Friday, October 28, 2011

Why I Am Conservative. And Not Conservative.

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided?

Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians

Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"

Gospel of Matthew

Is there any point in being a "conservative Catholic"? Do we "divide Christ" if we proclaim loyalty to a faction within the Church? If "conservative" means "orthodox", shouldn't an "orthodox Catholic" be a tautology? And if conservativism is something added to Catholicism, for instance a zeal for national traditions, is it extra-Christian and to be abhorred as a distraction?

How do we remember historical examples of hyphenated Christianities (so to speak)? The likes of muscular Christianity, and Christian socialism, and liberation theology? In retrospect, the companion term always seems like the more important of the two, and the Christianity like mere window-dressing.

And yet, I so often find (rightly or wrongly) that "Catholic" doesn't exhaustively describe my own worldview. There are things I am passionate about that (as far as I know) can't be rooted in the teaching of the Church; the defence of sentimentality and nostalgia and romanticism, for instance; a preference for rhymed poetry, and for films and books with a life-affirming message; politeness; chivalry; eccentricity; local colour; local accents and slang; a tenderness for monarchism.

But what are we to do with this term, "conservative"? Does it mean anything at all? As far as I can see, it has a bewildering range of meanings.

There are the people who call themselves conservative to indicate that they have been "mugged by reality"-- these are usually ex-liberals and ex-radicals. Once they had a rosy view of human nature, believing that society would blossom if only authority was relaxed and repression lifted. Now they know better, and place great weight upon the profit motive and tough policing and stern discipline in schools. They might well be strident atheists and scornful of all romantic ideas of patriotism and romantic love and childhood innocence.

There are the nationalists, who put the prestige of the home country above everything. For the sake of the fatherland, they may identify with a national religion, as seems to be happening in Russia today, when Orthodoxy has become a badge of revived Russian pride. But even moral codes often take a back seat to the defence or glorification of the flag, as with the defenders of torture in America.

There are the libertarian, anti-government conservatives. This type of conservative might well own a string of sex-shops and porn magazines, while smoking marijuana at all-night parties.

There is the "cultural standards" conservative, like the American critic Harold Bloom or his namesake Allen Bloom, writer of The Closing of the American Mind. They lament the decline of artistic and intellectual standards in Western society. They read Nietzsche, despise TV, probably hang around churches a lot without thinking religious considerations should impinge on their sex lives. They stopped being liberal when all the political correctness and multiculturalism began to seep into it.

In opposition to these anti-populists, there are the conservative populists who might be American talk show hosts or fans of Jeremy Clarkson. They consider themselves the voice of the people, dismiss poetry as boring, mock feminism, are passionate about their cars and their right to drive them as much as they like, are probably scathing about sex and violence on TV before the watershed ("I don't want my kids seeing this stuff!") but boast about watching it themselves.

There are the Tolkien-reading conservatives, who want to live in Middle-Earth and turn back the wheel of industrialism, go back to the land, restore monarchy, join a guild, and drink mead. (I am particularly sympathetic to these, in case I sound too facetious.)

There are the DH Lawrence conservatives, who want to turn back the wheel of industrialism, dance around the maypole, commune with nature, strip away the veneer of civilization, and liberate their bedroom urges to the fullest.

There are the "status quo" conservatives, like the Russian generals who made one last effort to save the Soviet Union in 1991.

There are the "steady as she goes" conservatives like Thomas Hobbes, who think social order is the most desirable of things, anarchy is always in danger of breaking out, and "whatever is, is right"-- better the devil you know.

And there are probably any number of others. But perhaps I have made my point.

And, despite all this, I call myself a conservative Catholic. Perhaps "traditionalist-romantic-sentimentalist-nostalgist-patriotic-idealistic-communitarian-agrarian-localist-monarchist Catholic" would be better.

But it takes longer to say.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Catholicism on Campus-- Not Exactly Vibrant...

I attended a talk organized by UCD's Newman Society yesterday evening. Billed as a talk on faith and science, it turned out to be a potted history of University College Dublin and its antecedent institutions, with some reference to Newman and the opposition to science-teaching by the Irish hierarcy of his time. Aside from the two academics who delivered the talk, there were three other attendees; the chap who organized it, a young lady, and myself. I was the only Irish person there.

