Mankind has always communicated with the gods using virtual systems. Prayer and meditation have their basis in introspection. The pandemic obliges if not compels the faithful into remoter collaboration than is normal. I heard a Catholic priest on the radio this morning talking about the sermons he’s giving from his empty churches to a home based congregation. I could accuse his interviewer of trying to make it sound like something new but I know he’s smarter than that. We know that religious broadcasts were scheduled almost as soon as radio was invented and they have enabled a diaspora of sick, elderly and migrated to maintain their worships even if not in co-located flocks. Bells have long served to broadcast the time of day and the times of prayer. Loudspeakers call the faithful to prayer more frequently than to assembly. It’s nothing new to worship and receive instruction and guidance at home but perhaps some think it’s unsavoury to be using a business or entertainment device to commune with their god. Could it be that the computer isn’t as impersonal or trusted a device as a radio or a TV? Thinking between Easter and Ramadan, perhaps there’s a worry that computer is listening too?
I wonder if all eight of the men who own more than the poorest 50% of the world will still be alive at the end of this pandemic? Will the Gates Foundation still focus its largesse on climate change and if yes, will it be solving problems better than the Ford Foundation when they thought population growth was the challenge best suited for their philanthropy? The 1970’s mass sterilisations in India were shameful; the one kind, irreversible, would prevent women ever giving birth and the other increasing the food supply with one-time hybrid seeds. Some of these ‘charitable’ foundations have bigger budgets than globally funded and managed organisations like WHO. Yet there’s no accountability. No real oversight. There’s a New Yorker article by Larissa MacFarquhar from 2016 that’s worth a read if this is new to you. Did you ever enjoy any Sackler sponsorship of the arts and galleries? I did so I guess you could say I profited from addictive opioids without antidote. Weak governance is a recurring bête-noir.
The Mountains to Sea Book Festival was scheduled for late March and was cancelled. The 2020 Dalkey Book Festival (DBF) in June has been postponed. I know we are lucky to live where two such literary events can co-exist in normal years.
I missed the DBF last year and found the podcasts helpful. I bet you can find some interesting podcasts to feed your rational mind, either from 2019 or before. Names you know: Pinker, Fisk, Enright, Ondaatje, Shafak, Sands, Sanders, Barry, Gambon, Gladwell, Shriver and many, many more that are worth a listen as you walk around your home.
One of the venues used by the Dalkey Book Festival is Dillon’s Park overlooking Dalkey Island, itself just a few hundred metres across Dalkey Sound, a waterway that should be treated with respect as this article reminds us.
We were sitting there while we waited for an event a few years ago. It was a balmy summer’s day. Like those days when we were kids, myself and my cousin, fast and constant companions. We were free to go fishing around these parts for mackerel. We used frame-spooled lines with feathers as lure and camouflage for the hooks. One summer, we found lead guttering offcuts which we duly melted in a saucepan on the kitchen cooker. Then we cast fishing-line weights in mud moulds in a flower bed. We presumed we were allowed take our grand-parent’s clinker-built rowing boat out from time-to-time. So we did. We often untied it during the ebbing tide because we could cross the harbour in knee deep water rather than deal with the spate of higher tides. And then out into The Sound we’d go.
Imagine two nine year-olds, sitting side-by-side, finding it hard to coordinate the rowing of the full-sized boat against the rip tides. We once found ourselves being pushed past the island and out to the sea in Killiney Bay. Tiny and puny in those days before life jackets were affordable, we learned rowing against the flow was exhausting. We knew to bail any incoming water because it made the boat too heavy to manoeuvre just like we knew to never stand up and never, ever lose a rowlock or slightly worse, an oar, overboard. And we’d discovered that if we waited for the tide to turn, we’d get back to the harbour, however tired and wet. Our grandmother used to warn us to be especially careful because one of her brothers had drowned right there, pointing wistfully towards the Maiden’s Rock. The drowning was during the nine year reign of King Edward VII.
Sometimes her brother died in 1905, other times it was 1906 or 1907. And if her sisters were there, as often they were, they’d bicker about the year and that’s how we’d learn new things about a family of fourteen siblings reduced by childhood diseases, drowning, The Great War (always in hushed tones for two lost brothers), the Spanish flu (both parents and at least three more siblings) and a 1929 crash (retold in horrific, gory detail), leaving just four septuagenarian sisters when we went to sea.