Archive for the ‘Joe’s Blog’ Category

The present

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

I was watching an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys recently and ‘Mrs Brown’ spoke about ‘the present’. She said how the present – now – is, as the other meaning of the word has it, the gift. And that all we have is the present. It’s the same wise insight of that magnificent movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Living and appreciating the gift of the present moment. It’s all we have. It’s all we ever have. In this moment, all is well. Right now, there is so much to be grateful for. We have, right now, more than we could ever appreciate. More than we could want.

Now is an invitation to re-enter the gratitude attitude, bringing to mind the wonder of now. Being thankful, not to any deity, but cultivating an attitude of gratitude for all that is.

 

Remembering

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

I spoke as a Humanist celebrant and chaplain at a commemoration event today for people who lost loved ones during the year. It is good to take time out to remember the deceased. People who have shaped us for the good; enriched our lives with their love and acceptance and wisdom and joy and affection. Those whose perspectives challenged us to grow and become more ourselves. Characters who etched themselves on the very stuff of our being. People we loved.

Be Happy Now

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

There’s something about autumn. Beauty, colour and harvest. The farewell glance to summer. Winter biding its time.  Pink misty dawn. Walking the dogs on a moss-strewn stony country path. And glad to be me and happy in myself and grateful for life and love. And the sometime kids now twenty-something and finding their way and taking their chance in the world.

All we have – all I have – is now. Let’s be happy and enjoy.

More Humanist musings

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Time passes so quickly! As ever, the challenge is to live in the present. To  savour this moment. To be thankful for all we have and all we are. Being human, all too often we only appreciate things when we’ve lost them.  So enjoy this day. Count your blessings. All you have going for you. Stand back a bit and reflect. Breathe. That heart won’t tick forever. It’s later than you think, and all that. Health, our greatest wealth. The people in our lives. Be thankful too for yourself. I always liked the line from one of the psalms: ‘For the wonder of myself.’ Most of us need to consider that. For each life, ours included, is full of wonder. Sure, we’ve all made mistakes. But we’ve got a lot right too. Made more good decisions than poor ones. We’re survived. We’re reading this. We live. Hope lives. Life exudes all around us. Expel air. Breathe it in. You won’t always be able to do that. Heart ticking. Yours. Mine. For now. So, enjoy this moment.

A Humanist Ash Wednesday?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Ash Wednesday, 01 March 2017
The Last Word has phoned me and there’s a pre-recorded interview scheduled for 3.45pm today on the theme of Ash Wednesday.
I gave it a bit of thought and rang back agreeing to do the interview.
I feel privileged to have been asked.
I guess it’s exploring a question I’ve been musing on a bit myself. Yes we don’t need the penitence and the guilt.
But it is a day, an opportunity, a moment to ponder our inevitable mortality, the inevitability of our own death.
And it is perhaps an invitation to live this day well.
You never see a hearse with a trailer, so amassing possessions isn’t what life’s about.
Fame is a deceitful and unfulfilling thing.
Winners’ trophies may end up pawned or thrown into skips.
Excessive work can lead to an early grave and an empty home.
Remember man thou art but dust
And unto dust thou shalt return.’
Perhaps it’s forgetfulness of our inevitable mortality that leads us down so many cul de sacs in life.
As a Humanist, I am convinced that this is my one and only life. I do not believe nor do I feel the need to believe in an afterlife.
So Ash Wednesday reminds me, lest I forget it, that I will die.
And I could die before tomorrow’s sunrise, or even before today’s sun has set. Or even before the interview with Matt – partly why I chose to upload this now! The interview might not happen or it might not be broadcast. But now is real. Now I live.
Lessons for me? Don’t worry about tomorrow – I mightn’t even be alive.
Live this moment to the full.
Choose time out to ponder and reflect and to be self-aware.
Be grateful for those who have loved me, and those I love.
Enjoy this moment – it really may be my last one.
Choose moderation rather than excess – there’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.
Embrace ‘enough’ as a value and be wary of that seductive word ‘more’
Cultivate the gratitude attitude.
Know thyself. (Socrates)
And do what you are best at for the benefit of others. (Aristotle)

The interview with Matt Cooper was broadcast on Today FM on Ash Wednesday 1 March 2017. Prof Salvador Ryan, Professor of Ecclesiastical History,  St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and Joe Armstrong discussed the significance of Ash Wednesday, for Christians and Humanists. It was a fun, lighthearted and harmonious discussion.

Time flies

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Sometimes it feels like there’s just too much going on – like children growing up and leaving home. Was I blinking? How did that happen so fast? College calls. CAO. UCAS. Wherever.

Choosing what to do aged 18 or 19 is probably most people’s first adult decision. Mine was to enter a seminary (although I’d later see leaving it, nine years later, as my first adult choice). And today new generations set off on their chosen paths aged 18 or so to learn their trade or profession, to chart their course, to create their future. They decide. They act. And off they go embarking upon the great adventure of life!

Humanist musings

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

I’m loving being a Humanist celebrant. There’s something wonderful about it for me, doing something I love, something that has meaning, something I’m good at, something that each day, for each ceremony, for each couple or family or individual, is different.

It helps me to live in the here and now. Celebrating this particular couple’s marriage, or this unique family’s new baby, or this distinctive person’s life.

It’s working and living in the real. It’s inclusive of everyone. Being with people crying with joy – what a privilege that is! Crafting ceremonies appropriate to each couple or family or person. And then from planning to execution, celebrating the moment, conducting the words and the readings and the music and the rituals. Yes, living in the now.

