Archive for April, 2005

Pope Poetry

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

In my final Pope related posting for all time, here is a poem JPII wrote in the late 90’s after a walk in St. Peter’s and published under the pseudonym “Andrzej Jawien”.

It is called The Rock, which is a reference to the first Pope, Peter, who was initially called Simon (which had reference in its origins to quicksand) and was renamed by Jesus as Cephas which was Aramaic for Petros. which is the Greek for rock. See?

I post it up here because it answers some of the quesions I posed on Monday about whether Karol ever had major, bowel shaking attacks of the Inadequacies, like every other Christian leader I’ve ever met. It seems he did and he articulates it as sweetly as we have come to expect and works through it with the help of his tradition (Peter) and finally his God (who is on the “pasture”). It is translated out of the Polish and so it has lost much of its appeal in the mouth but the ideas are great and I thought it was a fitting way to bring the Zoomtard Pontificate Frenzy 2005 to an end with some thoughts by the great man about the very thing that I had pondered on during his death.

The Rock

In this place our feet meet with earth from which so many walls and columns spring.
If you don’t get lost among them
But go on finding oneness and meaning,
It’s because that very earth leads you.

Here she not only bridges
The spaces of a Renaissance building
But also vaults interiors within ourselves
Who grow so very conscious of our weaknesses and failures.

It’s you, Peter. You want to serve as the substratum here for those who stagger
Toward some unknown goal, to make them go where you would lead their feet
So that spaces can be bridged through sight that helps thought to be born.
You want to be the one to serve the feet, just as a rock serves the hoofs of sheep:

The rock is also the substratum of this gigantic temple.
The pasture is the cross.

– Pope John Paul The Great

Your Correspondent, Inciting widespread panic

Got Lactose Intolerance?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

A delightful irony while “driving” in morning traffic:
Hearing a famously staunch and unwavering Northern Irish Marxist describe John Paul II as “conservative”, “dogmatic” and best of all, “a propogator of a failed ideology”.

What kind of criticism is conservative and dogmatic? Are people really pissed off that the Pope actually was a Catholic?

Have you noticed how all the commentators are talking about how the next Pope must really react to the increasing secularisation in the world? Would you agree?

See, one of the most curious things that is happening today is that the world is not becoming more secular, contrary to popular opinion and (likely) your personal experience. The whole of the third world (and maybe even North America) are more deeply entrenched in a spiritual world-view than ever before and Christianity is growing all over le shoppe de monde. Catholicism grew more in the years of JPII than any other Pope. It is not receeding but because of the peculiar arrogance of Western Europe we either ignore this or silently pass the converts off as victims of poverty, bad education and general inferiority.

Maybe (Certainly) I am being harsh but there is a definite sense of “Sure, forgive them. They know not what they do. On account of being PRIMITIVE and all” about the whole phenomenon of the 3rd World revivals. Christianity was discarded in its earlist days because its case rested on the testimony of women and women were not entitled to testify in Roman courts. There is always a way to discard the claims of the inventor of tall tables if you want to create one. A favourite these days is subtle prejudice against the poor.

I think Christ would smirk at the Hindu-esque cycle apparent here.

My efforts at writing a zoomtard every day in the time I would have taken to write a threatening letter to a politician or TV personality have not produced the kind of high quality that readers like Johnny Depp and Pat The Cope Gallagher have come to expect. By the way, how can anyone hate Ireland when we can have a government minister who inserts “The Cope” into the middle of his name?

Maybe I should just
a) Make some funny lists like Mimi Smartypants
b) Trawl through my teenage notebooks like SarahB
c) Just publish the threatening letters here.

Your Correspondent, Angering housewives

This One’s Gonna Bruise

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

The golden age of Zoomtard has ended. The underground bunker from which we have been writing has been stormed by a crack team of Northern Irish theologians. It is bad news. Remember, loyal readers, at the end of this Zoomtard episode I discussed revealing my true non-superhero identity to a friend who was also a colleague? No. Well, it was a long entry. I can understand you skipping down to guess the lyric I quote after the Your Correspondent bit.

Anyway, this guy googled a resource that he had heard I had produced (I hadn’t actually- the time I claimed to have spent writing it was in fact spent with my slot machine addiction) and ended up at Zoomtard. Baxtard.

See, the self editing has begun. It is one thing to know that people like Patrick Mitchel drop by now and again but when a direct colleague is aware of the crap you throw out online under a slightly offensive pen name, it makes you think 3 or 4 times before threatening to assasinate Dana.

