Tuesday, 24 January 2017

PSA: Bunyan Is a Grumpy Old Fart

Urgh. I am now midway through The Pilgrim's Progress, thanks to some still going strong new year resolutions. Spoiler alert: Christian just got to the Pearly Gates and earned his crown of gold, robe of white and wings (apparently), but now I have to face his entire family following on his tracks on the whole dreary journey.

(If you are wondering why I am inflicting this to myself, here's why).

I cannot wait for it to be over.

So, could someone please tell me why it has value? I mean, I am pretty sure all the clichés he uses about Heaven etc are clichés because his book had such an impact on his time (a bit like how Shakespeare is full of quotes), and I am bearing in mind it is an allegory, (an actual one -just ask Tolkien what he thinks about them) and trying to see it as a great historical document, but really!

Christian is just the most hateful character you could imagine, and he is not selling protestantism to me (suddenly feeling very cosy in Joyce's definition of the Catholic Church as "here comes everybody"). By-Ends does not hold the correct opinions? Let us cheerfully speculate on how he will fall to his death in the hill of Lucre! Ignorant is Ignorant? (the cheek of the man!), Let's talk to him a bit, then cheerfully watch as he is refused access to the Pearly Gates and bundled off to hell.

Plus the million of numbered lists of reasons expounding on how So-and-so is not saved, Such-and-such went wrong, and how good it is to be on the righteous path oneself whilst all these other people err.

So, before I gouge my eyes out, will someone, anyone defend Bunyan to me so I can find some slither of enjoyment as I plough through the book?

Friday, 6 January 2017

I left it too late

I was aimlessly musing through this quiet blog (no particular reason for it, just shifting priorities) after I had some random new comments recently. And a thought struck me.
I happened upon the "Conversation with Maminou" posts, the hopeful intro, the many unpublished and unfinished ones, the couple I did end up publishing, and it made me so incredibly sad.

You see, all that I said and hoped for in the intro was true. Maminou is an amazing font of knowledge, of specific knowledge that I need, as a floundering mother and homemaker who needs to re-invent the wheel every step of the way. It was true that the transmission was lost because my own mother leads a very different life with very different priorities. I was about to spend two weeks with her, just her and my little family and I was hoping to get all the transmission I could.

And I tried.

I asked and I asked.

And Maminou tried to answer. But often she couldn't. Already the first signs of the confusion and memory loss meant having a conversation with her was a halted, circling affair. Often she got worried, taking my questions for demands that she do things for us. It would have been cruel to push too much, when I know for a fact,that for years she had wanted nothing more but to tell us about our ancestors, her life on the farm, everything.

But I had, already, left it too late. And that is a bitter thing.

Now I mostly communicate with her through letters. Letters are forgiving. You can re-read a letter as many times as you like, it doesn't get tired of telling you the same thing, over and over again, because you keep forgetting it, over and over again. Phone calls are difficult. Family gatherings are difficult, because Maminou still wants to organise them, but then she forgets when she was supposed to do it, what she was to bring, or which of her children are hosting. And already, without the holding power of the matriarch, the extended family is disintegrating. Factions among uncles and aunts, one sibling left out, no second chance given because Maminou is no longer able to see it, and tell them to be nice to each other.

This extended family which gave me so much joy growing up is now mostly a source of grief and anger. No-one outside of the family is now holding you to a fair standard of behaviour with your own family, so, unsurpisingly in a fallen world, people behave badly. And blood used to be thicker than water.

I do not want to start mourning Maminou. She is still here, and so long as I write them down for her to peruse at her leisure, she can and wants to hear our news. She is still the Maminou I 've always loved so much. And I know mourning in advance doesn't do any good. When my grandfather died after a long disease which gradually robbed him of all his faculties, we thought the parting would be easy. But it wasn't. Because when he died, he was given back to us as he had been before and we had to grieve all of him anew, as well as our own behaviour for failing to keep on seeing the whole of him until the end.

I do not want to mourn Maminou now, but it is still a bitter, bitter thing that I left too late to really get to know her.

I hope I remember this.