Nobody Understands Thee. What Tu Du?

I am happy to report that depression is lifting; this is thanks in no small part to actually writing about it.  I am all too prone to interacting with people only when I feel good and hiding away when I’m depressed, thinking that no-one will want to know me in this state and that all I’ll accomplish is to bring everyone down.  But to write about it honestly has been very therapeutic and has allowed lots of other people to open up about their depression: I’ve had many messages of support as well as testimonies from others about what they are going through.  People have offered to visit or meet with me; people have said they miss me and one friend even said I was fantastic.  This has given me a real lift.

I guess you could say in these situations you find out who your friends are: it used to be that one would distinguish between intimates and strangers by the use of pronouns.  A lot of languages still do this, such as French, Spanish, German and Italian, using the informal ‘tu/du’ to distinguish intimates from more formal contacts.  Of course it can also be a way of indicating status, which is why the equivalent probably died out in British English.

Interestingly, when Quakers began, one of their distinguishing characteristics was that they addressed everyone as ‘thou’, this being the informal pronoun (the equivalent of ‘tu/du’) and thus putting everyone on the same level.  The odd thing is that, thanks to ‘thou’ surviving in religion, nowadays it sounds formal rather than informal.

The trouble is, no-one knows how to use ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ any more.  So here’s my handy guide.

  1.  ‘Thou’ is equivalent to ‘I’ and ‘thee’ is equivalent to ‘me’.  Examples: ‘what dids’t thou say?  I gave it thee.’
  2. the verb form usually ends in ‘est’ contracted to ‘st’, as in ‘did’st, could’st, hast (the ‘d’ is forgotten)
  3. the possessive is ‘thy’ with a noun following and ‘thine’ without: ‘thy socks be wet’; ‘these socks be thine.’

Here’s a fuller guide to using ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ correctly, so you’re not caught out.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou

Don’t be like the person who posted this joke on Facebook:

A 19th century Quaker farmer woke up in the middle of the night hearing noises downstairs. He crept down the stairs, cap-lock rifle in hand to discover a burglar in his living room. He took aim and announced in a loud clear voice, “Excuse me, friend, but would thee please move? I am about to shoot where thee is standing.”

The correct version should of course be: ‘Excuse me friend, but could’st thou please move?  I am about to shoot where thou art standing.’

Oh, and if you want an archaic plural of ‘you’, try ‘ye.’

Kirk out

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Lincoln, Mandiba, Maya and Dante

I don’t know much about Abe Lincoln except what everyone knows: that he was shot in the theatre (ouch) but apparently before he died he suffered from depression.  ‘If there’s a worse place than hell, I’m in it,’ is how he put it.  ‘Ouch’ doesn’t begin to cover that.

Nelson Mandela was despised as a nobody, imprisoned for twenty-seven years and yet became the first black leader of South Africa.  The regime took away his marriage to Winnie and his only son.

Maya Angelou became an elective mute as a child after suffering abuse, as her memoir ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ relates.  And yet she rose to become one of the foremost authors of the US and gave a recital at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

What these people have in common is both darkness and greatness – and that’s no coincidence.  Most of us spend our lives avoiding darkness.  It’s painful and confusing; it’s unpleasant and frightening.  It can be absolute hell with no let-up.  Yet in the darkness lies the way to greatness.

Darkness comes when everything else runs out; when all the tried-and-tested methods for keeping your life going have ground to a halt, when habit seems meaningless and loved ones remote.  The darkness comes when you are at the absolute end of your strength; when there is not one ounce of energy left within you to try to make things work any more.  It’s like floating on a black sea: there’s nothing you can do but let it happen.

It’s the same journey Dante made when he ‘woke to find himself in a dark wood where.. the right way was lost.’  Dante has one hell of an Easter weekend; going through the inferno on the Friday, purgatory on the Saturday and finally arriving in heaven on Easter Sunday.  What’s interesting is that he never loses sight of the world ‘outside’, knowing at any moment what day and hour it is, where the sun and moon are and whereabouts he actually is (hell is located in the centre of the earth in his cosmology.)

