Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The big Five-O

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

AS the big Five-O looms and gets closer and closer – the half-century – I cannot believe the computation of years. How could it be? Eighteen years living at home, a student until my late twenties, five years’ teaching, seventeen years working as a writer,  journalist and editor. Meeting my wife, the love of my life; fathering our children – the eldest now as tall (or could he be taller?) as me. The house built, the books written, the trees planted. The jobs done: Irish Times columnist, managing editor for Ireland of a publishers, chair of Irish PEN. The high points, the low points; the joys and the sorrows.

Our life tasks change. Time is more precious. Love alone makes sense of it all.

I’ve finished my memoir. Hardest thing I’ve ever written. And it was like a different person writing it, looking back at a younger self. I’ve the distance of age now to laugh at the young man’s follies and delusions. But it was so difficult going back there, revisiting insights, transitions, decisions delayed, decisions taken. Fear and risk at play in me.

Looking back, I saw the patterns, the traps, the seeming security and the terror of taking a risk confident only in my raw gut and trusting it, and outgrowing the need for others to agree or confirm or verify.

I’m writing a play. And I’ve written a short story.

What would I do if I’d only a year to live? Or a month? Or one day? I know I’d spend some of it writing.

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.