I can't really criticize too much, since I haven't attended any of the talks given by the Newman Society, UCD's Catholic society, in my ten years of working in UCD's library. But from what I can see, the Christian student movement here is not exactly flourishing. It's a long way from C.S. Lewis's Socratic Society at Oxford, which regularly held debates featuring the best and brightest of unbelieving and believing minds. (Having said that, a debate on whether religion is a good or bad thing was held in UCD last night, organized by the Literary and Historical Society.)

I have occasionally attended Mass in the church at UCD, always on Holy Days of Obligation (the regular Mass is not at a time I can make). The congregation is usually of an encouraging size. Of course, people go to Mass for all sorts of reasons, not always out of religious conviction or commitment-- I suspect for many rural students it is a link to their way of life at home.

It is also worth noticing that, in a recent survey for the University Observer, three-quarters of UCD students polled were pro-choice on abortion. A few years ago about seventy per cent, in a survey by the same newspaper, affirmed a belief in God.

None of us need to be told that statistics and numbers mean little. The Pope has wisely re-echoed Jesus's words on the mustard seed in recent times, reminding us that the fidelity of the faithful is more important than their numerical weight. But if a Catholic revival is going to come about in this country, it is natural to look to the universities as its springboard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

T.S. Eliot on Capitalism and Christianity

I have just finished reading a slim book comprised of two lectures by T.S. Eliot, given just before the outbreak of the Second World War, entitled The Idea of a Christian Society.

C.S. Lewis was critical of Eliot's brand of Christianity, once writing in a letter to a friend: "What I am attacking is a set of people who seem to me to be trying to make of Christianity itself one more highbrow, Chelsea, bourgeois-baiting fad. T.S. Eliot is the single man who sums up the thing I am fighting against." (Later on, his view of Eliot grew warmer and they became rather friendly.)

It's easy to be suspicious of highbrow converts, to assume that they are simply seeking another intellectual hobby-horse or striking a pose. But what I've read of Eliot's writings on religion convince me his faith was very sincere and serious.

These two lectures contemplate what a modern society built upon Christian principles would look like. Eliot admits this seems a remote possibility; he even says, "In an industrialised society like that of England, I am surrpised that the people retains as much of Christianity as it does." In the years since the Second World War, the Christian colouring of European society has faded even more, so that the topic of these lectures may no longer seem of much relevance.

However, it is interesting to see how much of Eliot's criticism was reserved for plutocracy and the profit motive. Whoever styles himself as a Christian or a conservative, today, finds himself bracketed with the apostles of free enterprise and big business, under the banner of the "right wing". I have even argued with Catholics who considered the Church's teaching on the universal destination of goods, and the impossibility of relying on "market forces" to bring about social justice, as somehow being compatible with rampant commercialism.

It is worth quoting Eliot's closing words, in which he admits to a sense of "personal contrition, of humility, repentance and amendment" when he realised that English society had no positive philosophy of its own to match against fascism and communism:

We could not match conviction with conviction, we had no ideas with which we could either meet or oppose the ideas opposed to us. Was our society, which had always been so sure of its superiority and rectitude, so confident of its unexamined premisses, assembled around anything more permanent than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and industries, and had it any beliefs more essential than a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends?

I think the same criticism could apply to "Ireland PLC".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Godless Pulpit

Can you imagine someone who detested sport being given column inches in a sports supplement? Can you imagine someone who detested television and never watched it being appointed a television columnist? If a man declared he had no sense of humour, would you be keen on reading his musings upon comedy?

For the third time in a month or so, the Irish Times has opened its "Rite and Reason" column (which presumably is a religious column) to the chairman of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent. His latest piece appears today, and though I should at least acknowledge that it is written courteously and respectfully, he has nothing original or thought-provoking to say. It is yet another variation on the theory that faith is dangerous because it is irrational.

I don't really object to the Irish Times asking an atheist to contribute an article to the religious section. It is a valid outsider's perspective, perhaps even a gust of fresh air into a room grown stuffy with unexamined assumptions. But three in a matter of weeks?

