DAY 196: The integers

December 20th, 2016 § 0 comments

The moderately sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the last two posts were given the same (positive) integer or element of Zintegers (as we say in the business). I don’t think I ever said when I set out on this road that I wouldn’t do this; all the same it seems embarrassing, and I don’t have many of the usual option like sacking the member of staff responsible for assigning integers to posts, since it’s me. Other options include pretending it hasn’t happened (which I can hardly do); or declaring the rules don’t apply any more since it’s nearly Christmas, season of misrule. Or inventing a new kind of arithmetic in which integers play a more fluid role than we’re accustomed to; but my powers of invention would probably run out long before. {Or, finally, simply correcting the mistake and pretending it never happened. Why didn’t I think of that before?)

But what, you will probably be asking, of my birthday and Christmas, twin feasts which owing to my parents’ spectacular incompetence or divine malevolence fall within five days of each other? At my birth, seventy-eight years ago, I was put out (I’ve been told) in the snow in my pram under the supervision of a nurse whose child-rearing ideology owed more to the ancient Spartans than to the rising influence of D. W. Winnicott.  Things have definitely improved since then. I was fortunate enough to garner a respectable number (or positive integer)

Ci8nBeAXAAAfXOlDaesh cadres having a modest party (or something)

of friends and relations around a birthday table groaning under the weight of the usual goodies (cheese, crisps, aubergines and so on). There’s nothing, as we’re agreed, to celebrate about the last year on the world scale. On any indicator (decent behaviour to refugees, failure to elect insane right-wingers, survival of civilian populations in cities) the year 2016 as I’ve said in the past marks a notable decline. As for myself…

I did claim, and I’ll persist in doing so, that it’s been a good year for me. That I haven’t died might be a plus or a minus, no one’s sure about how you assess that; while being dealt a dirty blow by a virulent strain of pneumonia which left me hardly able to walk led to my losing the usual distractions like meetings and demonstrations. But here I am, still in one piece, and rejoicing in many friendships; with 36 people, most of whom I know, wishing me a virtual happy birthday.

So what further horrors can Christmas bring? If you’re old enough (and Lana, Maalii, Leo, Isis et al aren’t), you’ll remember the Christmas bombing of _64751490_linebacker-victimsHanoi in 1972. I can’t promise this won’t repeat; the bombing of Gaza in 2008 which preceded ‘Operation Cast Lead was, you’ll remember (however young you are), well under way at Christmas. And I don’t expect any parts of Syria, whatever their religious affiliation, to be at peace this Christmas, unless it’s the peace of the grave. We must pray for peace and justice – whatever they are; and while they aren’t here, we must work to support the victims of war and injustice.

Have I posted Robert Lowell’s ‘Waking Early Sunday Morning’ before? It seems appropriate to quote at least the conclusion:

O to break loose.  All life’s grandeur
is something with a girl in summer …
elated as the President
girdled by his establishment
this Sunday morning, free to chaff
his own thoughts with his bear-cuffed staff,
swimming nude, unbuttoned, sick
of his ghost-written rhetoric!

No weekends for the gods now.  Wars
flicker, earth licks its open sores,
fresh breakage, fresh promotions, chance
assassinations, no advance.
Only man thinning out his kind
sounds through the Sabbath noon, the blind
swipe of the pruner and his knife
busy about the tree of life …

Pity the planet, all joy gone
from this sweet volcanic cone;
peace to our children when they fall
in small war on the heels of small
war – until the end of time
to police the earth, a ghost
orbiting forever lost
in our monotonous sublime.

And equally, even if it’s repetitious and hackneyed, I could recall Antoine’squestion about the point of armaments: ‘Pourquoi ces canons?’

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