Friday, August 13, 2010

The Importance of the Imagination 2

S.T. Coleridge

A young S. T. Coleridge
There is so much that one can write about the imagination, that often it is very hard to know where to begin.  From the first time I read S.T. Coleridge's wonderful poems like The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, Frost at Midnight which he wrote with his young infant son Hartley in his crib beside him, Kubla Khan, Christabel and many more, and especially his wonderfu critical/philosophical/autobiographical Biografia Literaria I was captivated by this great philosopher of the imagination.  He was one of the foremost Romantic poets of his day, good friend of Wordsworth and essentially the philosopher supreme of that movement.  His character captivated me from the outset because he was passionate (and indeed compassionate), an addict to opium in the form of laudanum which could be obtained easily at any apothecary, a tortured soul in love, a committed walker, a lover of the wilds of nature, a great celebrant of life, a colourful character who was a poor horseman that had to be bought out of the cavalry, a lover of humanity, a "damaged archangel" as some critic called him and a raconteur and bon-viveur par excellence. He is one charcater from all of literature that I should really have liked to have met.  One could never be depressed in his company.  Beside him, William Wordsworth, while obviously a brilliant poet, is very much a monochrome character.  Coleridge (1772-1834) was simply technicolour. 

This English poet is important in the history of philosophy as one of the main conduits by which both the work of Kant and German Romanticism were introduced into England. Coleridge visited Germany in 1798 and began a period of intense study and assimilation of thinkers including Kant and Schelling. Like them, Coleridge propounded a view of individual spiritual salvation far removed from simple Enlightenment and utilitarian confidence in social engineering and material progress.  Magee, whom I have been reading to get a handle on Arthur Schopenhauer's thought, argues, and it is true, that Coleridge stole much of Schelling's philosophy of the arts.  Be that as it may the Romantic poet/philosopher did gargantuan work on the nature of the imagination.  I especially liked his argument that the imagination was essentially an esemplastic power, namely that faculty that has the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole.  That won over and overwhelmed my young mind completely.

The Redress of Poetry: Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney in poetic flight
I bought The Redress of Poetry many years ago, whenever Heaney first wrote it.  At the time I speed-read it, not having much time to ponder the work itself, which is certainly not the way to read anything Heaney writes because his thoughts, whether in prose or poetry, tend to be be finely argued, wonderfully expressed and deep and meaningful in the most positive understanding of these two adjectives.  However, I re-discovered this book recently through a wonderful introduction Heaney wrote not so long ago to Amnesty International's  From The Republic of Conscience -  a collection of stories to celebrate the sixty years' anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (62 years now). This brief re-acquaintance with this work will send me off to find the book and properly read it this time.

Anyway, in his wonderful introduction Heaney makes the important point that the work of creative writers is very important because it will to some extent redress the balance in the world of all human culture.  This is probably asking too much of literature, but I argue here that this impulse to redress whatever is out of kilter in human culture is a highly Romantic impulse.  It is an impulse that goes back to the likes of the German philosophers Kant, Schelling and company, and back to Coleridge also who pretty much brought the German influence into the English speaking world..  Anyway here, I would like to quote at some length from Heaney's introduction to this wee anthology because of its insight into the practical role of the human imagination in the lived world. 

Once again, I find this to be very much Romantic in impulse in the pure Coleridgean or Schelling sense, but that is what makes it practical and useful.  Here is where I have problems with the postmodernist movement because its imagination is splintered and fractured, unable to envisage or envision any positive way forward, anything at all by the way of redress in the balance of things, any medicine at all to ease the pain of living.  Postmodernism is far too bleak and depressing for this author.  Now, let us ponder these wise. positive, and necessarily romantically-rooted thoughts on the power of the imagination as outlined by our Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney, all of which is very much in the tradition of the likes of Schelling and Coleridge:


It is this vulnerable yet spiritually inviolate quality which makes them [The Articles of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights] attractive not only to the wronged and the oppressed of the earth, but to writers and poets as well.  The Universal Declaration is not a sure-fire panacea for the world's ills.  It is more geared to effect what I once called "the redress of poetry" than to intervene like a superpower.  The idea of redress I discovered first in Simone Weil's book Gravity and Grace , where she observes that if we know the way society is unbalanced, we must do what we can to add weight to the lighter side of the scale.  The Universal Declaration, it seems to me, adds this kind of weight and contributes thereby to the maintenance of equilibrium - never entirely achieved - between rights and wrongs.

