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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Child abduction - Thinking the unthinkable – Think before you think

Certain things have happened in our country and abroad recently which must come close to being the worst nightmare for any family. An apparent suicide and child homicide in Donegal (an t-olc i bhfad uainn – may evil never be near us) seems to have been replicated in the same week in South America. At the same time, the trauma of the child abducted in Portugal continues.

Now, according to people who know me very well, I have had a fairly tough life. MY father, may he be at peace, was a severe and violent alcoholic, I joined the merchant navy when I was just under 17.
I saw my first murdered dead body when I was 18 – it floated past me in the river as I lifted a refuse bin on the after deck of our ship, which was berthed in Apapa wharf, just outside Lagos. I have seen revolutions in action, been shot at, had guns put to my head, saw badly wounded soldiers in Bosnia and more murdered dead bodies in the North, during the most recent round of The Troubles. The above list is not exhaustive but, strangely, and perhaps worryingly, I have never felt psychologically affected by those events in the way that I am when I hear "drochscéalta” (bad news) concerning children. Many readers will remember the Jamie Bolger story and I cannot write these lines without feeling my gorge rise and the beginnings of nausea if I dwell too long on that particular child abduction and its horrifying climax. It is possible, having been born in Manchester in England, that I have been particularly sensitised to child homicide following the infamous “Moors murders” in the early 1960s. I clearly remember as a young boy of around 6 years of age, the palpable anger and fear in people's voices as they discussed the whole macabre affair. As a mature adult, however, I do have ways of dealing with the pain and anguish that such thoughts provoke and they all come down to my (not necessarily always formal) religious beliefs, which are allied to my belief in the essential goodness of the human race, in spite of the events outlined above. I find that my very firm convictions as to the presence of a supernatural force (call this God if you will), which continually coaxes and draws us on to choose the light and not the dark, gives me a great confidence and a feeling that I am rooted in age old beliefs and cultures.

My “nana” (granny), God rest her, told me that evil had taken over the hearts of the perpetrators of such dastardly deeds as those carried out by “Moors murderers” Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and I have never wavered from that simple and straightforward explanation. My granny believed that evil exists in the world, that it moves around seeking victims, that it has to be resisted - in my nanna's case by prayer and good deeds. Modern day urban sophisticates may scoff at this kind of thinking but it is actually a view all aboriginal peoples have believed and still believe, according to the myths which they have handed down to us. In other words, since humans began recording time and depicting their physical and psychological worlds, there has been a belief in the existence in some form of supernatural evil power, and of course, the corollary of that belief is that there are also supernatural forces for good at play in our lives. In historical terms, "unbelief", is a very recent development. Or, to put it another way, not believing in the existence of angels and devils and a spirit world is a minority view. Yet that atheist, or agnostic, minority view is the dominant view amongst the intelligentsia, in Europe at least.

Many European intellectuals have adopted wholesale the view that nothing can be said to exist unless it can be scientifically proven. This, allegedly, is empiricism, which has been described as the application of observation and experiment, rather than theory, in determining something. In other words, saying to an atheist/agnostic intellectual that you felt the kiss of an angel's wing, or that you had a premonition of an event, or indeed that you felt the presence of evil, will not wash because intuition, gut instinct, cannot be proven empirically. It is only a theory, a notion, probably brought on by thousands of years of badly thought out and amateurish speculations about the meaning of life and the existence of God. Now the problem for such intellectuals, the reason that he/she lives in a permanent crisis, is that at a stroke they have cut themselves off from the wellspring of all cultures. None of the most fundamental things in life can be "proven" empirically. Take love, for instance. I know for certain that I love my children but I cannot spread that love out on a dissecting table so that men in white coats can walk around it and quantify its "loveness".

Probably something like 70% of the world's cultural output in terms of literature, music and the arts has been generated by an emotion, which cannot be quantified scientifically - love. The same goes for hate, anger, lust. The man in the white coat might protest in the haughty manner which men in white coats are wont to do (let’s call him a “consultant”) that, if he wires me up to a box, he can see my chemicals going up and down when I see a short skirt (lust), or hear Tony Blair’s insincerity about Iraq (anger), but the haughty consultant knows in is heart, if he can find it, that his chemicals monitor and all those jumping lines are just a side show. Those lines are just the leppin monkey responding to the raw emotions of my organ grinder which is really the thing that is in charge of the show.

My intuition tells me that evil exists. I have a permanent hunch and sometimes a downright conviction, that part of me is immortal. One of Søren Kierkegaard’s key tenets of faith was that nobody, be they religious or otherwise, could explain or mediate another person's sense, feeling or intuition of their immortality. For Kierkegaard, the “efterklang” (echo/reverberation) of God's love and presence sang at a different pitch and tone for each individual. Likewise, I will not allow anyone to tell me what I am, and am not, thinking or feeling. For me, evil exists and so does goodness (another unquantifiable yet basic human attribute) and I happen to believe that most people are good most of the time and it is this conviction which lifts my spirits when I am forced to contemplate an evil deed, a moment of madness, the carnage of war, or needless hunger. Even Karl Marx, who decried all forms of organised religion, believed fervently, and rather romantically, in a common and basic urge amongst people to cooperate for the common good.

So, good readers; do not despair. When things get you down, go back to the great thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Aquinas, Kierkegaard and Marx. Ponder the beautiful teachings of Christ, Mohammed, the great Buddha and the Song of God (the Bhagavad Gita) of Hindu scripture; as well as the innate wisdom in our own Celtic myths and legends. We are not alone in our occasional desolation and nothing dies a permanent death. The Devil does not win.
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Title: Child abduction - Thinking the unthinkable – Think before you think
Date posted: 01 Jun '07 - 09:08
Filed under: General
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