At holiday time, there is much to be said for being here. The weather has changed from virulent and remarkably persistent sandstorms to gentle sunshine. In the absence of other things to think about, my mind turned to echoes of the past, a somewhat disturbing tendency, one finds, perhaps being a function of advancing years. Alternatively a spin from Clannad on the iPod revived a shadow or two concerning Celtic spirituality. I have always had some strange, whispering connection with Celtic methods, not least in more recent times, when thanksgiving seems more in my mindset than it once did.
It has always seemed to me to have at its heart a sense of openness to possibilities, to connections and relationships, both abstract and physical. It is a willingness to risk both personal security and the ‘self’ in the search for the God-heart that lives within each individual and the spiritual energy that is ever present in the whole of creation. It is also about memory, the spiritual memory that we all carry within us, linking us to the memory of all that has been, since the beginning of time. It is a willingness to journey within and without time, and outside the structures of dogma that hold and restrict the imaginal world of possibilities, to find a deeper truth.
Let me be clear, I do not mean the traditions of Wicca or Druidry, but a Christian perspective, revived as often happens in times of uncertainty and conflict. The Celtic way is to bless everything in life (except evil), however earthy or everyday, frequently and often systematically. Animals, bicycles, computers, exams, food, gifts, jobs, love-making, meals, parties, travel – a comprehensive list. Practice invokes an internal commandment – “Peace. Be still”. The traveller then has a clearer view of the horizon. I liked this image – a ‘buckler’ from the third century. St Patrick would have worn one with pride and remembered his God in consequence.
Folk here are often childlike at the best of times and during the silly season, kids gallop about in dishdasha and coloured headwear – the most popular being a curly wig in the national colours of green, white and red – waving Kuwaiti flags which one would dearly like to stick where the sun don’t shine, youthful ebullience being a national pastime. Liberation Day and National day aren’t for a few days yet, but the fever is building and spray can vendors licking their collective lips.
International observations are interesting. Time mgazine did a piece after the death of Benazir Bhutto on Pakistanis needing to develop collective maturity- grow up, in other words – if a coherent Government could be formed after the inevitable farrago of non-elections over the last few days. Musharraf may yet take his ball home, not having a reputation of playing nicely with others in the playground.
And so to Wisconsin. I’m not sure I could find the place on the best day I ever had, but Barak aka Teflon Man 2 evidently did and the population endorsed him roundly, much to the lady from Hope’s evident chagrin. So far, it’s all been fairly gentlemanly, but it remains to be seen if there’ll be blood on the carpet later on.
As for me, I shall spend fruitful hours watching films and gazing stolidly into the middle distance, a placard saying ‘feed me at 8 hourly intervals” around my neck. This too will pass.
We are helpfully advised here in Sandytown that decadent un-Islamic practices such as Valentine’s Day are to be discouraged, since it corrupts the young and fosters an unhealthy preoccupation with all things Western. Doesn’t make much difference in fact since the stores are stuffed with massive red hearts and teddies the size of Toyotas. Business is business, after all. History is a bit murky, but there is, of course, the story of the unfortunate Valentinus who fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, and another legend based on pagan ritual. Members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches sometimes ended in marriage and some…didn’t. I make no comment about the suitability of such pairings; the reader can read between the lines.
People here are, as it happens, only too glad of the opportunity for a bit of a bash, one way and another – the outrageous euphoria of the locals after Egypt collared the African footie title was spectacular in its excesses. Can’t imagine the lives that would have been lost had they had more access to drink.
I rather suspect that the locals don’t want V-Day to be too high – profile, since Liberation Day is upon us very shortly when everyone gets time off, kids go more than usually berserk and most discerning expats stay well out of the way and watch TV or go to Dubai for the weekend. So, for those for whom St V has a special place, enjoy the logo, at least. And, for Heaven’s sake chaps, forget at your peril.