I Don’t Understand

I think I’ve reached the age in which I find the world more baffling than anything else. I thought it would happen later in life than this, but here I am.
There is so much I cannot understand.

I don’t understand the thought processes of vast sections of humanity, who would readily spurn a homeless beggar but will proudly tithe their weekly thirty pieces of silver to a church whose coffers are already overflowing with blood-money.

I don’t understand the calamitous and seemingly exponential dismissal of science, and the downward spiral into magical thinking and superstition.

I don’t understand how horrific, blatant lies can be not only left to stand unchallenged, but welcomed as inviolable truth.

I don’t understand how ideas like gun control, universal healthcare, and equal rights for all can be deemed evil and untenable, and decried most loudly by those who are suffering most egregiously from their absence.

I don’t understand how universal concepts of humanity such as good and evil, right and wrong, love and hate, can be so wilfully corrupted in the popular consciousness as to be replaced by such childishly simplistic political terms as ‘Right’ and ‘Left’, ‘Conservative’ and ‘Liberal’, ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat’.

I don’t understand how people whose governments describe themselves in such glowing terms as “Leader of the free world”, can see no irony or shame in the rejection of refugees from war-torn regimes and natural disasters, simply because they fear some undefined “burden on the system”.

I don’t understand how it is possible to reach adulthood, and not realise that when your perception of humanity does not include those other than you, you yourself cease to be human.

I don’t understand how we as a species can have survived the twentieth century; to have seen the horrors inflicted upon the world by racism, bigotry, intolerance, and greed; to have witnessed the cruel futility of scapegoating and prejudice, with all of its despicable rage-trigger vocabulary, such as kike, nigger, gook, spic, slope, mick, paki, commie, and a thousand other poisonous, derogatory slurs; to have somehow endured all of that, and yet in the face of a dreadful pandemic the first response of many is not to do everything in their power to mitigate the disaster, but to blame the Chinese, all 1.4 billion of them, for no better reason than it was China who suffered the first casualties.

I just don’t understand, and if the solution is “it’s just human nature” I don’t want to be human anymore.

“The actions of government, we are told, bear down only on imprudent souls who provoke them. The man who resigns himself and keeps silent is always safe. Reassured by this worthless and specious argument, we do not protest against the oppressors. Instead we find fault with the victims. Nobody knows how to be brave even prudentially. Everyone stays silent, keeping his head low in the self-deceiving hope of disarming the powers that be by his silence. People give despotism free access, flattering themselves they will be treated with consideration. Eyes to the ground, each person walks in silence the narrow path leading him safely to the tomb.”
― Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments

A Distant Land

There is a distant land, remote and hidden from all but me.  Though very far away, in moments of quiet and stillness I can travel there in an instant, and visit with those who live there in places unchanging.  When I walk its streets, the sounds and the sights are like old friends, and even the feel of the air is as familiar to me as my home.

I walk to the end of Melford Road, turning left at the cafe on the corner, past the sweetshop, still with jars of goodness lining the walls, bulls eyes and sherbet lemons, barley sugar twists and chocolate caramels, pear drops and gobstoppers, acid drops and liquorice sticks, and other delights too numerous to list.

A little further on is the bus stop, opposite the United Dairies depot, from whence the milk carts depart every day in all directions, their electric motors humming like a swarm of bees, and laden with clanking crates of milk, silver top, red top, gold top, and ‘sterilised’, loaves of bread, and cartons of orange juice.  Inside the depot, cool and dark out of the hot Summer sunshine, is a small office and shop in which any boy or girl with a sixpence can get a mysteriously named ‘Mickey’, a half pint of chilled chocolate milk, and the most delicious thing imaginable.  Drink it on the spot and hand the bottle back, and you get a refund of tuppence, enough for eight blackjack chews from the sweetshop.

A brief wait at the bus stop and along comes a trusty double-decker bus, the pride of London, gleaming bright red, as I hop onto the platform and up the winding stairs to the front, to look down at the familiar world passing below.  The bus stops at Central Park and the bus conductor calls out “White Horse”, in memory of the pub that was destroyed by a V1 bomb in the war, the hole in the ground still there opposite the park, the fragmented remains of cellar walls and stairs still visible like architectural ghosts, and where my friends and I prefer to play rather than the park.  In the bombsite there are adventures to be had, and there is no stern, black uniformed park-keeper shouting at you to keep off the grass.

A shift of attention brings me to the house in Capel Road, opposite Wanstead Flats, the grassy reserve that is home to not one but two ponds, with ducks and swans, and where boys can sail toy boats and skim stones.  In the kitchen of the house, my Grandmother is still there, in floral dress and apron, smiling and making toffee on the stove in a large flat pan.  I lost more than one dental filling to that toffee, but it was too good to pass up.  My grandfather is there, wearing grey flannel trousers and white vest, sitting at the table with his ubiquitous cigarette and bakelite radio softly playing.  In the front room is my Uncle Jack, with his beloved stereogram and records, creating another magnificent embroidery, a skill acquired as physical therapy to partial paralysis from a childhood injury.

