Nowhere Close

The 10th of May will be my 81st birthday, which is of no significance had it not been such a disrupted year; whether from pandemic stress, or simple old age, the last twelve months has been like no other period in my memory. Unusual levels of stress have left me ‘frazzled’ – looking to escape: the kind of ‘withdrawal’ beautifully captured in this short poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins: “I have desired to go where springs not fail, to fields where flies no sharp and sided hail, and a few lilies blow. I have asked to be where no storms come, where the green swell is in the havens dumb, and out of the swing of the sea”.

                        For many years, my respite from the vicissitudes of life was associated with Southern Spain: the climate, culture, and people of Andalucia: great memories of three-hour lunches in beach restaurants near Estepona: sunlight, warmth, the wash of the sea, close friends, great food and wine. But Hopkins poem is about a different kind of ‘escape’ – an inner state of peace, beyond much of life’s turbulence.

                        I believe, that regardless of circumstances, we humans can aspire to ‘equanimity’; that, while fully engaged with life, a core part of our spirit can rest in an inner space ‘where no storms come’. I’ve been aware of this space most of my life; I’ve even known people who lived very close to it; I want to be there, but as yet am nowhere close.

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If you’re reading this on Friday morning, the vote has not yet been counted; we’ll learn during today ‘the will of the people’. Unsurprisingly, this election campaign was ‘muted’ – never really commanded attention; will ‘turnout’ reflect this? Scottish people are passionate about global warming, about Covid recovery, about gross inequality etc. but polling says voters prioritised the issue of Indyref 2 above everything – our democratic right to choose. It is inescapable, that while such a fundamental issue remains unresolved, our governance is distracted – we need to move on this. I believe voters were aware yesterday of this choice; let’s hope the margin is decisive enough to point a way.

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The collapse of the rebel soccer league, within 72 hours of its announcement, was a very positive event – because it was explicitly a furious pushback against the power and arrogance of greed finance. There are now many articles like this one, calling for society to shake the finance industry, as the fans did football.

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Great to see Joe Biden delight progressive USA – as he sweeps away the Trump legacy. This is NBC News. We’ve still got a way to go to topple Boris – curtains and cash won’t do it, but maybe more to come. His legacy will always be the disastrous hard border with Europe (which may one day include Scotland) says Polly Toynbee.

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I’m fan of the openDemocracy platform, particularly for its rigour around press freedom. This article starts from a position which is similar to my own – that the media systems which regularly reach mass audiences, are a collaboration between profit-seeking institutions and the state. The system is rigged in favour of billionaires.

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I’ve always had positive vibes about Kezia Dugdale – well meaning; the leader of Scottish Labour, 2015-17, she’s an academic now, director of the John Smith Centre at Glasgow Uni. The Conversation have done an interesting Q&A with her on current Scottish politics, including her thoughts on how ‘indy’ might play out.

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The theme of ‘withdrawal’ is again beautifully evoked in The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, and live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; there midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow and evening full of the linnet’s wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; while I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core. Yeats set it in verses.