Monday, 2 March 2015

Goodbye and hello

I feel this blog is coming to the end of its days, so I am going to sign off in a mo. All my mighty words will still be here until...? Google kills Blogger off? The End of Time? But my very close friend Tim Clark, aka tcerrig, is going to carry forward the role of blogging thoughts about mindfulness, mortality, and the other things I've been bending your ears with over the last few years. Gloria is done. She's taking the cure, handing the Grand Prix du Cote du Rhone to Tim. Please visit his blog, "What the Water Says." No, I'm not sure what the hell he means either, but anyway, he'd be pleased to see you at:

which he is just getting going. The title to this post will take you there, via cursor-magic and clicking. 

Here's a few bridging words from my successor:

"Blessings upon your retirement Gloria. I shall endeavour to share worthwhile thoughts with the world, on subjects related to mortality, meditation, silence, the natural world, but possibly not Hornby Double-O trains sets, nor Aston Villa. I do hope your readership, which probably thought your  unusual silence meant you had kicked the bucket, keeps an eye on my ramblings. I think I may have useful things to say to certain sorts of people. Give me a try."

So there you have it. Thank you for reading my words, thank you for comments. The Queen is dead, long live the King. Of what, you'll have to decide.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

"Je Suis Charlie" says Gloria Mundi - part 2

Will Self put it neatly on Channel 4 TV news the other evening. He pointed out that if you make freedom of speech (and drawing) a universal, non-negotiable right, you are turning it into something like a religious absolute, something to be seen as the same everywhere. 

The murderers in Paris last week were, they said, acting in the name of a religious absolute.

Self pointed out that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, in a French concept, are directed not at those in power, but at the relatively powerless French Muslims. I suppose you could argue that those cartoon aimed at the Prophet were aimed at a very powerful figure, but in the context of France today, I can see his point. 

Typically, political and social satire/caricature has been aimed, in this country at least, at those in power. The great caricaturists of the 18th and early 19th century attacked the Establishment, including at times the monarchy (if with a degree of caution) No-one murdered them.

Freedom of speech must be continually re-assessed in the societies in which it occurs. We do not and should not tolerate words and images designed to stir up anti-semitism; that is not necessarily to say we should automatically outlaw cartoons about Jews or Jewish matters.

And incidentally, "we must respect all religions." I don't know about that. It depends what religions and their followers say or do. The Christians have a saying: "by their fruits shall ye know them." Respecting religion, whatever it advocates; caricaturing anyone, in whatever fashion? H'mmm. I'd rather satire served its ancient purpose of making the powerful loook ridiculous when they are being ridiculous. 

 A cartoon would need to be examined for its intentions, as it were, and likely effects - the sort of thing that happens in a court of law sometimes. The difficulty seems to arise when the view of what is acceptable, "fair game," as it were, collides with an absolute, of the sort that characterises doctrinaire religious or political beliefs.

No-one in the Soviet Union of the 1940s got away with satirising Stalin for long. Absolutists have little sense of humour and take themselves absurdly seriously.

So the issues around Charlie Hebdo may be more complex and challenging than many on the streets of Paris today would accept. But the cartoonists drew pictures, and they were met with cold-blooded murder. The asymetry horrifies people around the world, and whatever the cartoons were like, today, it is simply and I feel rightly a matter of "Je Suis Charlie."

Thursday, 8 January 2015

"Je Suis Charlie" says Gloria Mundi

So, big deal announcement, but:

We must all be Charlie, now and always.

Such lethal derangement cannot "win" anything. What have these psychopaths achieved? They have caused death, grief and suffering to a group of people. They have put French Muslims at risk from "revenge" attacks. They have provoked strong condemnation from Muslim organisations in Europe and elsewhere. They have united the French people - almost all of them - and strengthened their determination not to give way to panic. And they claim this has "avenged the Prophet?" 

 Like most people with totalitarian mentalities, they are stupid as well as vile. In their own terms, they have achieved nothing.

They have achieved nothing of any significance, any more than the psychopaths who burst into schools and murder schoolchildren achieve anything.

Nous sommes Charlie, maintenant et toujours, or we give way to murderous fascists. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Celine Dion and me - funeral music

The impossibly wealthy and successful Ms Dion is not really my thing, to put it mildly. The whole big voice power ballad overwrought style leaves me cold.

But. Many a British funeral is for, or is organised by, men who don't like to talk much about their feelings. There are often comments about how he loved banter and leg-pulling, how dry his sense of humour was, how his children knew he loved them even though he didn't tell them often. (Or ever....)

That's how these chaps are, or how they were. We celebrants serve them, we don't criticise or judge, I hope. 

Enter Miss Dion (or Houston, or Carey.) Enter Andrea Bocelli duetting with Dion or Brightman. Enter the big throbbing ballad, the singers for whom "I" must be delivered as "HI.."

If pop music is the soundtrack of our lives, these belters are the soundtrack of the grief and the love that Britchaps/chapesses are unable to express.They licence the evoking of powerful feelings in  a reserved and semi-formal context. 

I'd sooner give up red wine than buy a Celine Dion CD, but in this context I say: "Brava, Celine!" Hit it, kid. Not a dry eye in the house - you've done your job. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Language Follies and a HNY

First off: A Happy 2015 to my reader, and thanks for stopping by.

 Wouldn't it be good if we could clear away some linguistic clutter in 2015? I don't mean the simply daft stuff, I mean the misleading phrases and euphemisms. Here's a few:

Future-proof.  On the cover of "Broadleaf," the Woodland Trust magazine, I read "Future-proof: building a blueprint for the woods of tomorrow." Well-meaning, successful organisation - it doesn't need to write such bollocks. (Apart from any other consideration, a blueprint is a drawing, from which you create a building. You don't need to build a blueprint...)

The idea that we can proof anything, especially the natural environment, against future changes is foolishly misleading. 

An ex-Snowdonia National Park environmental officer made it clear to me that the natural environment never keeps still. Conservation doesn't flash-freeze things as they happen to be at that moment. We can of course protect our woodland, in the here and now.

The reason why I think this nonsense is misleading is because if we cannot accept, indeed live in and with, the understanding that everything is always changing, we stand no chance of leading sane and rewarding lives. The more we cling, the faster we will perceive "it" as changing and the more panicky we will feel, whatever "it" might be. "It" will flow away from us even more quickly. The phrase "future proof" comes, I think, from the computer industry. "nuff said. Let's bin it.

Saving the planet. Whatever we do, the planet will be fine, rolling on through space for billions more years, unless there is a truly vast collision with something much bigger than it. 

We won't necessarily be fine at all. Hubris doesn't help. We need to live with natural systems, degrade our support environment less, and so on, if we are to save our civilization, and ultimately the species, from premature wipe-out. But saving or destroying the planet is beyond us. Even a nuclear war wouldn't destroy it. It would simply destroy us, and very many other life forms. We need to keep our actions in sharp focus, within the limits of what we can do, if our civilization in to thrive and continue, until - ha! You can't, ultimately, future-proof our ways of life.