Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Nothing to say (or just saying nothing)?

The two women watch a full moon rising...

Finn -Oh, god. Look at that.

Aunt Pauline -I never liked full moons. They give people an excuse to do foolish things.

Finn -I'm young, I'm supposed to do foolish things.

Pauline -And spend the rest of your life paying for them.

Finn -Well, it's better than spending the rest of my life wondering what I missed.

Pauline -I'd rather wonder than kick myself.

Finn -Well, I'd rather kick myself.

Pauline (clearly irritated) -Fine. You will end up with a deeply sore backside.

From 'How to Make an American Quilt'.

There used to be a word for it - lunacy; a condition when you abandon sanity because something else (an immediate madness) overtakes you and blurs what really counts. That's what is so excellent about the scene that the above speech comes from - Aunt Pauline knows what life is about, and that it's just stupid to short-cut that.

We can so easily find ourselves entwined in the immediate like the young writer in this story - and that's fine, so long as we have the kind of people she has around her to help us navigate our way through to genuine definition and understanding, but what if that isn't the case?

What if, individually and collectively, we mute and neglect those means which truly foster well being and just wallow in the immediate and the superficial - moon-struck, in all the ways that phrase originally meant?

In a truly clarifying passage about the present, writer Peter Hitchens really sums up the results:

"Orwell feared those who would ban books. Huxley feared that there would be no reason to ban - there would simply be no one interested in reading them. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared a time which would give us so much that we would become reduced to passivity or egoism. Orwell feared the truth would be withheld. Huxley feared that truth would become drowned amidst an ocean of irrelevance".

Like that horrifying moment in H G Wells', "The Time Machine", when the scientist from the past discovers that an entire culture - the Eloi - are literally being preyed upon by others - the Morlocks - so our times have become overcome by the liquefaction of Huxley's definition of lunacy - the "drip, drip" of a realm which makes so much of the immediate at the expense of the imperative.

We rake at the moon in countless distractions, and all too often, there are no voices of trust and actual understanding to talk us off the edge, or bluntly wake us to the folly often paraded as 'good'.

What poison has become the succor of our times? How many would, in effect, remain asleep in a burning house, unaware of danger?

How dreadful it is, noted Jesus, when a man comes to call light darkness, and darkness, light -

how great that peril will be!

We need more Aunt Pauline's in our times - maybe then, we'll spend a little less time craving the dimness of the night, and encounter the glory of the sunlight...

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