Humanists ask questions. That is where we start. We never shy, or should never shy, from asking our questions. We endeavour to think for ourselves, trying never to let others think for us. We choose. We decide. We act. We create. We are responsible. That’s what we try to do anyway. Fail, of course; and probably often. But we keep trying, keep asking.

The couple whose wedding I conducted today chose wonderful readings. Stimulating. Different. Thoughtful. Reflective. Moving. Dramatic. There were lots of moist eyes in the room. The hairs were standing on the back of my neck during one of the readings, the poem ‘It Is Here’ by Harold Pinter, which ends:

What did we hear?

It was the breath we took when we first met.

Listen. It is here.

Dear Sarah, On the Eve of your Leaving Cert

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Dear Sarah, my daughter, on the eve of your Leaving Cert,

I know you think that the entire outcome of your life hinges on how well you do in your exams.

It doesn’t.

I know you think that the grades that you feel you have to get will determine your happiness or unhappiness in life.

They won’t.

I know you think that your performance during your exams will open or close doors for you.

It won’t. (Really, it won’t: there are thousands of doors you don’t even know exist – and you will choose one of them for you!)

You may think that a certain outcome will open the particular door that you feel you most want in life.

It might or it might not open that door. But your happiness does not depend on that door opening.

You may think that the grades you get will determine how clever or otherwise you are.

They won’t.

You may think that others will judge you by the points you get in your Leaving Cert.

They won’t. (And those who do are not wise, so you can discount their judgments anyway.)

You might feel like a sword is hanging over your head.

There isn’t.

If you get the grades you want, they might or might not lead to happiness.

You could learn much more in life and be far happier if you get fewer grades than you’d like.

You know lots. Of course there is lots more that you don’t know. So in the celebrations of knowledge which are about to begin try your best to celebrate on the page what you know.

And, by the way, you know far more than you realise.

And you also know far less! (Since the more any of us know, the more we realise how relatively little we know.)

Don’t expect to be able to share everything you know: nobody can do that.

Live the moment. Live this moment.

Enjoy this moment, and, yes, enjoy, really enjoy, these celebrations of what you know. See them as your opportunity to do yourself justice – because you do deserve to do well. Just don’t worry how anyone else estimates what well means for you.

Detach! Don’t worry about the outcome. Just live in the moment. Enjoy every moment!

Love, Your Dad. 7 June 2016

What would a Humanist Ireland look like?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

It would begin with children. Every child in Ireland would have equal access to his or her local national primary and second-level State-funded schools. None would be discriminated against because he or she was not baptized.

How shameful it is that in 21st-century Ireland that that still remains the case!

And, staying with children, in a Humanist Ireland, young children would not be taught to believe in deities simply because their parents or grandparents believed in them. The integrity of children’s minds would be respected. Children would not be taught as ‘fact’ something for which there is not one whit of evidence.

Warping children’s minds is intellectual child abuse. There was a time when lots of people got away with child sexual abuse because the wider community didn’t appreciate how shameful a thing it was to sexually abuse children. Or they didn’t realize how pervasive it was. Or it was just hidden and not talked about, so unlikely and outlandish did it sound.

Likewise, it’s not that long ago since corporal punishment was allowed in schools: physical abuse of children was socially acceptable. Now, thank goodness, neither child sexual nor physical abuse is tolerated.

So how long will it take before people realise that to abuse children’s minds is equally despicable?  Why do we still think it’s OK to teach children that man-made deities exist, watch them, judge them and will punish or reward them?

I speak as someone who believed in a religion for years, who staked my life on that false belief and spent nine years studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood. I, more perhaps than many, realize the tortuous and difficult path from belief to unbelief. It is like casting off an addiction. It is to rethink everything.

Imagine if a society believed it acceptable to give alcohol and drugs to children as young as three and five and seven and nine and twelve? And yet, I submit, that is what we do in having children ‘imbibe the faith’. A nice word for indoctrination.

Religions indoctrinate children because if most sensible, rational and reasonable adults were to  first encounter the crazy doctrines of religion as an adult they would laugh and dismiss them without giving them another second’s thought.

So what would a Humanist Ireland look like? Equal access by all children to their local State-funded primary and second-level schools, with baptismal privilege abandoned as not only discriminatory but abusive of children’s innocent minds.

‘Email to ISIS’ by Michael Murphy is magnificent

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Michael Murphy, psychoanalyst and author of A Chaplet of Roses – Twenty-four Poems,  had a fascinating discussion on the RTE Radio 1 ‘Today’ Show with Sean O’Rourke on Monday 16 November. Hosted that day by Keelin Shanley, the 8-minute clip explores the Terror attacks in Paris and asks what drives people to carry out such attacks?

Five minutes into the clip, the peerless and regrettably former RTE newscaster reads from his ‘Email to ISIS’ in his new book. It is brave and sure, providing a brilliant synthesis, overview and critique of the insanity of dangerous religious ideas.

You can listen to the full eight-minute interview by clicking here which would be time very well spent but if you’re pressed for time, you can scroll forward to his extract from ‘Email to ISIS’ which begins five minutes into the clip.

I think it should be part of any religious studies syllabus in any school which truly wishes to educate rather than to indoctrinate pupils. Seminaries of all religions should regard is as compulsory reading too.

How better the world would be had its wisdom been known to the Crusaders, the Inquisition, Hitler, Stalin and of course the newest manifestation of intolerance and tyranny: ISIS.

The complete poem can be found in Michael Murphy’s new collection A Chaplet of Roses which is available in all good bookshops.