Writers and poets are also capable of adding this kind of weight...  When faced with the direct speech of The Declaration, many of them thought to conjure up work that functions as a counterweight to the given actuality of the world.  The writings they place in the scale may only be imagined, but if the imagining is credible, if it persuades us to suspend our disbelief, it will be part of the redress that human dignity, human rights, human reason, human consciousness all desire and deserve. 
(From The Republic of Conscience: Stories Inspired by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Liberties Press, Dublin, 2009, p. 16)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Importance of the Imagination 1

Il Torso del Belvedere, Vativcan Museum, October 2009
1. Imagination and Tradition

I remember way back at college one of our erudite English Lit lecturers, one Dr. Mary Fitzgerald (daughter of Dr Garret Fitzgerald, former Taoiseach of Ireland) remarking rather perspicaciously, if not more obviously, that many readers were often a century or two out of date in their reading material.  I still know many lovers of the works of Jane Austin or Charles Dickens or indeed George Eliot, my own favourite author from the past.  Who could possibly forget that dry old stick of a character Casaubon in her great novel Middlemarch who was searching for the elusive "key to all mythologies."?  I suppose there is some truth in Dr Fitzgerald's comments.  It was as if our imagination is more at home with a more straight forward and obvious storyline or plot and with the "omniscient narrator."



2.  The Modernist  Imagination:

As an erstwhile theologian, who has long left the more literal shores of theology for the more metaphoric ones of philosophy and the more experiential and existential ones of psychology, I have read widely on the Modernist crisis within the Roman Catholic Church in the late nineteenth century (a former brilliant lecturer of mine, Rev. Dr. Gabriel Conor Daly O.S.A. wrote the definitive work on this period in the Catholic Church called Transcendence and Immanence, published by OUP.) which then lingered into the twentieth century and witnessed the late great modernising Pope John XXIII actually writing on his own file in the Vatican words like:  "I am no modernist."  A highly centralised  and controlling religion like that of Roman Catholicism had/ has no time for anything but its own doctrines and dogma.  The imaginative leaps which the modernist theologians were taking were simply anathema at that time.  Interestingly, the simple spirituality of the wonderful human being who was Pope John  XXIII  brought the whirlwind that was Vatican ll whose liberating and modernising (if not modernist) policies were only half enforced. The irony was that John XXIII was the great Modernist and Modernising Pope of the twentieth century while all who have followed him since "in the fisherman's shoes" have been centralizing and extreme traditionalists seeking to turn the clock back.   

Then, as I also studied English literature for some four years I was conscious of the Modernist Movement within the literary field also.  If the centuries preceding the nineteenth, with some substantial lingering of old values into that century too, focussed on the monolithic structures in religion and civil society in general -  in the words of Robert Browning's poem Pippa's Song: "God's in his heaven// All's right with the world." -Modernism in art and literature can be seen as a growth of a new international sensitivity and understanding of humanity that revolves around the idea of individualism and, ergo, the mistrust of institutions (government, religion), and the disbelief of any absolute truths.  What religion - and most religions are into control of the beliefs of their flock - can allow individual beliefs?  This, I emphasize is a question, not a statement, as I don't necessarily believe that all religions are monolithic and centralising and strangling of the individual conscience and indeed the individual spirit of it adherents, but that is the topic for another post.

Modernism as a literary movement reached its height in Europe between 1900 and the middle 1920s and numbered such literary luminaries like Ezra Pound, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot (who, quite unusually for a Modernist, became a devout member of The Anglican Community.  However, I should point out that Anglicanism is not as monolithic or as centralising as the Roman Catholic Church.  It does allow for a more broad church and a more individualist take on its doctrines), Josef Conrad, and W.B. Yeats.  There were, of course, many more.  Modernist literature addressed aesthetic problems similar to those examined in non-literary forms of contemporaneous Modernist Art, such as Modernist Painting. Gertrude Stein's abstract writings, for example, have often been compared to the fragmentary and multi-perspectival Cubism of her friend Pablo Picasso. The sociologist, Georg Simmel gives a rather a good insight into Modernism where he describes it thus:

