………
I think you’ll have got my drift by now…….and it’s not 9.00 am yet!!
My P.7 teacher taught the class this prayer which we had to say each night before sleeping………
‘I must die
I know not when, nor where,
nor how soon it may be,
But if I die in mortal sin
I am lost,
Sweet Jesus, have mercy on me’………
Now, I am no psychiatrist, but perhaps the practice of repeating this prayer on a nightly basis, for however long, could be the very reason that I am afraid of the dark and suffer from poor sleep patterns. What do you think?……. or am I just looking for someone to blame? Being taught religious studies (and I can only speak of the 1940,s and 50’s) consisted of endless rote learning of prayers, hymns and catechism answers, of stark warnings of a mighty and vengeful god and in my particular circumstances a v-e-r-y long trek to the church for Mass every week and on Holidays of Obligation, every day during Lent (when possible) and every evening during the months of May and October. Fasting from midnight was de rigeur if attending Mass next day and consequently seeing parishioners slip under pews in a dead faint was not an uncommon sight…….
To speak or ask questions about aspects of one’s religion was looked upon as impertinence or to be ‘lacking in faith.’ There were (are) many inexplicable events/ facts which were presented to us as ‘mysteries’. These were never to be challenged. Answers were learned and that was that.
Very often answers to catechism questions were learned by repeating, parrot fashion, the teacher’s words (very few children had their own book, you see). This led imaginative children to compose answers that matched tone, rhythm and rhyme but not necessarily content. And so, when the class was asked, as a whole, to answer the questions posed by the teacher, these very children were seen to be alert and moving lips in sync with the rest of the class.
‘Class, there are many Mysteries in our Faith. What is a Mystery?….. altogether…..’
‘A Mystery is a truth which is above reason but revealed by God.’
That’s what she heard.
‘A Mystery is a tooth
and a bumbee sitting by the field of God.
That’s what she didn’t hear.
Teacher was impressed.
Then, without warning, came a day when it was every man for himself……
‘Robert, who is God?’
‘Miss, God is the soor cream spirit.’
‘Robert…….. you did say, the Supreme Spirit…..didn’t you?’
‘Well done, Robert’……just open your mouth a little more when answering’…..
‘James, begin the Our Father….’
‘Our Father who art in heaven, Harold be Thy name, Thy Kingdom……..’
Now, when you say that quickly, as did Jim, it sounds fine. Lucky Jim……. but I wonder how long it took him to discover that God did not bear the same moniker as his Uncle Harry (whose flash suits and shiny cars were a bit of a ‘mystery’ to everyone!)
Anyway, there was a great deal taught to my generation about their religion, which has made a lasting impression on me. I can’t blame my teachers for this…… they were victims of victims themselves and would only be ‘following orders’. I often wonder, though, how many teachers felt guilty about putting the fear of God into little hearts and minds. How many ever asked their superiors, ‘Is this right?’ There must surely have been some kind of critical debate, for by the time it came for me to spread the Good News to my charges (in the 1960’s), love and forgiveness was, rightfully, at the core of our teaching. Halleluia!
This didn’t halt the little dears from re-writing the incomprehensible lyrics to many a hymn and prayer (much to my delight!), by which time I had worked out that God must indeed have a sense of humour!
‘In Thee, O God, I put my trust’ In tea, O God, I dook my crust……
‘Thy Kindom come’… ‘Thy King Dong Cong’…
….’and lead us not into temptation’…..
…. and lead us not into the station…..
Changes have been made – some welcome, some not. I feel that there is more transparency now, more of a collective will to ask questions, to seek answers, to demand accountability for grave wrongdoings which for centuries have remained the guilty secrets of the powerful and the overwhelming shame of the victims. Someone, somewhere, in my lifetime, has been brave enough to speak out loudly and persistently enough – and at great risk to themselves – to raise awareness of crimes crying out for justice in our Churches, in our governments, in every ‘respected’ organisation I can think of.
I detest the platitude: ‘Lessons will be learned’ – for I am sure this must be one of the most abused soundbites ever.
‘Will you never learn!’ – this well worn anthem of Mater’s would be delivered as I ran through the door with yet another ‘skinned’ knee, having fallen off the back of my neighbour’s bike for the ‘n’th time. Well, I did learn – eventually: I stopped begging for ‘backies on bikes’….. thus allowing my knees to heel …er… I mean to heal and to regain their boney….er….I mean bonnie, rosy glow. (I didn’t get where I am today without my ruddy knees!)
No one can ever say that they have never made a mistake. It goes with the job description of ‘human bean’…..em…..being. We try our best, each day, to avoid making mistakes which can range from the negligible to the disastrous – this, my dear friends, is called ‘living’. We know that our fellow man is on the same journey as are we, albeit by varying routes. We all have ‘built-in ‘SATNAV” (ie., a conscience), to help us navigate the ever changing terrain that is our personal ‘adventure’, knowing one thing for sure, that we will all eventually arrive, by fair means or foul, at the same final destination ……. and as that famous philosopher, Jiminy Cricket, once sang……’ always let your conscience be your guide’……. go whistle…….
Seriously, though, don’t most of us learn from (most of) our mistakes? If others are affected by them, a sincere apology can very often help to heal the hurt and the guilt……..sometimes it takes more……..a lot more….
……. and then there is The Grenfell Fire….
Sadly, this is one catastrophe so horrific as to warrant a pulic inquiry, a demand for answers to the questions, ‘Why did this happen? Who is to blame? Could this have been avoided?’ I cannot begin to imagine the lives of those who suffered or survived that hell or of those who will be summoned to give an account of their involvement, however insignificanct, with that tower’s existence. How many people, knowingly, put others at risk ….. took chances to save money….. were silent when they should have spoken out…..turned a deaf ear to anxious concerns…… took no account of the fact that people had placed their entire trust in them, as professionals, to provide a safe home for their loved ones…..guilt, guilt, guilt……….. and now the shame.
Naming and shaming will not bring back those who lost their lives but it should make us all take a long, hard look at ourselves and see if we can learn any lessons that might improve our own and our neighbours’ lives. The ‘powers that be’ talk about learning lessons and we lesser (only in our own minds!) mortals wait hopefully for good outcomes but who can tell what positive effects we could have on others by starting, with small changes in our own lives, to make ourselves better role models. We are all teachers. We are all responsible.
….. and just for the record…….. I haven’t lost my Faith in God…..just in man…… x