DAY 145: Wild and beautiful

September 17th, 2015 § 0 comments

What is this ‘Europe’ that everyone is trying to get into, and why? What does it stand for? Many years ago, when de Gaulle was keeping us (that’s the UK) out, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to get in, who wanted to take refuge there? Who would have thought that the day would come when the frontier of ‘Europe’ was a barbed-wire fence between Hungary and Serbia?2BBBCA1400000578-3214012-image-a-1_1440756019515

‘Europe’, readers, is still an imaginary entity in search of an identity. [No, don't go all post-modern on me and say well aren't we all - or refer to the lost whole object. This is politics, not psychoanalysis or media studies.] Is it about Beethoven, football, song contests? Does it matter that a substantial number of its citizens are Muslim, or even Jewish or Buddhist or animist? Is it still Europe when the Saudis build 200 mosques in Germany?

I put it to you, readers, that if the past three weeks have taught us anything – and the jury’s still out on that – it’s that Europe, whose definition has been pretty shaky for the last thirty years since it started admitting dodgy countries like Macedonia while threatening to expel Greece, which invented Europe with the story of Europa the rape-victim, 1508is going to have to redefine what it’s all about. Is it even necessary that there should be such an entity?

Before the Berlin Wall came down, some of you may remember, there was an imaginary country called ‘Germany’. It was made up of East and West Germany, and existed for the purposes of sports only. Its national anthem was Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy‘, and stated that all men would become brothers.In despair, I should like to make the following proposals:

1. That Europe should be abolished, and replaced by a country called ‘Joy’.

2. That Joy should have no borders, and all men/women should be brothers and sisters in it.

3. That its national anthem should be the ‘Ode to Joy’ as above.

I’d better start a Facebook petition in favour of the idea, though 50,000 signatures aren’t as good as a barbed-wire fence.

As for the news of my week, never able to resist a stroll through the West End in a good cause, there I inevitably was last Saturday heading down Park Lane from Marble Arch (were you there, reader?) in the belief that this would make a point about the need precisely to do away with borders and open our hearts and our land to refugees. Some might have put it in less idealistic terms, but there was a lot of such thinking around. A good start when, having stood around in a circle near the Arch in silence for about an hour with fifteen quakers (tough on one’s balance), a cheer from a nearby clump of trees indicated that someone had heard of a Corbyn victory – nay, a landslide.

However, if my new friends imagined that from there on it would be a walk in the park, they had forgotten the role of the dialectic, which is always tripping us up. After a weary two hours, I was most cheered to find a message which was clearly for me, and not about asylum at all:

12009758_10200726839410986_4861302698165571246_nBeing nearly at the end of my life, I realized that I needed to merge, as always, the personal and the political. – and make sure that the time left was indeed wild and precious. Suggestions always welcome.

But before meandering on, I should give the whole poem from which the question is taken – it’s by Mary Oliver:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Indeed, only a few hours into my (and yours, reader) wild and precious life the Facebook crowd were already buzzing with the news of ISIS hordes massing on the Hungarian border. Refugees carrying ISIS flags were attacking police, it seemed, and waving ISIS flags. Of course the photo didn’t show what it claimed to show, and was three years old. One should simply stop paying any attention to Facebook – particularly when such pictures claim to have 50,000 views. Are these generated by machine? 63,697,577 people (that’s more than the population of the UK) like Beyoncé’s current status photo. How many of them are her friends? If I were David Cameron I’d worry about the probability that they’ll all get on a virtual train and apply for virtual asylum banksy-paddington-bear-a4-photo-print-127192-p[ekm]337x449[ekm]from wherever they live.

We’ve had a poem; and for music, I propose to you some more of the Ninth Symphony – the third movement, played by the West-East Divan under Barenboim. A sort of example of Europe meets not-Europe, which makes my point if I have one.

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