Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shelving the Life Skills Books

One of my more menial duties in the library is the shelving of the Life Skills collection of books. The Life Skills collection is actually two separate collections-- the Health and Well-Being collection, and the Study Skills collection. The Study Skills collection is a collection of books about essay-writing, study techniques, CV-writing, and so forth. The Health and Well-Being collection is a collection of books about physical and mental health, travel, cooking, and stuff like that.

Even though it's a menial and routine duty, I've found that this is one of my favourite jobs. Every time I shelve the Life Skills books, I fall into a strange, contemplative mood, one which I feel an urge to describe, but which is difficult to describe.

It's the nature of the books themselves that provoke this reaction. It's something I've tried to describe before on this blog; I wonder if it's of any interest or relevance to anyone besides me. But the itch of a scribbler is precisely to put into words these elusive but powerful impressions.

The Life Skills collection contains both books about depression and bereavement on the one hand, and books about desserts and foreign travel on the other. Somehow the combination of the two creates this contemplative, pleasant atmosphere.

Everything in human life, as I see it, is set against the ever-present shadow of mortality, failure, inadequacy, conflict, disease, and all the other things that afflict mankind. This might sound depressing. I guess it is, in a way. But in another way, it throws a brilliant light of contrast on everything pleasant, trivial, or even humdrum in life. The fact that anyone has time, money or inclination to bake a cake seems like a wonder-- a tiny planet gleaming in the void and darkness of space.

Even the dark stuff sometimes seems strangely affirmative to me. I tried to explain this in a recent post. Shelving books about bereavement, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and so forth, makes me think: "Well, these things exist, these things happen, but they're not the end of the world. There are books about them, with reassuring covers." And the fact that there are books about bereavement comforts me on another level, because nothing seems more brutal to me than the fact that, on a certain day, someone stops breathing and we simply put him or her in the ground, after a few hours of various rituals. It's good that we grieve. It's even good that we have to "work through" various things in life, because it shows we care, and that things matter, and that life is a big deal. The idea of a world of robots where everybody went about their business, or their pleasures, without nary a stumble, confusion, or backward look is my biggest nightmare.

There's a scene in the U.S. Office where Ryan, the selfish and narcissistic character played by B.J. Novak, is trying to blame past misdeeds on his former self-- "Ryan 1.0", as he says. "I think I never processed 9/11", he claims. I found this utterly hilarious, when I first saw it. I have a theory that part of the reason we find something very funny is because we find it pleasing-- usually in some way that is not immediately apparent to us. The idea that such a self-serving character might still be processing 9/11 so many years later was indeed strangely comforting to me. Even the fact that he thought of saying it is pleasing.

So I enjoy shelving the Life Skill books for this reason. But there's more to it than that. Somehow, it always puts me in the mood I describe in this post, which I wrote years ago-- a love, not only of the ordinary, but even of the banal.

I feel this atmosphere in very specific situations. Hotel and airport bathrooms, especially when they are filled with soft music. Discount home supplies stores. While watching (or thinking about) advertisements for music compilations, such as those that Telstar Records used to advertise on TV in the eighties. While reading about TV shows of previous decades, and thinking of all the living rooms they were beamed into, and all the families that occupied those living rooms. The sight of a city street as evening descends. The sit-com show Cheers

Often, because I'm a social and cultural conservative, I feel contemporary society is excessively banal and trivial, and doesn't do justice to the depths and grandeur of the human condition. But at other times-- or not even at other times, but often at the same time-- the human condition seems all too deep, all too grand, and there is something blessedly comforting about all that is banal, trivial and ephemeral. (As long as it is not crass-- but then again, crassness is in the eye of the beholder.)

Monday, April 24, 2017

"We Survived All That"-- the Banalization of Sex in Ireland, in One Video

This video makes me both sad and angry. It's a collection of clips from The Late Late Show, a long-running Irish chat show of which I have nostalgic memories, but which was at the forefront of liberalization in this country. These clips are all on the topic of sex, one way or the other.

Notice the sniggering, sneering attitude of the liberalizers. The conservatives try to talk seriously on the topic, but are relentlessly mocked.

Notice how, at one point, a pro-abortion woman argues that the beating of a child's heart on its own is meaningless and that the "minimum" that a child needs is (amongst other things) two parents. How liberalism marches on! You couldn't say that now.

"We survived all that" says the host, Gay Byrne, at the of the clip reel. But did we? There was still an Ireland of some kind, when all our traditional taboos had been laughed away. But what kind? And what was lost?

Of course, when sex is banalized, other things are banalized too-- marriage, romance, family, entertainment, and so many other things. It's not just a question of "what two people do in private". Whatever is whisper in privated will indeed be shouted from the rooftops, sooner or later.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

More Stupid Humour

I wrote this on Facebook. Again, I'm glad I saved it. The first verse is a standard Dublin kids' chant. I don't know how prevalent it is elsewhere.

Feel free to have a go yourself.

 
You Should Never Throw These People Off the Bus

You should never throw your granny off the bus
You should never throw your granny off the bus.
You should never throw your granny
'Cos she's your mammy's mammy
You should never throw your granny off the bus.

You should never throw Darth Vader off the bus
You should never throw Darth Vader off the bus
You should never throw Darth Vader
'Cos he'll just get you later
You should never throw Darth Vader off the bus.