Don’t worry. I won’t withdraw into a shell like Ddmmyy. does whenever another person finds out that he is actually the Irish minister for the Marine and I won’t make a to go alongside his .yymmdD site. But I might be a bit more wary about banging on the laptop in a rage like I have done before.

Here, see this? That particular life-ignoring shambles can just be burned along with the cubicles and cuticles of whatever UNocrats who are behind it. I am proud to be a wet behind the ears mamby pamby cry me a river unthinking knee jerk liberal on most issues but I proudly stray from the party line when I say: The UN can go fuck itself.

It would make a change and give genocide-suffering people a break. If there is a war torn shithole, history has shown that the UN will show up and make things worse. By not showing up. Or when they do show up, like in post-Gulf War I Iraq, they will be as corrupt as Donegal Pigs.

If the UN meant anything, surely it meant that the suffering poor, the crap on the shoe of the capitalist West could at least be given some protection for the storms that inevitably break out when our policies of easy-source-of-sweatshop-labour joined with crippling debt repayments rape drew out to its logical consequence.

Well I gues the 3 million dead of Cambodia would like to say a big fat “No!” to that adolescent idealism. But they are dead. Like the million in Rwanda and the countless thousands in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan and Zimbabwe and the former Zaire and the list goes on…

The greatest punchline Evil has managed in recent years has been the appointing of Sudan to the UN Human Rights Commission while they are engaged in genocide.

I once met a group of American UN reps from the Agriculture Bureau while out in Rome one night. They hated Italy. They hated their jobs. They hated poverty. They were filled with hate. And they were so boring as a result. There is a peculiar boredom in a person who is in a position to make a difference but is too jaded to even try. Long before I began reading about the UN, I suspected from the attitudes of these bright young things just a few years older than me that there was something not right.

The UN should not be reformed. It should be punished. Henry Kissinger and the UN and all those other war criminals should be brought into the depths of a New Dehli slum and… answers on a postcard. Zoomtard can’t be too controversial in case his co-workers make him back up his opinions.

Oh anonymity how I crave you. It won’t be long now before CaoimheB and I are invited to host TV3’s early morning show.

Your Correspondent, A Jumped Up Country Boy

Portrait of a Hagiography

Monday, April 4th, 2005

Karol died on Saturday night at 20.37 Real Time. I have been seriously worried about him for over a month now. I am sure practicing Catholics have been praying for his health and his passing much longer than me and I am sure they have been even harder hit by it than me.

I am amazed by the outpouring of grief and praise that has been bestowed upon him by the Irish media. You know something is up when Eamonn Dunphy (classic quote on Dunphy in that link- the blogger respects him “less than people who make bestiality movies”) claims that he still feels strong pulls towards Catholicism to Fintan O’Toole. The media, as I cited back on February 26th have not really been very nice to JPII. But in true modern fashion, he dies and becomes, well, a Saint.

That is one thing he certainly is, in the strict theological sense of the term. A saint is anyone who manages to run the race of Christianity over the course of their life. Karol certainly managed that. God put him in a context that made his impact so extraordinary and that, pleasantly, will leave us remembering him as John Paul the Great. Yet I have no doubt that were he to have died an obscure parish priest in southern Poland with more than a passing interest in languages, then God would receive him no less gladly upon his death. (Christianity 101 Lesson 1: You do not earn your salvation, you receive it as a free gift through faith and its blossoming in the form of obedience- JPII is heaven-bound due to his titannic faith and his willingness to obey God, not because he also happened to be a generous, funny and deeply good man).

I don’t want to waste this chance by waffling on about Karol’s worldly achievements. There will be many journalists and reporters and historians dissecting his role in the downfall of Communism and lots of people will assess his prodigious gifts. Maybe Irish blogland’s philosopher-in-hiding, Neuro will tell us about his dramatic and moral philosophical works.

I just want to touch on two things that make me deeply thankful for Karol’s life and that make him (not without points of disagreement) a role-model for my life.

Zoomtard’s struggles -v- JPII’s struggles
The first aspect to his life is something that has come into focus for me in the last six months since I began work as a “Christian minister”. My job is at the very bottom of Christendom. Seriously, if I went crazy and started preaching heresies that would sicken you, I couldn’t really do much damage. At most, my life’s work at this point reaches a population of about 2,000 people who are all demographically identical. And yet, this little pastoral role of mine could drive me crazy.

