Saturday, 23 May 2015

Are they now extinct...?

Are true Conservatives a thing of distant memory?  Have they died out completely?  Where are men like Baron Hailsham who wrote in 1963:

Our country is being destroyed before our eyes by a conspiracy of intellectuals without faith, delinquents without honour, muckrackers without charity or compassion, young men who are incapable of dreaming dreams, and old men who have never known what it is to see visions.  In the  public life of today a public man is mocked when he speaks about patriotism....

A cynical sneer greets references to honour and integrity in political as in business affairs.... And if someone by any chance says he believes in a healthy family life as the foundation of civilisation or backs the traditional Christian ethic on sex and morals we hear an awful lot of nonsense about the need for tolerance and charity in allowing the young to be taught to do as they please, and in allowing them to be kept in ignorance about the inevitable and disastrous consequences of doing so, when the squalid consequences  of their doing so are being played out daily in Parliament and the Courts.

Quintin Hogg: 'National Excellence' (Conservative Political Centre, 1963)


We plod on, staggering ever forward into the nightmare around us. Somehow I'm reminded of Joshua and Caleb when they set out with the other spies to see the Promised Land.  Only they came back with anything approaching optimism and trust in the Lord, the other spies were overwhelmed with what they saw before them in the tribes of Canaan that were inhabiting their land.  And as the tribes of Canaan, in the spiritual sense of scripture, can represent the seven deadly sins, then we too must take heart :

Be not rebellious against the Lord: and fear ye not the people of this land, for we are able to eat them up as bread. All aid is gone from them: the Lord is with us, fear ye not. 

Numbers 14:9

There is no politics on this earth that can save us.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Song of Songs

Whilst it is still available, I recommend that you listen to John Berger talking about "song" on Radio 3. The programme has been just about the best thing I've heard in years and the relevant bit that I want to write about starts 6 minutes in and lasts for about 24 minutes.

It should be available on the following link for another week or so:

The piece is about how song is experienced; its timelessness, the way it takes over the body, the way songs "lean forward" into the future in a way that poetry, prose and painting cannot.  As I was driving home listening to this and utterly mesmerised by Berger's beautiful prose, I couldn't help thinking that what he could have been describing was the Mass.  Now Berger is a Marxist Humanist and was certainly not describing the Mass, but to write so beautifully about "common" song, so much so that he could have been describing the Mass has inspired in me a week of idle thoughts and deeper meditations, which due to tiredness on my part are only half formed.

Is not the Mass our ultimate "Song of Songs"?  Is not the essence of Mass a timeless love song between the Lover and the beloved?  It is not a narrative.  It is not a piece of prose.  It is certainly more than poetry. Let me present to you a few of the ideas in John Berger's piece [with my thoughts in square brackets] and I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions....

  • To be successful, prose requires a shared language.  Sadly, too often this is something  that we no longer have, it is almost the defining element of our age that we cannot communicate with each other in prose because at a deep level because we've lost a common heritage.  Song transcends this.  We can be in communion with each other whilst experiencing the same song even if we do not understand the language of the song or its context.
  • A very memorable quote from the programme: 'The rich listen to song, the poor cling to it and make it their own.'  [Blessed be the poor in spirit... we have to get away from the "rich" experience of the Mass which is little more than listening "and cling to" the Mass "and make it our own".... surely this is genuine "active participation"?]
  • Pictures contain a presence.  Songs contain an absence, a separation, and as we listen we experience a shared absence.  Yet this absence becomes a triumph, usually mild, usually covert... the song takes us over and "encloses" us. [Isn't this the essence of our Judaic heritage?]
  • Song is not primarily intellectual or emotive but organic.  We find ourselves inside the message of the song, the song wraps its arms around us.  We become self-contained. Songs are about "being and becoming", they are part of the body.
  • Each song is like a river and all rivers flow into the sea; the "immense elsewhere" as Berger calls it.  Where the river meets the sea is called the mouth of the river. Berger makes the comparison to the importance of the mouth in a song. [And I can't help thinking of the importance of the mouth in Communion]