I will retain forever a conscious vein of thought, a very specific moment in my very early adulthood, probably in my late teens, when I first felt an agony of ignorance. It was a moment when I was trying to find words to describe my feelings to someone, in the midst of a storm of emotional angst. As a result of this experience, I now know that what I was actually going through was an expression of ignorance; this was not an ignorance of the right words, I had learned lots at school; it was not even an ignorance of how to put the words together, I’d learned that too, pretty much. No, this was an ignorance of my own ignorance; the ignorance of a young man, afraid to have a go at expressing himself; frightened of saying something, if it wasn’t going to be perfect; terrified that someone might criticise my efforts; a cowardly denial of my inability to have an honest go. Perhaps this was the sort of ignorance that could, and may be did, lead to a certain amount of arrogance on my part; although I guess I would never have recognised it as arrogance, at least until now. Instead, I think what I wrote was a compromise of emotionally garbled and mainly incomprehensible crap, if you’ll pardon the use of a common but expressive word! I might just as well have not written anything at all. And there were to be many more failed attempts at expressing myself in the years to come, before I began to twig.
So, more than forty years on, I have finally started, nay only just begun in truth, to express the formerly inexpressible by my writings in this blog, my contributions to other peoples’ blogs and in the poetry that I write over in ‘My Poetry Library’. Now I’m less afraid of what anyone might think about me, less afraid, albeit still with some reservations, of being thought of as ignorant, shallow, superficial or bigoted - all of the things that I now realise I can be, from time to time.
My purpose in writing this post will probably become self-evident, but it was given one final nudge yesterday (Tuesday, 3rd May) by my significant, dare I say, intrusion into another blog, about a particularly significant event in world news.
The news broke on Monday of the death of Osama Bin Laden, the infamous terrorist leader, who apocryphally, had become the spiritual leader of terrorist groups around the world, who spawned a period of terror, the like of which, has not been experienced in modern history. The most horrific act of terror that is attributed to him is the flying of two civil aircraft into the twin towers of what was the World Trade Centre on 11th September 2001.
So, the death of Bin Laden was brought about by Navy Seals following the discovery that he had been living under the military noses of a base in Abbottabad, Pakistan for the past few years and not, as most suspected, in a cave in the remote mountains of neighbouring Afghanistan. It was swift and was announced to the world by the Democratic President, Barack Obama, in a controlled, even reserved and unemotional way on the same day. The response, certainly in America, but particularly in New York, was an emotional outpouring that exhibited itself in a variety of ways, from the chest beating, sabre rattling of the Republican opposition, trying to claim the credit for the George W Bush administration, to the angry yet joyful expression of happiness and celebration at the demise of the perpetrator of the most horrendous and inhumane single act of terrorism ever experienced inside the boundaries of the USA; an act that left very deep scars.
The following day I got involved in a Facebook comment thread, that turned into something of an epic, by my measures, anyway. I am Facebook ‘friends’ with a particular American and very humorous poet, Madeleine Begun Kane, whose ‘Mad Kane’s Humour Blog’ is a very popular outpouring of fun. It was a limerick that she posted under the blog banner of ‘Mad Kane’s Political Madness’, which was entitled “Limerick Ode To Bin Laden’s Death”. The numerous comments that followed, on her Facebook entry for this posting, were becoming quite vociferous by the time I joined in, but my contribution rather inflamed the situation. You can read it here or find it through my own Facebook pages, and draw your own conclusions.
Of the few good qualities I thought that I could with reasonable confidence attribute to myself, particularly at times of disappointment, illness, loss and grief, it is sensitivity to other people’s feelings, or at least knowing how to deal with these once I am aware of them. Well, wake up and smell the coffee, John! Because of this piece of self-delusion or, if I’m to be kinder to myself, a moment of thoughtlessness, I just waded in with a self-righteous, pontificating air; I woke early this morning, - at around 4 am – and heard the dawn chorus start half an hour later, followed shortly afterwards by a veritable chorus of self deprecating and critical thought streams about the part I played in this discussion. I had no choice other than to rise early to write this.
I had propounded what effectively amounted to civilised behaviour and mercy with the possibility of eventual forgiveness, to some really good folk who were clearly feeling the release of a whole decade of latent, pent up emotion brought about by an atrocity, which was cynically planned and executed by a group of people, who are clearly wired in some almost inhuman way; who beat a sacred drum, claiming religious justification for their implementation of an evil that is riven with ignorance, an evil that seems to have no boundaries, other than death! And death it was that visited Osama Bin Laden on Monday, 2nd May.
I am sorry for my insensitivity, which was just another exhibition of my ignorance. I have always valued my ability to learn something new every day, as well as the freedom I have to do so. I have learned something about my own human condition today; I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my days.
This being so, from here on, I must consciously assume a position of ignorance in almost all things, but not the ignorance I displayed in my early adulthood; rather a more informed ignorance, an openly confessed ignorance, which can take a relationship beyond the shallow, beyond the merely superficial; perhaps I’m also talking about being open minded. Surely, such an attitude can only help strengthen human relationships. What this needs is for me to pause and think more carefully before I expound my views and opinions, because there is more to human relationships than the mere logic of ordinary, descriptive, functional and even emotive words can reveal; much more. Those, who can read and feel between the lines of our everyday language and convey the essential qualities of the human condition, are true poets. I think I need at least one more life to get there.