Posts Tagged ‘music’

Norah Casey The Meaning of Life

Monday, November 5th, 2012

That was a very moving final episode of the current series of Gay Byrne’s (RTE 1 television ) The Meaning of Life in which Gaybo interviewed Norah Casey, one year after the sad and sudden death of her beloved husband. It was touching, sad, honest, true and insightful, marred only by Gaybo’s cultural conditioning within Catholicism and seeming inability to transcend that limited and relatively recent (loopy) worldview. However, he remains a master of his broadcasting craft, verging on the peerless in fact. And I’m pretty sure I saw his eyes well up too at the raw grief evident still of Norah’s sad loss. It is true that Catholicism offers tools to help deal with grief – whether rattling off rosaries like a mantra, or the music and colour of the requiem mass. It’s just a pity that it often seems to hijack the human inevitability of death, as if the Catholic way is the only language of handling death when it clearly isn’t. And when, as is the case now, increasing numbers of people no longer believe in Catholic dogmas – happily – it can leave people floundering for an alternative rite of passage which is meaningful for post-Christians/unbelievers. True, humanists offer secular funeral services but as yet not so many people know about these. And Catholics have the advantage of dry/warm/sheltered church buildings in which to hold ceremonies for the bereaved. I wonder if they are sufficiently ‘catholic/universal’ to allow non-Catholics or former Catholics to shelter there from the elements on cold, rainy days to conduct secular funerals for bereaved fellow humans? Finally, Gaybo mentioned he’d never been present at anyone’s death and Norah seemed surprised. I was lucky/privileged enough to be present at the death of my father and my father-in-law, profound experiences both. Regardless of one’s religious/secular worldview, death is the one thing that unites us all. Each of us must die. How appalling that some religious people exclude people, even in death. It is not long ago that unbaptized infants could not be buried in ‘consecrated’ cemeteries and when crazy religious thinking  deemed such infants left to fester in ‘Limbo’. What unmitigated nonsense was taught to us and we, with our brains parked somewhere other than inside our heads, believed such waffle.

Do it today!

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Today is all we’ve got. The past is gone and we may not have a future. All we ever have is now. This moment. Let’s live in this moment. I’m thankful for this fleeting second. That I exist. That I live. That I breathe. That I express. I’m thankful for music and birdsong, for language and technology, for my wife and son and daughter. I’m grateful for this moment, for this transitory opportunity to ground myself and come into the present. Today is full of possibility. Today, we can create. We can express. We choose. We decide. We create ourselves anew. We are masters of our fate. We choose our thoughts and, so choosing, make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven. Let us also be thankful for ourselves, and not be shy about it. Let us be ourselves today. Be different. Imagine if you had died already (death will come far quicker than any of us realize) and you were given an opportunity to come back and live just one more day. What would you do? Do it today!


Thursday, September 8th, 2011

What is it about music that takes us places? It operates on us, eases us, connects. It works at the level of mood, transforming us, lifting us, telling us we’re not alone. It touches feelings, assures us of continuity. Reminds us of people, gets us right back there. It captures us. It’s a reservoir of memory, feeling, time. The predictability of a melody maybe assures us, or fools us, of the comfort of the familiar. Dillon reigns supreme. Van Morrison is way up there too. U2. And the Beatles. And classical music.

Post-theism when the crowd still applauds the Emperor

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Since ‘coming out’ as a non-believer, a post-theist, a person who has outgrown religious faith, I have had to stop writing two columns I used to write in Reality, published by the Redemptorist Publications.  I have been writing for the magazine for I think about 14 years. I particularly loved writing the Soul Food Restaurant column. I have found it a real challenge. The very fine editor, Father Gerry Maloney, a great guy, had asked me to write it. I found it a privilege and a challenge. Could I write something that was true to me and which also struck a chord and made sense or was even inspiring to people with religious faith? It seems I succeeded as that column ran for quite a while and I presume it would have continued to do so had I not, having completed my book, realised that I really had gotten off the fence and had come down very much on the side of post-religious-belief or unbelief or post-theism or whatever you want to call it. As I came towards the end of the second complete draft of the book I have been writing, I became uncomfortable writing for Reality or any magazine that seeks to perpetuate or propagate religious faith.

I identify with the boy who recognised that the Emperor had no clothes and yet, unlike the fable, when the boy shouts aloud that the Emperor is naked, so many people persist in seeing him as clothed. I, too, of course, was part of that crowd. Like them, I had often heard boys in the crowd shout that the Emperor was naked. Why, I ask myself, did I then go on believing? While I was a seminarian, my livelihood depended on it. If your mortgage and livelihood is tied up in a product and someone tells you it doesn’t work, it’s fake, there’s a better product, a better, truer, way of living, the person dependant on that product for their livelihood is unlikely to agree. Then there’s the herd instinct, the lemmings effect. Sure, a boy in the crowd is shouting ‘He’s starkers!’ But so many other people go on seeming to believe that we disregard the voice of reason. But why? It could also be the seeming comfort of religion. We don’t want to acknowledge that this is all we have. That we won’t survive our own death. That there is no life for us after our death. That death really is the end. And yet matter does not cease to exist. We will feed a tree or the crawly things of the earth. And our work may live on after us, be it in architecture, music, art, literature or the electronic ether. And if we have loved and been a good enough parent, our loved ones will, for a time, remember us and be, hopefully, the happier for having been loved by us. And then there are those whose moralities are so bound up in their religions that they fear there would be no point in being good and no reward system were their religious faith to be superseded by a humanist viewpoint, an adult viewpoint. They fear they might have no reason to be good. Yet goodness is its own reward. Choosing well ennobles us. Ethical living makes life sweet for us as for others.

I do not believe in god. I see the indoctrination of children into religious faith as intellectual abuse. I was so abused. It damages thinking and it warps one emotionally.