Monday, 4 May 2009

The sixth lamentation helps with meaning ...

I am on holiday this week and today have begun the somewhat daunting task of trying to sort out our books and bookshelves. But at least the books give me much pause for thought and remembering. So far I have finished biography and begun to tackle the letter B in the fiction section and got lost in thinking about our friend Hugh McCullum who died last year. On one of his trips through Geneva he left William Brodrick's book The Sixth Lamentation with me, a really worthwhile read and not one that is going into the recycling bag. The "detective" in the book is Father Anselm, a monk. Here are some tasters:

Anselm's first surprise on entering religious life was to discover the monastery contained ordinary human beings alarmingly similar to one or two villains he had represented at the criminal Bar". Right at the start he had been warned by a monk who'd been a Tyneside docker, "You'll find out as you go along, the good guys always leave and only the so and sos remain". But 12 years later, Anselm is still there: "The elements of living a fulfilled life were broadly in position. A planetary motion of doubt, certainty, joy, anguish, loneliness and boredom, each on their own trajectory, encircled an evolving contentment. And, very occasionally, when he wasn't looking, the Lord of the Dance brushed past.

...You must appreciate that with an institution like the Church one cannot always allow the complete truth to meet the stream of public enquiry ... We are bidding for a manageable form of truth. It is a most delicate exercise, for I am trying to protect the future from the past.

... Towards the end of the book Anselm say to the Prior "Millions died from hatred, beneath a blue sky like the one over Larkwood this afternoon ... I just can't make sense out of it, other than to cry." The Prior replied, "You never will understand, fully, and in a way, you mustn't. If you do, you'll be trotting out formulas ... Out there, in the world it can be very cold. It seems to be about luck, good and bad, and the distribution is absurd. We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites. That is the disquietening place where people must always find us ... Somehow, by being here at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand".