musings

Sandie Craigie, 1963…2005

Throughout the many years of our friendship and working relationship, I heard Sandie performing in public on numerous occasions. She was always electrifying. I once saw her perform at a Yellow Cafe event in an Edinburgh nightclub. The young audience wanted music and dancing, not poetry, and talked and laughed during the readings by other poets. Then Sandie entered the stage and told them all to ’shut the fuck up, and listen’. They did. And for ten minutes she held them enthralled, you could have heard a pin drop. And when she had finished, they gave her a standing ovation.

Before a reading Sandie would be in the toilet throwing up, and then she’d perform with such passion the hairs on the back of your neck tingled, or your sides ached with laughter, or she would bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. Invariably she gave audiences something to talk about, and remember, for a very long time. She was an amazing artist, performer and friend. Her absence is all our loss.

***

Glasgow anecdote 1

A rare, gloriously hot day and I’m at the Trongate bus stop waiting for transport to work. Lots of people are waiting alongside me, including two, quite large, older women. The street is crowded with shoppers in summer gear.

Two young girls walk by, gabbing: both are small, exceedingly slim and scantily dressed. The wee blonde is saying to her pal, “Ah don’t take efter ma maw at aw, ah’ve got a really big backside.”

Everyone at the bus stop looks at her as she passes by, assessing the size of said backside, then exchange glances and wry smiles.

“Ah wish ma backside was as big as hers” says one of the older women, and we all laugh.

***

Repose

In the airport lounge, exhausted after more than 36 hours of hard driving, I see a young woman, pregnant, looking good in her expensive, glamorous, maternity wear.

By chance we are seated together on the plane. I’m feeling drawn and drained, old and plain, whilst she glows and is that ‘perfect picture’ of health.

A few hours later she is asleep, her head lolling in ungainly fashion, mouth hanging open, breathing loud and deep. I smile, remembering that in repose, we are all changelings.

***

Ramadan

What lessons might be learned from the rules of behaviour that apply during Ramadan?

There are many individuals and cultures that would advocate fasting for the benefit of one’s physical and mental health. Periodically resting and cleansing the internal organs over a period of time, days or weeks, may well be beneficial. However, abstaining from food and drink between certain hours of the day and then guzzling all that one can during the remaining hours, is illogical and of no obvious benefit.

Perhaps the act of denying oneself food and drink during certain hours of the day is intended to concentrate the mind on prayer and meditation. But prudent amounts of food and water would better equip one for contemplation: a hungry, thirsty individual will be more inclined to distraction. The hours of prayer, between sunrise and sunset, are a man-made construct rendering abstinence, especially in the hot climes of many Muslim countries, an experience more akin to penance than devotion.

And if there is a lesson to be learned from abstaining from sexual intercourse during the month of Ramadan, it is obscure indeed. If there is a God that created humans as beings who thrive on mutual affection and require sexual coupling to reproduce, how can sexual intimacy be unclean? What can possibly be considered impure about two people who love each other sharing such intimacy? As with fasting, celibacy voluntarily embarked upon is quite different from following a set of arbitrary regulations.

All religions use ritual to focus the mind. Meditation and contemplation may be enhanced by deliberate preparation: emptying the mind of hubris through ritual. And yet, here is the rub, it must surely be up to each individual to ascertain what most suits themselves. It does no harm to acquaint oneself with communally held ideas and practices. But when the method of communing with the divine is proscribed, and unreasonable demands are made of the individual to follow certain rules of behaviour at arbitrarily set times of the day or year, it becomes dogma.

If religious practice is intended to uplift the individual and thus society, and to extol such virtues as compassion and respect for others, the failing of most religions is their descent into dogmatic, social control.

***

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