Friday, 12 September 2008

Respect, Will Shakespeare

For one delirious night I slept proud in the knowledge that 'My Donkeybody' was TOP of Amazon's future releases under Christian living. However by this morning it had fallen to 2nd, but was still a creditable 12th in the Religion and Spirituality category - after a number of books on witchcraft and of course The God Delusion. It's a sad fact that there are vastly more registered witches than Christian ministers in this country. Which wouldn't matter if they were right or harmless, but they are neither.

I'm mildly sorry that my book's coming under those categories, as I actually intended it to be about living with a terminal illness and to be read by anyone and everyone. Naturally I can't keep my personal beliefs out of it. That would have been dishonest - and you can't have a condition like MND without questioning why it's happening and what dying will be like. I'd say those are not so much religious as UNIVERSAL questions. But I don't major on them. Mainly I just tell the story of how it happened, and what it's like - which is more fun than you'd think. So whether or not you think God's a delusion, I actually wrote this book for you, as well as for me! I hope you enjoy it.

Moving from the absurd to the sublime, we went to see 'The Merchant of Venice' yesterday at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) in Stratford yesterday. What an incredible multi-layered play! And what a great production! We went with our very dear friends, Anthony and Ruth (pictured, with me and others, outside the Courtyard Theatre). For some the play's apparent anti-semitism is a problem, but the production never had Shylock demeaned, and I understood for the first time that the play is NOT about that. It's about law and grace. Let's face it, neither the christians nor the jews in Venice do themselves credit. In fact they're all as bad as each other. Shylock's critique of the christians is quite right. He's also absolutely right that Venice 's stability as a society depends on justice being upheld. The Duke's appeal for mercy is right too, if ineffectual. Karl Barth, the great christian thinker, might have agreed with Shylock: forgiveness is an outrage to the moral law. It's only with the intervention of the disguised (incarnate) Portia from Belmont, the beautiful place of love and faith, that mercy receives its full revelation.
'Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.'

Portia confounds reason, indicating an even profounder sort of truth, the truth of grace. It seems to me that no human being (Venetians), whether christian or jew, comes out well. It's actually God who's the hero of the play. That's why I had immense trouble holding back rather noisy tears on occasions, and had to keep my eyes down. MND brings emotion nearer the surface and the play was so painfully and beautifully profound. The production rightly ended with a dance which drew in even Shylock in an interweaving harmony, accompanied by an orchestra in the 'gods'. Bravo, the RSC, and Will Shakespeare.

Meanwhile, of course, the world was remembering the height of human barbarity on 9/11 seven years ago. That event and its aftermath reminds us, if we needed any reminder, that HUMANS continue to be inhumane to each other and all of us need rescuing from the vicious cycle of revenge based on raw justice.

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