Perhaps the editor would reply that Rite and Reason is not a column on religion per se-- that it is a space for reflection on ultimate questions, for "spirituality", for examining the deepest themes in human existence. And that would be all bosh. Because we all know that, once we come to that whole perspective on existence-- the perspective that comes from imaginatively stepping back and wondering what right anything has to exist, what value existence has in itself, what ultimate meaning we can attach to our life-- we are in the realm of religion, and atheism has nothing at all to say.

Those ultimate questions are questions that must be answered by faith, or not answered at all. Talk about the dignity of the human person, or about the transcendental, is pure poppycock from a non-religous perspective.

I fail to see what interesting contribution an atheist has to make upon religious matters, any more than someone who hated music might have anything interesting to say about music. We know what the atheist thinks, and we know why. Even if we consider it an untenable position, we can sympathise with it. The world seems to whizz along of its own accord. We have no television footage of angels or demons. Bad things happen. The atheist position is understandable. It is clear. But there is one thing that it's not. It's not deep. Once you have said that the universe has no meaning or purpose or guiding intelligence behind it, you really have nothing more to say on the subject of religion.

Personally, I would rather the secular media had no religious content at all, rather than asking religious voices to share a pulpit with the tiresome heckling of the godless.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All The Young Dudes

I have been re-reading a book I bought earlier this year, The Post-Christian Mind by Harry Blamires, published in 2001. Blamires is an Anglican and a former pupil of CS Lewis. He tries to write in the same cool, analytical style, but he lacks the Lewisian ability to get to the root of things.

As one of the Amazon reviews pointed out, his ideal of Christianity seems to be the Anglicanism of his youth-- a fault he shares with Peter Hitchens, another critic of modern liberalism and secularism.

Nevertheless, there are some admirable points made. In one chapter, "The old and the new", he questions whether "appealing to the youth" by (for instance) substituting rock music for traditional hymns is really the way to revive Christian worship in Britain:

Study photographs in the press of rows and rows of young people rapturously acclaiming the latest idol of the pop world. In that environment exultant youth abounds. But what about their elders? Where are they? The audience is all but devoid of them. Do we want to see this repeated in our churches? Do we want a brand of Christian worship from which mature men and women drop off in their thosuands as they grow into sober adulthood? It would seem that many of our clergy do. They appear not to have experienced what so many families know all about-- the way the adolescent who keeps a feverish eye on the pop charts and chases after the latest appropriate CDs and cassettes can develop into the classical music enthusiast when taste matures and childish things are put away.

As Pope Benedict said in a recent speech in Germany, "It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith".

I am always pleased to see young people who are passionate about their religious faith. I wasn't, at their age. There are many admirable virtues associated with youth-- generosity, exuberance, idealism (of a particular sort), optimism (again of a particular sort)-- but I tend to believe the deeper virtues come with age. Just as infants love bright colours and sweet tastes, only coming to prefer more subtle sensations as they mature, so young people's view of life can err towards the obvious. It is the obvious mistake to assume that religion is simply make-believe and a kind of conspiracy of self-delusion; Thomas Aquinas (or so I have read) begins his proofs of God's existence by asking, "Is there a God? It would seem not." It is the obvious mistake to assume that the individual knows what is best for him and the restraints of tradition and community are shackles; only in later life do we realize they are liberating. It is the obvious mistake to assume that maturity is becoming less child-like (as teenagers do), and not becoming more child-like (as middle-aged people do when they learn not to roll their eyes at the prospect of building snowmen or bonfires). Youth is the first thought; but first thoughts are rarely best.

Of course we should preach the Gospel to youth. But we should never pander to youth.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meatless Fridays back in Britain

You may have heard that the Bishops' Conference in Britain and Wales has brought back the obligation of Catholics abstaining from eating meat on Friday; or, as they more accurately put it, "to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance...[and to] the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat." Because, of course, the requirement of Friday penance was never actually revoked.

