If the last few posts seem to have ended abruptly, I'm very sorry: I have just discovered this apparent problem. It's not the first time that my web host has let me down, and I'm now contemplating how to find a new one while not losing all the archived content of this site. In the interim, it seems that I'll have to keep a closer eye on these silly people....
My apologies if this post was previously truncated...I just found out that more than half of it appeared to be missing...hopefully, here is my drivel in full.
No, don't worry, I'm not going to go off on a FOX NEWS - style rant about the war on Christmas, etc., etc.
I'm more interested in the reality of this festival. Not the 'Jesus in a manger' nonsense - the REAL reality.
Let's be honest now; most people look forward to the festive season because it's a time for giving and receiving gifts, a time when families get together and when much celebrating is done. Basically, it's a party on many levels.
For most of us who celebrate the moment, that's largely true. Christmas for the majority of us is a time that we remember as children; a special time of the year, a time filled with comforting images and sounds, feelings of anticipation and excitement. In short, it's a time that we anchor to positive memories.
I know that there are many people who have the opposite associations; feelings of great sadness, anger, bitterness etc. Hell, I used to end up dealing with exactly those emotions when I was in a uniform, and I know that some of the worst shit out there tends to happen around this time of the year. For some reason (mostly, I think, weather dependent), lots of people tend to drop dead around this time of the year - which means that many families have sadness to remember when they think of Christmas. Families squeezed into close proximity with one another also tends to result in conflict, and old enmities tend to surface at such times. Christmas isn't always a happy time even for those of us who choose to celebrate it, and that's sad, but it's also just human nature and a manifestation of the human condition.
Knowing these things doesn't get me down at this time of the year; in fact quite the opposite. The certain knowledge that somewhere someone is having a domestic dispute, somewhere somebody is grieving over a recent or not-so-recent loss, or that somewhere else somebody is lonely - while without question sad in themselves - help me to appreciate how lucky I am to be living the life that I am living.
I don't have all the 'stuff' that I shamelessly covet, and I never will have - but I am surrounded in my life by a small group of beloved, wonderful people who love me in return. It is they who make my life complete, it is they who make my life worth living, and there can be no greater gift to me than that. No matter how the world may annoy, frustrate, irritate or obstruct me, I always have that knowledge deep within, and nothing can change it. People matter more than anything else, after all. This new year will see the first of my gifts of myself, intended to - for the first time in such clarity and depth - allow the rest of the world (but in particular, those closest to me) into the life I have lived and continue to live. I so very much hope that the effort brings joy to everyone who is generous enough to read my words.
I'm loved, and that means everything. Christmas for me has become something very different from my childhood and even from the days when my kids were small and the season was so very, very exciting. It's no longer a religious-themed festival hijacked from pagan celebrations. It's much, much more important than it ever was, but in a quiet and introspective way. At Christmas time more than any other I choose to listen, watch and feel that love and that joy from those closest to me; it's my gift to myself, and it's the most precious of all. I am loved by wonderful people. Although I know that it does not need saying, at this time of the year more than any other I want to say thank you to all of them who love me; quite simply, you make me. I am forever grateful.
A couple of days ago I posted here about some of - well, most of, my aches and pains. Today I feel glad to have been able to do so, and ashamed of having done so. Yesterday, you see, a friend of my wife endured the heartbreaking horror of losing her husband to cancer. She lost her beloved husband and their two very young daughters lost their daddy for ever. He was only in his very early forties. He was not ready to die.
We've known for more than a year that he was probably going to lose his battle with nature; he was diagnosed with an advanced and has been at the palliative stage for many months. Without being close friends to the family - in my case not really knowing them at all - we have reached out (mostly through my wife, who is by nature a very caring and generous person) to offer resources and time and whatever else we could to try to ease the crushing burden of impending catastrophe. Nothing, of course, can truly ease the emotional load that these unfortunate folks have been carrying for what seems like an age. Nothing can erase the approaching finality, the fear, the sadness and the longing for it not to be true. Alan (not his real name) wasn't ready to accept what was likely to happen - perhaps, then, it was fortuitous that he died suddenly and unexpectedly. Fortuitous for him, but for nobody else.
My wife is stronger than me. She has the ability to be alongside people in such circumstances and remain resourceful and useful. I, on the other hand tend these days to be almost overwhelmed by the sadness of such a such a situation. It's hard to step outside of the bitterness and crushing sadness I feel when I hear about what these people have faced and are now enduring. It's hard not to step into the shoes of the dying man and imagine my own feelings if I were on a similar road; it is my very worst nightmare. The frightening thing about this reality is that it is an everyday occurrence around the world. people die all the time. People die tragically, undeservingly all the time. People and their relatives suffer horrendous fear, pain and grief...all the time. The universe is a cold, uncaring machine. It has no thoughts. It simply runs its billions or trillions of programs without consciousness, and completely randomly. Tragedy, as I have learned throughout my adult life, can and will strike anywhere. Yesterday it randomly struck a woman making a life in a foreign land, and two small children who will struggle to fully comprehend why daddy will never come home again.
