DAY 245: Lamentations

May 7th, 2018 § 0 comments

My mind has been running, as minds do run, when it hasn’t been obsessed with royal


babies or hostile environments or the impending departure of the King of the Emirates- for where ? on the strange work known as the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah, which every day as more populous cities are abandoned and sit lonesome like widows, seems more relevant. Aside from the fact (which only a crossword maniac would pay attention to) that
three of its chapters are acrostics with 22 verses corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, it does ask the question of where is God when our beautiful cities have been destroyed in this shitty way by the Hebrew equivalent of Daesh (say)? It’s a common enough question, and as usual God isn’t about to provide an answer. The other much-loved look (by me) know as  Ecclesiastes or Qohelet seems to take the more reasonable position that none of this is God’s business anyway, and we just need to keep thinking about him before the grasshopper gets to be a burden (pretty soon) and desire fails (not yet, I’m afraid). Which leads us to the question of why people write books at all. As the Preacher says ‘Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh.’ Amen to that!

Which brings me naturally to the weekend I spent at what the Quakers call their Yearly Meeting (Annual Conference to you), finding the friends deeply absorbed in the need to bring out a fresh edition of their standard text ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’. Why/ Of making many books there is no end, how will it help to add another? The motion to revise passed, of course, nem. con., and I didn’t have the eloquence required to marshal the (I’d have thought) obvious arguments against the enterprise:

!. The Quakers a) are bad at discipline b) don’t think it’s a good thing. So why do they need a book of discipline rather than a poetic book which says, say, some tosh about how God made the world, or loves the world, or has ways which are mysterious but just; and about how we are here on a vale of tears to live a life of suffering – all put in fine and poetical language so that the masses, if they don’t actually believe it, will at least find it comforting.

2. A book, as a basis for a religion, should be something you turn to to help you survive the unbearable daily grind, and it should be packed with nuggets of handy information about how you survive. This has nothing to do with discipline. Look at the AA Twelve Steps – they say nothing about discipline, because they say, basically, that you’re going to be incapable of it. As I’ve often been told, the important thing is to give up before you start, That, I feel, has the kind of poetry in action which makes it possible to get somewhere. Your cities have been destroyed, none of you friends will console you. Despair. It seems a pretty good basis to build on in Europe right now, and if I had the energy I might start a religion, buy a shopfront, write a gospel and all that stuff. I can’t say that the triumph of the Msys and the Javids (and the discomfiture of the Rudds) can be taken as a sign. But an evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign – I guess that’s us.


On a completely different topic, I’ve been learning yet another way in which I was massively ignorant about the law; I’m sure there are more to come. You know how we (you and I) think of time as a continuum, or an ever-flowing stream, and if we’re supposed to bake a cake for forty minutes assume that this means something between thirty-nine and forty-one (say). The lawyer’s conception of time is completely different, which is why it’s lucky they’re never allowed to bake cakes. For a lawyer, time is divided into discrete units of six minutes – I expect it goes back to the Babylonians – think of the Code of Hammurabi -, but I can’t find a reference offhand. The consequences are obvious: if Meghan calls her lawyer Angelique about her marital status under EU law after Brexit and Angelique replies ‘Sorry, love, I’m at lunch, I’ll call you back in an hour’, Meghan, who finally gets a two minute conversation, is going to be billed for six minutes of Angelique’s time (say £10 at £100 an hour), since the legal accounting system allows for no shorter units. The historian, who sees time

in a completely different way (what was the date of the battle of Barnet? how many weeks did Hey Jude occupy the number 1 spot, and which weeks were they?), not to mention the astrophysicist or the person who searches for quarks or works out orbits for drones, where a nanosecond can make the difference between eliminating a bad guy and a blameless family, as often happens. Meghan (to return to her) will also be billed for six minutes that Angelique has spent worrying about EU law and families (twelve minutes if she’s really worried). The latter, or some student in her office, will have also spent time working out all these costs and checking them – think of the tine taken thinking about time! Time squared!!


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