"The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life."  (see this link here Modernist Literature
The Post-Modernist Imagination

I managed to get my head around Modernism alright as the focus on the individual was/is one of its main thrusts, and this, as any reader of this blog, will attest to is one of the slants this present writer has in his own literary, philosophical, psychological and spiritual views.  The Modernist World is one where the individual imagination can roam free, unfettered by monolithic beliefs forced upon it from outside.  A new freedom shot through and shoots (as modernism still proceeds alongside postmodernism today) through all Modernist Literature - a more realistic and hard-headed Romanticism, if that is not a contradiction in terms. I never did quite get my head around the Post-Modernist Movement, exemplified in the wonderful work of our own very great author Samuel Beckett.  Try reading his Imagination Dead, Imagine and there you will encounter postmodernism in all its lack of glory, in all its minimalism, in all its pared-down-to-the-last aspects.  As Brian Finney, the great English Literature critic and scholar puts it, in words that make sense to me:


Beckett shares with Borges the distinction of inaugurating in literature what has come to be called postmodernism. The term is still the subject of heated debate. It clearly refers to that which succeeds modernism, itself an international movement that broke with nineteenth century forms of realism. But the impetus of modernism has continued to the present day, so that postmodernism coexists with that which it claims to displace. The phenomenon of postmodernism then cannot be explained in purely temporal terms.



(First published in The Columbia History of the British Novel. Ed.John Richetti. New York: Columbia UP, 1994. 842-66.)
There is in this movement, then, a radical epistemological break with our understanding of what the human sciences and even I suggest a rather healthy, integrated and holistic imagination have to offer. What characterizes the Postmodern is the abandonment of those grand narratives that began with the Enlightenment, such as the liberation of humanity or the unification of all knowledge, and certainly the abandonment of what S.T. Coleridge, the great philosopher-poet of the Romantic period of English Literature called the esemplastic power of the human imagination.  By this Coleridge meant anything that was unifying of the whole of our experience and having the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole. This, I am a sunscriber to myself as is Bryan Magee, the major populariser of philosophy in the twentient and early twenty-first century and the late great Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist Dr Anthony Storr.   The Postmodern imagination is far too stark for me.  All the more humanising and integrating thoughts, feelings and values we know as human beings have been stripped away.  The unstable, heterogeneous and dispersed social reality of the postmodern cannot be contained within any totalizing theory.  There are simply no meatanarratives, no outside unifying theme, no great metaphysical theory.  In the words of Brian Finney again:

Without such metanarratives, Lyotard argues, each work of art, "working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done," becomes a unique event describing its own process of coming into being.(First published in The Columbia History of the British Novel. Ed.John Richetti. New York: Columbia UP, 1994. 842-66.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Completing the Triangle

Well, in keeping with the ideas of three sides like that of the triangle, three persons in the one Christian God, the triangular shape of Sicily and Il triangole industriale del Nord d'Italia fra Genova, Torino e Milano, I suppose I should write a third meditative post concluding my journey home.  This post will then make of the three a fitting triptych for my return journey, viz., the first post from La Stazione de Lamezia-Terme, the second dell'Aeroporto di Ciampino and now one from home - da casa.

The first thing that occurs to me as I sit here at my desktop, for the first time in almost two months is of the wee intense poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. 1850–1894 called, fittingly and morosely enough Requiem.  Here are the words:



Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.


This be the verse you 'grave for me: 
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

I learned this poem from my mother.  She knew it off by heart, and some old Presentation Nun had taught it to her at school when she was a child.  As a youngster I picked the words up naturally from here.  She used to constantly repeat the last two lines.  On occasion she would recite the poem in totality, but that occurred rarely.  Well indeed: "Home is the sailor, home from the sea,// And the hunter home from the hill."  Other thoughts that occur to me as I sit here typing these cyphers on a blank screen are these words from one of my favourite poets, T.S. Eliot:


We shall not cease from our exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I do believe these lines come from the poem Little Gidding.  However, be that as it may or may not, what interests me are the sentiments expressed in those lines.  I have already mentioned in one of my last two posts of this wee triptych is that all travelling is spiritual, if your belief system allows the use of that term and its more religious connotations and denotations, or that travelling is metaphorical , to say the least, of our overall life journey.  We find that we are pilgrims of meaning on this earth.  Whether that meaning be one of a religious or spiritual or purely metaphorical or even materialism one (the last which I find hard to get my head around, though there are pure materialists, I believe out there - at least, they say there are!) we all have to make some meaning out of our lives, otherwise we should not even bother getting out of the bed.  And so the two quotations that were rattling around my mind somewhere are written in the light of what I believe to be the metaphorical sense of journey which we experience every time we travel.

