“With a spirit of fervour sustain me.”

Since my last post just after the Paris massacre I have been feeling overwhelmed. Ten days ago this was a physical overwhelment when a two foot drain in the parking area below the house got blocked. This was relatively easy to clear once I’d found two hefty chaps to help me, but the resulting torrent had dislodged a log from the woodpile which then blocked a second drain 50 yards further down the lane. By the time the stream was back where it belonged most of my lane was a quarter of a mile away down on the road leading to the village.

In reaction to all this, instead of blogging, I have been knitting and contemplating. That’s a word you don’t see much, anymore. Contemplation. Not the same as mindfulness—a bit of a buzzword these days and frequently misused. Not the same as meditation, either, which aims to empty one’s mind of thoughts. To me contemplation means pondering on thoughts to see where they lead you. So I have been knitting—to keep my hands busy—while I try to make sense of the increasingly insane world in which I find myself.
It surprised me to find I was not thinking much about Paris. Since my earliest memories date back to the early 1940s there has scarcely been any time since then when I haven’t been living with wars and rumours of wars somewhere in the world.

It’s all the other Stuff—I can’t think of any other word to describe it, and I have no vocabulary to describe some of the people causing the Stuff. Mind you, they don’t have, either. Some of them I can put a name to. Trevor MacDonald, for example. He’s the person born a woman who decided to become a man called Trevor, so she had her breasts cut off but kept her womb and vagina so that she could give birth to a child to which he then became the breastfeeding father on television. Given that sex education in my day was so limited we used to read Tampax instruction leaflets to learn about our intimate anatomy, small wonder Mr MacDonald leaves me literally speechless.

And while we’re on the subject of sex education I wonder how many grandmothers of five to seven year olds know the sort of sex education books their innocent little ones are exposed to. The present government has refused to make this compulsory but a labour government would, and this at a time when many are bemoaning the pressures on small children to grow up too soon. On their website the Christian Institute warns that ‘This booklet contains explicit material not suitable for children’! I think they’re right. Does a five year old really need to know about homophobia, lesbians, incest and masturbation? Will learning, by the age of seven, what a clitoris is and what it will feel like when you find it, help to lower the abortion rate (184,571 last year). How much will such knowledge at 7 help 17 year olds of both sexes who suffer appalling peer pressure, and many other sorts of pressure, to do what many of them know by instinct they would rather not be doing. Incidentally, there’s not much about love in the booklet and no mention of marriage that I can see, but there wouldn’t be, would there?

T S Eliot said ‘Human kind cannot bear very much reality’; not very much truth, either, apparently, or at least, ITV thinks we can’t cope with religious truth. In Downton Abbey the Crawleys and their guests are always shown already seated at the table with their napkins on their laps, because people would be offended (there’s that word again) by the truth that the napkins would have been folded like bishop’s mitres and the meal would have begun with a Grace. Earlier episodes showed Downton turned into a hospital during the First World War. Presumably seeing men who’d been gassed or with legs and arms blown off didn’t offend anyone. Manipulating history to make it fit modern ideas is the sort of thing dictators do. Manipulating Downton Abbey by taking out any mention of religion in order ‘not to put people off’ is downright lying.

So there’s three examples of Stuff, amongst much else, that I’ve been contemplating. Unhealthily explicit sex education for children who should still be in an age of innocence; a transgender person, who seems to me to be living one hell of a lie and who will have an even more difficult job than most of us when it comes to explaining to his children where babies come from; finally the distortion of historical truth, which is actually the most alarming. Downton Abbey may only be a TV drama, not much more than a super-soap, but obviously hugely popular. So much so that it mustn’t be allowed to give offence. And that is the real danger. The more the easily offended, the constantly demeaned and the traumatized victims of whatever get their way, the more freedom of speech is threatened, and with it our whole way of life.

What has all this got to do with the title? “With a spirit of fervour sustain me”. Psalm 51 v.10. (I don’t know which translation but I feel it fits the bill.) More than anything else it is apathy that we should fear. We have been tolerant, easy going and smilingly understanding of others’ foibles, which was good, but that has settled into a debilitating apathy. Fervour means passion and zeal and that’s what we need. Not the LGSSM etc way. No shrieking and shouting; no marches; no threats of lawsuits and tribunals; just sensitivity and the patience to listen to the still, small voice of common sense and then the zeal and passion—and the courage—to stand up for the truth.

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