September 17, 2016
October 4, 2015
The Catholic church around the corner is dedicated to a Portuguese peasant girl whose visions of the Virgin Mary prompted the following declaration of her faith:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.
These words are addressed not only to God himself, nor are they simply an intercession on behalf of those who lack faith in him; the girl’s prayer is also a personal statement of her self-belief.
Our Father who art no more nor ever was.
They would say that, wouldn’t they? I mean the teenagers who’ve been hanging round The Stow, the post-war shopping precinct in Harlow, chalking up plentiful police reports of anti-social behaviour (month after month, and for so long the original cohort must have moved on and grown up by now).
Surely they would say something like this, if disposed to speak of the faith and the self-belief that’s been disposed of (behind their backs, without them knowing, despite them trying to appear all-knowing all the time).
Are you kidding? Is this a gang of juvenile Kierkegaards, struggling for belief in a God of Uncertainty. Nothing could be further from theological discourse than the killing of 40-year-old Polish factory worker, Arkadiusz ‘Arek’ Jozwik, who died in hospital two days after he went out for takeaway pizza….and took a blow to the head instead. The only Sorens are the ones who were arrested.
Or, maybe that’s how they vented it – their aggravated sense of loss, and hating themselves for failing to locate, locate, locate anything other than their own paltry existence.
Chunky chap, low centre of gravity – can’t have been a complete pushover. Four years in the meat factory since he came over from Poland, whereas you’re not sure you’d last four minutes before running a mile.
People were climbing on top of one another just to breathe.’
At temperatures pushing 50, more than a thousand Muslim pilgrims died – either crushed to death or suffocated – in a ‘crowding incident’ shortly after 9.00 local time on 24 September, the last day of this year’s Hajj.
Bodies of the barely living; remains of the already dead. Bare flesh, brown skin, white terry-towelling; dress code (male), dead or alive.
Minutes before, being with other people was very heaven.
Millions of pilgrims following the path of piety in the footsteps of the faithful: blessed is this way of all flesh, walking together to fulfil our bounden duty and service.
Then without warning the wave coming the other way and there are people drowning in other people: that’s what hell is.
Only a few make it over the high railings; many more manage to squat down and survive. Where everyone can do this, no one is trapped without air. But there are pockets – it’s a huge crowd with big pockets – in which this proves impossible.
And afterwards, the argument. Seeking to close down Iranian and African criticism ofSaudi officials in charge of the Hajj, the Grand Mufti declared that ‘as for the things humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable.’
‘Tautology’ is Greek rather than Arabic or it could be his middle name: Saudi Arabia’s highest cleric has hereby pronounced that the inevitable…is inevitable.
But is there also an iota of insight in what he said (if not how he meant it)? Thestreaming millions, looking from afar like outpourings of a heavenly shredder, or a case-in-pointillism, have willingly entered into a situation where the volume of other people also entering into it means they must all but suspend their individual will.
Accordingly, as pilgrims become part of the righteous crowd, so the suspension of free will becomes the substantive part of righteousness – the path to piety.