Along with many more traditionally-minded Catholics, I would very much be in favour of re-introducing meatless Fridays for Catholics in Ireland. I have observed it myself, with occasional exceptions, for the last year and more.

Nothing seems to provoke the ridicule of the secular world more than this practice. I seem to remember an episode of Father Ted where Father Dougal wonders aloud what happened to all the people who ate meat on Fridays, now that the requirement has been revoked. Do they get out of hell? There seems to be some vague idea that Catholics view meat as something intrinsically sinful, or fish as something intrinsically virtuous, or that Catholic priests are akin to tribal witchdoctors who attempt to sway their gods with various arbtirary chants or dances or rites.

Of course, the practice is in fact a lot more human than supernatural. It is entirely human to make some small sacrifice or gesture in order to demonstrate loyalty or solidarity. A few weeks ago I saw a young man at a bus-stop wearing a scarlet A badge, which is an atheist symbol modelled on the scarlet letter worn by the adulteress in the Nathanial Hawthorne novel. If even atheists, who usually affirm a loyalty to scientific rationalism (although...should science really need us to believe in it or be loyal to it?), have recourse to such symbols, what is so strange about it?

We wear t-shirts proclaiming our favourite bands and movies. We display bumper stickers or even registration plates announcing our belief in some cause or another. We even make a statement when we name our pets or our houses. If our faith is the most important fact about us, as it should be, than it should seep into these symbolic acts of everyday life.

But it goes deeper than that. It is a part of human nature that small commitments often encourage greater commitments. This phenomenon is used by new religious movements (I am not so politically incorrect as to call them cults) and by charities (sometimes rather cult-ish themselves). They will offer a free badge or sticker or flower to passers-by, and then later on, hit those displaying it with a request for donations. On the logic of "in for a penny, in for a pound", more people will comply if they have accepted the freebie.

Making a little gesture every Friday, no matter what else is going on in our lives, is a constant reminder of the most important commitment we have.

Christ warned us against ritualism, but was himself scrupulous in observing the requirements of the Law. The Jews of Jesus's time were ensnared in legalism, and Christianity and Catholicism may often have veered in the same direction. I think that today we err in quite the opposite direction. The shadow of Luther still hangs over us, and even informs the religious sensibilities of Catholics; we tend to believe that religion is a matter of "inwardness", of states of mind and emotion, and we forget that it belongs just as much to the public world of behaviour and interaction; that it belongs to the everyday as much as visits to cathedrals when on holiday.

William Oddie, writing in the Catholic Herald, put it very well:

The point, of course, is not simply that we abstain from meat on Friday (if we do) as a personal devotion: it is that we once did it, and soon will once more, out of obedience to the authority of the Church: it was once, and, deo gratias, will be again, a constant reminder that once we have taken the initial choice of committing ourselves to being Catholics in the first place, we are under obedience; and that it is that obedience that holds us together as a people.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Right-Wing Anglican Columnist? Seriously?

I'm a big fan of Peter Hitchens (not a Catholic but a staunch defender of Christianity; his Abolition of Britain and Rage Against God are amongst my favourite books.) He blogs on the Mail Online website. There is a list of his fellow Daily Mail bloggers to the right of his articles, and I was surprised to see one of bloggers had the title "Reverend".

Surprised-- I would have expected that any Anglican clergyman would be blogging for the Guardian, not the Daily Mail-- I clicked on the link. (Apologies for not reproducing it here; I'm having trouble with hypertext, for some reason.)

I found myself reading strident passages like this:

If the BBC is truly serious about its intentions to make cuts and save money, then it could make a small start by scrapping that fatuous three minutes’ slot on The Today Programme known as Thought for the Day. It’s a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act, for a start; because there is rarely any thought in it. What we have instead is a parade of cliché-struck clergy coming on to make anodyne amateur statements about secular, mostly political, affairs of which they have not the remotest understanding beyond what they have just been told by The Guardian’s leader column.

He also attacks anti-capitalist demonstrators, people who text on the street (he boasts about knocking the offending device from one texter's hand), and social welfare.