In this land it is a simple thing to flit from place to place, as a butterfly in a flower garden, taking in a sight, a sound, a feeling, and soaking up the sweetness before moving on to the next memory.  In this land, lost friends and family can be found unchanged by the years, unaltered by their passing, and I can tell them “You helped to make me the person I am, and in return I will always remember you, so that part of you will live on in this place, until I too am gone”.


Lest We Forget

As we approach the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, and we think of those who fell in that awful war, let us also not forget the cynical, politicking bastards of the various governments, who sat swilling gin in their gentlemen’s clubs, and ordered many thousands to carry on shooting, shelling, and dying until the clock was right for a dramatic effect. Let us never give them that power again.

We Need To Make Them Listen

Caring for the environment, the natural world, and the rest of humanity, is not a generational problem.  It’s disingenuous to point at the “baby boomers” and claim that it’s all our fault, when the rampant pollution and desecration of our planet is, and always has been, in the hands of the relative handful of the super-wealthy manipulating everything and everyone for their own ends.

There have always been champions like David Attenborough, Rachel Carson, and now Greta Thunberg.  There were marches and campaigns and outrage in the 1960s just as much as there are today, and no-one was listening.  They were not made to listen.  Now it’s probably too late and the blinkers are still on, the science is still being denied, the lies are still being spewed out by political hacks, and too many people are still wilfully blinded to what is happening beyond their own view out of the window.

Our world is in the early stages of another mass extinction event, and this time instead of asteroid impacts or volcanoes much of the blame lies with us.  It’s too late to stop it, it’s already happening.  What we can do is try to mitigate its effects by stopping the madness, and making the liars face the truth.

The United States under Trump is rolling back ever more environmental protections put in place by former administrations, increasing fossil fuel use, and they remain the greatest polluter of our world.  China is building new coal power plants and dumping millions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere and sea every day.  We can’t sit and pat ourselves on the back just because we no longer use plastic shopping bags, or re-use our own drinking straws.

We need to make them listen now.

An Open Letter To God

Dear God,
Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying that You don’t play dice with the Universe. Since he seems to have been right about everything else, it seems highly likely that he was also right about that. This being the case, I can only assume You use a random number generator, because simply tossing a coin would give too high a chance for it to make any kind of sense.

It occurs to me that a coin toss made in the eleven dimensions of space-time postulated by M-theory would probably fit the bill, but if that’s true then You’re clearly just taking the piss, and You seem like such a nice guy; well, except for the whole Old Testament shenanigans, which is so messed up I can only think You were either completely off Your game, or Lucifer’s team had hacked You and they were running the show for a while. Seriously, Dude, that stuff in Leviticus is mental.

I ask You to please respond without smiting me because, quite frankly, You made me like this.

Best wishes,
a concerned customer

Being Here

Take a moment to wonder.
Everything around you, everything you see and touch, the earth you stand upon,
the water you drink, the food that you eat and the air that you breath;
every cell, every molecule of your body, is made of atoms that were forged
in the hearts of long gone stars;
suns that burst into life, lived and cataclysmically died billions of years ago.
Our lives are nothing more than tiny momentary sparks
in a vast and mysterious continuum;
and yet, as small as we are,
we are as much a part of the universe as any distant galaxy,
as significant as any star or planet that is, was, or ever will be.
There is a spark that burns within us, that gives us thought,
that allows us to look in wonder, and to ask “what else is out there?”
And amidst all this wonder, in the fleeting moments that we have,
we find time to love
and to be glad that we are here.

Why Am I Here?




Held in limbo
Frozen stillness
single framed
experience of
Geological time

Mountains rise
and suffer erosion
to pebbles
and still
I wait
for a sign

I question…

Was waiting for Godot
like this ?

I question again…

Does the phrase
“Life is fleeting short”
mean anything to you,
K-Mart ‘Service’ queue?

A Humanist’s Hymn

No prophecy shall come to pass
Your life’s your own to live at last
No more the tool of God nor man
Now you may live to your own plan

Live not your life in enmity
Nor flee from ghosts of things to be
And in the end yourself betray
When all of worth has slipped away

Are all our troubles really worth
Our paltry time upon this earth
If we have not the power to grow
Beyond the bounds of what we know

For gods are naught that I can see
But what we all must strive to be
’Til humankind can stand as one
To shine as brightly as the sun

Though it may be a thousand years
Before we rid the world of fear
Each step we take along the way
Will bring us nearer to the day

Hatred, fear and jealousy
Will themselves destroy
If we look on our differences
As a thing of joy

Though it may be a thousand years
Before we rid the world of fear
Each step we take along the way
Will bring us nearer to the day
Then humankind will stand as one
To shine as brightly as the sun