You should never throw Dick Cavett off the bus
You should never throw Dick Cavett off the bus
You should never throw Dick Cavett
'Cos people just won't have it
You should never throw Dick Cavett off the bus.


You should never throw Obama off the bus
You should never throw Obama off the bus
You should never throw Obama
'Cos there'll be too much drama
You should never throw Obama off the bus.


You should never throw Will Wheaton off the bus
You should never throw Will Wheaton off the bus
You should never throw Will Wheaton
Cos he might just have eaten
You should never throw Will Wheaton off the bus

.
You should never throw Don Cheney off the bus
You should never throw Don Cheney off the bus
You should never throw Don Cheney
Cos things would just get zany
You should never throw Don Cheney off the bus.


You should never throw Bert Russell off the bus
You should never throw Bert Russell off the bus
You should never throw Bert Russell
Cos he'll just come back with Husserl
You should never throw Bert Russell of the bus.


You should never throw Neil Diamond off the bus
You should never throw Neil Diamond off the bus
You should never throw Neil Diamond
Cos he's likely to get violent
You should never throw Neil Diamond off the bus.

Another Jokey Poem

I wrote this several years ago. The ballade form is one that Chesterton and Belloc often used, jokingly. I wrote it on the day before New Year's Eve. I think I've posted it before but so what.

A Ballade of TV

I’ve grown quite tired of Kant’s philosophy
I do not feel a deep urge to recite
Icelandic sagas to my coterie.
I feel no very ardent need to write
A gloss upon the Areopagite.
And, although Maud invited me to see
A Noh play at her cousin’s place tonight
I’m going to stay at home and watch TV.

There’s a free lecture on Gallipoli
In the Polytech. East Timor’s sorry plight
Is the subject of a talk—admission free—
In the parish hall. An ancient Mayan rite
Is reconstructed for our town’s delight
In the Rovers clubhouse (there’ll be cakes and tea).
But all these cherries I refuse to bite;
I’m going to stay at home and watch TV.

Although I’m wild about astronomy
And Gemini is going to be more bright
Than any time since 44 AD
This evening, I’m indifferent to the sight.
And though I’m well aware it’s not polite
To snub my Auntie Mildred’s desperate plea,
“Come watch your uncle being made a Knight”
I’m going to stay at home and watch TV.

Envoi

Prince, you have lost all prospect of respite;
The mob howl for your blood relentlessly.
Now is the hour for all true men to fight;
I’m going to stay at home and watch TV.

Fiddle Dee Diddle Dee Dee

I wrote this about two years ago, on Facebook. I decided to save it. I'm glad I did. I think it's mildly amusing.
 
Fiddle Dee Diddle Dee Dee

Oh, I remember when sliced bread hit the shops
I said, "This will be something nothing ever tops".
Old, old, I feel so old
Fiddle-dee diddle-dee dee.

Oh I remember the bubonic plague
I was already in my middle age.
Old, old, I feel so old,
Fiddle dee diddle dee dee.

Oh, I remember the building of Stonehenge
I said, "My, my, how architecture has changed."
Old, old, I feel so old
Fiddle dee diddle dee dee.

Oh, I remember the pyramids being built
I said, "They're like the old ziggurats with a tilt".
Old, old, I feel so old
Fiddle dee diddle dee dee.

Oh, I remember the dinosaurs dying off
I said, "I predicted this, and how they did scoff"
Old, old, I feel so old
Fiddle dee diddle dee dee.

Oh, I remember the start of sexual reproduction.
I said, "I'm telling you, this will cause some ructions."
Old, old, I feel so old
Fiddle dee diddle dee dee. 


Oh, I remember that ole Big Bang
I said, "This is exactly how the last one began."
Old, old, I feel so old
Fiddle dee diddle dee dee.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina, intercede for us, and guide us towards the Divine Mercy of our Lord!


Sometimes it's said that people today have no sense of sin. I'm not so sure about that. I wonder if perhaps our sense of sinfulness is simply suppressed, or displaced, or projected onto other things. Perhaps what really keeps people away from the sacraments is not the feeling that they don't need them, but an incredulity that grace can be freely given. Certainly I find it hard to get my own head around this.

I have a Divine Mercy picture on my desk at work. I contemplate it far too seldom.

Happy St. George's Day

Happy St. George's Day to all my English readers!

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land.


Nigel Farage, beer, and fish and chips: quintessential Englishness!
  
Although my own favourite evocation of Englishness might be this passage from Chesterton, which I have so often quoted:

But Dickens in his cheapest cockney utilitarianism was not only English, but unconsciously historic. Upon him descended the real tradition of "Merry England," and not upon the pallid mediævalists who thought they were reviving it. The Pre-Raphaelites, the Gothicists, the admirers of the Middle Ages, had in their subtlety and sadness the spirit of the present day. Dickens had in his buffoonery and bravery the spirit of the Middle Ages. He was much more mediæval in his attacks on mediævalism than they were in their defences of it. It was he who had the things of Chaucer, the love of large jokes and long stories and brown ale and all the white roads of England. 

Sid James as Dick Turpin: quintessential Englishness!

 
Peter Hitchens looking indignant; quintessential Englishness!