Hell is the worst thing the human imagination can conceive: read James Joyce’s sermon from ‘Portrait of the Artist’ and then try sleeping, if you can:

http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/portrait_artist_young_man/3/

I couldn’t.  But you don’t need to believe in Biblical sin and damnation to read Dante.  Like all works of genius it transcends the age which spawned it, and today it can be read as a dark night of the soul; a journey through the depths of depression towards realisation and enlightenment.  In Dante’s cosmology the damned are quite separate from those in purgatory who, though they suffer, have hope.  But we need not read it so: for us, as for Dante himself, there can always be the possibility of transformation, of transition to a better place.

Nowadays we have little concept of sin and punishment.  We have thrown out the sins of our fathers and decided that we are our own judge, jury and executioner.  But the greatest sins are those which separate us from others and from our common humanity – which is why the centre of Dante’s inferno is not fire but a frozen lake.

What melts the frozen lake is compassion.  One of the most moving scenes from the film ‘Gandhi’ is where a man comes to him in despair.  ‘I am going to hell,’ he tells the Mahatma.  ‘I took a Muslim child and bashed his brains out against a wall.’

‘I know a way out of hell,’ says the ever-practical Gandhi.  ‘You must find an orphaned Muslim child and raise him yourself – as a Muslim.’

The way out of hell is reconciliation.  Reconciliation melts the frozen lake and allows people to come together.  Where would South Africa have been without the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Mandela instituted?  Where would Maya Angelou have been if she had stored up bitterness and hatred in her heart?  Instead she turned the hell of her childhood into a powerful work of art.  Reconciliation is the way out of hell.

None of us knows for sure what happens when we die, but anyone can find out what happens when we live.  Embrace the darkness, find the truth within it, and move on.

Here’s an article I found helpful when writing this post:

http://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/a-dark-night-of-the-soul-and-the-discovery-of-meaning/

Kirk out

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Black Dog

OK well it’s not going away so there’s nothing to do but write about it – depression, that is.  Quite unexpectedly along with a chest infection I was recently plunged into a most unpleasant depression: not the kind of blank, grey blanket which descends like a fog, but a squirming black horribleness which threatens to engulf my consciousness and, though the infection has receded, refuses to go away.

I’ve not been so prone to depression in recent years, though I had plenty of it in my twenties: thanks to a firmer footing in life, a grounded family, a reasonable work life and a daily yoga practice I was able to keep myself on a fairly even keel.  And although I had some psychotic episodes about a decade ago I’ve barely suffered an hour or so of depression since I got married.

But lately certain things have been spiralling downwards: a lack of material success in spite of huge daily efforts to make it as a writer; persistent poor sleep, struggles with my thyroid, a partner with gender dysphoria and a son with mental health problems have all taken their toll and I’m sure prepared my system to host the infection in the first place.  I have never been so wiped out by a bug as I was by this one: I was completely exhausted for days.  But as soon as the steroids and antibiotics kicked in, the depression made itself felt.  I haven’t felt like this since my twenties when a promising career and love affair went completely into free-fall.

But this is different – and although I know what it’s about, I don’t know what to do about it.  When I was eight I started to write a novel: that novel got squashed by huge and inexplicable forces which I still don’t understand.  I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since and now I’m there: I just never expected the process to be so deeply unpleasant.  I thought it’d be a kind of liberation but instead it’s utterly horrible, like opening the door to a deep dank hole with all kinds of monsters living in it.

All I know how to do is keep writing – and to believe that things are working out.  As Marcus Aurelius says, ‘love only what happens.  No greater happiness.’  In other words, believe that everything happens for your good, even though it may not feel like it.

http://www.great-quotes.com/quotes/author/Marcus/Aurelius

I find great comfort in Marcus Aurelius when things seem grim.

Kirk out

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…slurry…

I’m trying to think of unusual words for what is coming out of my lungs at the moment, and ‘slurry’ seems like a good one.  Yes, I know from my ‘Archers’ listening that it means muck, but it sounds right and it looks like something slurred.  OH has also suggested ‘slurt’ but I’m not so keen on that as it sounds like a collapsed yurt.