So where have I travelled in the last two months?  Physically I have travelled to Calabria for three weeks and travelled there around for that period, returned to Dublin, drove to Arranmore, stayed a few nights, returned to Dublin and then returned for a further month to Calabria.  And I enjoyed every moment of those jouneys, both the travelling and the staying.  As the Buddhist phrase has it, and it is perhaps my most favourite Budedhist one: "Wherevere you go there you are!"  Well, wherever I went there I was, and here I am now typing these characters which make these words which make these sentences which make these paragraphs which make these posts which make this meaning here and now!

The water rushing ashore not far from my apartment in Isca
Spiritually (or metaphorically if you are more atheistic) I have also gone on a journey, an inner journey of self-discovery, a journey where I have read a lot of philosophy and psychology and novels and poems, all of which I have recounted in many posts on this page.  Diving down into one's psyche can be both frightening and exhilarating.  In fact doing anything worthwhile in life is both frightening and exhilarating:- studying, practising a musical instrument, training for sports of all kinds, going for promotion, entering relationships of all sorts and of all kinds, going on journeys all require the person to be made of stern stuff, to be able to knuckle down to work, to be able to take the consequent self-denial and necessary suffering, to experience the fear that makes the doing do-able or feasible, practical or practicable in the first place.  Ah yes, that is what it's all about: living life (and of course death, because death is not an end of life alone, but rather an integral part of it: to be a living being means to be a dying being, and indeed to be and to die are the two sides of the one thing; to be and to not be are two sides of the one reality of life-death or existence-non-existence if you like.  You see, when we try to philosophise about these things you will notice that language has a habit of getting in the way, of simply not being able to express fully what the heart/soul/mind/psyche/spirit feels and thinks, thinks and feels.  I often think there should be a third term called either "to feel-think" or "think-feel" something or other, whatever that might be.  Oh dear, I've been struggling with Hume and Schopenhauer, Magee, Russell, and Scruton too long this summer and I'm tying myself up in knots.  Sorry for the confusion here, but it is somewhat clearer to me than it was two months ago at the beginning of my journey. 

Now that all that is said, and that it is possibly as clear as muddy water, let me continue.  With R.L. Stevenson I have returned home, older and wiser and nearer the grave.  I have already visited my 93 year old mother who is alas almost completely happily demented and have sat with her for an hour.  It was a delightful hour, an hour of stillness and calm and compassion both for her heart/soul/mind/spirit/ psyche and for that of my own.  We went out onto the porch of her room and we fed the deer who nibbled the sweets we gave then gently from our hands.  Indeed, they even licked my sugary fingers, poor innocent things.  Deer are such beautiful animals.  And they work in unison as a herd, which strangley we did at the beginnings of our evolution.  That's where I loved reading the history of the Self and the Individual by Storr.  Imagine that we only know ourselves as selves and individuals in the last four hundred years,  This fact of knowledge has given me great solace.  I have begun at least to unlearn all the mythologies that culture has heaped upon our shoulders and indeed upon our minds for these past two thousand years or maybe more! I have learnt my sheer insignificance in the order of things, and funnily, then, the unusual significance of that insignificance.  I suppose the counter argument is also possible, that I have learnt also the insignificance of my significance in the order of things.  And then is there an order to things or do we impose that order merely?  And, then, why do we impose order?  Because we are meaning-making creatures, and why do we have to make meaning anyway?  Oh, my goodness, the questions are dropping heavily, but still let them rain down for that is what consciousness is all about, all about...

And lastly, with T.S. Eliot I have not ceased from exploration of my Self nor shall I, nor shall any conscious being.  And, yes, with him I am constantly returning home and constantly knowing the place anew once again until the jouney shall finally be finished as this post is NOW!