Although I never have to marry anyone or comfort grieving family members, I often come home from a day burdened by the things that I have heard or by the brokeness that I have seen and it is really common for me to despair. The famous lines from Eleanor Rigby echo in my ears constantly.

Worse than this dread at the predicaments others are in is the dread at my own position. I claim to teach the truth revealed by the Creator of the Universe. I go out into tutorial rooms and tell people that the force that threw the Cosmos together (in the dark!) actually cares about their failings and wants to liberate them. In all seriousness:

Who the fuck do I think I am?

Driving home from a university one night I spent the time rolling the same questions over and over in my head. Why am I doing this? Why did they let me do this? Did God really call me into this? Does God really exist? Does He really care for us? Is He who I tell people He is? What if they knew about the real me? How can I be so arrogant?…

And on it goes. The role of the Christian leader is one that is so tightly bound to low self-esteem that I don’t think they can really ever be completely seperated because the equation doesn’t match up. Tiny, broken, selfish and sinful people like me should not be involved in spreading the Good News of freedom.

Since starting in this role, I have been gifted with two formal mentors, older men in different kinds of roles in Christianity. I meet with them seperately regularly and I can confide in them and rant at them and splurge all that crap that everyone has inside them but that gets heightened when you are in a position like mine. Without the wise and caring advice and encouragement of these two friends, I would be screwed.

But more than them, my wife has been central in me keeping my wits about me when my wits want to pack up shop, emigrate to Cuba and detox with 5 months of intense hedonism to get all this “listening” and “caring” out of my system. Even if I feel like an imposter or a failure at the end of a very hard day, I go to bed with the coolest, funniest, cleverest woman I’ve ever met and even if she can’t tell me everything is going to be alright, she can at least tell me she is going to be there.

Karol never had that. And since starting this job I have been at a loss to understand how much faith he must have had and how dedicated he must have been as a parish priest in Poland under an oppressive Soviet regime to just stick with it and keep battling the crazy fight of Christianity without giving up. How much more so must he have been prone to esteem issues when he was no longer simply responsible to God for the teaching of His Word to a small flock in Krackow but to the whole world as the Bishop of Rome?

Who was his mentor? One of mine is a successful businessman, well travelled, who now works for an international charity. The other is a polymathic church leader who has flown combat jets and written famous doctorate theses. They are much more impressive than me. They have more important jobs and kids and mortgagtes and responsibilities I don’t even want. They have experience that far out-strips mine and so they are ideal mentors.

Who can serve that role for the Pope? My mentors sometimes have to listen to my secret tribulations in my little job. The Pope’s mentor would have to listen to him struggle through what might be (a big might, I’ll grant you), the key to the end of the world.

The strength of faith and the discipline of obedience to keep getting up in the morning and not go crazy in the midst of that is something I have admired, learned from and will return to in the decades I hope are before me in my life.

Shone Like A Star In the Sky
We have already touched on my arrogance in that previous section but imagine this: as a final year computer science student, I had the cojones to address a whole university with a Primer on Christian Bioethics. It was while preparing for this talk that I was first struck by the authenticity with which JPII backed up his philosophies.

In his early days, long before pontificates and such glories, as a philosophy lecturer, Karol developed a concept in his work that has come to be known (and used by Dubya amongst others) as the Culture of Life. Karol felt that all life was sacred. Living to him was a gift from God.

All theologians come back to one question- “Why existence?” Why is there life at all? Science is increasingly explaining how but it can’t say why. In the face of this question and the answer found in Christianity, Karol built a philosophy on the idea that independent of your situation or your setting, the mere fact of your life was a miracle to be celebrated.

This was the source of his justice-obbsessed lifetime and his battle against the CCCP. It was also the source, I feel, of the great passion for life that he demonstrated before his decline. Long before John Piper developed his philosophy, Karol was living as a Christian Hedonist.

This Culture of Life also sourced the opinions that were objected to most heavily by the media and the western democracies- his staunch opposition to war, his almost total abhorrence of the death penalty, his total abhorrence of abortion and later, of embryonic stem cell research.

While I was researching my talk on bioethics I read about Michael J. Fox, who was a hero to me as a kid because of the excellent Back to the Future series. Fox suffered from Parkinsons like the Pope and backed the farming of embryos to utilise their stem cells as a source for treatments to fatal and to life-destroying illnesses.

JPII oppossed it. In every case. He was happy for people to use adult stem cells taken from our bone marrow but he would have feared that by trying to save people from AIDS and Parkinsons, we would be committing a genocide on people unable to protect themselves because they were still embryos.

