Good God, it Looks Bad

I’m glad I generally ration my news intake: Richard Rohr, a (very liberal) Catholic monk whose daily readings hit my inbox in the morning, says that it’s good to restrict one’s news intake to no more than an hour a day. I think I’m doing quite well on that score; I look at the headlines two or three times a day and maybe check out one or two stories; I get a Guardian on Saturday, and that’s about it. Generally when the news comes on the radio I switch it off – either because it’s too darned depressing or because I can’t stand to hear Johnson or Trump’s voices. As for TV news, I’m nowhere near it, haven’t been for a long while, though I occasionally listen to a slice of PM on Radio 4.

The point of the news is supposedly to keep us informed of what’s going on in the world. But does it? Disregarding political bias, of which there is not a little, there’s an overwhelmingly negative slant to everything that’s reported. Even when you get the odd good news story there’s generally a ‘but’ at the end of it, as if they can’t resist warning you that life isn’t all roses, there’s plenty of guns out there as well.

Right now aside from having some kind of global nuclear war, the news could hardly be worse. We’ve got Covid deaths exceeding one million worldwide (though C19 has a way to go before catching up with the Spanish flu in 1918), we’ve got appalling leaders in countries like Britain, the US, India and Brazil, and behind and above and beyond all of that we’ve got climate change which we’re doing not nearly enough to halt, never mind reverse. When faced with all this, despair seems the only option.

But! as Krishna says to Arjuna in the Gita, strong men know not despair. Let’s imagine he meant women as well – which he probably did, and consider this. I don’t think Krishna was advocating toughness or bravado, nor was he suggesting we bury our heads in the sand. I think he meant that the world, the universe, God – call it what you will – is always so much vaster than we can imagine. My own take on it is that Gaia will take do whatever it takes to heal the earth; rather than us destroying the world, it will destroy us. If we don’t learn our lesson. But I take heart from what happened during the early days of lockdown; the clearness of the skies, the dolphins coming back to Venice, the air pollution practically zero. I’m convinced – and I mean no disrespect at all to those who’ve lost people in this pandemic – that Covid is here to teach us, the human race, a lesson. We must do better – and soon.

Of course our glorious leaders show no sign of getting with the programme – but Johnson and Trump will soon be gone. The earth will continue.

Kirk out

Short Story Serial: Leave Means Leave Episode 2

The second part of a Brexit-themed story…

It was the pregnancy that woke her up; for the first time in her life she felt a terror for someone other than herself and a determination to keep the baby safe. So, miscarriage or not (and that was a proper accident, nothing to do with him) the decision was made. She was gone.

And yet she delayed. What if she’d brought about the miscarriage by her own actions? What if it was God’s punishment for deciding to leave? What if there was worse to come? She made up her mind and unmade it a thousand times a day. And then suddenly one summer’s day by some alchemy the decision was made. Only by a small margin but there it was; she was going. Simple as packing a bag, writing a note and walking out the door.

She remembered that note with a stab of guilt; that one tiny, inadequate word, Goodbye. That summed up their whole marriage; she’d never been enough for him, had always fallen short, was always making him angry. Then as she left the house she saw the car again with its message. LEAVE MEANS LEAVE. It was back, in the same place, and that could only mean one thing: it was the universe telling her – don’t go back. Don’t even look back. And this time she took the message to heart.

She had barely mourned for the baby. Before the bleeding there were tiny white blobs on the scan that were the baby’s bones; remembering the fractures in her arms she fiercely promised the baby that no-one would ever harm a single one of those tiny bones. The baby would never be his, ever. No. The no sounded in the bone, hollow and resonant; it was a decision taken at the cellular level. No going back. Leave Means Leave.

In any case, she said to herself as though rationalising the decision – as though bruises and broken bones weren’t reason enough – there was hardly room for her in that place, let alone a baby. His stuff was strewn everywhere and he didn’t like her tidying. Knew where everything was, he said. Got cross if she moved anything. It was his flat after all, he paid the rent, didn’t he? Didn’t he have any rights? And so on. She was sick with the weariness of it.

So with the baby they’d have had to move anyway and he’d have made a huge fuss about it. Would he even have been glad? Probably, yes, because it would have been another tie, keeping them together, stopping her from running off. He was always ranting about her running off, wouldn’t even have let her go to work if they hadn’t needed the money. When the bleeding came she didn’t even go to the doctor, just mopped it up and carried on. Force of habit. The the next day she packed a bag, put on her coat and instead of going to work went to the police station. Leave Means Leave.