Monday, August 09, 2010

All' Aeroporto di Ciampino, Roma

As I have already written a short post from a train station, I may as well write one also from an airport.  Once again, it's all hussle and bustle as is normal for any airport, and especially in August when seemingly the whole Italian population is on the move.  I do not like airports in general because of all the consequent hassle after 9/11.  My God, it was so easy to travel prior to that fatal and fateful day.

The bookshop is always my first port of call in an airport to equip myself with a book, or more likely than not several magazines in Italian, so that I can at least both keep my Italian from going rusty and keep up with the current news.  I bought copies of La Gente,and an interesting one called Focus Storia which has a subtitle: "Scoprire il Passato e Capire il Presente," which translates as Focus on History: Discover the past, Understand the Present."  There is a lot of truth in that maxim, as I have expressed many times in these posts.

Isca at night.  Sundown on the Mountains of Sila
I sit here on a less than comfortable seat at Ciampino Airport with queues everywhere, with the delightful babble of Italiano and some English around me.  Once again, I search inside for the silence and the solitude that I have been discussing with respect to the book Solitude by the late great psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr Anthony Storr, a character whom I would have loved to have met.  From reading a good number of his books, a captivating and stimulating as well as a very erudite and wise man comes across.  From reading such books in general psychiatry and psychoanalysis one learns that to be able to go on the inward journey one simply does not have to be alone, that is, without people around one; one can dip into the wells of stillness and silence anywhere, even among the crowds.  You see, solitude or real inner silence is a work of the mind and/or heart, and one does not have to journey to the farther reaches of the deserts or of the mountains or of the icy wastes to enjoy it.

As I was coming through Rome earlier this morning on the 7.30 A.M. bus I let my eyes scan the balconies of the various apartamenti.  Many of the Romani were obviously already up and "at it" as it were even at this early hour.  Many of them had there own little gardens on their balconies many storeys up.  I espied one man cleaning his, another man just looking out over his morning kingdom and a woman tending to her plants.  Even in the noise of modern Rome (and ancient Rome, I'd say was noisy too, but with less pollution) oases of peace are possible.  All it needs is a willing heart to find it.

Cultivating silence (like cultivating a garden, even if it is on a balkcony ten storeys up) is essentially all about healing.  In a world of competition, stress and the clamour for ever more success, compassion for others and indeed compassion for the self is very hard to manage.  By cultivating moments of silence and quiet in your life no matter where you are or no matter with how many people you are is a necessity today because it allows our soul to heal and it allows us to have compassion on our very own inner being, call it heart or soul or spirit or mind or psyche, and indeed is quite easy to do with a little practice.  If you begin to try it, you will find that on every next trial it gets easier and easier.

This is my short meditation here amongst all these people, and also a trial of my mobile internet device Tim Alice.  Alla prossima volta amici a Dublino, Irlanda, Ciao, Ciao!!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Thoughts at La Stazione di Lamezia Terme

San Andrea Superiore - the ancient wall
As I sit and write these valedictory notes to Calabria, the station is alive with travellers from the North of Italia arriving for their Summer holidays.  With the August heat, Northerners have always left the cities in hordes and headed South to the sea and the sand.  Even Isca Marina was packed last evening when I went down to the local ristorante Il Sette Bello for an evening meal.  There were people everywhere and the joy in their voices was most apparent - they were all excited to be on holidays, and indeed the Italian people know how to relax.  The Mezzogiorno, while it is being developed of late and while there is a buzz of industry, is still way less frenetic than the Industrial Triangle of the North.

Having spent a month in Calabria, I have been delighted with the easy-going nature of the people.  Some would say that they are too easy-going, and are simply never in a rush to finish any job.  Yet, this fact, once one gets used to it, becomes a redeeming feature.  It makes you slow down, because you simply have to.  The fact that the base for the bed arrives, with the mattress thankfully, a week or two before the headboard and footboard or surround, is a fact of life.  There is no use bemoaning the fact that you are not in the UK or Éire or the U.S.A. now.  Things simply are done all too slowly here.  And yet, if you think about it, you are not going to die if everything does not arrive together. A returned Italian Canadian told me that the difference between Canada and Italy lay in the fact that in the former country everything worked, in the latter nothing.  Obviously, he was exaggerating and joking, but the joke does highlight a difference in emphasis between the new country and the old.

