I've been reading the late Christopher Logue's recreation of The Iliad, War Music, today. I'd forgotten just how visceral and violent Homer can be. Take this:
His chariot bucked too slow over the rutted corpses,
And as Patroclus drew abreast of him,
The terrified boy let the horses baulk,
Leaving the reins to flow beside the car,
And cowered in its varnished basket,
They passed so close that hub skinned hub.
Ahead, Patroclus braked a shade, and then,
And gracefully as men in oilskins cast
Fake insects over trout, he speared the boy,
And with his hip his pivot, prised Thestor up and out
As easily as later men detach
A sardine from an opened tin.
I was going to say it's a thought-provoking poem to read in violent times but, on reflection, I suppose all times in human history are violent. It's an interesting poem to read at any time, which is probably why people in successive ages read it and re-invent it.
I had a strange dream the night before last. I was living in a town where there were two drop-in centres run by two different religious groups. I had friends in both and often dropped in for a chat. I said religious, but neither centre espoused a particular religion. What each promoted was a particular approach to religion.
The first held that a past age of miracles should be recreated with the aid of technology. When I visited, the people there had just built (and were testing) a body-suit in the form of a god often portrayed as being surrounded by an aura. In this case, the aura was powered by calor gas.
The people at the second held that for what we now think of as religion to survive, it should be stripped of all things irrational, from miraculous traditions to esoteric theologies. They believed that once stripped down, enough remained for people to live their lives by to make the exercise worthwhile. They also considered it beneficial that the process of stripping down could bring religions closer together - the rejected traditions, they felt, were often the things which set one religion apart from another.
I spent more time at the second centre. I had a long chat with a man called John in a comfortable yet sparsely-furnished, brightly-lit room. After a while, there was a knock on the door. The new visitor was someone I knew.
"What a coincidence," I said. "John - meet John." But I needn't have bothered. The two men obviously knew each other. The John from the centre leapt to his feet. John the visitor stood his ground. Both men stood face-to-face, clenching their fists, eyeballing each other and growling. They obviously knew each other already. At this point I woke up.
And finally this - for no other reason than I like it and it takes me back to the seventies and late student nights in Whalley Range in Manchester, drinking strong tea, smoking Woodbines... Woodbines were filterless, which was handy when you were a poor student. If you ran out it was a simple matter to roll up the nubs. And even, at a pinch, the nubs of the nubs...
It's a good job I gave up.
6 months ago