I'm not sure I don't prefer the bicycle-clips-and-CND-badge type of vicar. Christians are constantly being pegged as shrill, intolerant, reactionary Colonel Blimps by their enemies. Of course there is a danger in becoming apologetic and sheepish about the Faith, and trying to cram its doctrines into the strait-jacket of political correctness.

But the other danger-- the danger of playing to the stereotype and attacking everything the liberal left values, such as social welfare, or even good manners when it intersects with political correctness-- is just as much to be avoided. I know, because I fell into that pit myself for a while.

Christianity can't be contained in the squabbles between left and right, and it isn't a weapon in a culture war. And besides, the world is a better place for programmes like Thought for the Day (though I've never heard it) and the much-missed (by me) A Prayer at Bedtime on RTÉ. Our world has so little gentleness these days, that even a little inspidness is not to be despised.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dana's tyres slashed?

Even after reading some of the vitriol on the internet directed towards those of Dana's religious and political persuasion, it's hard to believe that the animosity could really reach such murderous levels as to slash her campaign car's tyres and almost make it crash, as per today's news reports.

From the moment she threw her hat into the ring Dana had my vote. But I'm actually thinking of giving Michael D. Higgins a second preference-- only because I would rather a poet, even a free verse poet, as our President, rather than a businessman. The Presidency should be occupied by someone of some cultural and intellectual standing, and modern Ireland has become far too infatuated with the marketplace. Why should we admire people whose primary occupation is to push goods and services on people who don't need them? I think the Irish need to regain some of the snobbery (or perhaps wariness is a better word?) with which we viewed commerce, in previous decades.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Father Ramboola Conundrum..."

I have been thinking recently about Father Ted, the Channel 4 comedy starring Dermot Morgan and Ardal O'Hanlon, from back in the nineties. When it was first broadcast it provoked a fair amount of controversy. Arthur Matthews and Graham Linehan, the writers, denied they had any animus against the Catholic Church, but as I remember Dermot Morgan was rather more gleeful about the opportunity to pelt the institution.

I loved Father Ted when it came out, and I like it still, though it's some time since I watched it. The third series was a let-down, plunging too far into zaniness, but the whole programme, though not really a satire, was fiendishly perceptive of the quirks within Irish life, and even the Church. At one point, I remember, Father Ted asks Father Dougal how he actually became a priest, and whether it was a result of collecting a certain amount of crisp packets. In another scene, Father Dougal tells a TV journalist "I don't even believe in organized religion". Unfortunately, it's quite easy to imagine a certain kind of Irish priest boasting that he doesn't believe in organized religion.

But then again, the show could also make fun of anti-clericalism. There was the episode featuring the radical feminist pop singer, more than a little reminiscent of Sinead O'Connor, putting forth some bizarre theory about the Church closing the "potato factories" during the Irish famine and turning them into prisons for children. The TV presenter Henry Sellers, during a bout of drunkenness, cries "Priests! Ruined my life!", and since this is being played for laughs I imagine the show is here satirising Irish people who automatically blame the Church for everything, especially when drunk.

Even though some priests were shown as baboon-like, degenerate or even psychopathic, the whole thing was too surreal to really seem like a concerted attack. And is it my imagination or did the show seem to become more affectionate as it went on? After all, there is something very peaceful about the parish house on Craggy Island, even with the tacky Jesus rug hanging over the couch. The whole set-up has an air of the idyllic about it, with all the islanders knowing each other, the local cinema manager giving priests half-price concessions, and an underlying air of leisureliness.

I remember in one episode, Father Ted quotes the famous closing passage of James Joyce's short story The Dead, while holding vigil over (what he thinks is) a dead Father Jack. This also rang true to life to me. It is quite easy to imagine an Irish priest quoting classic literature in such a situation. It seems to me that Father Ted actually painted a picture of a more cultured, leisured and innocent society, and to that extent it was somewhat pro-Catholic, even despite itself.

Monday, October 17, 2011

God on the Irish Times letters page

I regularly read the Irish Times letters page (online). There are often exchanges about religion, and it must be said that Catholics and other believers have been good at weighing in to them and making powerful arguments.

Today there is a response from a Dr. Hugh J Masterson of Colorado to a recent article by Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland—the article claiming that humankind invented gods to plug the gaps of their scientific ignorance. The whole letter can be found here. It concludes:

Regarding the invention of religion, the first sentiment of the human person is a desire for something “greater”, not fear, which comes from the possibility of losing the object of desire. Therefore humans, before being inventors of religion, are fundamentally religious beings, as history attests.

This seems to me a crucial point. You may argue that belief in God is deluded, but to treat it as some kind of hypothesis amongst other hypotheses, which can simply be extracted from the human psyche and leave the rest of its furnishings intact and standing, seems unwarranted. Is it any coincidence that, historically, we tend to characterise cultures first and foremost by their religion? We think of Osiris and Horus when we think of Ancient Egypt, or the Olympians when we think of ancient Greece, or Hinduism when we think of India, or Calvinism when we think of the Dutch Golden Age. The Cathecism of the Catholic Church seems justified in calling man “homo religiosus.”

The puzzle is how some people seem to be genuinely uninterested in religion, or even in religious speculation. Of course, I don’t mean the card-carrying atheists and anti-theists, since their preoccupation shows obvious signs of repression. I mean those who seem neither hostile nor friendly. Whether a whole society can maintain such indiference in the long-term is an interesting question—the future development of our post-Christian Europe should provide the answer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Why I Am Setting Up This Blog

A few months ago I closed my previous blog, Practicing to be Catholic, explaining in my final post that I worried about our society's increasing addiction to technology. I worried about the things we lose (or at least, weaken) when computers, televisions, MP3 players and mobile phones are everywhere; silence, patience, the meaningfulness of time and space, the erosion of interpersonal interactions like story-telling, ballad-singing and the swapping of comics.

I still feel those anxieties. And I'm still determined to die without ever having read an e-book.

But I think there is a role for blogs. And, when it comes to Catholic life in Ireland, perhaps even a need for them.

The Church and the faith is under unprecedented media and popular attack-- all over the Western world, but especially in Ireland. (The American Catholic commentator and biographer of John Paul II, George Weigel, recently described Ireland as the "epicentre of European anti-Catholicism".) Scrutiny and questioning of institutions is healthy, but the kind of relentless hostility the Church faces-- from journalists, politicians, teachers, university professors, comedians, rock musicians, and barstool philosophers-- comes close to villification.

Nor is the assault confined to the secular world. Self-described Catholics-- all too often, even priests-- attack the dogmas and truths that the Holy Spirit has revealed to its pilgrim Church over two thousand years of discernment, persecution and prayer. There is a widespread consensus amongst the chattering classes that the oldest institution in the world-- and one which has survived through fidelity to its mission and message-- must undergo radical change.

There are too few voices raised in loyalty to the teaching of the Church's Magisterium; so few, I feel justified in launching yet another blog into cyberspace. (Also, I can't believe nobody has named a blog Irish Papist yet.) In fact, the immediate stimulus was an RTE programme I heard mere hours ago, in which Charlie Bird interviewed various (carefully selected) Catholic commentators who all agreed that institutional change (oh deliciously vague word, change!) was imperative. The usual attacks upon the Vatican and the "clerical mindset" ensued.

The media, politics and the advertising industry are all dedicated to flattering their audience. The problem with voter apathy never lies with the voters, but with politicans. Advertisers tell us we "deserve" pampering with skin lotions or weekend breaks or visits to a beauty parlour. Even in everyday life, this mentality holds sway. If you admit that you are terrible at mathematics or history, your listener invariably assures you that "you must have had a bad teacher in school".

Similarly, if there is a problem with the Chuch, the blame must lie with the institutions-- not with the sinners, you and I, who perpetually fail to live up to our Christian vocations.

The humility of GK Chesterton-- who famously responded to a newspaper's request to write on the question "What's wrong with the world?" with the two words, "I am"-- seems conspiciously absent in our own society.

The idea in this blog is to provide a rapid and rolling response to the many attacks on the Church in Ireland. Will I have the time and patience to stick to that plan? To quote St. Paul, "I do not know; God knows". But I'm going to give it a go. I hope you join me for the ride, and don't hestitate to chip in!