Saturday, 19 September 2009

Talking like

Avast there, me hearties, ‘tis the International Talk Like a Pirate Day today (Saturday 19 September). Shiver me timbers. The eyepatch keeps slipping so I can’t keep on writing in this vein. Of all the worthy international days that overfill the calendar, this is probably the unworthiest and perhaps the most fun.

From Treasure Island to Pirates of the Caribbean, pirates make a good swashbuckling story. The reality was certainly more dark and bloody and modern-day piracy of all kinds is nothing to celebrate. However, it’s fun to talk like a pirate and even to image who you would make walk the plank. I have got a little list!

However, some international days are much more demanding because they challenge us to actually change the way we speak and act for good (Didn’t you just know it would turn serious). So two days later, 21 September, is the UN International Day of Peace which for the churches is also the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

I certainly find it easier to talk pirate than talk peace. But if we really do want to give peace a chance then someone has to learn to talk and act peace. And it really does need to be us, all of us.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Disrespectful idealisation

I don’t know why but over the past few weeks I’ve become conscious of the fact that the world is now only populated with wonderful people, apart from a few monsters. Every death, every retirement, every occasion where people pay tribute that I’ve come across has demonstrated this to me. No one was or is less than perfect.

Why are we finding it so difficult to respect and honour people for what they actually are or have been? To do justice to them, not some idealised, airbrushed image?

Remembering back to a time when I frequented funerals (in a pastoral capacity, I hasten to add), there was a loving realism about the way in which people spoke of the deceased. They recollected times when that person had proved to be all too human, even laughing at their foibles. They were mourning a real person whom they had known and loved, not a perfected construction of their imagination. The trend to idealisation is neither healthy for those who have to work through their grief nor respectful of the person.

The other day I almost choked on my cup of tea as I read what had been said about someone I knew reasonably well. Some things were truthfully said, and it was right to say them. Some other things were manifestly exaggerated if not actually untrue. I cannot imagine how they were said even with tongue firmly in cheek and fingers crossed. How was that respectful of the person to whom tribute was being paid when most of those gathered would have known the reality? Would it not have been better to stick with the things that properly and deservedly could be said?

So it was with a sense of relief that I watched and read the tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy. A realism both about his personal flaws and his political achievements. That was respect.