Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Great War for Civilisation

The Great War for Civilisation.

It is not overly difficult to understand why nations fail to understand one another and eventually go to war.  The history of humankind is littered with the pockmarks of various wars.  Just observing how human beings interact in the workplace and how misunderstandings arise is enough to realise that when we raise these small misunderstandings to the nth power as it were, that is, to an international argument level, then it is possible, even inevitable, to have a war.  We need only review the pages of our rather sad and depressing history on this small dot of earth hurtling through the vastness of space to realise how much innocent blood we have spilled for one “cause” or another, for one “perceived” wrong or another.  And today so many wars still go on in all parts of the globe.

Patrick Kavanagh’s lovely poem “Epic” gets to the heart of the matter by pointing out that local disputes are made of the same constituents as more universal ones, and how right he was.  This poem is worth perusing in full here.  Enjoy this poetic interlude:


I have lived in important places, times/ When great events were decided: who owned/ That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land/ Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims./
I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul"/ And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen/ Step the plot defying blue cast-steel -/ "Here is the march along these iron stones."/
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which/ Was most important? I inclined/ To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin/ Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind./ He said :I made the Iliad from such/ A local row.Gods make their own importance./

I have just begun to read a marvellous book by Robert Fisk called The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East (Harper, 2006).  In the preface to this tome of a book Fisk relates how his late father, a soldier of WW1, used to bring him annually on a tour of the battlefields of that so-called “the war to end all wars” (H.G. Wells).  On looking at the obverse of one of his father’s combat medals the following words were engraved: “The Great War for Civilisation.”  Hence we have the name of this wonderful book, and indeed how Fisk’s obsession with reporting the destruction and inhumanity and “pity of war” (Wilfred Owen) grew.  I will make further observations on this book in later posts.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Timely Piece of NONSENSE

CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR THE DISTURBED         1. Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?      2. Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are      3. Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas     4. Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me     5. Manic --- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and.....    
6. Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me    
7. Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire    
8. Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why     9. Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?    
10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - - - Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, 
This timely piece of nonsense was sent to me today by my good and loyal friend Tom Gleeson. Timely because I can get too serious some of the time. However, the writer of these posts does have a sense of humour contrary to suppositions.

The Liberating Word

The Liberating Word

From the moment we are born we are enmeshed in a world of words. To make sense of our environment, we need to name things. By naming them, objects become familiar to the growing child and he or she begins to feel at home in the world. Even as adults we are afraid of the unknown. We desire to name it so that we can have some control over it.

Fears cease to be real threats when they are faced squarely. Only when we have named the fear, psychologists tell us, do we start to tame it and exercise some control over it. Instead of fear controlling us, we now begin to control it. Once being named, it will gradually recede into the background.

In times of illness where we don't know what is wrong with us, it is indeed a great relief to have the medical specialist name the particular ailment. When the unknown has been given a name it now becomes less threatening. Once diagnosed, the illness becomes manageable and medicine can be prescribed. Likewise when the alcoholic names his or her illness and makes the statement, ' I am an alcoholic', both to self and to others, then and only then can the disease be addressed and controlled.

Considerable emphasis today is put on communications. Many colleges offer courses in this area at ever more elaborate levels than before. We are a people sailing upon a sea of mass communications. Yet communication in itself is as old as creation. We all desire to reach out and communicate with others. Words liberate us from the hell of loneliness and despair. We have a deep inner desire to share our joys and sorrows with other human beings. We can certainly share at the level of gesture, but the spoken or written word cannot be bettered. One of the greatest ironies in today's society is surely the blocking and stifling of real communication between human beings by the very objects and media of mass communications.

Writing, as indeed any art, is a good way of getting to know oneself. It has only more recently been recognised by psychologists as a great means of therapy, while it has always been seen as such, even though unconsciously, by writers themselves. Journalling is a technique widely recommended today, that is that we write how we feel in order to get to know ourselves.

In and through writing the will to meaning is embraced and expressed. This phrase, “the will to meaning”, was coined by Victor Frankl to describe the most basic need in every human being. He found through his experience in a German concentration camp that only those who could see some meaning in their lives had some chance of survival. He went on to found his own school of psychiatry based on this premise.

When writers use words they stamp order upon chaos. They dream a dream of order in a world of apparent disorder. They share this dream of order with their readers. In doing so they are giving meaning to the mystery of life. They are sharing their dream of order and meaning with their readers. Both writer and reader are the richer because of this creative urge to commit thoughts to paper.

If we continue this metaphor, we may properly call the Bible God's dream of order for creation and for humankind as pinnacle of that creation. God's dream of order, as expressed in the Bible, is the story of our creation and redemption, both strands being finely interwoven as the story of our salvation. Jesus himself is described by the evangelist, John, as the 'Word of God made flesh'. This Jesus was a lover of words, a maker of sentences, a teller of stories and a creator of parables. For the Hebrews, the spoken word was something very precious and personal, inseparable from and yet revealing the person who spoke it. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself through the words of the prophets. The New Testament tells us that the Son is the perfect expression of God the Father and all that God is from eternity. In other words, Jesus is, as the Father's perfect expression of himself, 'the Word'. He spoke both words of consolation and exhortation to his disciples. Truly for the Christian or believer this Jesus is the liberating Word of God.

The above article is a recovered document from an old floppy disc - written some eight years ago. I have not edited it and, therefore, have left in all the overtly Christian references. At the time I would have sincerely believed in their fundamental truth.