One of the problems with modern society is that our expectations have grown way out of bounds.  Not only doe we want X, Y or Z next week or in three days time. No, we want it tomorrow.  Some even dare to want their desires fulfilled now, this instant.  Truly the world has become one which seeks to gratify desires and seeks to do so instantly. How many consumer items have the adjective "instant" somewhere in their product advertisements?  A lot,  I would guess from lived experience.  I remember some few years ago several hassled providers of goods whom I know, who, when they got frustrated with the demands for instant service, replying in frustration:  "Do you want it yesterday?"

Indeed, it is no harm to slow down.  That's what I have been forced to do this last month.  My plane flight to Rome was cancelled at the last minute and I had to travel there by train.  Still, at least I had enough time to buy a ticket on the Eurostar train.  Then, travelling by train is far more comfortable than travelling by air.  I love the fact that I can wander around the train if I get tired from sitting, and that I can use my netbook if I so wish.  Once again, moving more slowly through space than flying through it is surely way more leisurely and way more conducive to the healing of the spirit, as well, of course, as being less hazardous to the environment.  Train travel beats plane travel any day.

Travelling has always been a favourite passtime for humankind.  The very act of travelling is both intreresting insofar as one learns loads of new things and also challenging as one has to problem solve as one goes along.  Things can and do go wrong along the way, and one is forced to think to sort them out.  Also I believe that travelling is also a spiritual occupation.  At college, I remember reading the famous Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, and how I love that book with its Middle English and all those quaint words we learned as well as the vivid pen pictures of all the pilgrims.  To go on pilgrimage was always at the heart of Christianity, and indeed at the heart of many more religions, too.  In this spiritual; sense, or if you find that word a tad too religious for you, then I say, in a metaphorical sense our travelling is representative of the very journey that is our life. 

Packing  one's things in a suitcase, making sure the absolute essentials are there is in itself a meditative activity I find as I get older.  I have long since stopped bringing "the kitchen sink" with me on holidays.  In fact,  I only ever bring a carry-on bag with me these days.  Of course, having an apartment down here in Calabria does help as I leave a hell of a lot of stuff there.  However, once again packing up one's bits and pieces is symbolic of our last departure from this world, too.  In life, I find we are either arriving or leaving, coming or going and all departures and arrivals are metaphors for our arrival into and our departure from this world.

Once I remember writing a meditation and conducting a small healing service for some boys at school for one of their classmates who sadly died all too young at the age of fifteen years only.  The image or motif that came to me was that of journey - a train journey at that.  I invited all the boys to relax, close their eyes, become aware of their bodies and then of their breathing, to concentrate on that very breath of life, the warmer air as they breathed out and the colder air as they breathed in.  When they were suitably relaxed, I began a simple visualization with them where they as a class, accompanied by their departed friend, were going on a train journey.  My visualization painted very vividly all the things young teenage boys would do when together on a train journey liike playing cards, listening to music, reading a football magazine etc.  Then, I brought them from station to station, and at one station their friend Stephen got off and waved goodbye.  They would never see him again as this train journey was in fact the journey of life - some of us get off at earlier stops while others continue right on to the end of the journey.  The metaphor was simple - the train journey represented the journey we make through life.  It just so happens that it was written in Stephen's genes that he had to get off at an earlier station.

And so as I journey I meditate upon these things, too, myself.  I realise that some day I will make a final journey, that some day I will have to get off at X, Y or Z station.  At the moment I do not know where or when that will be.  The great Roman Catholic theologian and scholar Cardinal John Henry Newman always said that it is important for us human beings to realise that as well as having a birthday we will also have a death day.  That fateful day will be marked or carved on our tombstones together with our birthday.  These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I sit here on the marble seat in La Stazione di Lamezia-Terme.  It is also a boon of modetrn technology that I can have my netbook on my knee with my internet connection TIM-Alice plugged in. While sitting in this little spot I am in contact with the whole world as it were.  Even in that there is food for thought.  And yet, as I type these words I am relaxed and am indeed meditating, giving thanks for the breath of life that breathes through me, for the blood that pulses through my veins, for the thoughts that crowd my mind, for the still beauty of the old couple and the young boy next to me, for the blue skies and the sun, for the very joy of being.

And now it is time to stop these words and go and catch my train for Rome.  Arrivederci Calabria!  Arrivevederci Italia.  Torno in Irlanda, a casa, a Dublino.