Over the past year, we have all had opportunities to reflect, hope despair and hope again. The world has appeared to right itself, then tilt off course, and back again. We’ve survived a pandemic, only to find ourselves with greater problems.
We now have a climate crisis that we could’ve averted but didn’t. One virus of multiple strains has been met by another new virus. Much of what we thought was secure and immoveable is no longer as steadfast.
In the Jewish calendar, there is a day, Tisha B’Av, which is a day of mourning. On this fast day, Jews call to mind the various atrocities they have had to face as a people, and in particular the destruction of the two temples. While this sort of recollection sounds depressing, it’s an opportunity to remember that there is hope.
Hinduism celebrates the cycle of creation, sustaining and destroying in order to re-create. When I think of these ideas, I see the value of understanding that even in the middle of loss, there is reason to hope. When we were going through the worst of the pandemic, we lost much of what we took for granted. Some of us lost people who were close to us.
It’s never easy to deal with the loss of a loved one, but when it comes to material things, they can be replaced. Losing material conveniences might not be a bad thing, and this is where the destruction of one thing can give us something more enriching. And, it has been these ideas that have led me to finally publish a book of my poems.
I’ve been writing a lot since the pandemic forced me to narrow down my world. Poetry as an art form has always been a favourite medium of mine. Throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate years, I’ve read and enjoyed some of the finest poets. Poetry can elevate our thoughts, bring comfort to our souls, and bring beauty to an otherwise stressful existence.
I’ve always been attracted to language, and in this collection of poems, my aim has been to capture my feelings and thoughts in a changing world. The flavour of some of the poems, if not most, is spiritual in nature without trying to sound preachy. I believe in the uncertainty of faith.
When it comes to matters of faith, I’m at a loss to define what motivates me to believe, but I choose to hope that my faith is not redundant. If anything, the collection spotlights the struggle that believing requires. Like the biblical Jacob, we wrestle with things that we cannot fully understand and sometimes that hurts more than it should.
I’m always fascinated by what people believe in, whether it is a 10-step program or a religious practice. People find something that works for them, and while I marvel at their belief, I’ve never found anything that has been so neatly packaged that I’ve liked. I’ve listened to enough self-help philosophies, and new age dynamics to know that my skepticism refuses to be silenced these ideas.
I tend to think that there’s a little bit of truth in all of these ideas, but nothing is ever completely true. The human experience can be a constant whiplash of contradictions. We would all like to think ourselves good but hate it when we’re exposed as less than what we thought. And, it is for this reason that I use a number of conversation pieces between myself and Moses. Of course, my Moses is not of the Charlton Heston variety.
No, he’s a modern plodder like the rest of us who is trying to make sense of the world. In some ways, he’s a mentor or a guide who doesn’t provide any easy answers and sometimes no answers at all. What he does offer, which reflects the purpose of the collection, is to validate our doubts, fears and uncertainties as part of being human.
And, while this all sounds pretty deep and heavy, I’d like to think it’s also got that wink-of-the-eye humour that we Irish love so much. It’s not beyond Moses, the wise sage, to take the Mickey out himself or indeed me. As a teenager, I was sometimes criticized for being too serious or I had my head in the clouds.
While these statements sound like criticisms, and at the time I thought that they were, I’ve come to see that being serious doesn’t have to exclude humour. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’ve lost something of the joy of life. As far as having my head in the clouds, that’s probably still true today. It seems that I don’t like the smog and the pollution of ground zero enough to live in it all the time.
The poems reflect an inner journey; no, not to find myself, that would be a lost cause. It is more of a journey to discover that what I think and feel is thought and felt by so many other people. We are not alone in this pilgrimage towards understanding. And that message in itself is worth putting into verse.
When it came to choosing reviewers for the collection, I chose people who would be fair and honest about the work. Among those reviewers, there is a retired Anglican Bishop, a scholar of English literature, a rabbi, and a good friend on who I modelled my character Moses. I’m hoping that this article doesn’t sound like a shameless promotion, but more an invitation to find others who think and feel the way I do when it comes to spirituality.
You can hear some of the poems on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwP7ynN3Y2clKt5a_ueI3VQ) The collection entitled This Will Be is available from the publishers WIPF and Stock https://wipfandstock.com/ and from Amazon.