Archive for May 24th, 2007

Blessed are the Proselytisers

I must have looked particularly hopeless and lost today in town, because I got approached by a Hare Krishna person.

“Excuse me, my man.”

I saw him and his glossy books.

“No, no thanks, no”

“No, sorry, I just wanted to ask you a question. Can I ask you a question?”

“Oh, ok.”

“Are you from Dublin?”

“No.”

“Where are you from?”

If I was out proselytising for my own sect amid the bustling hordes of the city, this is exactly the pitch that I would use. Ask the person where she is from. Hardened city dwellers will ignore you, but small town blow-ins and wandering loners will be thrown off guard by someone taking an interest.

“I’m from the North.”

“Really? That’s cool.” (He would have said the same if I said that I’d been raised in the sewers of St Petersburg) A heartbeat later, with formalities out of the way, he flashes one of his glossy books. “So can I…”

“No thanks, no, no, eh, no.”

Time to go.

“No problem, my man. That’s cool.”

Creep.

I read one of their books once, when I was 13 or 14. It was this one. Same edition, with a foreword from George Harrison and everything. Load of shite. But I do like My Sweet Lord.

I find it quite hard to be rude to people who are out proselytising for their cult or religion or whatever it is Hare Krishna is. There was one time I decided to go to a Christian Union breakfast at college, for no other reason than to get a free feed. I figured I could spoof the Jesus side of things enough to make them feel that I wasn’t really exploiting their generosity. I discovered, though, that the spoofers and freeloaders are precisely the type of people they are on the lookout for. Non-believers are the big fish.

One chap, as I was taking a bite of my bacon sandwich (made with tesco value bacon and stale tesco value bread: these people do not like to make a show of their generosity), asked me what I believed in. I told him I believed in everything and nothing (which I thought was rather clever, as it happens, and I was rather disappointed he didn’t get the scriptural allusion). He said that my statement sounded more like that of an unbeliever. So I thought I would try and redeem myself (in his eyes, anyway), and said, well, I was raised a Catholic. Or maybe -thinking back now about the way he looked at me- I accidentally said that I was raised a leper. This didn’t deter him too long, and he was soon launching into a tale about how he woke up -after a science fair he’d been attending, representing from his school- face down in his own vomit one morning with his trousers round his ankles, and at that very moment he swore that he would give his life to Jesus. And now here he was! Putting me off my sandwich even more!

Where am I going with this? Oh yes. Back to Dublin this afternoon. A few minutes after my encounter with the Hare Krishna person, I was in Hodges Figgis. Somehow the book getting flashed in front of me and the feeling of having being picked out for looking a bit lost made me contemplate the book titles on display. A lot of them appear specifically designed to appeal to people who are in some state of doubt about some phenomenon or other, and may be secretly harbouring a desire to be shown the way to something.

There is a formula, which goes something like this:

STRIKING TITLE

How the Fnarr Fnarr is Fnarr Fnarring the Fnarr Fnarr

or

ADJECTIVE NOUN

How to Fnarr Fnarr your Fnarr Fnarr and Fnarr Fnarr

or

SERIOUSLY SCARY SHIT

Why Fnarr Fnarr Will Fnarr Fnarr The Way We Fnarr Fnarr

And so on. Hare Krishnas, born again Christians, Book publishers. Why can’t these people simply leave me alone?

Kid Oneself

Over the last 20 years, I’ve developed a mechanism for coping with the fact that I am hurtling towards decrepitude and incontinence. Lots of other people probably do the same thing, but sometimes I think that my own thing veers into obsessive behaviour.

Simply put, I think about how old I am, and where I am at, and compare my own situation with that of other people. Not in the career-oriented sense of ‘at 35 Mozart was dead, and now I’m 30 and I’ve nearly forgotten how to play Rondo alla Turca on the piano, so it looks like I can kiss goodbye to playing the Albert Hall’, but more in the sense of where I sit at my age in relation to certain broader historical developments.

To illustrate, I think of a song from the 1980s – let’s say I’m Your Man by Wham. Then I think, that was 21 years ago. So if I was a nine year old now, listening to I’m Your Man for me would be the same as a nine year old in 1986 listening to a song from 1965, like California Girls by the Beach Boys.

There is nothing particularly consoling about this, since for me 60s music doesn’t seem any more distant now than it did 21 years previous. Then I think about something like the assassination of JFK, and think that when I first found out the facts about JFK’s assassination (by that I mean the basic facts, like the fact that he was shot in Dallas in 1963, and not that it was a conspiracy involving the FBI, anti-Castristas and martians), I must have been 8, so it too happened 21 years previous. This is roughly the same as an 8 year old these days finding out about Live Aid. And whilst I can remember the clothes I was wearing when Live Aid was on (a cub scout uniform,  as it happens), JFK got shot in black and white. It happened donkeys ago. So then I conclude that an 8 year old nowadays must think that Live Aid happened donkeys ago.

Then I think, what if the 8 year old listens to California Girls, and likes it? Why, that’d be roughly the same thing as me as an 8 year old listening to Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree by Glenn Miller, and liking it.

These enquiries don’t actually lead anywhere, and they are probably founded upon some sort of basic error (that history develops at a uniform speed or something). To an 8 year old these days, California Girls may not seem as distant as Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree did to me, since music hasn’t evolved that much. But then I think, but what if music has evolved in objective terms, but I’m just too old to realise it? Or, worse still, what if my concept of musical evolution is founded upon specific ideas formed at a particular moment of cultural history?

And! What if an 8 year old in 2007 has no resemblance –beyond the basically physiological- to an 8 year old in 1985? And even at that, if apples and bananas taste differently these days, why shouldn’t 8 year olds? I am not advocating eating 8 year olds here, but raising the possibility that the historical forces that led to the existence of 1980s-era 8 year olds may no longer operate.

Etcetera.

And just while I’m talking about 8, why is it that non-native English speakers have trouble understanding me say the word ‘eight’? I often end up having to repeat myself, using an English accent. And on the subject of non-native English speakers: do you realise how many couples there are out there who communicate via English even though it is the first language of neither partner? I am guessing millions worldwide.


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