I have no doubt that most of my readers will recoil at those words and they would not be the terms I would use but I would not be surprised if Karol would use them. As a man who lived through genocide, he can’t be accused of not understanding the depth of the crimes involved and he certainly felt that there were comparisons between Holocaust and the way we treat the unborn in the West today.

But even if you disagree with him, still and passionately, you cannot accuse him of hypocrisy. Karol was authentic. He took a position that needed courage in the first place but then he was willing to go through with living out that position- even living it out in death.

People who said that his dying days were beyond human dignity have too narrow a view of humanity to understand what Karol stood for. If God loves each of us unconditionally, then He values us regardless of what we have to offer Him (it is logically insensible to think about being able to offer Him anything), and regardless of what we have to offer others. As such, God loves and cares for and values even a 3 cell long embryo and an adult with severe autism and an old Polish man withered by the depletion of myelin. Karol lived on publicly, literally in the tremors of death because it was a chance for him to live out the Culture of Life. His pain, his regret, his sorrows and his doubt meant nothing compared to the two facts that shaped his life and should shape the life of every Christian who is concerned with living (and then dying) well:
1) I am alive.
2) God loves me.
The anguish of the human condition slips into nothingness when set beside the fact that life still burns and that God still loves.

Understanding this gives you a key into understanding so many of John Paul the Great’s teachings that were controversial. I disagree passionately with many of his positions but that is to be expected- Presbyterians and Catholics can’t be uniform together. But I respected this man so deeply because of the authenticity with which he ran his race of faith.

In his first letter, the first Pope, Peter wrote:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:13-15)

Francis of Assisi taught his students to go out into the world and preach the Gospel and if neccessary, use words. In his dying, Karol stands as an authentic witness to the fact that God still lives in the secular Western democracies, that God is still available to each of us and that God is still eager to share his strength and comfort in even our most trying moments. JPII lived out those words written by the first Pope 1,960 years ago and has re-ignited in me a passion to do the same. It was not by his might that he achieved what he did but through faith that Paul was right when he wrote to the church at Philipi.

John Paul II is dead and that is a sad thing. What is sadder still is that I didn’t get to see CaoimheB on the tv today because of it!

Insomnia Turns Me Off

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

This is a call-out to all the readers of Zoomtard who live in Ireland. Have you been finding it difficult to sleep recently? On account of our BOOMING ECONOMY! It just keeps exploding and disrupting my sleep with its trumpeting and the take off of countless Gaeltacht based tech start-ups. I am very appreciative of our ten year long rising tide but couldn’t the industrialists be a little more quiet while they are lifting all our boats?

See, I have a German intern from Bremen. She studies English and Religious Studies in that fine northern city and she mocks Ireland quite a fair bit. In fact, as an unpaid volunteer, her day pretty much consists of slagging off Ireland whenever her time isn’t consumed with slagging me off. Its a good exchange we have going on.

One of the running battles we’ve been having about our respective nations over the last 6 weeks has been why Germany’s powerhouse economy and their world renowned efficiency is floundering whilst Ireland with its shoddy workmanship, rip-off prices, cobblestone infrastructure and perpetually tipsy workforce is whipping its Teutonic brother around the economic boxing ring. One of the reasons may be that we don’t give a shit about rules and so bring a whip into the boxing ring. The Germans, on the other hand, will reprimand a fellow citizen for crossing a road without the help of a green man because of the poor example you are setting the children.

Won’t someone please think of the Kinder! Neuro does. She loves both the chocolate and their advertisements. I am going to convince her that it is called Kinder because chocolate is what they make their children out of in Germany. Then she’ll let me go on holidays there for 14 weeks this summer. You might say that Neuro would see through such a foolish lie but I have a secret weapon up my sleeve. Diagrams. Neuro is bad at maths and hates diagrams. If I give her an equation represented by a line graph, she gives in.

Anyway, Germany has ridiculous laws about sacking people and it is insanely difficult to get rid of staff over there. Its not an exaggeration when I say that you can murder your boss and still have a right to a job. Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration. But I’d reckon that the law maintains your right to a redundancy cheque in Deutschland. This is of course, very different to Ireland.

Here, you can be sacked for having the wrong opinion on the Keano affair, pronouncing “th” as “th” instead of simply “t”, getting pregnant or even in some cases, being really corrupt.

All that having been said, I worked in a government department throughout my university summer days and there was a case of sexual harrassment where the assailant didn’t get fined or sacked or prosecuted. Instead, he got moved to a different floor in the same building.

