December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice.

The dark days are over, light the yule log.

In between the childish parts of the holiday season and the more timorous adult happenings it is good to spend a moment remembering those who will only be in our hearts in the coming year.

'And girls in slacks remember Dad/And oafish louts remember Mum/And sleepless children’s hearts are glad/And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’

Poet Laureate John Betjeman (1906-1984), from his poem Christmas.

'One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.'

Professor Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter book by J.K Rowling.

Ladies and Gentlemen I offer a toast. To absent friends.
Schöni Fäschttäg  und e guets neus Jahr.

December 14, 2012

Not ranting, much.

I was going to do a whole thing about Rick Santorum. I was going to write about Biblical literalism, with specific reference to the bit about the entire town stoning the adulterous daughters to death. Oh, I was on a roll, in my mind, at that point. I was going to do moral relativism, moral absolutism, Leviticus, separation of Church and State, the finer points of Catholicism.

Since Santorum’s views on abortion are so strict, and he has stated categorically that he would have doctors arrested and imprisoned for performing the procedure, I was going to go into a whole existential exploration of personhood.

The definition of personhood (horrible word, but the one that is used in this context, I’m afraid) is absolutely fascinating, once you get to thinking about it for more than five minutes. It can’t be thought or language or even self-consciousness, since babies have none of those things; nor do some very mentally disabled people, or those who suffer traumatic brain injury or are in the end states of Alzheimer’s disease.

I sat down at my desk, fingers itching to get to the bottom of the Santorum madness. I watched a couple of his interviews and found some very, very strange quotes. I began to write. Two sentences. Then the will to live drained from me. I could not do it. It was too depressing.

I know I am supposed to be a fearless examiner of the human condition. Oh, look at me, shining a light into the darkest corners, without favour or fear. I don’t believe in pablum or whitewash or glossing over the nasty parts. There must be the truth, or nothing. I have always been faintly disturbed by those people who refuse to read the news, because it is too demoralising, although occasionally I have a faint envy for them. My own idiot construction is that one must face the news, in order to be a concerned citizen. How earnest and po-faced I sometimes am. But today, faced with the full strangeness and sadness of a Rick Santorum, I could not do it.

Oh, said the tired part of my brain, please can we think about puppies or penguins instead? Tell them about the pig with her wiggly, piggly tail, eating the carrots and grinning all over her sweet porcine face. Come on, said the pre-Christmas exhaustion, you really don’t have to go into battle against every piece of egregious reasoning that you encounter. And, said the low realist, are you really going to change anyone’s mind? Is that even your job? You are, I tell myself firmly, not Lord Bragg, King of the Reithian imperative.

This last thought is rather a relief. Although of course, it then sets up a new dilemma: where is the fine line between practical reality, and copping out? One should fight for something, after all. Yet it is fabulously dull to be lecturing people all the time. There is something very tiring about that finger-wagging conviction of one’s own rightness. On the other hand, without conviction one is just a straw in the wind. So that is the new conundrum that I shall be pondering for the rest of the night.