Or maybe it’s a liturgy?  You know, a lurgy with a great big IT in the middle.  Anyway, somehow I feel that coming up with funny names for it helps me to feel better – like when people name their tumours.  In the latest Rebus book, the detective has a shadow on his lung which he nicknames ‘Hank Marvin’ and which eventually turns out to be benign.  I’m fairly certain I have a chest infection and not a shadow on the lung but we’ll know more when I see the doc tomorrow – always assuming I can get an appointment…

In the meantime I’ve not been up to doing much except watching TV.  I’ve checked out some videos of ‘Rex the Runt’ (a wobbly bobbly dribbly squiggly dog)

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/bad-bob-random-pavarotti-and-buster-gonad/

followed by the film ‘Eddie the Eagle.’  This is a great thing to watch if you’re ill: the uplifting, soaring, swooping, yearning, stretching tale of a no-hoper who went on to be an Olympic ski-jumper and the British record holder is highly inspiring and altogether in the traditional British spirit of cobbling things together on a shoestring and coming last.  It’s the perfect antidote to the relentlessly pervasive culture of competition which confronts us at every turn.

See you on the other side folks.

Kirk out

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What ARE the Odds?

Wow.  There’s a first: me actually agreeing with an article in the Spectator.

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/02/can-we-have-an-honest-debate-about-gender/

On the other hand, perhaps it’s a case of the Spectator agreeing with me – because, let’s face it, this article says practically word for word what I said in my post a few days ago – in fact, what I’ve been saying for a long time: that there is a new orthodoxy emerging about gender which does not want to be challenged, and that we need a debate about this.

Now I know the Spectator is a reactionary rag but even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and to my ears this article is quite reasonable.  OK so they take the opportunity to have a pop at Corbyn – which is quite disingenuous, since any politician (apart from UKIP or Jacob Rees-Mogg) would have said the same – but other than that they make reasonable points.

I’m worried that the gender train (the gender agenda?) is hurtling so fast towards its destination that people are going to be crushed under the wheels, perhaps already are being crushed under the wheels.  My argument – and I know I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again – is that we need a thorough, ongoing debate about this or else like Brexit it will derail us all (I’ve probably mixed a metaphor there, but hey – if Shakespeare can do it…)  Because we had the debate about homosexuality, we had the debate about women’s rights, and these are now pretty firmly established.  But it seems to me that those pushing for trans rights are simply trying to hop on to an already running train without paying the fare.  ‘You’ve accepted gays and lesbians,’ they seem to say, ‘so let’s cut to the chase and accept this.  No arguments.’

I have heard in more than one quarter the suggestion that trans people (including children) should be accepted without question.  But here’s the rub: to accept a person as a person is not necessarily the same as to accept a particular narrative about that person.  So, whilst I do strive as a Quaker, to accept my fellow humans and to answer that of God in everyone, I do not accept the orthodoxy of the trans agenda without question.

Nor should I: nor should any of us.  Everything should always be questioned – and now more than ever we need to open that debate; because shutting it down is not the way to go.  I have heard people complain (and not Daily Mail readers, either) that they feel constrained in this debate, that they have to keep their thoughts to themselves, that they ‘can’t say’ what they think lest it be construed as hate speech.  But there is a world of difference between respectful debate and hate speech.  On the one hand, you have a legitimate enquiry into the problem; on the other hand you have – well, Germaine Greer.  Just to give one example that comes to mind.

The subjects I would like to see discussed include:

The likely effects on partners of a person coming out as trans

how we deal with children who exhibit gender dysphoria

what we do about toilets

what we do about women’s groups where often intimate subjects are under discussion

what we do about areas where privileges gained as one gender are carried forward into another

This is just a starting framework.  And I refuse to believe that this cannot be done in a respectful manner.