Perhaps the reason that Ireland’s economy is growing like the waist of an obese child taken to the Coca Cola Factory and Germany’s is lagging like that obese child after a sadistic PE teacher forces him to run 16 laps around the school pitch is that flexibility provided by the ease with which we can sack our staff. Its even easier to rid yourself of dead wood if your employee is a foreigner on a work permit. You can either just terminate their employment or call on the services of government assasins and terminate them.

I am no economist. My little brother who is 18 thinks he is a great economist and maybe he will comment and tell us how to keep ahead of the Germans. I am no materialist and don’t particularly feel a need for any more money. But I desperately need our economy to keep outstripping the Germans, if only to give me something to throw at my intern during my incessant tantrums when I have already flung all the lamps, mugs, plates, dogs, mobile phones and bibles I can find.

So on this fine summer Saturday, lets pay homage to the man who made it ALL possible: Charlie.

No. Not that Charlie. This Charlie.

Your Correspondent, A bagless vacuum for trivia.

The Rules of Office Flirting

Friday, April 1st, 2005

One of the great benefits of my job is that if there are any culturally significant events relating to Christianity happening, I am entitled to indulge and call it work. At length this year, that has meant dissecting airport novels but this week I got to go see a movie at 10.30 in the morning with my tall German intern and get paid for it (lowly, I’ll admit).

Constantine stars Keanu Reaves and claims that there is a longer version of the Bible in hell. In the initial comic book, he was based on Sean Bean and was a dry Londoner. In the movie, he is based on a plank of fine looking mahogony, or maybe an unblemished block of marble and he is a standard issue version of what Hollywood thinks is “cynical”. He is dying of lung cancer and he is darned angry with God.

Why, you ask? Well, as we’ve seen so many times before, he is angry because God cursed him with the ability to see demons and he committed suicide and went to hell and then got brought back into this life and was allowed to live but he had to give up his neutrality and start kicking the asses of demons all around the bowling alleys of LA and send them back to their “plane” like a cross between Ray from Ghostbusters, the Croatian guy from E.R. and that seriously intense priest who always delivers his lectures in a whisper down at St. Pat’s.

When are we going to get a new reason for being angry with God?

Anyway, this movie really makes you appreciate how good Da Vinci Code is. Both of them use the same technique- they layer small lie on top of small lie until they have woven an intricate web of convincing half- and mis-truths. To challenge any of the individual lies makes you seem petty or needlessly pedantic but to challenge the tapestry of lies as a whole takes a crapload more time than it takes John Constantine to send a demon back to hell.

Christian Rap exists you know. I just wanted to shock and scare you out of your complacency.

I am digressing now into the question of evil again. But back on topic, Constantine sucks so badly because it is so deeply boring. My friend, C, assures me the comics were good but I stopped reading comics when they cancelled Roy of the Rovers. Constantine flops so badly because it doesn’t tell lies that anyone can either believe or more importantly, want to believe.

Da Vinci Code is in part so successful because people feel angry at the churches and deeply distrust them after decades (and indeed centuries) of hypocrisy, manipulation and shite-hawkedness. As such, a novel about a conspiritorial Catholic Church, secular knowledge challenging the power of religion by being more and more competent (Harvard symbologist…) and most importantly the kernel of secret truth that you, yourself, can become privvy to, is a delightful prospect to many folks.

Those same people aren’t as excited by demons using little girls to cross into our “plane” and daggers that killed Jesus being wrapped in a NAZI flag (Swastikas mean PURE EVIL in Hollywood) and hidden underground in Mexico and superhero priestly types living at the back of bowling alleys and suicided psychics trapped in hell sending messages back to their twin via a cat and the list of nonsense goes on. None of the nonsense appeals to the prejudices of our day, to the religious zeitgeist and so Constantine flops.

Now that I think about it, there is more than enough in that plot to make an excellent religious/action movie satire and that would totally rock. You could make a hilarious mockery of the Rambo genre if your lead character was a priest.

There are a lot of whispers down on the floor of ZoomOffice and the cubicles are alight with talk that the CEO intends to write a new entry every day for this month. If it is true, expect a lot of boring Christian crap that only appeals to the guys at blogs4god, because his head is filled with that at the moment. If it isn’t true, mark it down as his April Fool’s trick, alongside his shambolic beard experiment.

Your Correspondent, Creation Scientists Don’t Want Him On The Curriculum