Thursday, 10 January 2013

Leftovers OR History: a Piecemeal Biography of the Human Condition

Most critics agree that the poetry of Robert Browning is influenced by the devout Christian views of his mother and wife. I often wonder, though, if he ever regretted penning the lines, 'God’s in His Heaven/All’s right with the world.' Alone, they suggest a naïve approach to life and God, but in the context of Pippa Passes (in which play-poem they appear) a wry irony is also present.

Now and then devout Christian and other religious fundamentalist readers get in touch to berate me for attacking their religion. I never attack any religion. What I attack is a tunnel-minded if not naïve view of life and God, invariably based on either misinterpreting passages in various Holy Books or taking them out of context (which amounts to the same thing) and using them to justify shutting out just about everything and everyone else.

Religion is meant to be about love and peace. In reality, there is too much divisiveness and oneupmanship between the world religions and within themselves for world peace to stand a chance. Let’s face it. The absence of a world war doesn’t mean we are at peace. Take Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East…and local conflicts worldwide. And that’s just the fighting. Whatever happened to peace of mind?

As I have said many times, thanks goodness for those people for whom their humanity is every bit as important as their religion. Sadly, it has been my experience that such people are a rare if not dying breed, which is why I rejected religion and turned to nature even as a child. As I grew older, I saw no reason to change my mind. Nature feeds my mind and imagination; it also gives me a sense of spirituality and peace I would never have found in religion. Nor does it have anything to do with my sexuality, but simply the kind of person I am.  Besides, I hate tunnels. A teacher at my old school once described history as a tunnel through which we travel towards the light we call learning. Maybe, although I suspect there are more takes on what ‘learning’ comprises than fish in the sea. Apply the same metaphor to religion and the light would be what some call Faith, God, Heaven or whatever. Oh, but how many takes on that…?

Forget tunnels. Life is an open road; religion, too, for those to whom it means the most as it did to a very dear mentor of mine; the same mentor who once told me that, just as we all need to at least try to keep an open mind and open heart or we are betraying our common humanity, so any religion that denies us either is betraying its very origins.


‘Come into the shade,’ cry ghosts
of seasons past, ‘and share the feast
that lasts forever, never fear to hear
the groans of hungry men and women
or whimpering skeletons of children
reassured pain is a passport to Heaven,
all things under the sun God-given

‘Come into the shade,’ cry ghosts
of seasons past, ‘and toast the peace
that lasts forever, never fear to hear
the groans of warring men and women
or whimpering children left to pray,
reassured price for war is paid in pain,
all things under the sun God-given

‘Come into the shade,’ cry ghosts
of seasons past, ‘and let’s play the jest
that lasts forever on those who hear
the groans of brave men and women
trying to save the planet’s children,
keep its trees fairest shades of green,
feed refugees, let asylum seekers in

Feast well, ghosts, on our seasons past,
the leftovers of inhumanity sure to last

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

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