Kirk out

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Jack Whitehall and His Father

If you want to gain an idea of Jack Whitehall’s father, imagine a cross between Basil Fawlty and Prince Phillip.  You never know what is going to come out of his mouth next: there’s no censorship button and he’s not shy of criticising his son.  In fact the whole series works as an explanation for why Jack took to comedy: with such a father no-one but a young Prince Phillip (or Basil Fawlty) would have stood a chance.  I watched the first episodes with mouth open in disbelief, unable to credit what I was hearing.  The guy is bigoted, hypercritical, hidebound, uptight and utterly devoid of empathy: more than once I found myself shouting at the screen or wanting to give Jack a hug – or both.  To add insult to injury, Michael (Whitehall Senior) buys a Cambodian ‘doll’ as large as a toddler which he treats with far more care and consideration than his own son.

What triggered all this was Jack Whitehall being on ‘Desert Island Discs’ this morning (his father’s comment: ‘you haven’t been famous long enough to be on that’) and hearing him talk about his father.  When he says that travelling with him was like being the Queen travelling round Africa with Prince Phillip, never being quite sure where the next toe-curling gaffe is coming from, he is not overstating the case.  Michael rarely, if ever, takes criticism from anyone, though he is quite willing to dole it out: when Jack plays elephant polo he yells a series of critical comments on the mic for everyone to hear.  But by the end he seems to have softened a little and is slightly more positive towards Jack; father and son go home reconciled.

There are moments when, if you look closely, you can sense Jack’s longing for love and acceptance: I’m not saying that all stand-up comics have this need but in his case you can see why.  Michael, on the other hand, shows remarkably little self-consciousness for a man whose every inflexion is being recorded in close-up; and generally seems to believe that he has an absolute right to think and say anything he wants.  It’s quite something.

Then again, there’s always a query with these so-called reality shows.  It’s not enough any more just to have people travel round South-East Asia: there must be a narrative and that narrative must centre on conflict.  So here’s the rub: how much of this is real and how much is engineered?  It’s hard to believe you could invent a man like Michael Whitehall – as Marvin the Paranoid Android observed, life’s bad enough without inventing more of it – but you could exaggerate them.  Then again, the guy seems so genuinely awful, maybe there was no need to exaggerate.  Either way the series left me feeling desperately sorry for a boy whose father’s idea of parenting was to hire a nanny for the first few years, send the child to boarding school at age eight and tell him he was rubbish at everything.

Anyway, leaving aside all the nonsense it’s a fascinating series, full of tacky religious artefacts, trains which you have to alight from and dismantle when another train is coming the other way, fantastic architecture including Angkor Wat (Michael: ‘is Anchor butter named after that?’ – Jack: ‘yes and later we’ll be visiting Lurpak temple, Flora temple and I Can’t Believe It’s not a Temple.’)

Seriously, can this guy really be for real?  I just don’t know.  But we are living in strange times, when fiction seems more real than ‘reality TV.’

Here’s the link:

https://www.netflix.com/watch/80186789?trackId=200257859

Kirk out

 

 

 

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The Lurgy Has Struck

I’m very bad at physical illness.  I’m like Frasier when he has a cold, very sorry for myself, and demanding food and drink at all hours.

 

It’s an odd thing really; I’m pretty good at shouldering mental and emotional stuff; I just scream and moan, then get out of bed and on with the day.  But give me a heavy head cold and I’m confined to barracks moaning and groaning.

Fortunately I’m not often ill.  But today I am; my head aches, my limbs ache, my nose is producing enough snot to float a battleship and I am tired, tired, tired.  Having got OH to make me breakfast I shall probably sleep a little more.  Plus I’m getting through the paracetamol at a rate of knots.  I’ve been taking echinacea and lime and ginger tea with turmeric.

So I’ve mostly been dozing in bed, but I did eventually get up and watch back-to-back episodes of ‘Inside No 9’, ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘Frasier.’  Waiting for Holby to come on now.

See you on the other side…

Kirk out

PS It’s odd that I should post a link to ‘Frasier’ when the news broke of his on-screen father dying.  Here is Kelsey Grammer’s tribute:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/kelsey-grammer-john-mahoney-frasier-father_us_5a7b5172e4b08dfc92ff64c1

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