An old, cold, heartless universe simply doing its thing; no malice, no mercy, no feeling of any kind; in fact no more feeling than the keyboard I'm using at this moment. No more consciousness than the screen or the desk or my long-suffering office chair. UNLESS, of course, you hide in the shelter of Abrahamic religion, which extols the theory of one almighty being watching over and controlling us and our world. God's reasoning rises above human understanding, works in mysterious ways and Allah's will is simply to be obeyed and accepted unconditionally. I can see how such thinking provides a crumb of comfort, disguised as it so often is with the promise of everlasting life (code for: it'll all turn out alright in the end). I can see that believing in a benevolent God is comforting, reassuring and calming - but only if we switch off our powers of reason.
If you wish to do so, then please; knock yourself out. I mean it: knock yourself out, because if you believe that this is a benevolent God's will, you're not using your brain anyway.
To question a benevolent god's motives is surely safe - if the god is genuinely benevolent. What harm can a little thought really do? A benevolent, merciful god won't mind at all.
First, does this benevolent god require of its followers/worshippers to adopt the same mentality towards death as those people who historically practised the ritual of human sacrifice? This is what the notion of 'Oh - it's all God's will.' actually boils down to - that we are expected to accept the death of our loved ones as something that the divine deity wants to happen. That's the merest shimmy (not even half a step) from proactively murdering people (including children) in order to keep a mystical being happy. It's a line of reasoning that defines a death cult - God wants us dead, so don't argue about it. Accept it, because allegedly holy people say we should. Allow it to happen, or else. That's a new and interesting definition of benevolence that I'm not familiar with.
Second: God's reasoning is beyond our understanding (which always sounds like a warning not to try). Really? So why then, does this divine being communicate (allegedly) with us at all? Why not just move us around like chess pieces? Would not a benevolent god give its creations (which it - strangely enough - is going to demand worship from) the faculties to understand it? Of course it would - this line of so-called reasoning about questioning god is a shallow, transparent cop-out of titanic proportions, which allows religious manipulators to continue their trade in controlling the unthinking masses.
Third: benevolent or omnipotent? Neither. I'm heavily - and poorly - paraphrasing the late great Christopher Hitchens when I say that in order for him/her/it to allow a child to experience the horrific blow of - in this case - losing a parent, that allegedly merciful and caring god either doesn't care or can't stop it. If it doesn't care, it's most definitely not a benevolent being by any human measure (the only standard we have), and if it can't prevent it from happening, it's not omnipotent. The same argument can be applied for any suffering, anywhere, anytime - and we know that the world is replete with suffering.
Alan's death is very, very sad. I didn't know him but his death is so unfair, so unjust for everyone in his life. There's no escaping the fundamental truth that for the overwhelming majority of us, death sucks. And that's OK - it's how it should be - we've evolved consciousness, and fear of death is part of the payoff for that. Being sad or frightened is completely understandable, but the suspension of reason in order to comfort ourselves is a troublesome road, one that our species has travelled for millenia. I happen to think that we're ready to share and face our fears, and in doing so face reality - the reality that the rest of the universe must. Life begins, and life ends, whether we think it's right or fair, or not.
Alan lived a truncated life by most standards. Millions more live even more shortened lifetimes, and millions die in horrible circumstances. Focusing on that truth leads to fear, superstition and the false hope that arises from them. What a change it might be if we could instead celebrate lives instead of focusing on the loss of them. We can recognise sadness while celebrating the memories that our loved ones leave behind them - memories which are after all the true legacy of a life.
I'm paying the price for a life of abuse. Not, you understand, a life of abusing anyone else, but a life spent using my body in ways which have taxed it somewhat. I didn't think I'd done so, but it's the only justification for the current selection of aches and pains which plague me. I haven't, for example, jumped out of things, jumped onto or into things from great heights (in fact I've avoided great heights as much as possible), placed myself in the way of rampaging bulls (not quite, anyway) or explosive devices (again; not quite, anyway). I had thought that I'd treated my body rather well - I've been physically fit for most of my life (not including the last five years) and while on balance, I've eaten rather too much, most of what I've eaten hasn't been bad stuff. I've never taken recreational drugs in any form (excepting, like so many of us: alcohol) and I've never smoked.
Even so, I seem to be falling apart.
The list of symptoms so far:
Back pain: Upper back, sometimes lower back, sometimes one side, sometimes the other. My back hates me. It's been doing this for the last twenty five years.
Knees: going upstairs, going downstairs - it doesn't seem to matter which; my knees enjoy neither.
Hands: cold weather makes them ache like buggery. Putting them to hard work makes them hurt much more, and my grip is now rather crappy. Does this mean that I'm losing my grip on reality?
Wrists: beginning to hurt sporadically, especially if a computer mouse is in the room.
Eyes: I used to have a sniper's vision, aced every eye test I ever took and had the testers convinced that I was cheating every time. I wasn't. Now, I have to suffer the indignity of reading glasses, a pair of varifocal glasses which make me feel nauseous, and the knowledge that I look stupid when in fact I'm simply having trouble focusing.
Ears: conversations in noisy environments seem to be becoming more and more difficult to follow. Shit.
Neck: totally bollocksed. It hurts a lot despite the best efforts of a chiropractor and a massage therapist. This bothers me most right now because it's even hurting while I type.
Pancreas: doesn't work, hasn't worked since '95. Oh well.
Heart: beginning to make its presence felt with palpitations which I have been assured are harmless. It shouldn't be doing it anyway as far as I'm concerned.
Other than these issues, I'm doing just fine. I wonder what would I be like if I'd been a boozing, smoking junkie?
Grumpy middle aged git moaning about stuff and occasionally trying to be funny.