This is really interesting, philosophically and theologically. Our school did a training day on bereavement and dealing with loss and I found it really challenging.
Death signals finality. There is no understanding of the final steps of life that exist beyond the physical manifestation of death itself. Love embraces the final goodbye. We are left to continue.
Why do I find this interesting? In a car park, not that far away, I promised myself that I would go on with my life, despite the fact that it felt impossible to continue. I continued.
As life continued, I overcame that day and I finally said goodbye. This process took several years. I fully came to understand that my brother wasn’t coming back. It took me most of my lifetime to comprehend the finality. What dies may never live again. But the memories that we had together will live for as long as I have sanity.
Sanity depends on the tides that we experience, the tides that will always test us to our limit.
I could begin at the beginning and describe the years of defending the Union against the encroachment of the nefarious powers that founded their every notion on the undermining of the Union. That invective is a little bit dated. It now feels a little bit ridiculous to me. Inevitably, I have one caveat. I remember Jim Molyneaux’s notion of quarantine very vividly. It was founded on the principle that democracy could only flourish in a situation that was proven to be free from the threat of violence. He was absolutely correct. In a QUB debate, I called him an acute politician for deciphering the importance of a new and proven democratic playing field, before concrete progress could be made. In the established political climate of the day, Durkan accused me of calling Molyneaux a ‘cute’ politician and through the guffaws of laughter (it was quite funny, to be fair), I rearranged my emphasis to centre on the ‘astute’ nature of Molyneaux’s analysis. He was a great leader and he allowed us to stay in his house in South Kensington as students. He said, ‘Cookstown, I am sure you would like a nightcap.’ I stupidly declined. I can understand the tumults and machinations that are currently occurring, as Molyneaux intimated that this might be the case, if significant efforts were not made to create a clean break from the past. He was a ‘cute’ politician. He was a legend.
But. That initial paragraph doesn’t tell the full story about the Union and me. In reality, when I was in the Unionist Party, I was on the far left. It was no problem under Molyneaux, as the Party once encompassed all ideological leanings. The idea of Unionisation, Worker’s Rights and a fair deal always centred on my dad. My father worked his whole life to provide for his family and, at politically sensitive times, like the UWC strike, he determined to continue working to provide for his family and the child who was about to be born. And then I was born.
I will always believe in fighting for a fair deal for everyone. It is a genetic trait. It is as important today as it was in 1974. There is no negotiation that is prefixed with the notion of immobility. There is always some movement and improvement that can be found, if the astute, the acute and the cute are fully engaged in the process.
This vision of Union should still unite us all.
There are inputs that trigger the neurological pulses that equate to a better brain.
There are external factors that may equate to a happier person.
There are internal factors that may equate to emotional balance.
There are the unexpected experiences that may throw the happy and emotionally balanced person into turmoil.
Creating a learning environment that engages the mind, while dealing with the tumultuous condition of life, is the challenge that teaching embraces.
All brains should have the chance to shine. All brains should have the opportunity to be amazing.
Everyone’s innate potential should be cultivated and encouraged.
School should be fun.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with an academic in this field, Dr Damian Jackson, and he talked about the artificial nature of borders. Borders and boundaries are man made. Are they constructed to withstand time, for all time, or are they as temporary as the climactic cycles of the Earth, or, more specifically, can artificial borders withstand the human interference that makes their very justification stone sink into meaningless detritus? That is a very polite way of saying that we reap what we sow, and we create the desperate and the destitute through our actions, and we sadly motivate those who will tear down the fences that we build, out of sheer desperation. What choice do they have?
In every choice we make, we mistakingly fabricate a mythology of ‘the other.’ We create the despairing and those who are motivated to fight for life. There is a simple answer outside the vocabulary of state. Show compassion. Those who have nothing need kindness. Those who have lost everything need hope. Those who are desperate need repair. Those falsely categorised as ‘the other’ are an essential part of this existence. They are me. They are you. I am them.
We need to start mending fences and stop building walls. Simple?