The music of everyday:
Stephen Sondheim has died. His mentor and inspiration was Oscar Hammerstein. They have left us a rich musical legacy. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) said: “The days of competition with other musical theatre songwriters, are done. We now talk about his work (Sondheim) the way we talk about Shakespeare or Dickens or Picasso.” I have an exciting and very extravagant dream that features the Stephens, Oscars, Williams, Charles and Pablos of the Religious world, producing works of art (faith expressions) that tantalise the taste-buds of humanity towards the wonders of God. But Religious ministers will have to cheer up. There is too much of the dour and the dull around religion. Earnestness and solemnity has taken over. The real God of life isn’t like that.
Ethan Crumbley aged 15, killed four in a Michigan school. Kyle Rittenhouse aged 17, killed two in Kenosha. Both got a present of a semi-automatic. Ethan received an early Christmas present. Are some parents totally out of their minds? Have I got this right? The legal age to buy alcohol and cigarettes in American is 21. But guns are freely available to children. In years gone by, some of us, used to get a cowboy hat and a gun with caps, from Santa! Arthur Labinjo-Hughes aged 6 was killed by Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes. As I hear of such crazy events and wild parenting, I want to hug the memories of so many who rear children kindly, caringly, lovingly and beautifully. I see especially families rearing special-needs children. How do they do it? The thought often strikes me how bizarre celibacy is! How enriched the ministry would be, if the ministers had to cope daily with the mess/challenges of family life……
Motor Neurone Disease:
We had Teresa’s funeral on Thursday. She had MND. The family were extraordinary. Their honesty and their openness was overwhelming. What a privilege it was to be with them. I thought of Tony Coote and his story: ‘Walk while you can.’ I thought of Ruth Fitzmaurice and ‘I found my tribe,’ (writing of her experience with Simon). I thought of Gavin who used to email me when he could and when his machine would work for him. I thought of many friends who suffered with this disease. I thought of their families. It is a nasty disease. It is vicious. It is the helplessness and the hopelessness. It is the lack of control.
I somehow saw MND as a metaphor for our world of today. We see our tiny, neat world spinning out of control. Or at least, we aren’t any longer in control. Covid has taken over. All the little things we took for granted, have evaporated. We could go where we liked and when we liked. Mask wearing was for criminals. But now we are criminals if we don’t. That is Covid. There is fear everywhere. And then there is Climate change.
We thought that everything was there for us to explore and exploit. We were masters of the universe. And now the world bites back. COP26 assaulted us. A kind of MND has affected our world. We aren’t totally helpless but we feel there is so little we can do about anything. Might we embrace the simplicity of life? Basic values. Something like John Major’s much ridiculed policy – ‘back to basics.’ In our case, it might be: Hope, humanity, humility, humour. Self-righteousness, certainty and arrogance have to be dumped. We thought (one time) that everything is fixable. But it isn’t. Every disease is beatable. But it isn’t. We can do everything, but we can’t. We are brilliant but we aren’t.
Maybe Advent’s message is very ordinary. Appreciate what we have. Stop and wait patiently. Look around. Celebrate the characters of our history. Shine a light. Every day has a story. Every day is a revelation. Every season is evocative. Every season is a challenge. Every person is a message. Every person is a mystery. Find it. Be grateful. Let God be God. Acknowledge our inadequacy. We need to visit the sea and watch the waves to realise their power and our littleness. Or look at the mountains and see how puny we are. Or simply like AA ‘let go; let God.’
Cooking and holiness:
Daniel (Chef) from Portugal was on MasterChef during the week. He was cooking his signature dish. He made this comment (or something like it). The dish took inspiration from his grandmother. What she brought to the table was holy. I rather liked that. A sense of that (the ordinary and everyday) might bring more reality to the Table of the Eucharist.
Masking of Primary School children:
There were some very angry parents at the masking of the children in Primary school. But why the anger? Covid is here. It is spreading. The message (from Government) is cautionary. It is preventative medicine. It makes sense. Do people realise what this virus does? Do they know anyone or many who have died or whose lives have been totally changed by it? Venting anger does nothing for the reality. It is stupidity run rampant.
Seamus Ahearne osa
Photographer Máire O Byrne is hors de combat. She has Covid. Her community was struck down. The exhaustion. The locked in aspect. Was suffocating. We miss Máire.
We miss Liz and Mary. We miss many in the wider Community who have been attacked by this virus.
Indi hasn’t time to talk this week. Moreover, she was shy when she told me that producing her ideas without photos isn’t quite the same.